Geneva Tourist Attractions
Geneva (in French Genève; in German Genf), the city of Calvin and the center of the Reformation, lies in the extreme western tip of Switzerland at the southwest end of Lake Geneva (in French Lac Léman). The town is built on moraine hills of varying height on either side of the swiftly flowing Rhône, which here flows out of the lake and is joined on the southwest side of the town by its tributary the Arve, coming down from the Savoy Alps.
Lying between the Jura to the northwest and the limestone ridges of Mont Salève and the Voirons to the southeast, Geneva enjoys a magnificent situation on the largest of the Alpine lakes, within sight of the majestic peak of Mont-Blanc. As a hub of European cultural life in which French savoir-vivre and Swiss solidity are happily combined, the venue of international meetings on the highest level, as well as conventions and exhibitions of all kinds, and not least as a major financial, commercial and industrial city, Geneva has a lively and cosmopolitan atmosphere which makes it perhaps the most attractive town in Switzerland and the one that attracts the greatest number of visitors. Evidence of its dynamic growth during the last few decades is provided by the large amount of new building in the city itself and in the surrounding area, where a number of residential suburbs and satellite towns of considerable importance have grown up.The first human settlements in the area of present-day Geneva were established at the foot of Mont Salève at the end of the Ice Age: then about 2500 B.C. a large village of pile-dwellings grew up in the area of the modern port. The first fortified settlement on the hill now occupied by the old town is believed to have been an oppidum (town) belonging to a Celtic tribe, the Allobroges, who were first conquered by the Romans in 120 B.C. The first known reference to the town under the name of Geneva occurs in the "Commentaries" (I, 7) of Julius Caesar, who in 58 B.C. caused the strategically important bridge over the Rhine to be destroyed in order to hinder the advance of the Helveti into Gaul. In A.D. 443 the town became the Burgundian capital: in 534 it fell into the hands of the Franks. At the end of the ninth century it passed to the second Burgundian kingdom, and together with Burgundy became part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1033.The long continued conflicts between the Bishops (later Prince-Bishops) of Geneva, the Counts of Geneva and the Counts (later Dukes) of Savoy for control of the town were ended by the Reformation, to which Geneva firmly adhered. In 1536 Jean Calvin (1509-64) fled from Paris to Geneva and joined forces with the Reformer Guillaume Farel (1489-1565), who had been preaching the new faith in the town since 1532. Calvin acquired great influence in both ecclesiastical and state affairs, particularly after his return in 1541, when he established a theocratic regime based on strict and often intolerant church discipline. Through his foundation in 1559 of an Academy mainly designed to train Reformed theologians he turned the commercially minded town towards an interest in intellectual matters. In 1602 Geneva beat off an attempt by the Duke of Savoy to capture the town (the "Escalade", 11-12 December). The town was occupied by the French in 1798, and until 1813 was the administrative capital of the French department of Léman. In 1814 Geneva became the 22nd canton to join the Confederation. The International Committee of the Red Cross was established in Geneva in 1865, and from 1920 to 1946 it was the headquarters of the United Nations.Geneva was the birthplace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), the writer and philosopher whose ideas had so much influence on the French Revolution.
The townscape of Geneva, though undramatic, is full of variety. On a steep-sided hill on the left bank of the Rhône rises the old town, dominated by the cathedral, with its picturesque old streets, flights of steps, fountains and historic buildings. On the west, south and east it is surrounded by a ring of imposing buildings and broad streets on the line of the old fortifications. The business life of the city is concentrated in the area below the old town to the north and in Saint-Gervais, formerly an outlying suburb. On both sides of the lake are elegant promenades and extensive parks and gardens. In the northern part of the town are the main railroad station, industrial establishments, craft workshops and residential areas. Most of the international organizations have their headquarters still farther north, in spacious park-like grounds. Geneva is the capital of the smallest Swiss canton, the République et Canton de Genève. It is almost entirely surrounded by French territory (free trade zones) and is connected to the rest of Switzerland only by the lake and a narrow corridor along the northwest shore of the lake. It has two small enclaves around Céligny in the canton of Vaud.
Boat services in Geneva include:Regular steamer services to places on the Lac Léman, run by the Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le Lac Léman (CGN; head office in Lausanne-Ouchy; branch office in Geneva, "Le Bateau", Jardin Anglais); round trips and cruises; shuttle services and short trips in the port area and round about by the Mouettes Genevoises (motor-launches). (Not all boat services in Geneva operate during the winter.)
Pont du Mont-Blanc
One of Geneva's busiest traffic arteries is the Pont du Mont-Blanc (1862; rebuilt 1969), the first of its eight bridges over the Rhône, spanning the river at the point where it leaves Lake Geneva. At the southern end is the entrance to a park garage under the riverbed.
Geneva's Ile Rousseau lies between Pont du Mont-Blanc and the Pont des Bergues. On the island is a statue of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (by Pradier, 1834).Other bridges are the Pont de la Machine (pedestrian bridge; under it a dam) and the double Ponts de l'Ile (until the 19th C. the only bridge), crossing an island in the Rhône on which stands the Tour de l'Ile, a relic of the medieval fortifications.
