BLESSED CHURCH TOWERS
If Geneva is the starting or ending point of your trip and you have some free time in the city, you should not miss the climb to one of the most beloved places for the people of this city: MontSalève.It is the hill that you will see from any point in Geneva, crowned by a huge antenna. Even if it looks like it´s in the city, it´s actually in French territory.The views from this point are impressive: the Swiss Alps and Mont Blanc, Lake Lèman, the city and the Jet d´Eau, the Jura Mountains from north to south…
From here you can see practically the entire Canton (or Federal State) of Geneva in detail.It can be reached by cable car, which we access by bus from the city centre. But the most beautiful way to get there is to walk up any of the many trails that run along the hill. As this option is only for travellers spending some extra time in Geneva, we leave this link in case you will need more information: http://www.geneva.info/saleve/hiking/For those who are visiting Geneva with Europamundo and do not stay in the city longer, we will now explain where can you find another viewpoint to see the city from above.
This next point is more accessible, so you won´t miss it even if you don´t have much time. The tower of Saint Pierre Cathedral.Like most cathedrals, this has been the centre of the city´s social and religious life since its origins in the IV century and especially after the Calvinist Reformation in the XI century.From that moment on, the Geneva Cathedral became a centre of reference for Calvinism and a school for priests.It is located at the top of Vielle-Ville, the oldest area of the city. The views from its towers are magnificent since it is a tall building on top of a hill.
To access the towers, just go to the cathedral and buy the seven Swiss francs ticket.There are various exemptions and discounts depending on the age, if you are a big group, for large families...Once we have accessed the main nave of the cathedral, it will be difficult to leave. Such is its beauty, artistic richness and magic of the interior!To get to the top, we will have to climb 157 steps, as there is no lift or other mechanical aids. Be careful and don´t rush!Once you reach the top, you will not regret it because the views of the lake and the city are wonderful: we will enjoy the contrast of colours between the blue of the lake and the green of the mountains.
The urbanism will look like a scale model, we will get to see the majestic Juras, the impressive Jet d ´Eau…The architectural structure of the towers also deserves our attention.We can go from one tower to another through the bell chambers and analyse their mechanical system.Let yourself be caressed by the refreshing breeze and enjoy the views and the fact that you are in one of the most influential buildings in the history of Central Europe.
Place Burg-du-Furg. Vielle Ville
Hours: vary according to the time of year. Usually 9 am to 7 pm.
Price: entrance: 7 CHF to the towers, free entrance to the cathedral.
TO FACE THE COLD
For snack, we will recommend a specialty typical of Romandy also known as the French Switzerland.We suggest the Malakoff,a warm, informal, vegetarian snack that you can eat either sitting in a café or buy it to take away at one of the stalls on the Place du Rhône.No, it is not a Soviet import, is a typical dish from the northern slopes of Lake Lèman. There are also the Lavaux vineyards, which are a World Heritage Site and which you will probably pass through with your Europamundo bus if you are heading for Zürich or Gstaad.They say that the Malakoffswere created by the Swiss mercenaries, after the siege of Sevastopol, during the Crimean War at the end of the XIX century.
Even if we have not found any documentary evidence to certify this, it is also said that they were named after the city in which they where located at the time.Malakoffsare cheese fritters placed on a small round piece of bread and fried. They are shaped like a hemisphere although each chef creates their own variety and it is common to find them in the form of balls without the crunchy toast.Each person who makes them has a trick and their particular touch, which depends mainly on the cheese used to make the mixture, the spices, the time and temperature of the frying and the kind of oil used.
All chefs who were asked about the recipe replied "it´s a secret"!In Switzerland it is believed that there is no single recipe and that each chef reinvents it every day, depending on what is in the pantry.They are served with salad, seasonal vegetables or pickles, such as pickled cucumbers or choucrout which isvery popular in Central Europe.To enjoy the whole experience it is necessary to accompany them with wines from the Lèman region. In this area, the wine industry is family owned, so production is limited by each winery, and there are hundreds of different wineries.
