Photo credit: Geneva Tourism
Each season reveals different facets and colours of Geneva.
Accompanied by a passionate guide, you will appreciate the richness of the sites and stories all around you, including in places that you may pass by regularly without noticing.
A cultural experience to enjoy outdoors with family and friends and with students of all ages !
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The Geneva Story (in a nutshell)
Geneva is known for its lake and the jet d’eau (140 m high fountain), the flower clock and luxury watches and its historical Old Town. But do you know the stories behind these landmarks and places? And did you ever wonder how this little city-state at the tip of the lake become the smallest of the world’s major international cities?
Let’s travel together through 2000 years of history along the waterfront where the first inhabitants settled, through the medieval commercial center of the lower city and up the cobbled streets to the heart of the Old town.
You will be captivated by this cultural and historical tour as you relive the religious, political and economic chapters of the Geneva story.
But then maybe you already the know the answers the questions behind these pictures ?
2 hour tour:
Starts in front of the Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais – Ends in the Old Town
For visitors with little time:
1 – 1.5 hour tour in the Old Town
Why was the small city-state at the tip of the lake one of the most fortified in Europe ?
There have always been bridges crossing the little island on the Rhône river, making this a strategic location for Julius Caesar and his army. What is this historical episode that gave Geneva its name?
Women of Geneva
Women have played an essential role in the Geneva story.
Alongside ladies known for their accomplishments in the arts, commerce and science, there are thousands of little known and anonymous women who have contributed to the prosperity and reputation of the city through their work, talent and commitment.
Let’s bring back to life a small selection of them, in their environment and their time, from the 15th century to the present day.
Strolling in the commercial streets, up to the Old Town and onto the Parc des Bastions, discover the Geneva story from a different view-point through the lives of ordinary and extraordinary women who lived here.
Possible in German upon request.
2 hour tour :
Starts in front of Rousseau’s statue on the Ile Rousseau – rue de la Corraterie/rue de la Cité
Artists were attracted by this ordinary but intriguing woman. Why was she popularly known as the queen of the Molard market in the mid-19th century?
Early one August morning in 1535, these terrified women would soon leave the city under the guard of 300 archers. Who are they and what are they afraid of?
Humanitarian awakening and the Red cross
In the middle of the 19th century, the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions were founded in the small city-state which had just joined Switzerland. Since then Geneva has been seen as the historic home of modern day humanitarian action and the capital of international humanitarian law.
But why here, in this time in history and with such success ?
Enjoy exploring the 19th century streets of the Old Town, meeting fascinating characters and following the plot of this extraordinary story.
It all starts with a handful of Geneva citizens, who found themselves at the he right place and time in history. Their initiatives and determination led to the creation of the world’s largest humanitarian mouvement and lay the principles and rules that have not ceased to adapt to emerging crisis. This story is what set Geneva on the track to its international vocation.
Possible in German, Spanish and Russian upon request.
2 hour tour:
Starts in front of Henry Dunant’s bust at the Place de Neuve – ends at the Hôtel de Ville in the Old Town
The humanitarian trail of the Red Cross: A former ICRC delegate, Catherine is a volunteer guide at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, as well as the author of this walking trail available on www.humanitariantrail.ch.
These two men were the driving force behind Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions. Why did they quickly become lifelong rivals and never speak to each other again?
Why are there two emblems – a cross and a crescent ? And did you know that a third emblem was created in 2005?
Today Geneva is the center of multilateral diplomacy and international cooperation in the face of global issues and emerging challenges.
With the presence of 177 diplomatic missions, 39 international organisations, over 430 NGOs (non government organisations) plus numerous platforms allowing these players to interact, Geneva is one of the densest concentration of international actors and poles of expertise in the world.
This story has two main characters: the small city-canton of Geneva and the major world events that continue to impact international relations. Where they meet is what is today known as International Geneva.
You will discover how Geneva contributed to forge a new international entity and system called the League of Nations, followed by the United Nations and its specialised agencies.