The Lower Town or "Rues Basses", lying between the south bank of the Rhône and the old town, is Geneva's main business and shopping quarter.
Rue du Rhône
The busiest streets in Geneva's lower town are the Rue du Rhône and a succession of streets which run parallel to it - Rue de la Conféderation, Rue du Marché, Rue de la Croix-d'Or (these last two for pedestrians only) and Rue de Rive - with a series of squares (originally landing-stages), passages and cross streets linking the two. Opposite the island in the Rhône is Place Bel-Air, around which are a number of banks.
Temple de la Fusterie
Geneva's Temple de la Fusterie stands in the middle of Place de la Fusterie, east of Place Bel-Air. This Neo-classical structure was built by J. Vennes in 1713-15 as a Protestant church and restored in 1975-77 for use as an ecumenical facility.
Tour du Molard
Along Geneva's Rue du Rhône, at the corner of Place Molard, is the Tour du Molard (built 1591, several times altered or restored), the remnant of an old arcaded building, with a bas-relief of 1920, "Genève Cité de Refuge".
Dating back to 1150, the Temple de Saint-Pierre is a Romanesque church featuring Gothic elements. The interior of the Temple is especially impressive.
Art and History Museum
Geneva's Musée d'Art et d'Histoire has rich collections of applied art and archaeology, a collection of weapons and a fine picture gallery. On the lower ground floor Greek and Roman art treasures are displayed, together with Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean antiquities, Greek, Roman and Etruscan pottery and Egyptian funerary art. On the main ground floor is the museum's collection of antiquities, with material from Geneva and the surrounding area ranging in date from the Paleolithic and the Iron Age through Roman and Gallo-Roman times to the Middle Ages. There are also objets d'art of the Gothic and Renaissance periods on display.
Address: Rue Charles-Galland 2, CH-1206 Genève, Switzerland
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee: FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Art and History Museum - picture gallery
On the first floor of Geneva's Art and History Museum there is a picture collection which includes Italian, Flemish and Swabian old masters, works by Flemish, Dutch and French artists of the 16th-18th C. and pictures of the 18th and 19th C. Geneva school.
Attractions along Geneva's south bank include the Jardin Anglais, the Pierres du Nitron, the Jet d'Eau and the Parch de la Grange.
On the south side of Geneva's Lac Léman (the Rive Gauche) the Promenade du Lac runs east from the Pont du Mont-Blanc, flanked by the Jardin Anglais (large flower clock, cafe), with the Monument National (figures of "Helvetia" and "Geneva"), erected in 1869 to commemorate Geneva's entry into the Confederation (1814). From here Quai Gustave-Ador leads northeast, following the shore of the lake (commercial and boating harbor).
In Geneva's Lac Léman there are two erratic boulders known as the Pierres du Niton ("Neptune's Stones"), on the larger of which is a Swiss Ordnance Survey reference point (373.6 m/1,226ft a.s.l.).
Beside the Jetée des Eaux-Vives, the breakwater enclosing Geneva's harbor (beacon), is the Jet d'Eau, a mighty jet of water which soars up to a height of 145 m/476ft (1,360 HP pump; does not operate in bad weather).
South Bank Parks
Along Geneva's lakeside road, past the Jet d'Eau on the right, are the Parc de la Grange (rose-garden) and the Parc des Eaux-Vives (restaurant), both with beautiful mature trees and flower-beds. Beyond this are the yacht harbor and the Genève-Plage bathing area.
Geneva is home to numerous international organizations such as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Place des Nations
Geneva's Place des Nations, 2km/1mi north of the Pont du Mont-Blanc, is a busy traffic intersection around which are the headquarters of many international organizations.South of the square in the district of Varembé are a series of modern buildings occupied by a variety of important institutions. Between the Chemin des Colombettes and the Avenue Guiseppe-Motta are the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property (BIRPI: by P. Braillart, 1962) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO/OMM)): by E. Martin, 1956). Between Avenue Guiseppe-Motta and Rue de Vermont is the International Telecommunications Union (ITU/UIT), a six-sided tower block by Bordigoni (1958). At the corner of Rue Varembé and Rue de Montbrillant is the Centre International, housing numerous international associations; and closely adjoining are the European Free Trade Association (EFTA: by Grand, Praplan and Fischer, 1969), with a beautiful inner courtyard, and the new International Conference Center and Press House (CIGG: by A. and F. Gaillard and A. Camenzind, 1971). Also in this area is a modern Roman Catholic church, Saint-Nicolas-de-Flüe (by Bouvier and V. and J. Malnati, 1967), which was visited by Pope Paul VI in 1969.
An agglomeration of light-colored marble buildings constitute the Palais des Nations, which serves as the official headquarters for the League of Nations.
Switzerland has a fireworks festival in Geneva on Lake La Mans in August and another festival at the same time in Zurich.
Summer Music Festival
This annual eight-week festival runs from early July to late August and includes a different performance every week. Each year the theme and style of music of the festival changes, although the events usually include orchestral and choral concerts.
This three-day festival takes place in early December.
More Geneva Pictures
Map of Geneva Attractions