Geneva is a city of stereotypes. You can destroy them only by coming here in person. Yes, it’s full of money, fondue, chocolate and watches. But Geneva is also renowned for its cultural diversity and creativity, especially when it comes to areas such as the Grottoes or Carouge.
Geneva continues to be the capital of world diplomacy, home to organizations such as the United Nations and the Red Cross. Experts from the world of science gather here to unravel the greatest scientific mysteries of our time at the largest research center called CERN. The city looks confidently into the future, carefully preserving its unusually rich past. Well, let’s talk about the best attractions in this luxury city in a little more detail.
The largest lake in Central Europe brings the unique and awe-inspiring spirit of the Alps to the city center. Many people are eager to get here and enjoy it to the fullest, and the easiest way to do this is to rent a sea-going boat on the waterfront from Genève-Mt-Blanc.
There is a lot of choice here: you can just go swimming to another part of the city, or you can decide on a real three-hour cruise to Lausanne.
The beauty of this lake also influenced the arrangement of the city itself – for example, its magnificent promenade was laid along the coast in the middle of the 19th century. Along the water are tree-lined promenades, luxury townhouses and serene parks such as Eaux-Vives, Jardin Anglais, Perle du Lac or Mon Repos.
Address: Lake Geneva, Switzerland.
In the very center of the city, where Rhone begins her journey to France, there is a wonderful Geneva “harbor” (La Rade de Genève). Here, at the end of a long pier, there is an attraction known throughout the world. Jet d’Eau is a man-made fountain pumping five hundred liters of water per second, which spills up to a height of 140 meters.
If you want to look at this miracle from a closer distance, then keep in mind that the plume of water is very sensitive to the wind, and you can easily be doused with water.
The fountain appeared in its current location in 1951 and initially had an important practical application: it was first launched in 1886 to ensure the smooth operation of the local hydroelectric power station. The locals liked the new “show” so much that in the end the fountain turned into a tourist attraction.
Address: Jet d’Eau, Quai Gustave-Ador, Geneva, Switzerland.
Cathedral Saint-Pierre (Geneva Cathedral)
Saint-Pierre Cathedral is one of those places where you can easily spend an entire day visiting. The neoclassical façade hides architecture that dates back to the 12th century. Since 1541, John Calvin lived here, and today his personal chair looks like he just got up and retired to the next room.
The cathedral was built on the site of much older buildings, among which there was even a basilica from the 4th century. The remains of these ancient structures can be seen with your own eyes underground – there is an interesting archaeological museum.
You can also climb the towers of the cathedral for a magnificent view of the Alps, Jura and Geneva against the backdrop of the lake: the southern observation deck is open-air, while the northern one is indoors and is better suited for winter tourists.
Address: St Pierre Cathedral, Place du Bourg-de-Four 24, 1204 Genève, Switzerland.
Vieille Ville (Old Town)
Take a couple of hours to visit Switzerland’s largest historic center. The old town is located on a hill, on top of which is the Cathedral of St. Peter. Once this hill was surrounded by powerful defensive walls.
Moving along these steep cobblestone streets and stairs is quite tiring, but extremely interesting: the Old City is full of interesting alleys, fountains, terraces with observation platforms, as well as places of real historical value.
It was here that the genius Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in the 18th century, and on the Bourg-de-Four you can see a number of old houses located near the square, where local traders sold their livestock in medieval times.
Address: Rue Chausse-Coq 8, 1204 Geneva, Genève, Switzerland.
In the heart of Geneva’s Old Town, not far from St. Peter’s Basilica, there is a popular tourist destination Bourg-de-Four. This is one of the oldest squares in the city, and definitely the most beautiful. It is located on the site of the former Roman forum; since the 19th century, a large city market has been located here.
Later, in the 16th century, Protestants persecuted by the Inquisition found refuge here. Today, tourists and locals alike find refuge from the boredom and heat in local cafes and restaurants, many of which offer outdoor terraces in fine weather.
In addition to the 18th century fountain, a statue of Clementine Heinz Schwarz can be seen on the square. The Palace of Justice, in which the local court has been operating since 1860, was built in the 17th-18th centuries and was originally a monastery.
Address: Place Bourg-de-Four, Place Bourg-de-Four, Geneva, Switzerland.
