Geneva rests peacefully on the western shore of Lake Geneva, a body of water that has attracted visitors (and invaders) for thousands of years. Beautiful snowy mountain peaks make a brilliant backdrop for the city, which is perfect for exploring by bike or on foot. The first time you go to Geneva, you'll probably want to head straight for the lakefront and see its world famous fountain. But there's also St. Peter's Cathedral, the Reformation Wall, the birthplace of the U.N., and the Flower Clock in the English Garden.
While it is unlikely that you would ever run out of things to do and see while visiting Geneva, here are a few of the most popular, listed alphabetically.
1. Cathedral de St-Pierre
2. Grand Theatre de Geneve (A posh opera house that's described as everything you want an opera house to be)
3. International Red Cross / Red Crescent Museum
4. Jet d'Eau
5. Lake Geneva
6. Maison Tavel (A home built in 1303 that is Geneva's newest historical museum)
7. Microcosm et CERN (Home of the Large Hadron Collider)
8. Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
9. Palais de Nations
10. Signal de Bougy (A theme park with a petting zoo, mini golf, and a great view of Lake Geneva)
Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland, after Zurich. It is the biggest city in the French speaking part of Switzerland. It is located where the Rhone River exits Lake Geneva, and is the capital of the Canton of Geneva. The population of the city was 186,825 in 2008, and the larger metropolitan area had a population of 812,000 in 2007. The metropolitan area extends over Switzerland's border with France, with about two-thirds of it in Switzerland, and one-third of it in France. The Geneva metro area is expected to reach a population of one million by 2030. The Canton of Geneva contains almost 150,000 people who are originally from Geneva, 122,000 from other cantons, and nearly 171,000 foreigners from 180 different countries. Counting those in Geneva with multiple citizenship, 54% of Geneva's residents have a foreign passport.
Geneva is considered a world city with a reputation for peace, diplomacy, and cooperation among nations. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent are headquartered here, as are several of the United Nations agencies, and it is where the Geneva Conventions were signed concering the treatment of prisoners of wars and non-combatants during wartime.
Geneva is also a powerful center for world finances, and is considered more important than big hitters like Chicago, Tokyo, Sydney, and Frankfurt. It is also a great place to live: a 2009 Mercer survey Placed Geneva third in the world in terms of quality of life, closely behind Zurich and Vienna. But its reputation doesn't require it to take up a lot of space: Geneva is eminently walkable and accessible by bike.
Geneva's media consumption includes four daily newspapers: Tribune de Geneve, Le Courrier, Le Temps, and Le Matin. The latter two cover the general French speaking part of Switzerland. Geneva also has several French language radio stations that are part of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. Radio Suisse Romande is the main one, and all cover French speaking Switzerland beyond the borders of Geneva. World Radio Switzerland is the only English language radio station. Geneva's main television station is Television Suisse Romande, which is headquartered in Geneva but whose programs are targeted at all of French speaking Switzerland. Leman Bleu (roughly translated as Blue Lake Geneva) is a local television channel that was founded in 1996. Because Geneva is so close to France, French TV channels are also easily picked up.
Geneva's history changed with the advent of John Calvin, who lived in Geneva from 1536 until 1564, except when he was exiled from 1538 to 1541. Calvin was the spiritual leader of the city, changing Geneva into a Protestant center, a place that produced the Genevan Psalter despite tension between the city's authorities and Calvin. The city remained largely Protestant until the early 17th century, when it in large part returned to Catholicism. Today, though Geneva is still considered a Protestant city, the population breaks down as 39.5% Catholic, 17.4% Protestant, and 22% claiming no religious affiliation. The remainder are of other faiths.
Geneva is today not only a political and financial center, but also a center for scientific research, as is attested to by the Large Hadron Collider, which plans to examine more deeply the nature of the universe than any scientific endeavor before. The huge scale of the engineering dwarfs the human element of the work. Hundreds of research teams there are all driven by the thirst to know more about the universe we inhabit.
Geneva is a compact city, that is densely packed with history, and is amenable to prolonged strolling or biking around through its districts. It is truly a world capital, and makes a fascinating and beautiful destination for anyone interested in European history.