Geneva city guide

Geneva is one of the most sophisticated and expensive cities in the world and located at Europe's largest Alpine lake. Geneva aims for the number 1 spot at many other things. Best chocolate, boutiques, restaurants, jewelers, biggest banks, fastest cars, the most beautiful women, the list goes on. If I were to visit Geneva again, I would go during winter season, I fondly remember all the action around the lake, sitting around in sauna bars, drinking and chatting till morning hours. For all you explorers and geeks out there, Geneva has even more to offer. Grab a free bike at one of many bike rental stations and move out. All you need is an ID and a €20 deposit. CERN European Organization for Nuclear Research is a solid first spot to check out for all you nerds out there. A simpleton such as myself doesn't even begin to understand what they're doing there. But I know it looks like Tony Starks workshop, plus they pretty much invented the World Wide Web there.

Gothic facades of St. Pierre Cathedral with Lake of Geneva at the backdrop

The Saint Pierre Cathedral is over 850 years old and Geneva's most important church, it became world famous as the home church of John Calvin, one of the main leaders of the Protestant Reformation

Geneva's history is long and interesting. The city started out long before Christ, as a small settlement defending itself against Celtic tribes, later on becoming a part of the Roman Empire. There was even a cataclysmic tsunami that obliterated most of the areas surrounding the lake. A tsunami! Who would've thought? The most important events took place around the 16th century, sparked by John Calvin. Some people even say that if it wasn't for Geneva, the United States wouldn't exist, though I think that's a bit of a stretch. Calvin aimed to reform the church, he interpreted the Bible in a different way and aimed to teach people his ways. That maybe there was an approach different from the mainstream was possible. He didn't only talk about God, he tried to reform the society, taught people how important a family is as a fundament of society. Back then it wasn't so obvious that you need to take good care of your children, invest in their education, they didn't even think that girls needed how to read. He was adamant about how hard, honest work was a form of prayer, or how banks should stop leeching off common folk.

The school that Calvin founded in 1559 is actually still operational in Geneva and functions as a college to this day. You could say that those principles still hold up and greatly affected the city's development and its legendary prosperity. "God used Geneva to change the world", I don't really buy that but I do understand revolution and persecution that those so-called heretics had to experience. And so Geneva became a safe haven, a refuge for people who understood spirituality in a different way. Let's not kid ourselves; those people were intellectuals, artisans from all over the world and they transformed the city into what it represents today. That multi-nationality is one the city's greatest features; 2 out of 3 citizens came from abroad. Bearing this in mind Geneva becoming the headquarters of United Nations and the Red Cross was a natural step forward.

Chillon Castle on a rock at Lake Geneva

The more than 1000 years old Chillon Castle at Lake Geneva, close to the city of Montreux, is the most visited historic building in Switzerland and is a great destination for an excursion when staying in Geneva

Geneva has interesting museums such as Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, or Patek Philippe Museum housing centuries of watchmaker history under its roof. The picturesque Old Town is also a popular tourist spot with the Jet d'Eau fountain, second in popularity maybe to Fontana di Trevi. The historic city center is also the place to go if you're looking for exclusive shops and boutiques, but don't forget to take your credit cards along. There's also the mesmerizing gothic Cathédrale St-Pierre if you are up to some contemplative moments.

Pâquis is the Geneva's nightlife district, packed with bars and clubs, always crowded during the week and even more so during the weekends. Try getting into Java ( at Quai du Mont-Blanc 19, it's the hottest spot in town, but €33 for a beer is a bit much. You need to walk that fine line between pre-drinks and still being sober enough to get in. Bains des Pâquis is a spot where you can take a bath in the lake, the public baths during summer, or sweat it out in saunas during the winter season. Alternatively you could watch the locals messing around with traditional Swiss wrestling.

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