Some would say that Geneva is simply a city in Switzerland and that it is one of the most expensive in Europe. However, I would like to tell you that Geneva is more than simply a city; it is a place where nature and simplicity are kept and nurtured and it is a hub where true change can come true. With this, it attracts so many foreigners to set-up their working and personal lives in such a place and 40% of Geneva’s actual residents come from other countries. In fact, I hope and wish that one day I could live and work there too. However, in the meantime, I will settle for telling you about a few sites that you could see in a weekend away to this incredible city.
The marvellous Mont Blanc bridge and its stunning views
The beauty of Geneva is best appreciated from the Mont Blanc bridge. It was built in 1862 by engineers Chantre and Blotnizki and was named after the great mountain in Chamonix, France. The flags on the bridge are a wonderful visual display and showcase the spirit of international conferences occurring at the time, including those at the United Nations, which has one of its bases in Geneva. From this bridge, you can see the most stunning views of the Geneva skyline consisting of green or snowy mountains with skies of differing shades of blue and pink. The Mont Blanc bridge allows for a crossing from one side of the famous Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Leman) to the other side.
I would recommend that you spend a few hours checking out the Mount Blanc bridge as well as its surrounding area including the green banks, shops and restaurants. I warn you though that you may find a few irresistible chocolate houses where you can purchase the most delectable items.
Take a boat ride on Lake Geneva
The famous Lake Geneva is partially owned by the Swiss and partially the French as it crosses into the French border. A direct translation of Lac Leman from French to English is “Lake Lake”, clearly a memorable name! It is home to the Jet d’Eau, which is Geneva’s famous fountain that reaches more than 450 feet (127 metres) high and is visible from each part of the lake; it is one of the tallest fountains in the world.
The history of the Jet d’Eau is in itself interesting as the fountain was actually created by chance. In 1886, engineers originally built the fountain to manage excess pressure. It was later recognised that there was truly aesthetic value in the fountain and that it represented the strength of a country. As a consequence, the fountain was subsequently re-created in a more prominent spot in the lake.
Whilst enjoying the Mont Blanc bridge, I would recommend that you hop on one of the little boats and enjoy a one hour tour of the lake as there are some fantastic privately owned properties that you can see during such a tour including the home of the owner of Colgate, the toothpaste.
An abundance of history in the Old Town
About 10 minutes away by foot from Mount Blanc and somewhat 25 metres (82 feet) higher than Lake Geneva, is Geneva’s beautiful and historical Old Town. The Old Town consists of cobbled stones, narrow passageways and cute little courtyards that lead to sites that you must see.
Such sites include the Old Arsenal, which is a set of cannons surrounded by mosaic decoration that portray Caesar’s arrival in Geneva in 58 B.C. In addition, there is the monumental St. Peter’s Cathedral, which is the location where Protestantism was preached in the 16th century. Importantly, it is also where Maison Tavel, which is the museum of history of Geneva, is based. I would recommend that you spend at least a few hours exploring this wonderful Old Town and perhaps even consider experiencing it whilst in a horse and carriage.
In addition, if you take a short walk for approximately 10 minutes from the centre of the Old Town, you can see the Reformation Wall, which honours four of the most important Protestant reformers in Geneva that played a role in the direction of Christianity. The Reformation Wall includes 15 foot tall (5 metres) statues of each of these important figures. The wall was built in 1909 for John Calvin’s, one of the reformer’s 400th birthday, and it overlooks the Parc des Bastions.
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Geneva's role in the world
My absolute favourite part of Geneva has to be the “Nations” area, which is the base for a number of international organisations including the United Nations, International Labour Organisation, World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Some of these organisations are available for the public to access (including having a guided tour); opening and closing times as well as the entrance fees vary.
I would have to recommend visiting the United Nations, which is located within the Palais de Nations building. If you visit, you will have the opportunity to see the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilisation Room (which is famous because it has been decorated by Miquel Barcelo), the Assembly Hall (which is the largest room) and the Council Chamber (which is where some of the most important historical negotiations have taken place). If you are fortunate enough, you may actually be able to see a session where delegates are providing updates on their respective countries. When I visited, delegates were providing updates on the topics of equality and capital punishment.
Planning and creating the future
Having travelled around most of Europe, my experience of the architecture in Geneva (with the exception of the Old Town) was that it was very simplistic and functional in comparison to other cities such Vienna, Paris and Rome. However, this is because Geneva, unlike many other European cities, is not solely about preserving history but rather about making change and thinking about the future.
With over 200 international organisations, Geneva is the location that is trying to facilitate a harmonious future for the citizens on this planet and as such, it is no wonder that so many are flocking there to be a part of this positive change. You cannot go through life without making a visit to the most peaceful city in the world where simple and natural beauty makes its mark and diplomacy and cooperation is looking to the future.
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