West of the center of Geneva, in a small town called Meyrin, is the headquarters of the European Organization for Nuclear Research. It makes no sense to remind that it is here that the most advanced scientific experiments have been carried out for more than 10 years in the world’s largest laboratory of elementary particle physics.
The local tourist center offers guided tours of the individual sectors of the property, during which complex scientific concepts and phenomena are explained to you in simple language. There are also two separate museums dedicated to the object itself and its research.
One of them explains the current practical application of CERN resources – for example, in the field of medicine. Another details the nuclear particle accelerator and the history of the Higgs boson hunt.
Address: CERN, Esplanade de Particle, Meren, Switzerland.
Patek Philippe Museum
The factory of the early 20th century houses a museum that will tell anyone about the five centuries of ups and downs of local watchmakers. The highlight of the museum is the amazing exhibition of jukeboxes, clocks and portrait miniatures of the 16th – 20th centuries, which were mainly collected on the territory of Geneva and Switzerland.
Here you will also learn about the origins of the Patek Philippe brand, created in 1845 by the talented watchmakers Anthony Patek from Poland and Adrien Philippe from France. On the ground floor, there are replicas of workbenches with all the original tools needed to make watches.
Here you can also see a real Swiss watchmaker at work.
Address: Patek Philippe Museum, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, Geneva, Switzerland.
Palace of Nations
What to see in Geneva for those who cannot live a day without politics? Of course, the Palace of Nations. In case you didn’t know: Geneva is home to the second most important branch of the United Nations (after the New York UN Headquarters). The Palais des Nations was built in the 1930s as the headquarters of the League of Nations, an organization believed to be the forerunner of the modern United Nations.
The complex is still in active use, thousands of intergovernmental meetings are held here every year, while it is also open for guided tours in 15 different languages.
The level of access depends on the current schedule of the business program, but usually tourists are taken to the Human Rights Hall and the Hall of the Alliance of Civilizations, the huge Assembly Hall, the Waiting Hall and the Conference Hall, where the most significant political negotiations of the era took place.
Address: Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.
Bains des Pâquis
The Bains des Pâquis are public baths located along the pier on the western shore of Lake Geneva in the immediate vicinity of the fountain. This is not just a beach, but a whole cultural space where people come to relax and have a heart-to-heart talk.
The outdoor pool is very popular during the warmer months. Sunbathing is possible on the pier, and local delicacies are served at the numerous eateries. Free poetry and classical music performances are held in the baths this season.
In winter, you can take a free swim in the outdoor pool and then unwind in the sauna and hammam.
Address: Bains des Pâquis, Promenade Mont Blanc, Geneva, Switzerland.
Even when it’s overcast in Geneva, this mountain peak on the outskirts of the city usually has a bright sun and excellent views of the city. That is why Mount Saleve, reaching a height of 1400 meters, is often called the “balcony of Geneva”. There is a separate cable car that will take you to the very top in just five minutes.
The funicular has been operating since 1932 and replaced the world’s first electric railway, built back in 1892. Hikers can take the opportunity to climb the mountain on foot along a specially paved route.
There are cafes on the top of the mountain, offering gorgeous views of Geneva, the lake and Mont Blanc.
Address: Mont Salève, Beaumont, France.
Botanical Garden of Geneva
The Geneva Botanical Garden is located on the western shore of the lake – only a railway separates it from the building of the Palais des Nations. Gardeners will surely be impressed by the park with 14,000 plant species collected from all over the world.
The collection of dried flowers and plants in the local herbarium contains more than six million plants.
In the park itself, you will see hundreds of flower beds, several ponds and an elegant glass and metal greenhouse, in which a magnificent winter garden grows. The territory of the park is divided into several thematic sections. For example, the rose garden is especially popular in June and July. The park also has a zoo that is home to deer and waterfowl.
Address: Conservatoire et Jardin Botanique, Chemin de L’Imperatrice, Preni-Chambézy, Switzerland.
Given that Geneva is the birthplace of John Calvin, you have a unique chance to hear the truest story of the Reformation in Europe. This defining chapter in the history of the city is detailed in a museum located next to St. Peter’s Basilica.
The museum’s exhibitions have enormous historical weight thanks to a rich archive of authentic documents: here you can study medieval manuscripts, engravings, paintings and early printed materials, as well as watch a modern 15-minute film describing the phenomenon of the Reformation.
