Geneva, perched on the southwestern tip of Lake Leman, shines with its rich history and internationalism. During your trip to Switzerland's second largest city, you will (re)discover both the evolution of Christianity, since Geneva was the capital of the Reformation, and that of the United Nations. From the jet d'eau to the Palais des Nations, passing by the old town, you will be conquered by this "city where no man is a stranger".
"With this great mirror of the lake and this brilliant azure river, Geneva has two skies", declared Jules Michelet in the 19th century in his famous "History of France".
And in fact, Lake Geneva is mainly fed by the Rhône, which flows out of it in Geneva.
When the weather is good in summer, as it often is in mountainous regions, the cumulus clouds are reflected in the water - if the lake breeze, which is favorable to nautical activities, is not yet active.
You will find many religious buildings in Geneva. Known as the "Protestant Rome", capital of the Reformation, it is also home to many other religious communities. From the Saint-Pierre cathedral to the mosque, passing by the Calvin auditorium or the Beth-Yaacov synagogue, you can admire the different architectural expressions of the religions of the Book. Moreover, if the city hall or the Tower of the island are of medieval origin, there are many private mansions built from the 17th century.
A multicultural capital
A perfect run in Geneva, for any lover of religious architecture, goes first of all through the protestant cathedral Saint-Pierre. Built at the end of the 4th century, it was the church of the bishop of Geneva until the Reformation in the 16th century. As a result, it alone bears witness to the evolution of Christianity, from its recognition as the official religion of the Roman Empire to the development of Protestantism. Nearby, Calvin's auditorium, of Gothic architecture, was originally a Marian church before being desacralized by the famous theologian.
In a very different style, the Russian church, built in the 19th century, welcomes the Orthodox faithful on a hill in the Tranchées district. The first building to be built in the area, it determines the plan of the neighborhood by its orientation.
Closer to the Rhone River stands the Great Beth-Yaacov Synagogue. The first synagogue built in Switzerland, its architect wanted to give it a distinctive style, of which Geneva is said to be the father. Its architecture is halfway between that of the Dresden synagogue and neo-Moorish art, with its two-colored bands.
In the Petit-Saconnex district, you will also admire the mosque of Geneva, the largest in French-speaking Switzerland, and one of the few to own a minaret.
The Old Town
Around the Saint-Pierre cathedral, small cobbled streets interspersed with small squares are connected by secret passages which, in medieval times, allowed people to escape from the medieval city. At 19 rue Perron, you will come across the most famous of them, called "passage de Monetier". It opens only once a year, in December, during the Fête de l'Escalade. This one commemorates the victory of Geneva against the Duke of Savoy, in 1602.
In this maze, you will come across the Bourg-de-Four square, the oldest in the city. It will be the occasion to observe the typical narrow houses of the city, and their strange elevations. Indeed, in the 17th century, many Protestant refugees flocked to Geneva.
On this occasion, it was necessary to find a housing solution, and the buildings were raised. Finally, in the historic buildings are hidden various museums, including the House Tavel, which is the oldest preserved private home in the city.
From the English Garden to the Bastions Park
On the shores of Lake Geneva lies the Jardin Anglais. With its monumental cast iron fountain and one of the most famous flowering clocks in the world, it is a must-see during a walk in Geneva. Further on, the Eaux-vives park, which has very old trees, is adjacent to the Grange park. The latter has a large rose garden, and one can still see Gallo-Roman remains from the beginning of the Christian era.
In the city center, the Parc des Bastions, once called "beautiful stroll", was built in the 18th century. Its purpose was to provide the inhabitants with a walk inside the city walls, during the confinement intended to protect Geneva during the plague of Marseille. You can discover the international monument of the reformation, leaning against a part of the old walls that surrounded the city until the 19th century.
Genève, ville internationale
Genève est depuis longtemps considérée comme une terre d'asile, de par son rôle de ville d'accueil pendant les persécutions à l'encontre des protestants. Elle accueillit également Lénine avant la révolution russe de 1917. Du fait de cette tradition et de la neutralité Suisse, de nombreuses organisations internationales y ont installé leur siège.
During your visit to Geneva, don't miss the Palais des Nations! Built in the Ariana Park, it is the European headquarters of the UN. Around the imposing complex walk peacocks, received as a gift from the permanent mission of India.
Among the important international buildings, there is also the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Located on Avenue de la Paix, in the former Carlton Hotel building, it has a real architectural interest. And, interestingly, the ICRC is generally considered an international entity sui generis, making it a sovereign non-governmental entity comparable to the Vatican!
Run with Runnin'City from the Jet d'Eau to St. Peter's Cathedral!