Whichever wine you choose, you will like it, but we recommend whites because of tradition.You can try this malakoffsin almost every restaurant in the old centre of Geneva and in many of the modern neighbourhoods. The plate with three or four units costs about 22 CHF. You can also buy them to take away at the Place du Rhone.
TODAY WE TREAT OURSELVES
In Geneva the item par excellenceis the luxury watch, and no doubt, this is the place to buy a good Swiss watch if you are interested.Swiss watches are known worldwide for their precision, aesthetic design and technology.The origin of this tradition goes back to the XVI century, when the Calvinist Reformation prohibited the use of jewellery. Then, Swiss high society decided to decorate itself with watches, practical objects which became true jewels.Jean Calvin´s influence on the Swiss watchmaking tradition was therefore decisive.
Nowadays most of watch production is located in the arc of the Jura mountains, north of Lake Lèman, and the Vallée de Jouxis considered the birthplace of modern watchmaking.In Geneva, there are more than fifty private label stores. Probably the best known commercially in the world is Rolex, but look at other establishments best known for their elegance, technology and exclusivity such as Longines, Tissot, Piaget, Hublot, Omega, Blancpain…In addition to classic brands, new designers have recently emerged in the world of design and luxury.
We recommend, for example, visiting small boutiques on the Rue du Rhône, where the most peculiar celebrities will choose exclusive watches according to their personality.On Rue du Rhôneand the surrounding area you can find watches of all types and prices, from the classic Geneva ranges to ultra-technological designs. The classics impress because its exclusive mechanical technology, and the new ones stand out precisely for the contrary, because of its sophisticated digital technology.Production is manual and centralised in Switzerland by leading specialists. No parts or finishes are imported from any eastern country.
Each watch is made entirely in its factory and each factory is infused with an aura of professional secrecy.The most expensive watch in history was sold at an auction in Geneva in 2019. It is a Pathek Philippe for which its bidder paid 28.8 million euros. It is a recent and exclusive model, no series was produced and it took more than 100 000 hours of work... This is art and technology.The second most expensive model was sold in 2014 for 21.7 million euros and is another Pathek Philippe. In this case, it is a classic model made in 1920.
The buyers of these objects are collectors of art and amulets of luxury and distinction Perhaps we should have included the proposal to buy Swiss watches in the section “Dare to live it?”
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY
The city of Geneva has historically been home to major public and private international entities.Switzerland has not participated in either of the two major World Wars, its political neutrality means that most international organisations choose this country to set up their headquarters.The most important of these is the UN headquarters in Europe, which was the most important in the world until 1966, when the main headquarters moved to New York. Known as ONUG, it is currently the second most important international centre in the world, after the one in New York.The beginning of the UN was the League of Nations which from 1920 until 1945 was not constituted as such.
At that time, it acquired the name of United Nations that remains today.Since you can take beautiful photos anywhere in Geneva, we propose a strongly symbolic photo.We suggest to photograph the united front of the countries of the world in the search for peace and harmony and the people´ s demand for their representatives to actually do that.In the UN building, which is called the Palace of Nations, more than 8,000 international meetings are held annually. Some of the functions of the UN are make decisions to guarantee international peace and security, promote disarmament, protect and advocate for human rights, eradicate poverty, apply sustainable development practices and provide rapid and effective humanitarian aid in emergency situations.
The photo we propose must be taken at the Nations Square. From there we will see the great Palace of Nations, surrounded by the Ariana Park, which is a donation from the family Revillond de Riveto the city.In the background, we can see the main frontage of the Soviet-style building, crowned with the name of this organisation.In front of the main façade is the “Avenue of the Flags”, where all the flags of the member states are raised.On the wall that closes the site, we read in magnificent silver letters: United Nations Organisation.In the same photo we must frame the impressive “Broken Chair”, which the artist Daniel Berset installed in 1997 at the request of an association of non-governmental organisations.The broken chair is much more than just a sculpture of a giant chair with a mutilated fourth leg.
