Geneva: where to go and what to do in the Capital of Peace (cont.)!
We have already talked about the Historic Center and also the attractions related to Lake Léman and the Rhone river. But Geneva still has several other attractions to offer to the tourist, such as museums – some with free admission – and beautiful parks scattered throughout the city
Parks, Squares and Outdoor Activities
As we mentioned in the article The Different Facets of the Peace Capital, Geneva is considered one of the greenest cities in Europe. Just walk around the city and you’ll see. Of course we are not going to talk about all the parks but there are some that are located very close to the tourist attractions and you will certainly pass them by, as is the case at the Parc des Bastions.
The Botanical Garden of Geneva is a great walk for those who enjoy plants and nature. It has more than 12,000 species scattered on nearly 28 acres. There you also find some exotic birds and one of the largest herbarium in the world (is a collection of preserved plant specimens and associated data used for scientific study) with about six millions specimen. The Garden sits next to the UN and WTO and opens almost all year round.
Place of Nations (Place des Nations)
The Nations Square is opposite the UN Headquarters in Geneva. It is there that you will find a great hall with the flag of all member countries of the Organization. Just one detail, many people think that the entrance to the guided tour in the UN is there, but it is not. To make the visit you should head to the other entrance further north, which is in front of the Red Cross Museum.
I believe the Broken Chair is the second most famous symbol in Geneva, just behind Jet D’eau. Created by the sculptor Daniel Berset in 1997 for the NGO Handicap International, the work is a tribute to the victims of landmines.
6.5 tons of wood were used for the construction of the work that is 12 meters high. The Place of Nations stands opposite the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. In addition to the Broken Chair, there are water fountains that, depending on the day, are turned on and form a very beautiful scene.
It is common to see people protesting in the middle of the square as it’s a place where it is possible to express any type of opinion.
Parks along the Lake (Barton, Moynier, Mon Repos, Promenade du Lac)
In front of the Botanical Garden and right on the banks of Lake Léman there are three gardens which, if you have time, are worth the walk. They are next to each other and it will take you a maximum of 50 minutes to visit them.
To walk along the Quai Wilson (Promenade du Lac) is always beautiful, especially during spring and summer, when the flower beds are blooming.
This monument, which stands next to the lake on the northern shore, was built by Duke Charles II of Brunswick, who lived in Geneva his last days and left a good part of his fortune to the city. The monument is a replica of the Scaligeri family’s tomb in Verona. Around the monument there is a small square that on sunny days is a great option for a coffee.
Bains des Pâquis
The Bains des Pâquis is a major meeting point in the city. During the summer it is a great place to swim, or paddle board, right in the center of town. For those who like to wake up early, there is a really cool event, a musical concert at 6 in the morning.
In winter, the restaurant offers one of the most famous fondue in Geneva. You pay something around 1 franc to enter and you can enjoy the place for as long as you want.
Eaux-Vives Garden/ La Grange Garden
The two parks stand side by side. The Parc des Eaux-Vives is a bit more popular, especially during the summer season when there are several outdoor concerts, including jazz on Wednesdays and fridays. The two parks also offer a beautiful view of Lake Léman.
New Square (Place Neuve)
Situated in the very center of the city, the Place Neuve is considered the Place of Culture in Geneva. It is there that several cultural events take place throughout the year. And it is there, too, that are located the buildings of the Conservatory of Music of Geneva, the Grand Théâtre and the Rath Museum.
In the center of the square there is a huge statue of the Swiss general and engineer Guillaume-Henri Dufour. In this place was one of the gates to the city, and the location of a famous episode of the Escalade. According to historians, on the evening of 12 December, the soldiers for the Duke of Savoy tried unsuccessfully to invade the town of Geneva. They did this by climbing (hence the name Escalade) the city walls.
However, according to legend, a woman who was making soup saw them climbing below her window and threw hot soup on them and alerted the others. Every year, on this day, the population celebrates this episode of the city’s history with costumes and customs used at the time, and some times you can find for sale chocolate soup crocks, in honor of the legend.
Park of the Bastions (Parc des Bastions)
The main entrance of the Park of the Bastions is in front of Place Neuve. The park is huge and very beautiful. This is where the Reformers’ Wall, the Palais Eynard (the seat of the municipal government) and the old university building with its library are located.
At the entrance there is a huge chess board and checkers where people can have fun. There is also a large restaurant where a bandstand used to be. They serve a good brunch here, but quite expensive.
Park Alfred Bertrand
The Alfred Bertrand Park is further away from the city center. It is huge and has a particularity, an area reserved only for dogs.
Located in Champel, one of Geneva’s residential neighborhoods, the park is more frequented by the park’s neighbors. Depending on the day you can cross pass with the writer Paulo Coelho who lives only 2 blocks from the park and time to time walks there.
This is one of the “secret” places of Geneva, the place where the waters of the Rhone and Arve Rivers meet. They have very different colors and, for a certain length, do not mix. A very nice show!
Museums, Churches, Theaters and Historical Monuments
We have already mentioned some churches and museums when we talked about the Historic Center of Geneva. But the city has others scattered throughout the city
United Nations (ONU)
The guided visit to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva is a tour that every visitor should do. Besides the architectural beauty and the works of art scattered throughout the building, the tour itself is very interesting.
During the tour, which lasts approximately one hour and costs 12 Swiss francs, the guides talk about the history of the United Nations and show the main facilities, such as the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations. As they usually say, it is an opportunity to tread where great leaders of humanity have stepped. Well worth it! There are also three theme visits. Click here for more info.