You will understand why civil society plays a crucial role bringing experiences and testimonies from the field to the conference table and expressing their voices in front of the flags of the 193 member states.
As you step into this dynamic multilateral ecosystem, you will get a sense of the role of the different players and observe how this phenomena continues to transform the city.
2 hour tour options :
Palais Wilson – Place des Nations
International Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum – Place des Nations
How did the League of Nations bring new international life to Geneva ?
Why is there a giant amputated chair in front of the United Nations?
Hidden gems in the countryside
Geneva is a canton composed of 45 communes, each with its own geography and history. On the left bank they had a common destiny as part of the Duchy of Savoy and then the Kingdom of Sardinia before being incorporated into the new Swiss canton of Geneva in 1815.
Let’s discover the villages of Corsier and Anières, as well as the hamlet of Chevrens on the old Roman road.
A scenic and historical tour follows the Hermance river which marks the border with France. Enjoy the rural landscape overlooking the lake and discover traditional farms among fields and vineyards where local lives and history meet.
Iitinerary on foot or by bike to be established with the guide based on areas of interest and desired timeframe.
Did you know that not too long ago, Chevrens was an active agricultural village where workers and inhabitants could buy essential goods and enjoy an apéritif together ?
This bridge connecting France and Switzerland is a direct witness to local events that took place during the Second World War. How did these affect the lives of inhabitants across the border and beyond ?
Geneva, city of pleasure and vice?
Austerity is what comes to mind when the City of Calvin is evoked. But the people of Geneva and the many visitors to the city have never stopped indulging in all types of activities, even when forbidden. Jean Calvin considered Geneva “a perverse nation”.
Let’s take the side streets through different neighbourhoods in search of the places of pleasure and vice, discreet or out in the open depending on the period.
Sin City Tour – 2 hours
This walk through several centuries will take us from the traditional working-class neighbourhoods of Pâquis and St Gervais, along the chic lake-front promenades, to the city’s historical centres in the Rues Basses and the Old Town.
Along the way, we will pass through present and past red light districts, former casinos and gambling places, cabarets … and more.
Red Light District Tour – 1.5 hours
This “hot” trail takes us from one red-light district to another through different time periods. Commercial sex work is legal in Switzerland today, but this was not always the case, especially in the City of Calvin.
Yet, throughout the centuries, Geneva has offered all types of sex-oriented services – visible or hidden – from prostitution to different types of adult entertainment. This walking tour starts in the Pâquis area and ends in the Old Town, passing through St. Gervais and the Rues Basses.
Sin City – 2 hour tour:
Meet in front of Chez Maxime at the Place des Alpes and end at the Promenade Saint-Antoine in the Old Town
Red Light District – 2 hour tour:
Meet on the Place de la Navigation in the Pâquis and end at the Promenade Saint-Antoine in the Old Town.
Did you know that prostitution is legal in Switzerland and that it is up to the Cantons to apply the law?
How is sex work regulated and set up in Geneva?
Considered a vice, gambling was prohibited or tightly controlled in Geneva depending on the historical period. Yet it never ceased to be practiced in different forms and places.
The night of the Escalade!
Ask any Genevan what the most important date in the Republic’s history is and the answer will almost always be December 12, 1602! Every year from November onwards, you cannot miss the chocolate cauldrons with marzipan vegetables and the numerous preparations for ctivities and events around “l’Escalade”, including one of the largest costumed parade in Europe.
What exactly happened on the night of 11-12 December 1602?
Let’s travel back to 17th century Geneva and relive this story which has marked the identity of the Republic. We will meet the main characters of this historical event and follow their footsteps as the plot unfolds in the heart of the old city.
1.5 – 2 hours in the Old Town
Attacking the fortified city required careful preparation and it was decided that the Duke of Savoy’s elite troops would climb over the walls. Where can you still see the original ladders used 400 years ago?
This story has a young hero, but the courage of the Geneva people is represented by a heroine. How did this middle-aged lady and her pot of soup become the popular symbols of the “Escalade” events? (2021 Course de l’Escalade poster)