The site itself is also of great historical importance, since the museum is located on the site of the former courtyard of St. Peter’s Cathedral, where in 1536 it was decided to approve the church reform.
Address: International Museum of the Reformation, Rue du Cloître, Geneva, Switzerland.
Geneva Museum of Art and History
The Museum of Art and History of Geneva is located in the city center in the Le Tranchet area. It houses extensive exhibitions of works of art, applied art and archeology. The strength of the museum is the work of the Swiss and Geneva masters, so you can immerse yourself in the work of the portraitist Jean-Etienne Lyotard and the cartoonist Rodolphe Töffe.
The painting that you simply must see when you come to the museum is called “The Miraculous Catch of Fish” by Konrad Witz. She graced the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica and became famous for what is believed to be the first realistic landscape depiction in European art.
Byzantine icons, textiles, silver and musical instruments are kept in the applied arts section, while the archeology section offers you a glimpse of an Egyptian mummy over 3000 years old.
Address: Musée d’art et d’histoire, Rue Charles-Galland, Geneva, Switzerland.
Natural History Museum
The largest Swiss natural history museum opened its doors in the 60s of the last century. His collection includes insects collected by the famous entomologist of the 18th and 19th centuries Louis Jurin. However, most of the visitors’ attention is drawn to the “army” of stuffed animals, which are displayed on the ground floor.
In the museum, you can also see living representatives of exotic fauna, among which Janus occupies a special place – a two-headed turtle, which was born in the museum’s incubators in 1997. The first three floors of the museum are dedicated to the animal kingdom, while the upper two are devoted to a variety of other topics ranging from geology to astronomy.
At the very top, you can look at real moonstones and see a bronze statue of a fossil Australopithecus (the ancestor of an ancient man who lived on our planet 3.2 million years ago).
Address: Natural History Museum, Route de Malagnou 1, 1208 Genève, Switzerland.
The Geneva Museum of Ceramics and Tableware is located in a neo-baroque palace that can be found near the UN Palais des Nations. The Ariana Museum was founded in the 1880s by the renowned collector Gustave Revilliod. He decided to name his brainchild in honor of his beloved mother.
The museum’s galleries house 20,000 ceramic and glass exhibits covering 12 centuries of history and all possible corners of the planet. All types of ceramics and porcelain are represented here – from ordinary clay to rare Chinese glass.
Perhaps the most interesting exposition can be considered products from Japanese and Chinese porcelain of the 16th-18th centuries, which were intended for export. They shed light on the development of trade relations between the vastly different cultures of the time.
Address: Musée Ariana, Avenue de la Paix 10, 1202 Genève, Switzerland.
The largest park in the city and, perhaps, the most beautiful too, can be found on the shore of the lake near the Gustav-Adora embankment. Its stone park stairs were carved straight out of the rock. For 2000 years, this space has been inhabited by wealthy representatives of different cultures – for example, the ruins of an ancient Roman villa coexist with luxurious 18th century mansions.
In 1918, the last inhabitant of the villa bequeathed the park to the city. There are two theaters in Grange, and from May to September various theatrical performances take place here, but the “highlight” of the park is still the rose garden, in which more than ten thousand bushes of two hundred different varieties bloom in summer.
Address: Parc de la Grange, Quai Gustave-Ador, Geneva, Switzerland.
House Tavel is a branch of the Museum of History and Art, which is located in an old house on rue Puits-Saint-Pierre in the center of the Old Town. This is the oldest private house in Geneva, which was rebuilt in the 14th century after a fire that destroyed a large part of Geneva in 1334. Each room tells something interesting about the history of Geneva.
On the top floor, visitors can watch a video showing Geneva’s natural landscape and the city’s gradual growth over time. All areas of the house, including basements, kitchens and apartments, are decorated in the styles of different eras. All are furnished with antique furniture, paintings and antique tableware.
Address: Maison Tavel, Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre, Geneva, Switzerland.
In 1854, the authorities of the city of Geneva decided to equip a marvelous English-style garden to the north of the Old Town. It was erected on the very coastline on the site of the old port. Later, the garden was expanded and completed several times.
Its centerpiece is a fountain made in 1862 at the French foundry in Val d’Osne. From this monument there are several winding paths that lead to the promenade, where you can admire the lake and take pictures against the backdrop of the majestic Geneva fountain.