International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Besides the headquarters of the Red Cross, the city of Geneva also houses the only museum dedicated to the work of Henry Dunant. Located in front of the Palace of Nations, the space offers a unique experience of initiation (discoveries and reflections) to the humanitarian actions. Opened in 1988, the museum was completely remodeled in 2013.
The Museum is divided into three areas, where visitors can explore the three major challenges of humanity: reducing natural hazards, defending human dignity and restoring family ties.
Ariana Park and Ceramics Museum
The Ariana Park is right on the way between the Palace of Nations and the Nations Square. The building, which can be seen from afar, has neo-baroque and neo-classical style. Inside, the museum contains approximately 20,000 pieces of different materials, among them pottery, porcelain and glass.
Museum of Natural History (Muséum d’histoire naturelle)
With an area of 8,000 m2, the Museum of Natural History in Geneva is one of the most visited museums in Europe. It receives around 250,000 visitors a year and its collections have worldwide fame. A walk that combines birds, dinosaurs, mineralogy, mammals and the history of human evolution. And best of all, it’s free!
Museum of Art and History (Musée d’art et d’histoire)
Built between 1903 and 1910, the building of the Museum of Art and History of Geneva alone is worth the visit. It is impossible not to be enchanted by the paintings and sculptures scattered throughout the 7,000m2 of the museum. Located in the historical center, the museum has permanent exhibitions and some temporary exhibitions. Admission is also free.
International Museum of the Protestant Reformation of Geneva
If you are interested in learning more about the Protestant Reformation movement in Geneva, this is the ideal place. In the museum you will find information about the history of this movement, especially the chapters that unfolded in the city. Geneva was considered, at that time, “Protestant Rome” and it was here that the reformer John Calvin lived a large part of his life.
Patek Philippe Museum
A must see for anyone who enjoys watches is the Patek Philippe Museum. The brand gained fame after Queen Victoria started to use the watches manufactured by the company. In the museum you can explore the collection of watches made by the Patek Philippe brand and that have belonged to the Queen, including the lilac pocket watch decorated with diamonds in floral motifs. In addition there is a library dedicated to watchmaking.
CERN is considered the largest laboratory of particle physics in the world and is located in the northwest region of Geneva, on the border between France and Switzerland. Created in 1953, the objective of this scientific organization is to “promote and collaborate between European countries in the area of basic research in the field of High Energy Physics (FAE) in order to enable Europe to lead in this field”
At the entrance of CERN you will see the Globe of Science and Innovation. The globe represents the earth, embodying CERN’s message to society in the fields of science, particle physics, cutting-edge technologies and applications. This is where they say the internet was started.
Russian Orthodox Church
Next to the Museum of Art and History you have the opportunity to visit a real masterpiece. It is the Russian Orthodox Church of Geneva or Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The church was built with the financial help of the Russian community of the city and Anna Feodorovna Constancia, sister-in-law of Tsar Alexander I in 1859. In Moscow Byzantine style, the golden domes of the church can be seen from afar. The building is really beautiful!
Notre Dame Church of Geneva
Built between 1852 and 1857, the main Catholic Church in Geneva is right in the center, next to the train station. In other words, it is almost impossible to walk around the city and not see the neo-Gothic building which was partly inspired by the Cathedral of Beauvais.
The Victoria Hall of Geneva is a simply beautiful show house! The building was built between 1891 and 1894 and the name is a tribute to the Queen of England. Known worldwide for the acoustic quality of its venues, Victoria Hall was completely refurbished in 2006. If you have the opportunity to attend a concert there, do not miss it. You certainly will not regret it.
Grand Theater of Geneva (Grand Théatre)
I confess that the theater auditorium, itself, I did not find so beautiful. However, there is a room right at the entrance to the theater that yes, it is very pretty. The building is also in a very central location, opposite the Park of the Bastions, so you will certainly pass by at least in the front.
Square and Tower of the Molard (Place du Molard)
The Place du Molard is a special little corner in the city center, between the Rue du Rhône and the Rue du Marché. During the summer, the bars and restaurants set the tables and chairs on the sidewalk and the place is very pleasant for an afternoon and a happy hour. Do not go there without looking at the floor! Phrases written in various languages, in small tiles, welcome tourists from all over the world.
On the corner of Rue du Rhône a remnant of medieval times, the Tour du Molard. On the second floor of the tower, you will find a very interesting bar where you can have a nice glass of wine and savor delicious appetizers.
Tower of the Island (Tour d’Ile)
Another tower that draws the attention of those who walk through the streets of Geneva is the Tour d’Ile, which stands on a small island in the middle of the Rhône River, near Place de Bel-Air.
According to the site Myswitzerland, for many years this place was the only point of control of the European North-South connection, thanks to its bridge that connected the two rivers. A commemorative plaque states that Julius Caesar had destroyed this bridge in the year of 58 a. C.. The reconstruction of the bridge transformed the city into a commercial center of European relevance. In the thirteenth century, in this place was built a castle, of which only the tower remains.
Right next to the island, another well-kept secret of Geneva. A building in which the villagers painted each window a different color. Located on the corner of Rue Rousseau and Rue du Cendrier, many tourists pass by the site every day and simply do not realize the uniqueness of the building’s architecture. So, you know, if you pass by, do not forget to take a look up!
In addition to all these attractions, you can even walk the streets of the City Center, enchanted by the windows of the most famous shops in the world or simply sit in a bar by the lake and enjoy the movement.
If you have not read our first article about Geneva, click here and learn more about the historic center and the attractions of Lake Geneva.