Geneva is idyllically situated between the Alps, on the banks of Lake Geneva and in the far west of Switzerland. French speaking Geneva is home to the European seat of the UN and the headquarters of the International Red Cross and is hence called the “capital of peace”.
Geneva – metropolitan and multi-cultural
Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland after „Züri“ (en: Zurich) and, also after Zurich, the second largest banking centre in the country. However, Geneva is much more international than its bigger sister. This is not least due to the fact that less than „d Hälfti“ (en: half) the population are actually Swiss. The other half is divided amongst 157 nationalities. A multitude of international organisations have their headquarters in Geneva.
The UN’s European seat and The UN Specialized Agencies WHO, International Red Cross, World Trade Organization and the World Meteorological Organization are just some of the agencies headquartered in Geneva. Therefore, it is not unusual that international employees as well as visitors dominate the cityscape. This has also lead to Geneva being in a „Spitzäposition“ (en: top spot) worldwide for high cost of living.
You can feel the international atmosphere upon entering the Palace of Nations. The former League of Nations Palace was built inmidst the Ariana Park in 1936 and housed the various organisations belonging to the League of Nations. Huge halls and conference rooms offer „usreichend“ (en: enough) room for the 25’000 delegates who use these rooms each year.
Shopping in Geneva
The multicultural metropolis isn’t just about its many museums and cultural offerings but also offers good shopping facilities as well as chic restaurants and bars where the international jetset meet. Wealthy locals and visitors can find fantastic boutiques, souvenier shops and jewellers „uf dr rächte“ (en: on the right) side of the lake.
How to get there
There are many ways to get to Geneva: you can fly into the second largest airport in Switzerland, the Aéroport International de Genève; you can take the train to Genève-Cornavin train station; or you can travel by bus to the bus station located next to the train station. Geneva is well integrated into the Swiss railway system. International railway lines lead to and from Geneva; there is, for instance, a TGV connection which takes you comfortably to Paris in slightly over three hours. „Dr nochi Fluughafe“ (e: The nearby airport) is easily reached by one of the 200 trains which go back and forth from the inner city to the airport.
Within the city itself, it is best to use the UNIRESO network public transport to get to your destination. The city of Geneva offers a transport card free of charge to guests staying in hotels, campsites and hostels. The network comprises the „Mouettes Genevoises“ boats that operate on Lake Geneva as well.
The best panorama
The majestic St. Peter’s Cathedral sits on top of a hill smack in the centre of the old town. It is worth climbing the 160 steps to the North Tower in order to get the best view of the lake and the old town. Directly within your view is the most famous landmark of Geneva, the giant fountain „Jet d`eau“. It is fascinating to watch the play of light when the „Sunneschiin“ (en: sunshine) hits the jets of water; it looks as though there are little rainbows dancing around the water. In the evening, the fountain is lit up artifically in all the colours of the rainbow – a pretty sight as well.
The old town
Let your gaze wander over the roofs of the charming old town to Geneva’s town hall. This is where the State Council and the Parliament of Geneva sit. Although not visible from the outside, the rectangular tower hides a unique feature: there are no stairs inside, just a ramp leading to the top floors of the building. This is a remnant from the past when Genevans would either ride their horses or take a carriage up to the higher stories. In summer, concerts take place in the courtyard of this classicist building and you can listen to moody music surrounded by unique architecture.
Geneva’s inner city
There are more highlights in the old town around St. Peter’s Cathedral. In the centre of Geneva’s historical old town, you can find the picturesque Place du Bourg-de-Four. The centre of the square is dominated by a pretty fountain that is decorated with seasonal flowers. Historical buildings with cafes, cosy restaurants and bistros are dotted „rund um dr Platz“ (en: around the square). If you have arrived here after meandering through the lanes of the old town with their small individual shops and antiquarians, old nostalgic tavern signs will direct you to where you can rest and refresh yourself.
The historical tram, the Trans-Eaux-Viviens, will take you to more sights. The free ticket allows you to hop on and off the tram at certain unmissable sightseeing points.
A walk along the Rhone
Head southwest of the old town along the „iladende“ (en: inviting) promenade on the left bank of the Rhone to reach Place Neuve. The pride of the square is the Grand Théâtre, built in the style of the famous Paris Opera. Next door to the theatre is the impressive building of the Musée Rath which houses a good collection of contemporary art. Music lovers do not come up short, though; the International Music Competition of Geneva takes place every year in the neighbouring music conservatory.
What’s on in Geneva
There are events at differents venues all over Geneva throughout the year. The best way to find out what is happening is to get a copy of Geneva Tourism’s event calendar „What`s on“. Whether it is the International Motor Show, concerts, congresses or the Post Expo, every event in Geneva is listed on a month by month basis.
11 December is a historic memorial day for Geneva commemorating the attack on the city by Savoyan „Soldatä“ (en: soldiers). The Genevans sucessfully defended their city and this is celebrated today with a spectacular procession of people in legendary costumes carrying torches through the old town.
Getting to know other cultures and peoples
The best way to understand an unknown culture and people is to familiarise oneself with local customs and regional dialects. Guidebooks, textbooks and seminars can surely help, but the best way to learn a language is to join an international language school like learn-Swiss-german.ch. A language school is specialised in localisation and is the easiest way to get acquainted with a country and its people. Local contacts and friendships are what make a visit to another country a successful and more indepth experience.
Züri – Zurich
D Hälfti – half
Spitzäposition – top spot
Usreichend – enough
Uf dr rächte – on the right
Dr nochi Fluughafe – the nearby airport
Sunneschiin – sunshine
Rund um dr Platz – around the square
Iladende – inviting
Soldatä – soldiers