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What Is Geneva Known for & Famous For

If there’s one word to describe what Geneva is most known for, it probably is “diplomacy.” There’s no place in the world with a higher concentration of international agencies than Geneva. But aside from its reputation for international relations, do you know anything else about the city?

Geneva is most famous for being the world’s center for diplomacy, but it’s also well-known for being a financial superpower, its well-maintained streets and public facilities, scenic views, snow sports, and high quality of life. Geneva is also one of the most peaceful cities in the world.

Let’s get to know Geneva by taking a quick look at some of the reasons why the country deserves a spot on your travel bucket list.

Center for Diplomacy

Geneva has long been known as the world’s center for diplomacy because of the number of international organizations and diplomatic agencies with head offices in the city. Here you will find head offices of some of the biggest international organizations, like the United Nations, World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization, to name only a few.

Because of this, it’s very common to rub elbows with diplomats and people from all over the world in this small part of Switzerland. Geneva is essentially a melting pot of nationalities and cultures where diversity is a way of life. The city may be tiny, but it does give people visiting it a sense of the world.

Financial Center

Geneva may not be making as much noise in the financial world as other cities like London, New York, or Shanghai, but it has indeed been a consistent global economic superpower. In fact, the city is the second largest financial center in Switzerland and ranks sixth in Europe.

Aside from the fact that Geneva has had a strong legacy in banking and finance, its strategic location between major trade routes has paved the way for it to become an integral part of international trade.

Swiss Banks

Swiss banks are known for their high levels of confidentiality and unparalleled professionalism. They are also known to be far less risky compared to other banks due to the stable economy in Switzerland. Unfortunately, because of the confidentiality involved in Swiss banking, many with ill-gotten wealth have used Swiss banks to hide money.

As of 2020, there are 243 banks in Switzerland, some of which are located in Geneva, such as the Geneva Swiss Bank, FAB Private Bank, and Lombard Odier.

Expensive

If you plan to visit Geneva, you better come prepared. Geneva is known as the seventh most expensive city in the world. Considering the many amazing destinations in Europe that also come with hefty price tags, that says a lot!

Because of the huge pool of international clientele in the area, businesses tend to charge higher prices, which might be okay for diplomats and high-earning locals but not as great for tourists on a budget.

Moreover, the city’s taxes are quite steep, making commodities and services expensive.

High Standards of Living

Geneva is also touted as one of the places in the world with the highest standard of living. Residents in Geneva generally enjoy an efficient healthcare system, reliable infrastructure, very low safety risk, clean surroundings, and well-maintained public spaces and services.

However, this way of life comes at a cost, and nothing comes cheap in Geneva. People generally pay higher taxes, which, in turn, drives the increasing price of commodities and goods. In fact, if you travel outside the city, you may enjoy a similar experience at a notably more affordable price point.

United Nations

The European headquarters of the United Nations are in Geneva, inside the Palais des Nations. And rightly so, because the city has representation from almost all the European states, making it a strategic location for collaboration and cooperation.

If you want to visit the UN or the Palais des Nations, there are guided tours that you can book. You can either book a private VIP tour or request a group tour for a minimum of 15 people.

There are eight United Nations agencies in Geneva, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, the International Telecommunication Union, and the World Meteorological Organization.

Red Cross

We are all familiar with the Red Cross and recognize it as the humanitarian group that provides healthcare services all over the world. But did you know that the person who started it all, Henry Dunant, was born in Geneva? It was he who founded the Red Cross in 1863 in order to provide care to soldiers and civilians who were injured during the war.

And if you’ve ever heard of the Geneva Conventions, it was also Dunant that initiated them, in line with the Red Cross’s initiative, to make sure that prisoners of war, as well as soldiers and civilians are treated humanely even during wartime.

Beautiful

Geneva is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Poised by Lake Geneva, there are countless stunning views in the city–from mountains to lakes to colorful gardens to historical museums.

If you want to take a touristy tour of the city, make sure you don’t miss these popular tourist spots:

  • The Jardin Anglais
  • La Perle du Lac Park
  • St. Peter’s Cathedral
  • Rue Etienne Dumont
  • La Jonction
  • Mont Salève
  • Pâquis Baths

Don’t forget to take a camera with you to capture the beauty of these picturesque attractions!

Safe

Geneva is one of the safest places to travel for tourists, as crime rates are generally very low, and you have no need to fear roaming around alone. However, as in almost any place, crimes, especially petty ones like pickpocketing, still do exist particularly in crowded areas like bus stations.

Best be on the safe side, though, and be careful, despite the low crime rates in the city. If you have no one to go with you, it’s probably better not to go out alone at night.

High Cost of Living

The standard of living in Geneva is pretty high, but at the same time, this means that the cost of living is a bit steep too. Taxes in the city are a bit higher than in other parts of Switzerland, and commodities can also be more expensive than in other parts of Europe.

Living in Geneva will make quite a dent in your wallet. In fact, the cost of living here is 54% higher than in fashionable Paris, 38% higher than in financial powerhouse London, and 13% higher than in the busy New York.

So before you decide to move to Geneva, make sure that you’re financially ready for it first.

French-Speaking

You might be surprised upon hearing so much French when you step into Geneva. There are three languages that are spoken throughout Switzerland, namely German, French, and Italian. Geneva is the largest concentration of French-speaking people in Switzerland.

If you’re French, though, you might notice a few differences between Swiss French and French spoken in France. Swiss French differs from traditional French in accent and a few words and expressions. Still, you would have very little problems speaking with locals in Geneva.

Additionally, most people speak English too, which is great for tourists and vacationers.

CERN

The CERN or the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, the European Council for Nuclear Research in English, is located in Geneva, straddling the Swiss border that separates the country from France.

