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Geneva, Switzerland highlights

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Geneva came to prominence in the world in the 16th century, when Protestant reformer John Calvin wrestled with then Catholic Geneva. Two main sites in the city celebrate his life. The Murs des Réformateurs is a bas-relief of Calvin and his reformers in the Parc des Bastions, near the botanical gardens. The relief tells Calvin’s story in story-board fashion.

Inside Cathédrale de St-Pierre, in the old town, you can see Calvin’s altar. It looks like most altars, a little less elaborate than Catholic altars. But this was part of the man’s stripping religion of its pomp in order to concentrate on saving the penitent’s sole. And so Calvin changed Europe’s belief system from the pulpit. Open daily from 10am. Cour St-Pierre.

The United Nations’ European headquarters offers guided tours of its facilities, where you see meeting chambers, halls bulging with display cases, and photographs of people and events. After the tour, you can sign the Golden Book of Peace. Open daily from 9am. Place des Nations.

geneva switzerland 3The Marionette Museum is a great family activity in Geneva. The museum bills itself as a treat for those 4 to 104! More than 200 marionettes from 25 countries have found a home here. Experts conduct seminars on marionette construction, and weekly shows entertain the kids in the museum’s Theatre du Reve. Open Saturdays only, 2pm-5pm. Rue Merle d’Aubigne 22. Admission SFr. 1.50.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum documents crimes against humanity. The displays can be a bit grim, but then, the point is to raise people’s consciousness to the problems found globally. Open 10am-5pm; closed Tues. Avenue de la Paix 17. Admission SFr 10.

Near the Jet d’Eau on the waterfront, you’ll find the Horloge Fleurie, or Floral Clock, a tribute to Geneva’s watch-making history. The clock has ticked since 1955, and each season its design changes.

For a funky look at Geneva’s alternative arts scene, spend time at L’Usine, a refurbished factory with a theatre, cinema, and gallery. Open daily from 10am. Place des Volontaires 4.

Geneva Restaurants
Geneva is in French-speaking Switzerland, and you’ll find numerous French and Swiss restaurants. Nonetheless, cafés throughout town serve international cuisines. Geneva specialties include freshwater fish, fondue, and longeole—an unsmoked fennell and cumin sausage.

Two lakeside restaurants worth a look are La Perle du Lac (rue de Lausanne 126; phone 909 1020) and Port de Gitana (Route de Lausanne 126; phone 774 3148) at Bellevue Harbor. Both are expensive, with fresh fish selections and a good wine cellar.

geneva switzerland 2Aux-Halles de l’Ile (place de l’Ile 1) sits on an island, is famous for its fish, and entertains diners with live Jazz. Phone 311 5221.

Finally, if you want to venture into Geneva’s suburbs, Dix Vins (in Carouge) serves traditional food and a changing wine list. You can sample their ten wines, which are wheeled out on a cart. Rue Jacques-Dalphin 29; phone 342 4010.

Geneva Transportation
Geneva International Airport has public transportation into the city. The main rail station is just a few blocks from the lakefront, and you can get from or to every major European city. The Geneva bus terminal is just south of the rail station, and has destinations across Europe.

Geneva is a major hub for skiers traveling to resorts in the Swiss and French Alps. Bus transfers cost from around $60 round trip to the Chamonix Valley resorts, only 56 km to the southeast.

Geneva’s city transportation consists of trams and subways. The systems are color coded and easy to read. If you want a little adventure, hop on a tram that reaches into a hillside suburb and go for a ride to see how the Swiss live. Buy your tram and subway tickets at self-service machines, and validate them on the coach.

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