Geneva Travel & Vacations
Geneva is one of the world's major centers of international diplomacy, having served as the site of the initial headquarters of the League of Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross before that. Although the United Nations is now headquartered in New York, the organization still retains a large presence in Geneva at the Palais des Nations and many of its sister/child organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF have their world headquarters here.
Geneva is officially a French-speaking city, although with the large international presence English takes a close second. Spanish, Russian, Portuguese and Arabic speakers abound, and of course you will also occasionally hear Swiss German, and Italian.
Geneva was an independent republic from at least the 16th century until it became a Swiss Canton on 31 December, 1813. This is a point of some pride to the Genevois, who still refer to their Canton as the République et Canton de Genêve.
A favorite festival is the yearly celebration of the Escalade, which commemorates a failed attempt in 1602 by the forces of the Dukes of Savoy to invade the city by climbing and otherwise breaching the city walls. Having turned aside this invasion attempt at the cost of only 16 lives, Geneva had secured its liberty, since the House of Savoy was never again strong enough on this side of the Alps to attempt such an invasion.
Geneva is still a very proud city. Some find it downright stuffy although there is quite a bit more life to be found if you look under the surface, especially if you speak some French.
Due as much to its location as its international status, Geneva serves as a transportation hub for most of French speaking Switzerland, and for access to the Swiss Alps from points west.
There are a lot of hotels in Geneva, but very few of them are actually in anything like the budget range. Hundreds, many right around the central Cornavin train station offer a pretty standard rate of 135 Chf per night for a single. If you arrive late and are willing to spend that it makes sense to look at the automated hotel board in the train station to find the nearest vacancy.
It's hardest to find lodging during large international conferences, and trade shows. The latter, of which the prime example is the Salon d'Auto are usually held at Palexpo. It's worthwhile to do a bit of research to see if your arrival is likely to coincide with one of these events.
For lower hotel prices, try the outlying French cities of Annemasse or Gaillard which are conveniently accessible via public transit from Gare Cornavin.
If you are interested in taking or sending home some outwardly Swiss souvenirs you can certainly find them in Geneva, mainly along the main streets leading down to the lake from Gare Cornavin. There are also a couple of good spots on the other side of the lake near the end of the Mont Blanc bridge. You should be able to easily find at reasonable prices:
Travel info based on work by Brendan Macpherson, Colin Jensen, Mark Jaroski, Niels Elgaard Larsen, Ryan Holliday, Mary Gardiner, Michele Ann Jenkins and Yann Forget, and others at Wikitravel. Content is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0.
- Cuckoo clocks (in fact originally from southern Germany and produced in Hongkong... but who cares!)
- Swiss Army Knifes, with Wenger and Victorinox being the two most well-known brands (Best price at Migros/Coop)
- Almost any sort of object with a cow or a Swiss flag printed on it
Geneva is by and large a very safe place. Violent crime is almost unheard of, although it's important to keep an eye on your belongings in public, as petty theft is a fairly common occurrence. Do report any such activity to the police, you will probably find them much more interested and helpful than police in many other western cities, especially if you speak a little French.