One of the places I really didn’t want to miss. Maybe I am too geek, maybe it’s because professionally I work with science or maybe it’s because I am a huge fan of Big Bang Theory and Sheldon really wanted to visit the CERN in the episode “The Large Hadron Collision”. I don’t know the reason why I am so eager to visit this place (maybe all of them?), the truth is this was the first place we visit in Geneva. If you are in a hotel in the city centre, I advise you to take the tram. It takes 25 minutes from the Cornavin bus station and it stops right in front of CERN.
For those who don’t know what the CERN is – it stands for “The European Organization for Nuclear Research” (original: Organisation Europénne pour la Recherche Nucléaire). In here it is where the largest particle physic laboratory in the world is located. And that includes The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. CERN was associated and involved in many of the most scientific discoveries of the century including the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW) and the Higgs boson also known as “God Particle”.
It is free to visit the CERN and you can visit not only visit the building where the CERN is located you can also visit the Globe of Science and Innovation, where you can watch a small movie about the cosmos.
Address: CERN, Esplanade des Particules 1, 1211 Geneva
Around Lake Léman
Jet d’ Eau (Water Jet)
Jet d’Eau is one of the most famous landmarks of Geneva. You can see it even before landing in Geneva. This massive fountain jets five hundred litres of water per second to an altitude of 140 meters. Apparently, it is more impressive during sunny days when a rainbow is formed by the sunlight or in some special days when there’s a show with lights (you can see the special dates on their website).
During summer months the Jet d’Eau is working from 10 am until sunset. However, during winter months it is working from 10 am to 4 am due to the low temperatures after sunset, which be below the freezing point of water.
Address: Quai Gustave-Ador, 1207 Geneva
Bains de Pâquis & Phare des Pâquis (Pâquis baths and lighthouse)
This is one of the most popular spots in Geneva. Around this area you can find the beach of Geneva, restaurants, a lighthouse, beautiful views and 2 saunas. We didn’t try the saunas or the restaurants (even though there are great reviews for those who want to try fondue for good price) but the view is really beautiful. We got impressed by the fact in the end of November there were people swimming in the lake (yes, it was freaky cold).
Address: Quai du Mont-Blanc 30, 1201 Geneva
Rotunde du Mont-Blanc (Mont-Blanc Rotunda)
Almost right in front of the Brunswick monument across the street there is a small garden with interesting statues. This garden has the shape of a circle hence the name “Mont-Blanc rotunda”. You can stop and enjoy the view of the lake Léman, the city and the water jet.
I am only going to mention the meaning behind one of the statues – the statue of the Empress Sissi of Austria (picture above on the right). Sissi was stabbed with a sharpened file by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni in front of the ship she was about to take in return to Montreux. The statue is a monument to her.
Address: Quai du Mont-Blanc 10, 1201 Geneva
Brunswick monument is a neo-Gothic style mausoleum, replica of the Scaligeri family tomb in Verona. This mausoleum was requested by the Duke of Brunswick that left his fortune after his death to the city in exchange of a grand funeral and a monument built in his name.
Address: Jardin des Alpes, Quai du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Geneva
Jardin Anglais (English Garden)
The English Garden is one of the most known places in Geneva. You must recognise by its clock made with flowers, the Flower Clock.
The English Garden is the first place since it is the one closest to you once you cross the Mont Blanc bridge. I will quickly mention this bridge. Even though it is a simple, modern bridge that connects both sides of Geneva, it is not only a good place to take pictures of the river Rhone, the city, the Jet d’Eau and the mountains, it is also special because the bridge moves under you. Yes, it is true. When there are heavy traffic or bus crosses this bridge you can feel it trembling.
Now, moving back to the English garden, the paths of the garden are perfect for a relaxed stroll around with interesting statues and a magnificent view of the river, the Jet d’Eau and the city.
Address: Quai du Général-Guisan 34, 1204 Geneva
Parc de La Grange (Rose Garden)
If your favourite flower is the Rose and you are getting really excited about this Rose Garden, I will advise you to visit Geneva during Spring/Summer months. Just to save you from disappointment. We visited Geneva in the end of November, and I was hoping to see a sea of Roses and in the end, I saw one rose! ONE ROSE!
From some pictures I have seen on the Internet the Garden during the right time of the year looks lovely and I am SO jealous of those you could appreciate the beautiful flowery show. Apart from the Rose Garden there are many sculptures and a big park to walk along.
Even you ended up to me like me – visiting the city in late Autumn/Winter, it is still really nice to come and visit this place (as you can see the Autumn colours were mesmerizing). And it would be a nice walk back to the other side of Geneva, next to the river.
Address: Quai Gustave-Ador, 1207 Geneva
Basilica of Notre-Dame
From our hotel it took us less than 10 minutes walking to get here and for that reason this was one of the first places we visited. Made of sandstone with incredible stained glasses inside this Gothic style basilica is the main place of worship for Geneva’s Catholic community. The entrance is free which is always a plus and the architecture will make worth stopping here.
