A little history
Let’s start the visit in the old part of Geneva, located at the top of a hill overlooking the city and dominated by the St Pierre Cathedral, with its neoclassical façade and impressive columns. A small neighbouring chapel served as an oratory for John Calvin, who developed the system of Christian theology called Calvinism in the 1500s, thereby defying the Papal authority. The layout of the tortuous medieval alleyways in the Old Town has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries, even if some buildings were later renovated or torn down. The Reformation brought with it a new influx of citizens, and additional floors were built on many houses to accommodate the new arrivals. The area was surrounded by walls, but today only the southern portion remains, lining the Parc des Bastions where the oldest building of Geneva University is located. This walkway, called Promenade de la Treille, is particularly romantic at sunset. Here you can find the oldest chestnut tree in the city, whose first bud always signals the arrival of spring. As you make your way down the ramp, you arrive at the Parc des Bastions and the famous Reformation Wall, which honours the individuals of the Protestant Reformation – Theodore Beza, John Calvin, Guillaume Farel and John Knox. Above them reads the inscription ‘Post Tenebras Lux’ (‘After darkness, light’). Geneva is the birthplace of Jean- Jacques Rousseau, the famous philosopher and educationalist. His native home is located at 40 Grand- Rue, which now houses the partially closed Espace Rousseau gallery, which traces the life of one of the emblematic figures of Western society – much like Voltaire, whose château is located several miles outside Geneva, in Ferney, in neighbouring France.
Art of the matter
As the headquarters for the United Nations and a number of other international organisations, Geneva offers fascinating cultural diversity. The Baur Collection of Far Eastern Art is housed in the private mansion of Alfred Baur, and includes many unique works of Chinese and Japanese art. The Barbier-Mueller Museum primarily shows African art. Lovers of books and manuscripts will feel at home at the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, whose treasures include the oldest copy of the Gospel of St John.
Geneva is also the city of luxury brands, especially watches. The original factory of Vacheron Constantin can be visited at the Tour de l’lle, and Patek Philippe, whose watches are among the most expensive in the world, recently opened an extraordinary museum at 7 Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers, which displays timepieces throughout the centuries, including some from the manufacturer’s own collections. It is easy to buy watches in Geneva thanks to the numerous jewellers and specialised stores that are particularly abundant along the Rue du Rhône in the centre of town. It is here that you will also find exclusive fashion boutiques such as Celine, Christian Dior and Armani, or for more up-andcoming designers visit the Boutique Apollinaire at number 61.