Geneva enjoys a wonderful position where Lac Léman flows out into the River Rhone. It’s also surrounded by mountains and the departure point for lakeside resorts such as Lausanne, Montreux and Evian.
The Rhone bisects Geneva with the north side called Rive Droit and the south Rive Gauche. The city centre occupies both sides - the airport and railway station to the north and the Old Town with the Cathedral and City Hall to the south.
Geneva is an international city, headquarters for many organizations such as the Red Cross. French speaking, it has long been the country’s most cosmopolitan city. Even its airport straddles an international border, part in Switzerland, part in France.
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History of Geneva
Geneva became an imperial city in 1032. It gained independence in 1530 and only joined the Swiss Confederation in 1814. It had a reputation for religious and political tolerance with many seeking refuge, including Calvin and Lenin.
Indeed, it’s said that the manufacture of watches was aided by John Calvin. Later, it became the city where rich young people from around Europe completed their education.
Switzerland’s neutrality has attracted over 200 international organisations to the city and a third of the population is foreign. The office of the UN is the second largest building after Versailles in western Europe. Banking is another important industry as are watches, scientific instruments and jewellery.
Although expensive, it’s a highly efficient city. The Old Town has character and there are excellent museums and parks. It has good public transport and the airport is only three miles from the city centre.
Many budget airlines now fly to Geneva and they are much used by skiers and lovers of mountains. Geneva, however, is well worth a detour before travelling on to the ski resorts. Most attractions can be covered on foot, while the lake, with it’s stupendous fountain, the Jet d’Eau, makes for wonderful cruising.
The Old Town is dominated by the Cathédrale St-Pierre. In the city centre, the Ile Rousseau is a small island in the Rhône, with a statue of Geneva's influential citizen, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Geneva has a mild central European climate with low rainfall. It has superb hotels and restaurants offering international and local cuisine of high quality. Swiss wines, grown nearby, are of good quality and although rarely seen elsewhere, worth sampling.