Be sure to look for the symbol of the garden – the large flower clock, which symbolizes the tribute to the Geneva watchmakers.
Address: Jardin Anglais, Quai du Général-Guisan, Geneva, Switzerland.
Mont Blanc waterfront
The Mont Blanc Quay stretches along the northern shore of Lake Geneva and offers stunning views of the Mont Blanc mountain range – especially good to come here at the end of a clear day. In 1898, on the pier in front of the Beau Rivage Hotel, an Italian anarchist killed the Austrian Empress Elizabeth, in whose honor a monument was erected here.
Directly behind the waterfront is the majestic Brunswick Monument, which is a mausoleum modeled on the Scaliger tombs in Verona. It was built in honor of Duke Charles of Brunswick, who, during his lifetime, ordered the construction of a mausoleum to bury his own body.
Address: Quai du Mont-Blanc, Geneva, Switzerland.
International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
The museum of this international humanitarian organization was founded in 1988. In the early 2010s, it was completely rebuilt and opened to visitors in 2013 with the innovative exhibition Humanitarian Adventure.
The space is divided into three zones, each of which tells about one of the organization’s areas of activity: protecting human dignity, restoring family ties and reducing natural threats.
Each of the zones was designed under the guidance of the world’s leading designers. Exhibits convey information in a rather unconventional manner in order to evoke more emotion in visitors.
Address: International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Prospect Pe, Geneva, Switzerland.
This park, located next to Place Nouve, received such an interesting name due to the fact that it was literally sandwiched between defensive bastions of the 16th century and fortifications that appeared a century later. It also houses the oldest university building in the city, dating back to 1873.
Every year on June 21 in the Bastion Park, concerts are held as part of the international festival Fête de la Musique. For visitors, there are chess boards and ping-pong tables, and in winter, an ice rink is opened for those who like active rest.
Be sure to visit the international monument of the Reformation, erected in 1909 along the defensive structures of the 16th century. Standing against the long wall are images of John Calvin, John Knox, Theodore Beza, and William Farel, all of whom were instrumental in shaping the Reformation.
Address: Parc des Bastions, Promenade des Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland.
This area of Geneva, located not far from the center, is home to one tenth of the city’s inhabitants. The grottoes can destroy your idea of Geneva as a chic and measured city, as this area is characterized by chaos, energy and bohemianness.
Since the 60s of the last century, this place has been chosen by anarchist communes and representatives of countercultures, and although in recent years the area has changed significantly, the turbulent trends of the past can still be felt here. Residential buildings from the 1980s with bright facades still look like they were designed by Gaudí himself.
Address: Les Grottes, Geneva, Switzerland.
Until 1816, this area, located south of the old city, was, in fact, a separate city. Today Carouge is the result of intensive development started by the King of Sardinia in 1786. The area borrows features from Nice and southern Italy, and this Mediterranean accent can be seen in the design of the palazzo, the Church of the Holy Cross and a number of old mansions.
As you walk through the Carouge area, you will find many antique boutiques and handicraft shops. The Place de Marchéon flea market opens on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Address: Carouge, Switzerland.
Flea market at Plainpalais
Geneva’s main flea market opens on Wednesdays and Saturdays and on the first Sunday of the month. Here you can profitably buy interesting antiques, antique furniture, handicrafts, books, jewelry, household items and especially clothes.
As with any flea market, your chances of buying a worthwhile item depend on luck and endurance, as well as on the day of the week: for example, more knowledgeable collectors come to the market on Saturdays.
Address: Marché de Plainpalais, Plaine de Plainpalais, Geneva, Switzerland.
Far East Museum of Art
A luxurious collection of works of art from the Far East is kept in an old mansion. Many of the exhibits of Japanese and Chinese cultures were collected by one person – Alfred Baur, who was born in 1861 and at one time worked for a trading company based in Sri Lanka.
During his travels, he acquired a taste for oriental art, so when he returned to his native Switzerland, he brought with him priceless Chinese jade bottles and porcelain pieces dating from the 8th century.
In Japan, he collected a collection of miniature sculptures (netsuke), swords, woodcuts and other household items. Over the past hundred years, the museum’s collection has grown to 9000 exhibits.
Address: Museum of Far Eastern Art, Rue Munier-Romilly, Geneva, Switzerland.