We can see that despite this imperfection, it remains a stable, firm and dignified chair, which establishes a parallel with the victims of anti-personnel mines who have a disability.The broken chair is a peaceful campaign for the rights and dignity of victims and an end to the use of mutilating weapons. Furthermore, it seems that the presence of the sculpture, in front of the world representatives, serves to remind them of the need to comply with the treaties they sign. The chair, located in Nations Square and looking at UN dignitaries, is a call to reflect before starting an armed conflict. I
t is a shout from the civilian population to the leaders to become aware of the effects of their decisions.
Nations Square. Free entrance. Always open.
THAT IS IN YOUR WAY AND YOU ARE GOING TO LIKE VERY MUCH
In the historic centre, very close to the Saint Pierre Cathedral, you will find the oldest private house in the city: Maison Tavel.Since 1986 it has been the Genevan Museum of Urban History and Daily Life.This emblematic building shows a journey through the urban development of the city, very curious considering the constant revolutions, the Calvinist influence and the historical feuds with the neighbouring House of Savoy.The museum´s jewel is in the attic. It is the Relief Magnin, a model of Geneva as it was in 1850, before the destruction of its three walls.
The author, Auguste Magnin, was an architect who lived through the period when conservative urban planners wanted to maintain the medieval walled aspect and modern urban planners believed that medieval architectural barriers should be destroyed to provide expansion land.It was the idea of renovation that prevailed, and Magnin, in honour of his happy childhood in the medieval city, raised this scale model to remind future generations what the medieval city was like.It took the architect ten years to build it. It was exhibited for the first time at the Geneva National Exhibition in 1896.Nowadays, with exhaustive measurement systems, the model has been digitised.
It has been verified that the proportions, orientations and locations of geographic accidents and buildings are mathematically faithful to reality. Magnin was a genius!!The model measures eight by five meters and weighs 800 kg.It is very interesting to look at it, as many of the buildings represented are still standing, recognisable today, such as the bridges, the factories converted into cultural centres, the Plainpalais esplanade where the fair is still held, the Christmas Market and the weekly markets, the main avenues and, of course, the Cathedral. Particularly striking is the robust line of walls on the southern flank of the city, making it clear that they were intended to protect Geneva against the French from the south.
Not only the model, but also the visit to the museum is very fun and picturesque.It offers us written and audiovisual didactic information to interpret and become aware of the value of what we see. The exhibitions aim to seduce the visitor. In bad weather, when it is unpleasant to walk outside, it is a good option to take refuge in this house that has very good heating.
Address, prices and times:
Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre 6Visiting the permanent collections where the model is located is free. It is open from 11 am until 6 pm.
It is a good idea to arrive on foot because it is in the heart of the old town and very close to the Cathedral, but if you want to go by bus, take the number 3, 5 or 36 and get off at Palais Eynard.
VERY FEW DARE AND ALMOST NONE SUCCEED
In Geneva we suggest you a fun challenge and we strongly advise you not to do it in winter. One of the hallmarks of this city and Lake Lèman is the well-known Jet d´Eau, spout of propelled water that rises on the lake southern shore.At the end of the XIX century, the Geneva Industrial Services company (GIS) installed a hydroelectric plant on the Rhone River as it flowed through the city, to provide energy to Genevan producers and traders.
In the afternoon, when the activity ceased, the system had to evacuate the excess hydraulic pressure, so a water leak was opened which resulted into a thirty meter high jet.This caused the admiration of residents and tourists who came to see such an impressive effect.A few years later, the city decided to explore this curiosity for tourists and create an exceptional stream of water that in 1951 reached its final height, 140 meters. The current location is on the Eaux-Vivespier, a place less affected by pedestrians and vehicles than the original one.Jet d´Eaucontinues to belong to GIS, the Geneva energy company that offers electricity, internet, telephone connections...
It is supervised by five company retirees, whose main function is to start it every day at 10 am and shut it down at night. The Jet d´Eau works every day, except when the temperatures are extremely low to prevent the drops that fall on the sidewalks from freezing and turning them into a skating rink. The jet is also shut off when there is a lot of wind, to avoid wetting the population with the displacement and splashes of the impressive sprout.Sometimes, this peculiar attraction is illuminated with 13 differently coloured LED spotlights to celebrate holidays or historical events.
