Geneva is a city with a long tradition of excellence.
There’s more to Geneva than watches, chocolates and banks. As the European home of the UN and the headquarters of the Red Cross, it is one of Europe’s most international cities. Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organisations in the world, with Lake Geneva and the Alps beyond making for an impressive backdrop. Geneva is Switzerland’s second-most populous city.
A Walk around Geneva’s Lakefront
Geneva’s lakefront is one of the city’s greatest assets. The familiar Jet d’Eau spouts a column of lake water as high as 140 metres in the air and on a clear day you can see Mont Blanc. As we strolled down the lakeside quays we passed by beautiful flowerbeds and elegant old residences. On the left bank is Jardin Anglais (English Garden), where the famous flower clock, a reflection of Geneva’s preoccupation with watchmaking, and the National Monument, which commemorates Geneva’s joining the rest of Switzerland in 1815. We crossed Mont Blanc Bridge and took in Brunswick Monument, which contains the tomb of Charles II, Duke of Brunswick.
A Town with Thousands Memories
Geneva’s Old Town is one of the largest in Europe and catalogues the town’s 2,000 years of history in its many art galleries, antique shops, museums, fountains and other sights. It contains some of the city’s foremost attractions and is a must-visit. The Old Town is situated on a hill, with winding little streets, flower-adorned fountains, hidden corners and picturesque squares.
In the very heart of the Old Town, Place du Bourg-de-Four has always been a meeting place. To this day Genevans gather around its lovely 18th century flowered fountain and on the terraces of picturesque bistros. Since Roman times the square has been a centre of commerce. In the middle of the 16th century, the houses around the square were raised to accommodate exiled Protestants. We admired magnificent specimens of 16th century architecture, as well as beautiful constructions of the 17th and 18th centuries. Also note the 18th century façade of the Palais de Justice in which yet older buildings sheltered, in turn the convent of the Order of St. Clare and, until 1857, a hospital.
Saint Peter’s Cathedral
Saint Peter’s Cathedral is one of Geneva’s most famous landmarks. One hundred and fifty- seven steps lead to the summit of the cathedral’s north tower and to a fabulous panorama overlooking the city and Lake Geneva. Clemence, the queen of the bells, weighs more than six tons and was hoisted to this very tower in 1407. The first phase of the cathedral’s construction dates back to the year 1160 and lasted nearly a century. Many events, including a series of fires, led to restorations and reconstructions, modifying its original design. Then, in the middle of the 16th century, the advent of the Reformation, with its philosophy of austerity, upset the entire interior of the building. All ornaments were removed and the coloured decors whitewashed. Only the stained glass windows were spared. Its current neo-classic façade dates from the middle of the 18th century, having replaced the former Gothic one.
Stroll 100 metres along Reformation Wall and you will discover 450 years of Protestant history. Construction of Reformation Wall in Bastions Park began in 1909, the year that marked the 400th anniversary of the birth of Jean Calvin, and the 350th of the foundation of the Academy of Geneva. The monument is backed against part of the ancient defensive walls that surrounded the city until the middle of the 19th century. At the centre of the wall, five meters high, are the four great figures of the movement: Guillaume Farel, one of the first to preach the Reformation in Geneva; Jean Calvin, the “pope” of the reformers; Theodore de Beze, the first rector of the Academy; and John Knox, the founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland. Behind these status stand the motto of the Reformation and of Geneva: Post Tenebras Lux, or Light After Darkness. On either side, statues and bas-reliefs represent the great Protestant figures of the different Calvinist countries and the crucial moments in the development of the movement.
The cradle of the Swiss watchmaking industry, Geneva is a paradise for luxury shopping. Famous for its stores selling extremely accurate watches and clocks, jewellery and luxury goods, Geneva also has a vast range of fashionable boutiques. The ultimate shopping paradise is all within a compact area, meaning you can get more shopping done in an hour walking around Geneva than you would in a day anywhere else! Here are some reasons why:
· Around 80 watch and jewellery boutiques concentrated on a single street, Rue du Rhône.
· On any shopping list when you travel to Switzerland is to buy a watch and there are 12 watch manufacturers with more than 300 years of watchmaking tradition, including Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Chopard and many more.
· Geneva is also a paradise for chocolate lovers with 30 master chocolatiers and the oldest Swiss chocolate manufacturer, Favarger.
Text by Melani Semuel | Photos courtesy of ©GeneveTourisme