Walking Tour of Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva, Switzerland, is truly an international city, exemplified by the presence of the United Nations European Headquarters as well as the headquarters of the World Council of Churches — certainly an eclectic mix.
It is located, picturesquely, on Lake Geneva with the glorious Alps as a backdrop. Its climate is mild, which adds to its popularity. A walk along the lakefront reveals one of the symbols of the city, Jet d’Eau, simply a water fountain out in the lake which rises to a height of 140 meters (400 feet).
Another city symbol revolves around the concept of time, watches being an important product here. Within the Jardin Anglais (English Garden), is Geneva’s famous Flower-Clock, a large watch dial made from thousands of flowers (the types vary with the season). The entire concept dramatizes Switzerland’s prominence in the area of technology and the attention to detail which is a hallmark of the Swiss people.
Other must-see sights in the city include St Peter’s Cathedral, begun in the 12th century but modified significantly over the course of its construction. Climb the church’s North Tower (157 stairs) for a fabulous panorama of the city. The Reformation Wall (100 meters long), a monument to Protestantism, is located in Bastions Park. Place du Bourg-de-Four, in the center of the Old Town, is the local gathering place. Elegant buildings surround the square.
My walk begins on Place du Bourg-de-Four, in the Old Town, on the South Bank (Rive Gauche) of Lake Geneva. The square was once the site of a Roman marketplace, and is the main gathering place in the city. On the square is the Palace of Justice, an impressive building which houses the law courts, as well as other elegant structures.
From the square, walk northwestward on Rue de l’Hotel de Ville. At the corner of Rue du Puits-St-Pierre, you will find City Hall, on the left. Historical events which took place here involved the International Red Cross and the League of Nations, among others.
Turn right on Rue du Puits-St-Pierre to see Maison Tavel, the city’s oldest house (1334), now a museum. Then, turn right on Cour St Pierre to reach St Peter’s Cathedral, a huge edifice whose construction began in 1160 AD.
Exit to the rear of the Cathedral, and turn left on Rue de la Fontaine, which leads toward the lake, where you will find the lovely English Garden, home of the Horloge Fleurie (Flower Clock), a remarkably accurate (after all, this is Switzerland) botanical timepiece.
Before wandering through the tranquil garden, take an interesting detour from the walk by heading west on Quai du General-Guisan, and then walk onto the Pont des Bergues, to Ile Rousseau, a fortified island named for the famous philosopher. His statue can be found on the island. Then return to the garden and stroll eastward, emerging onto Quai Gustave Ador, to see the Jet d’Eau, the world’s tallest fountain, its plume rising over 400 feet in the air. You might also see Mont Blanc, in the distance.
Now, return to Quai Gustave Ador, walking westward, and then turn left onto Rue de la Scie, which becomes Boulevard Helvetique, and leads uphill. Turn left on Rue Toepffer, and left again on Rue Lefort, to find the Cathedrale Orthodoxe Russe, with its attractive and distinctive golden onion domes. The sumptuous interior is also worth a look. After your visit, walk south on Rue Lefort, and then turn right onto Rue Charles Galland, then bear left onto Rue des Chaudronniers, which brings you back to the square where you began the walk.