An affluent place that is home to many international organizations and embassies – as well as the United Nations – Geneva is the second largest city in the country and is well worth visiting for its plethora of amazing sights. Full of lovely old buildings, museums, parks and more, it is a fantastic place to wander around, with loads to see and do.
On top of all the historic and cultural attractions, the River Rhone runs through the city, which also lies on the shores of Lake Geneva. As such, there is lots of nature for visitors to enjoy and beautiful mountains form a stunning backdrop to Geneva.
With so much tourist attractions on offer, you’ll have your work cut out trying to fit everything into your trip to this wonderful city.
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Located in the fantastic Parc Des Bastions, the Reformation Wall is a must-see when you are in Geneva; the monument depicts an important moment that changed Europe’s history forever. Built to honor the main individuals who influenced the movement, the Reformation Wall documents the Protestant Reformation and the schism that took place in Western Christianity in the 16th century. Beautiful to behold, there are numerous statues and bas-reliefs of such influential figures as John Calvin, Oliver Cromwell, and William Farel. Really well done, the wall is definitely worth checking out and it is not far from a lot of the other main attractions in Geneva.
Created in 1855, this wonderful little park lies alongside the waterfront not far from the iconic Jet d’Eau. It is a lovely spot at which to sit back, relax and enjoy the sun. Very English in style and look, it is modeled after country manor house gardens and is delightfully landscaped, with little winding paths passing by statues of prominent Genevans and well-tended flowerbeds. At the center of the park is a beautiful fountain, although the highlight is undoubtedly the Horloge Fleurie – a working clock that ticks its way around its flowerbed face. Intended as an homage to the country’s famous watchmakers, it is the cherry on top of what Jardin Anglais has to offer.
Opened in 1988, this thought-provoking museum is well worth a visit when you’re in Geneva. It was here that the organization was founded all the way back in 1863. As the aim of the ICRC is to protect human life and alleviate suffering, the exhibitions focus on topics pertaining to life-saving, with the three mains parts looking at how to defend human dignity, reconstruct families and reduce natural risks. The ‘Humanitarian Adventure’ exhibition is very interesting to wander around and is both educational and entertaining in equal measure.
Full of interesting old items and artifacts, the Museum of Art and History is a fantastic place to visit and its extensive galleries will keep you entertained for hours. Located in a lovely building in the center of the city, it is the largest art museum in Switzerland; the fine arts and archaeology sections are amongst its many highlights. With a huge range of art on show, perusing the exhibitions is mesmerizing; there is even a 3000-year-old Egyptian mummy for you to gaze upon. Genevan artists figure prominently in the collection and there are even works by such renowned names as Rembrandt and Rodin for you to enjoy.
Located right next to Place Neuve, the park is a delightful haven of peace and quiet and is a lovely spot if you want to relax after a day sightseeing around the city. A leafy place that is home to expansive lawns, a restaurant, and a children’s playground, Parc Des Bastions is best known for the beautiful Reformation Wall that is located within its confines. Throughout the year, various cultural events and festivals take place here. It is a popular park with locals, who come here to escape the busy city streets.
Famous around the world for its watches, Switzerland – and Geneva in particular – is home to the wonderful Patek Philippe Museum, which will introduce you to the art and history of watchmaking. Spanning over 500 years of history, the museum is a fascinating place to visit and is actually home to the oldest watch in the world, with its antique collection being quite stunning to gaze upon. With over 2000 exhibits on show, there are loads of lovely watches for you to peruse. The galleries take you through the whole process and evolution of making watches and you can even watch professional watch-makers as they work.
Built in 1938, the Palais des Nations complex hosts thousands upon thousands of intergovernmental meetings every year; it is one of the most influential places on Earth. It is the second most important United Nations office after the headquarters in New York and there is a fascinating guided tour on offer that takes you around all the main landmarks on show. Whether it is the stunning Assembly Hall or the impressive Council Chamber, the Palais des Nations will wow you with all that there is to see.