Address: Rue Argand 3, 1201 Geneva
Vieille-Ville (Old Town)
The old town for me personally was the best part of Geneva. The small streets and picturesque squares where you will find cosy cafés, restaurants, museums and much, much more to visit. The main square of the old town of Geneva is called “Place du Bourg-de-Four” (Bourg-de-Four square) and it is definitely worth going into one of the cafés, have a hot drink and enjoy the cosiness. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do it because as soon as we got close to the old town, we noticed a lot of people in sportswear. Afterall, for that day it was organized a special marathon called “Course de l’Escalade”. As you can imagine with such event happening many streets were closed and a lot of people were around cheering the runners. One of the main areas was exactly the Bour-de-Four square. However, it was impossible to not feel the contagious excitement of the people on the streets.
Address: Place du Bourg-de-Four, 1204 Geneva
Bastions Park and Reformation Wall
Other touristic point we also wanted to visit in this area was the Bastions Park or “Parc des Bastions”. It was in here the marathon ended so it was a quite busy area when we visited. One of the most interesting things to see in this park is the big chess boards at the entrance. Other part that is worth a visit is called the Reformation Wall where you can contemplate the huge statues of four most important figures of the Reformation, John Calvin, William Farel, Théodore de Bèze and John Knox.
Also engraved in the wall you have this symbol ΙΗΣ which is the motto of Geneva “Post Tenebras Lux” (After darkness, light).
Address: Prom. des Bastions 1, 1204 Geneva
St. Peter’s Cathedral
Looking now into buildings that you must visit you have St. Peter’s Cathedral. It was built between 1150 and 1250 and with over 850 years old it is the main church in Geneva. This cathedral was rebuilt several times and for this reason it combines different architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Ancient. Since 1525, the Cathedral belongs to Reformed church. There’s no fee to visit the church and the North and South Towers are available for visitors, from where you will get an amazing view over Geneva.
Address: Place du Bourg-de-Four 24, 1204 Geneva
Russian Orthodox church
We ended up not visiting this church because we didn’t have coins with us, and they don’t accept credit card (a tip for you guys!). However, you can see by the outside this is such a beautiful building and I feel truly sorry that I haven’t visit it (we only did a sneak peek!) Even you don’t feel like going inside, the building itself makes the trip worth even if only to contemplate the architecture. Its golden cupolas are a shinning beauty in the middle of Geneva.
Address: Rue Rodolphe-Toepffer 9, 1206 Geneva
Museum of Art and History
Since we didn’t visit the Russian Orthodox church we decided to visit this museum. This huge museum has over one million pieces in its collection. There are three different wings, the Archaeology wing with ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman relics. There’s the Fine Arts wing where you can look at Renaissance paintings where it is included big names such as Van Gogh. The third wing, the Applied Arts, you can find furniture, weapons, and other daily items from Middle Age. A big tip – most of the museums are free on the first Sunday of each month!
Address: Rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206 Geneva
Other options in the old town
In the end we could only visit the places I mentioned above, but there’s a lot more to see in the old town if you have time. Some other options:
- Maison Tavel (Tavel House)
- Barbier-Mueller Museum
- Promenade de la Treille
- The International Museum of the Reformation
- The Old Arsenal
- Le Passage de Monetier
- Simply enjoy the food in one of many cafés around the area
Palais des Nations and Ariana Museum
The “Palais des Nations” was built between 1929 and 1936 and it is the largest United Nations centre after New York. You can visit the building and the area but be aware it is closed on weekends, and since we came to this area on Sunday we didn’t have the opportunity to visit. You can check on the link below what time are the tours Monday to Friday and if you want to book them in advance.
This United Nations headquarters are located in the Ariana park, a pretty park to walk around and enjoy the view. In this area you also have the Ariana museum that displays beautiful pieces of ceramics and glass arts.
Website International Red Cross and Red Crescent museum: https://www.unog.ch/
Website Ariana Museum: http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/fr/ariana/
Right in front of the main entrance of the Palais des Nations you have this giant sculpture depicting a chair with a broken leg. This statue was build in 1997 and it is 12 meters high. This monument symbolizes opposition to land mines and cluster bombs and it acts as a reminder to everyone who visits this area of Geneva.
P.S. Please don’t take pictures all smiley and don’t make videos jumping to get to the broken leg of the chair. Personally I think you are showing disrespect for what it means.
International Red Cross and Red Crescent museum
This is not a “normal” museum and in the end it was a very different experience of what I was expecting. This main subject of the exhibitions is focused on “The Humanitarian Adventure” and you will understand how this organisation was created and why and its importance in main different areas and locations of the globe. The exhibitions are very modern and interactive which makes this museum so unique.
There are three main exhibitions: defending human dignity, restoring family links and reducing natural risks. I think this museum it is for everybody’s taste. Personally I didn’t love it, it can be quite heavy psychologically but quite informative at the same time.
Price per ticket: 15 Euros
Address: Avenue de la Paix 17, 1202 Genève