Other times, it is turned off to denounce other historical events or appeal to the Genevan for social commitment, as it happened in times of coronavirus.Our bold proposal is simply to approach the jet. Take a leisurely stroll along the pier and get as close to the it as possible.The water is projected at 200 km/h, with a volume of 500 litres per second... Yes, you are reading well, per second! This volume at such a speed causes an unbearable shock wave. Experience how far you can go, you can fall several meters away, or you can just enjoy its proximity, without risking it. We strongly recommend to try it in the summer time and with spare clothes because you will get more wet than if you had bathed in the lake.
Eaux-Vives Pier. South bank of the lake.
AN ATTACK ON PATRIOTIC PRIDE
In the English Garden, at one end of the Mont Blanc Bridge, which is the first bridge linking the two banks of the Rhône, right next to the usual Europamundo bus stop we can find the so called “National Monument".Although popularly known by this name, Switzerland has no one national monument. One of the reasons for that is that Switzerland does not regard itself politically as a nation, but a confederation of states.The history of this particular country is very curious, so we recommend that you read about it.Returning to this not national monument, it is a bronze sculpture, work of Robert Dorer, a Swiss sculptor trained in Germany and Italy and influenced by the artistic movements in both countries in the XIX century.
In this sculptural ensemble we can see two robust, well-fed ladies gracefully embraced at the waist.The one with a crown represents the Canton of Geneva and the other with the laurel wreath represents Helvetia: the Swiss Confederation.The monument represents the union of the Canton of Geneva with the Confederatio Helvetica(CH) in 1815, so there is no reason to consider it a national monument.Popular rumour has it that the artist took two young women from the enemy region of Savoy, the French region bordering the canton of Geneva, as models for the creation of his work between 1860 and 1864.
In fact, the history of the Canton of Geneva from the XV century onwards is a chronicle of strife between the Counts of Geneva and the Dukes of Savoy, between Calvinist bishops and Protestant religious orders and Catholics in the mountainous region and between Swiss and French feudal lords.The misunderstanding between the two lands at all levels has been a constant in history.What led Durier to be inspired by the Savoyard models?The history of the monument is unknown, criticism and comments are subject to a kind of tacit censorship on the subject.They say that Durier, focused on his artistic creation and, intentionally oblivious to the political climate, used his usual Savoyard muses for an exclusively artistic purpose.
Although he knew that such models would not be approved by the city, he believed that no one would notice the detail.We don’t know when but, after the inauguration of the sculpture in 1869, someone declared the characters of Geneva and Helvetia to be from Savoy. The truth is that we did not find in the sculpture any detail that could be related to Savoy and that the women from Savoy and the ones from this Swiss region had similar appearances without any ethnic or aesthetic features that differentiate them.
There is therefore no apparent formal justification for this detail, although it is very suspicious that if this monument is considered to be a national one, there is hardly any written information, nor any sort of patriotic pride and devotion to it.
English Garden on the corner of Mont Blanc Bridge. Always free of charge and accessible.
BLUE LAKE, GREEN GRASS
The English Garden: a beautiful and serene walk that we will have time to enjoy during our stay in the city without needing a bus.At the south end of the Mont Blanc bridge, on the lake side is the English Garden, which you will soon recognise because its Flower Clock.In the mid-nineteenth century, to meet the luxury demand of businessmen who emerged from the industrial revolution, a neighbourhood of beautiful mansions and gardens was built along the southern shore of the lake. Everything was built following the classic taste of the time except the front line since the lake shore at that time was occupied by workshops and warehouses.
Because of that, the Mayor made the wise decision to transform the lake´s surroundings into a public park, which was the first in the city. The place deserved a careful and practical design, which still has.Strolling through the English Garden is enjoying the views, the tranquility, the environment and other important attractions that we will find along the way.The first is the Flower Clock, whose 6 500 flowers are renewed according to the seasons. The clock face has a diameter of fourmeters and its second hand is 2.5 meters.
