The Swiss city of Geneva is considered the seat of international power, as it’s home to over 20 international organizations. But don’t let that sway your views of this stunning, French-speaking city.
With big names such as the International Red Cross and the United Nations headquartered in Geneva, the city tends to have a conservative reputation. No, you won’t find underground raves or techno festivals here (which is why some people prefer Zurich over Geneva), however Geneva still deserves more attention than just a pit stop on your way to other destinations in Switzerland.
And in this post I want to show you six serious reasons why you should visit Geneva:
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1) The Views
Geneva sits on the shore of the impressively large Lake Geneva. In fact, it is one of the largest freshwater lakes in all of Europe. And if you have ever had Evian water, you are in for a surprise. Evian water comes from the town of Evian which is also on the shores of this lake, albeit on the French side. That is how good the water is! The crystal-clear waters are fed by melted snow that comes directly from the Alps. They also help to create a stunning location.
To take all of this in is quite simple. Just sit yourself on one of the many benches that line the shore. Then you can either take in the view or fill your memory card with pictures. Either is a great option!
You can also drop into one of the many beautiful parks that are scattered around the city. One of the more popular hangouts at the lake is Jardin de Botanique, which also doubles as an open-air flora and fauna museum.
2) The Monuments
Larger-than-life is an understatement when it comes to the many and varied monuments in Geneva. The most famous landmark that you certainly can’t miss is the Jet d’Eau. This gigantic waterjet sits at the center of the harbor in Lake Geneva and shoots out 500 liters of water at 200 km/h (130 gallons at over 300mph). And, it reaches as high as 140 meters (460ft) into the air.
Another key event in Swiss history is immortalized by the Reformation Wall. It pays tribute to the Swiss Reformation, a religious movement during the last centuries of the Middle Ages. The Reformed regions, such as Geneva, experienced stricter control than Catholic areas, which may provide an insight into the more conservative image of Geneva. The wall, located at Parc des Bastions, stands at a height of 10m (30 feet) and is 100m (325 feet) long. Embedded within the wall are the four luminaries of the Reformation: John Calvin, William Farel, Theodore Beza and John Knox.
For something more eclectic, why not give the Broken Chair a visit. This monument is literally “a broken chair”. It was erected in 1997 at the request of Handicap International to sign the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines. This 12m (40ft) structure is installed in Palais des Nations in front of the UN building.
3) The Museums
After a visit to the Reformation Wall, you can complete your education about the Swiss Reformation at the International Museum of the Reformation. The exhibits are housed in the 18th century Maison Mallet at Cour Saint-Pierre and educate visitors on the highs and lows of the Reformation Movement.
Another “must-see” is the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. It pays homage to the work of Red Cross founder Henry Dunant. Here you will find photos, exhibits, and experiences of the impact these organizations’ humanitarian efforts have had all over the world.
Two other worthwhile destinations are the Patek Philippe Museum, dedicated to the works of master watchmakers of the same brand and the Bodmer Foundation, a museum-library that boasts a collection of limited edition books and original manuscripts.
4) The Communities
Almost every city in Switzerland boasts of an Old Town oozing both culture and history. And Geneva is no different. You can also find everything you need in the Old Town, from dining to shopping, and feel like you are stepping into the past at the same time. With masonry facades, cobblestone streets and historical sights all around you, you would not be wrong in questioning that it is actually the 21st century.
The oldest remaining area in Geneva can be found in Old Town too. It is called the Bourg-de-Four Square. It used to be a Roman marketplace, but is now a popular tourist area with shops and cafes. You will also find St. Pierre Cathedral here, an architectural wonder itself that has been here for 850 years.
Geneva is also home to some quite unique communities, such as the “Greenwich Village” of Carouge. Here, you will find even more cafes, shops, and trendy bars, made even more interesting by their Bohemian flair. For art lovers, head over to the Bains District. It is home to a number of world-renowned galleries and is also considered a European platform for modern art.
5) The Science
One of the world’s most important centers for science and innovation is also found in Geneva. A favorite topic for many a Sci-Fi movie, the cutting-edge physics they do at CERN will blow your mind. You can take a tour of the facility if you are lucky enough, or you can simply take in their achievements at the Globe of Science and Innovation. It is a breathtaking wooden structure that contains a permanent exhibit of CERN’s most significant contributions to the field of science. And let me tell you, there are many!
6) The Great Outdoors
What’s a trip to Switzerland without immersing yourself in the “great outdoors”? After all, that is really what Switzerland is all about – the Alps, the lakes, and the snow. Day trips from Geneva are remarkably easy to plan, and with almost any outdoor activity imaginable. The most popular trip is to Mont-Saleve. Thanks to the extremely efficient transportation system in Switzerland, it’s a mere 12 bus stops away from downtown Geneva. Here, you can partake in paragliding, mountain biking, or skiing (in winter). And a huge bonus is the panoramic alpine views you will get while you are here.
It’s hard to find a bad location in Switzerland, and Geneva is no exception. So, there is absolutely no reason for you to skip this beautiful city. And while cities can certainly be more expensive than smaller towns in Switzerland, the wealth of knowledge, history, culture, and nature will definitely make up for it.
Tamara Dunn says
Just a small correction. The name of our lake is Leman not Geneva. The beautiful towns situated on all sides of the lake, Lausanne, Nyon Montreux, Evian ,Yvoire and Thonon les bains all take offence at this common but annoying mistake. Lake Léman!
Thank you for telling us that, Tamara. I had no idea.