Lying on the western lakeshore, the botanical gardens are delightful to wander around and, remarkably, contain over 14,000 different plant species from around the globe. Beautifully landscaped, nature lovers will adore all of its amazing sights. There an almost endless array of flowerbeds, ponds and rose gardens for you to explore, with the herbarium housing over six million specimens. With a zoo also on site, the Jardin Botanique is a great place to visit with loads to see and do.
Located on the western shore of Lake Geneva, the Bains des Paquis is a popular spot for both tourists and locals alike; it is just a stone’s throw away from the Jet d’Eau. The public baths are lovely to wallow in and many people come here to exercise or relax on the pier or beach. While it is mostly frequented during the summer, hardy swimmers can still enjoy the baths in winter as there is a sauna and hammam on hand. It is during the summer, however, when Bains des Paquis really comes alive and the area is thronged with people enjoying the sun. Numerous cultural events – such as classic musical recitals and local festivals – only add to the intoxicating atmosphere and feel.
Opened in 1966, the Natural History Museum houses a fine collection that covers everything from taxidermy and insect specimens to moon rocks, fossils and the evolution of man. A great place for all the family to visit, the exhibitions are very well laid out and lots of display panels explain exactly what it is you’re looking at; young ones will particularly enjoy stopping by the floors devoted to the animal kingdom. In total, there are over 200 taxidermies on show, as well as countless moon rocks and fossils. One of the most interesting and impressive things to see at the museum is actually a living tortoise called Janus that has two heads who has defied biological norms to live for over 20 years.
Lying on the edge of the city, Mont Saleve appears before you like an impenetrable wall of rock, which at its zenith reaches a height of 1379 meters. The views from up high are spectacular, with Geneva lying below you and the Jura Mountains and Mont Blanc off in the distance. While you can hike, bike or drive to its summit, another option is the cable car which will take you to the top in no time at all. With loads of outdoor activities on offer, Mont Saleve is the perfect spot to go rock climbing, mountain biking or paragliding – you can even go skiing at Col de la Corisette if you feel like it. While ambling through the alpine meadows is delightful, the highlight is undoubtedly the stunning view; it is not without reason that Mont Saleve has been nicknamed the ‘balcony of Geneva’.
St Peter’s Cathedral, as it is known in English is a lovely building in the center of the old town. Its huge North and South Towers loom above the rest of the city. Built between 1160 and 1252, the architecture is largely Gothic in style, although a delightful Neo-Classical facade was added around the 18th century. Constructed on top of a 4th century basilica, the cathedral is the most important religious building in Geneva, and views from the top of it are absolutely stunning; you can see the Alps off in the distance. The interior is unassuming and undecorated in comparison with many other cathedrals and churches. As such, it is mainly the lovely architecture on show that people come to see.
Full of beautiful old buildings, Geneva’s Vieille Ville is the historic center of the city and is well worth walking around for its picturesque squares and winding, cobbled lanes. A veritable labyrinth of a place, wandering around is a delightful experience; historic buildings line the roads and atmospheric cafes are interspersed amongst galleries, museums and more. Dripping in history, the Vieille Ville is a must-see when in Geneva. Highlights include the stunning St Peter’s Cathedral and the fantastic Bourg-de-Four square, which used to be a Roman marketplace.
The headquarters of the European Organization for Nuclear Research is a fascinating place, where loads of cutting-edge scientific experiments are conducted every single day. It actually hosts the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Visitors can take a tour around parts of CERN to see what exactly goes on there, with the particle accelerator being particularly interesting to check out. In addition to the tour, there is a museum on particle physics and the history of the organization, including what it has achieved and what it is working on. The Globe of Science and Innovation somehow manages to break down complex ideas and scientific theories into accessible terms and this serves to make CERN both an entertaining and educational place to visit.
This iconic landmark is known around the world and is one of the main attractions that people just have to see when visiting Geneva. Seemingly spurting out from the center of the lake, the Jet d’Eau towers to a height of 140 meters and is actually accessible from a small stone jetty. If you get too near, however, you are almost certain to get wet, as over 500 liters of water are pumped out every second. Located at the spot where Lake Geneva joins the Rhone, the Jet d’Eau is a wonderful fountain and is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike.