Described as ‘the small big city in the world’ and ‘The City of Peace’, the picturesque surroundings of Geneva – sandwiched between the snowy Alpine and Jura mountain ranges and the sprawling Lake Geneva – is the perfect location for a retreat if you need a break from the chaos of everyday life. Packed with culture, parks and scenery, Geneva is a truly international city.
Geneva is a truly ancient city, with history dating back to Roman occupation in the second Century BC. It really came into its own during the Middle Ages, when it became an independent city state and remained that way until 1798.
Division has defined Geneva in the past, both religious and political. The city saw skirmishes between Catholicism and the Protestant faith throughout the 16th Century (not least due to John Calvin, founder of the Protestant off-shoot Calvinism, acting as leader of Geneva in this era). Battles with the French aristocracy and the general populace were commonplace in the 18th Century, culminating in the failed Geneva Revolution of 1782 (and a precursor to the French Revolution some seven years later).
Since separating church and state in the early 20th Century, Geneva has become one of the most progressive cities in the world. The post-WWII decision to make the city the home of the United Nations has merely cemented this status.
Language and Climate
France borders Geneva on three of its four quarters, so officially it is a French-speaking city. As a result, if you parlez-vous Francais you will be in the majority. However, the city has three official languages – French, German and Italian – and at least a quarter of the population also speak English. With so many businesses based in the city, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find some linguistic common ground with anybody you encounter in Geneva.
The temperature is typically moderate all year around, though naturally having snowy mountain ranges nearby means that the winter months can be pretty cold; it’s quite possible that temperatures will reach freezing during January and February, though they rarely drop below. Summer is particularly glorious, with sunny days tempered with a pleasant cool breeze provided by Lake Geneva, while the Autumnal months tend to be the wettest.
Where to Stay
First thing’s first; a trip to Geneva does not come cheap. However, if you have the appropriate budget you can treat yourself to a luxury hotel with a breathtaking view. Accommodation around the Rhone Bridge will help with this, or Old Town has plenty of shopping, eateries and historical sites.
Basing yourself close to the Cornavin train station will provide you with plenty of nightlife, and a true taste of the diverse and multi-cultural population of the city, but this is also a thriving Red Light District so may not be ideal for families. Wherever you decide to stay, Geneva is a city worthy of a visit and if you like cars then the Geneva Motor Show could be the perfect excuse!