It is the largest in the world. Ahead of the clock is the non official national monument that represents the union of the Canton of Geneva with the Swiss Confederation and whose details you can find in the section “what nobody will tell you about this unmissable monument”. We continue our tour and find the Fountain of the Four Seasons, which passers-by have enjoyed since 1863. The cast iron sculptures represent characters from mythology, so it is not very clear where the name of the fountain comes from.
If we keep walking we´ll find the dressing room for the orchestra. Concerts continue to be held at this venue, especially in the summer and on holidays.The streets of the park are full of busts of local sculptors and painters, benches to rest, ice cream and souvenir stalls, drink kiosks and trinkets... This fair setting is shown in all its splendour in what is known as Village Suisse, a fair installed in the park. Even if adults will not be able to ride the carousel, they could take a place on the ferris wheel to enjoy the view of the lake from the highest point.On the terraces we can have a drink and a snack, there are local products, informal menus and very select ones with fishing from the lake and fondues.
If we want to fully integrate ourselves into the atmosphere, we can cross the avenue and have a drink at the Hôtel Metropole, the most traditional in the country. That said, we recommend that you read the price list and its small print in advance to avoid surprises.As it is a popular park, there are public bathrooms that you will see next to the bus stops.
South end of the Mont Blanc Bridge, on the corner of Lake Lèman.
THE UN OF THE PEOPLE
A must-see in Geneva is visiting the place most loved by residents and travellers where you can take a swim: the Bains des Pâquis.In 1872 the city installed a wooden pier on the bank of the lake to make it easier for the citizens to bathe.Since its opening, it has been frequented by all types of people who come to bathe, rest, eat or get together with friends. What the people of Geneva come to do here is simply to see life go by in an idyllic place.
Because it houses all kinds of people (men, women, children, the elderly, the rich, the poor...) it emits a certain air of effortlessly and spontaneity, which has become a centre of cultural and ideological exchange. It is the environment where the tie workers from international institutions, banks and luxury businesses can relax and release their art de vivre, which is an elegant euphemism for "indulge yourself".In the 1980s, the City Council proposed a new construction project, which caused a huge controversy.
This gave rise to associations of friends of the Bains des Pâquis, and even led to a local referendum to authorise the demolition and new construction of the structure.The love of the local residents prevented the demolition and the old XIX century structure was preserved, which was decisive for the romantic atmosphere of the place.Inside there is a bar and a space where meetings, film screenings, lectures, literary and artistic meetings are organised. There are also changing rooms, massage rooms, Turkish bath, hammam(steam sauna), hammock rental, and spaces for children.The views are magnificent: the lake, the city, the Cathedral, the Jet d´Eau, the Mont Blanc Bridge and, on clear days, part of the Alps.
At the end of the pier is the Lighthouse of Pâquis, built to indicate access to the city´s port and alert sailors of the dangers of the lake. Probably at the time of GPS, sailors can live without it, but not visitors and neighbours for whom the lighthouse is another symbol of the city.Therefore, it is maintained as if its functioning were vital, the lamps are checked monthly and changed every three months and the lighting system is controlled by an advanced digital system.
You can walk down the pier to the base of the lighthouse, but you can´t go up to enjoy the views, that´s why the Environment Delegation, responsible for the building, provided a link with the 360º views from the top: https://phare-des-paquis.ch/Currently the bathrooms are open all day long according to the weather. Admission costs two CHF.Those opening hours in the land of watches and that cheap price in the most expensive country in the world say a lot about the purpose of this place.
Extra services such as sauna, hammam(steam sauna) and massages are at an additional cost.Access to the Jetté, the beach and the pier to dive in the water is free of charge.In the winter, in sub-zero temperatures, you will see the Swiss bathing with tranquility as if they were in the Caribbean... It is unbelievable!
Quai du Mont-Blanc30, on the north shore of the lake you will see the lighthouse.
We recommend walking, it is a pleasant stroll. From the Flower Clock, it takes only 1km.
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