Known as the “capital of peace” Geneva Switzerland is the third-largest city in the country. It was dubbed this nickname because both the second-largest office of the United Nations and headquarters of the Red Cross are located in the city.
Geneva stands in the bay where the Rhone river flows out of Lake Geneva nestled between Alpine peaks and the Jura mountain range. The symbol of the city is “Jeet d’eau”, literally meaning water jet. This fountain is one of the tallest in the world. When it was built the fountain was designed to control and release the excess pressure of a hydraulic plant at la Coulouvrenière. It fast became the symbol of the city. That is the reason its strength was amplified and why it was moved to the center of the lake.
History of Geneva
The first mention of the city of Geneva was in 38 B.C. Then, the city was a Roman settlement that grew into a significant trading town during the Middle Ages. As Geneva is located in the heart of Europe it was a target of many conquests and has changed hands a few times before it established itself as an independent republic.
Geneva became independent in 1535. It gained its final independence in 1602 after defending the city from the Duke of Savoy’s invasion. The event that celebrates this victory is the most popular festival in Geneva.
L’ Escalade, which is the name of the festival, comes from the French word “escalade”. When translated into English it has the meaning of “scale”, or “climb”. The Duke’s attack strategy was to have his soldiers secretly climb over Geneva’s fortification walls. Once they got in the soldiers were to open the gate of the city from the inside in the dead of night at 2 AM and let the rest of the troops in.
The legend says that a woman by the name of Catherine Cheynel was responsible for their unsuccessful attack. She was cooking soup when she noticed the attackers climbing the walls. Quickly, she poured the hot soup over them making noise. Thankfully, the noise awakened everyone in the city which resulted in a successful defense.
In the mid-1600s when the Edict of Nantes was repealed, Geneva was the place where persecuted Protestants sought refuge.
Edict of Nantes was a French royal decree that ended the Wars of Religion. It was a guarantee of freedom of worship and legal equality of Protestants within the limits. Louis XIV revoked it and caused the mass emigration of Protestants.
Fleeing the persecution Protestants came to Geneva. They were attracted by the teachings of John Calvin, John Knox, and Theodore de Beze. This is why Geneva was dubbed Protestant Rome.
During this migration period many watchmakers, jewelers, and other artisans came to the city. They are the ones who made Geneva famous all over the world for its craftsmanship.
Geneva joined the Confederation of Switzerland
After previously mentioned events Geneva became a place that attracted numerous rich aristocrats. They established their grand estates around the city. This added to the refinement and the importance of the city. Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and many more philosophers and artists also choose the city as their home.
On September 12, 1814, Geneva became a part of the Confederation of Switzerland. After this, it quickly became a banking hub as well as a leader of the industrial revolution in the Old Continent.
Geneva – international hub and champion of human rights
In 1864, Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross in the city. This is when the modern conception of the city was starting to mold. At this time Geneva started to turn into an international hub and champion of human rights.
In 1946 in Geneva, the European headquarters of the United Nations was opened. This came after the first convening of the League of Nations in 1920. For these reasons people around the world call Geneva a “capital of peace”.
The people in Geneva
The population of the city rapidly began to grow after 1945. People from other parts of Switzerland and foreigners started to settle there. International institutions, financial, construction, and chemical industries were the main reasons why people were drawn to Geneva.
The French language is the first language in Geneva but the people living there come from around the world. By the late 1980s, only one-third of residents were native Genevese. The rest of the population consisted of one-third Swiss from other cantons and one-third foreigners.
People from Italy, France, and the Iberian Peninsula were coming to Geneva in big numbers. Also, the number of people from Africa, Asia, and both Americas found it attractive. This is what makes the foreign presence one of the inseparable elements of the demography of the city.
In the Past, Geneva was “Protestant Rome” and the Protestants were a religious majority. In the present, things have changed. Roman Catholics make up half the population.
The Economy in Geneva
It is a well know fact that Geneva is a financial center of international reputation. Besides that, it houses many different businesses. Among them are watch and clockmakers, pharmaceutical and chemical research companies, and major retailers.
Industrial production in this city is diversified and mainly designed for export. The largest industry in Geneva is the manufacture of instruments and precision machinery. It is followed by the chemical industry. After Basel, Geneva has the biggest chemical industry in Switzerland.
The biggest employers of the city are wholesale and retail trade, banking, insurance, and tourism. Geneva is the center of private banking in Switzerland.
Despite being in second place in the total volume of financial transactions, Geneva is very important internationally. The first place goes to Zurich. It has been estimated that banks in Geneva hold more than half of the total foreign capital in Switzerland.
