Geneva is one of the most picturesque and famous cities in the world, and is often referred to with knowing humour as “the smallest metropolis in the world.” Lying in a lovely location, where the River Rhone leaves Lake Geneva, the city’s Alpine setting on its own would make it popular with visitors.
The city enjoys great status worldwide though, with the European headquarters of the United Nations here, while it is also the home of the Red Cross. This humanitarian tradition has seen Geneva given another nickname: “The Capital of Peace”. A French-speaking city in a polyglot nation, Geneva has a truly international feel at times.
The lake shore forms the main attraction of the city, with most of the best restaurants, hotels and shops located on the right hand shore of the lake. This is where the old town of Geneva is situated, and it is here that visitors can see St Peter’s Cathedral, as well as the square which forms the heart of the city, the Place du Bourg-de-Four. This is the oldest square in the town.
What to see in Geneva City
The older streets and quaysides of this shore of the lake form the vibrant core of the city, and there are wonderful corners to discover among the buildings. The Grand Rue is especially impressive, and was the street on which the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born.
A famous Swiss industry is, of course, watchmaking, and an appealing symbol of the industry can be found in the Jardin Anglaise (English Garden). Here, a massive clock made of flowers known as the Horloge Fleuri provides a wonderful visual metaphor for Switzerland’s famous timepieces.
If the attractions of one part of the shore of Lake Geneva become too much, then visitors can use the water-based taxis, the Mouettes, to get about from one place to another. Taking one of the boat cruises on the lake opens up new perspectives on the city, as well as allowing visitors to take a proper look at the wonderful setting the city finds itself in.
Another of the city’s well-known landmarks is the ‘Jet d’Eau’, a 140-metre water spout which sits at the edge of Lake Geneva and is visible from a long way away. This is a symbol of the city to many people, visitors and residents alike. The St Pierre Cathedral offers a more refined and older symbol of the city, with some great views available from its north tower of the city, lake and surrounding landscapes.
Visitors from abroad will also want to see the landmarks which relate to the city’s international institutions. Just one step through the gates of the Palace of the United Nations takes one into international territory and out of Swiss jurisdiction. The International Museum of the Red Cross is moving and interesting venue, the only place in the world where visitors can explore the history and work of this most revered of organisations.
The city also has much to offer for visitors who enjoy arts and cultural activities. Its location in the western part of Switzerland makes it decidedly French in outlook. The Grand Theatre offers drama lovers some great shows to choose from, while the city’s Opera House enjoys a fine reputation.
If you prefer something a little quieter and more historical, then you may well prefer an excursion to one of Geneva’s many museums. The famous watchmaking heritage of Switzerland can be explored at the Musée International de l’Horlogerie, with its stunningly vast collection of clocks, watches, jewellery and other horological items, both spectacular and humble. Some of the musical clocks on display will delight children of all ages.
Skiing in Geneva
Of course, the reason many people head to Switzerland is for the mountains, and the leisure options that they provide, especially in the wintertime. Many of the skiing resorts located within convenient reach of the city are actually in France, though this poses few logistical problems for anyone basing their vacation in the city itself.
If you are looking for a good family skiing resort then there are several options to consider. Les Carroz is one of the resorts which is popular with people who live in the area. Viewed as part of the Grand Massif area, it possess good snow and has been in popular use since the 1930s.
Flaine is another good choice of ski destination for families, and has a lot of facilities available for newcomers and novices to skiing. This modern, purpose-built resort also possess around 140 kilometres of piste, with plenty of space available for everyone.
Some of the Alps’ most iconic resorts are also within easy reach, though visitors do have to cross the border into France to reach them though. Chamonix is guaranteed snow, and is a huge and very famous resort. Megeve, also not far away, is one of France’s largest towns, and there is plenty to do there.
All of these resorts are no further than two hours’ drive away from Geneva in your car hire, making the city an ideal place to base your Swiss holiday adventures. While you can find places to ski to your heart’s content, if the activity becomes too much for you, there are plenty of places to sit with a coffee and cake and consider the view, or to see a play or to take a boat trip across the lake. This city of watches is one place where time will never hang heavy in your hands.