The cultural vibe in Geneva
Geneva presents a melting pot of different cultures. A big number of the residents of this city are half Swiss and half something else. They can be described as fondue moitiѐ – moitiѐ. They are a mix of two cultures just like the fondue is a mix of two kinds of cheese.
It is estimated that two out of three inhabitants of Geneva hold a foreign passport. Then it comes as a no surprise when we say that the cultural scene in Geneva is diversified.
Even though the official language is French people can speak other languages as well. This comes from the fact that, as previously mentioned, most of the residents are foreigners.
Theology, philosophy, and literature have been cultivated by the scholarly elite in Geneva. Natural and applied sciences have been in their focus too, especially since the 17th century.
Many scientific organizations have bases in Geneva. On this list are both the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the World Meteoritical Organization (WMO). The botanical research center the Geneva City Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is on the list as well.
Cultural life in the city also revolves around the museums and proceedings in them. The museums document ancient as well as recent history. Some of the museums are the Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, the Microcosm at CERN, the Palace of Nations, the Natural History Museum, the Geneva Museum of Art and History, and many others.
There are various events held all year round. As previously mentioned L’ Escalade, and June Genevois are very popular. During June Genevois plum pies can be served after a fast. This custom is tied to medieval times and is of a religious character.
There are many cultural events too. One of them is opera and classical music shows at the Opera house. Geneva International Film Festival and music festival in June as well.
Things to do while in Geneva
There are many interesting things to do in the city. You could check out the Jeet d’eau, enjoy Lake Geneva, go to a museum or film festival, and explore the old city center.
The CERN headquarters for the European Organization for Nuclear Research is located west of the center of Geneva in the suburb of Meyrin. This is where the world’s largest particle physics laboratory is located in which Higgs boson was discovered in 2012.
The Geneva International Film Festival
Artistic exploration in Geneva can be done during the Geneva Film Festival. Since 1995 it has been exploring the connection that cinema, television, and digital art share. It is important to note that this festival is protecting the role of the author in the artistic process.
This is a place for experimenting in visual art where genres and disciplines blend. The film festival is the place for unique experiences, meeting others, and having fun.
The ground-breaking and pioneering Geneva International Film Festival has a very important role as the leading event in Switzerland which is dedicated to audiovisual innovation.
The most popular event during the festival is the VR program. It includes interactive installations, conferences, live performances, movie screenings which together with its VR works make it more than a cinema festival.
The Geneva International Film Festival is a unique, groundbreaking festival that offers an insight into the world that connects cinema, television, and digital art. It is an event where new generations can express themselves in the mode of communication that is familiar to them, through technology. It is a place for innovators and investors to meet and create the impossible.
The old town
When you are in Geneva you can enjoy not only the mind-blowing experiences and emotions by visiting the film festival but also the city itself. The old town of Geneva is the most scenic part of the city. It is located on a hill surrounding the Saint-Pierre Cathedral and the pedestrian square named Place du Bourg-de-Four.
Numerous cafes and restaurants invite you in to experience a speck of history through the amazing architecture. Visit the archeological remains beneath the cathedral on your way to the promenade where you can see enchanting views of Bastions park below and the Jura mountain range lurking from afar. It is home to some amazing independent boutiques where you get to see unique fashion.
The Geneva Lake
Lake Geneva is the biggest lake in Central Europe. It offers quite an experience as it showcases natural awe-inspiring beauty. The best way to explore the lake, and the easiest, is by boat. Hop on one at the quay at Geneve-Mt-Blanc and let the magnificent beauty of the Alps do the rest. The lake has influenced the architecture of the city. In the mid-19th century, a promenade was built around the shore of the lake.
Located on the same lake is the town of Montreux. It is nestled in a guarded bay at the foot of the Alps surrounded by vineyards. Its exceptionally mild climate has made it the capital of the Vaud Riviera. Don’t be surprised when you encounter pines, cypresses, and palm trees. They are very common. It is the most popular excursion and holiday destination due to numerous opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty.
The Chillion Castle is located at the end of a long lake promenade that connects Vevey and Montreux. Jazz lovers go there for the Montreux Jazz Festival. You should also see the terraced vineyards of Lavaux. They have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geneva is a rich city. Not only in monetary aspect but in many others too. It has a very rich history and culture. People living in the city come from different places around the globe. They make living in Geneva wealthy in experiences.
Enjoy the beautiful nature the city abounds in. Listen to different languages that people speak. Learn something new every step of the way. Bask in the glorious history Geneva has. When you are in the city you will understand that some places must be seen and experienced in real life. Only like that, they will enrichen your life.
Geneva is a city of diversity, precision, punctuality, banking, museums, culture, science. It was and still is home to some pretty amazing people. It is a land of tolerance where every person feels welcome. The only way to understand it is to experience it firsthand. Your visit will become even better if you rent a limo to lead the way.