The CERN was founded in 1952 as a body aimed at scientific research, particularly physics, in collaboration with different nations. The main aim of CERN’s research is to discover the smallest building blocks of matter and translate those discoveries into real-world applications.

Hadron Collider

The Hadron Collider was built by the CERN in 2008. It is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator that is located in an underground tunnel in the CERN laboratory in Geneva. Over 100 countries have collaborated on its development, and it took ten years to finish.

The Hadron Collider took a three-year rest for reboots and improvements and is now running again. It was reported to have discovered what are called “ghost particles” that may be key to finding the “God particle.”

Skiing

Due to the mountainous landscape in the city, there are plenty of ski spots in Geneva. With snow-covered mountain ranges all around, it’s easy to see why many tourists come to Geneva to go skiing.

If you want to go skiing with family and friends, here are some of the best ski destinations that you can visit:

  • St. Moritz
  • Zermatt
  • Champéry
  • Andermatt
  • Gstaad
  • Verbier
  • Crans-Montana
  • Grindelwald
  • Davos
  • Villars
  • Laax
  • Saas-Fee

Not only are these ski spots great for the sport, but they also give you access to breathtaking views of the alps!

Mountains

Geneva is nestled inside three mountain ranges, namely the Jura, Vuache, and Salève. However, when visiting the city, you’ll also be able to see the alps as well as other nearby mountains.

There are also lots of outdoor activities to do here, such as hiking, mountain climbing, rock climbing, and camping.

If you want to travel a bit farther than Geneva, you can also go to any of these mountains:

  • La Para
  • Tour d’Ai
  • Berneuse
  • Rochers de Naye
  • Chaumont
  • Mont Tendre
  • Mont Pelerin
  • Cret du Midi
  • Mont Blanc

Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman)

The lovely Lake Geneva or Lac Léman is one of the largest lakes in Europe and is shared between France and Switzerland. Its local name Lac Léman is said to have originated form the way the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar used to refer to the lake as Lacus Lemanus.

Today, Lake Geneva is a tourist hotspot that’s complete with all the attractions, accommodations, restaurants, and activities that vacationers would love. You can go swimming, ziplining, hiking, or paddleboarding here.

The Geneva Water Fountain

Locally called the Jet d’Eau which means “water jet,” the Geneva Water Foundation is an important tourist landmark in the city. Today, the fountain is a tourist attraction, but did you know that it was built in the 19th century merely as a release valve to ease pressure at a hydraulic plant?

This astounding fountain shoots up a water tower that stands at 140 meters (460 feet) and is particularly charming to look at in the evening, when the city lights are on.

Swiss Wine

Switzerland enjoys a long-standing legacy of excellent wines, and it’s thanks to its wine regions. There are three main wine-making regions in the country, the first being Valais. Geneva is the third-largest wine-producing region of Switzerland.

It’s also the origin of Chasselas, a white wine variety made of native Swiss grapes that remains one of the primary wines produced in the country. Of white wine varieties, the Gamay is considered Geneva’s most important.

Beer

Like anything in Geneva, the beer does not come cheap. In fact, Geneva’s beers are said to be some of the most expensive in the world. Still, the Swiss love their beer, and it’s their favorite thirst-quencher on hot days.

However, make sure that you’re at least 16 years old before you try and get a bottle for yourself.

Moreover, if you want to truly enjoy the beer-loving culture of the city, you can try to join beer festivals, where you get to experience not just artisan beers but also some music and a lot of partying.

Weather

Weather in Geneva can be intense, ranging from warm summers to freezing winters. The city experiences a continental climate, which makes its seasons contrast and its weather constantly fluctuating. However, the warm summers are pretty comfortable due to the relatively low humidity in the city.

Get ready for the month of July, though, when the summer heat gets pretty intense and the high can reach up to more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). On the other hand, the coldest month in Geneva is January, with a typical low of 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degrees Celsius).

Old Town

Endulge the old soul in you and enjoy a cozy, charming time around Geneva’s Old Town or Vieille-Ville is the largest historical city in Switzerland. Locals also call the place the Upper City due to its elevation.

Here, you can find thousands of years of history, enjoy shopping at quaint stores, have coffee with friends at cafés, or visit museums and historical buildings. Even the atmosphere here is different–electric with the delight of so many tourists, yet nostalgic.

Pâquis District

The Pâquis District is Geneva’s red-light district. It’s not usually included in the tours of the city or the travel catalogs of Switzerland, but if you’ve been to Geneva for some time, you’ll know that Pâquis is as real as any other more charming and more picture-worthy aspect of the city.

This district is usually more alive at night, when the restaurants get busy with customers, and café tables are occupied. And of course, just like in any red-light district, the Pâquis also has its fair share of ladies of the night working until dawn.

Cheese

If you come to Switzerland and fail to try the cheese, you would have missed half of the Swiss experience. Swiss cheese is considered one of the best varieties in the world, made of pure cow’s milk and has a mild and sweet taste.

There’s a wide range of cheeses made in Switzerland, all varying in color, texture, and flavor. If you find yourself in Geneva, try out these five cheeses that come from the city:

  • Le Sousbois
  • Le Maréchal
  • Tomme Vaudoise
  • L’Etivaz
  • Vacherin Mont d’Or

Chocolate

One of the things you absolutely must try in Geneva is its chocolate. Switzerland is famous all over the world for its chocolate, but in the country, Geneva is what may be considered the chocolate paradise. There are so many chocolate makers in the city that it would be hard not to come across a few as you go around.

In fact, you can easily make a chocolate tour in Geneva, with 30 chocolatiers that call the city home and produce hundreds upon hundreds of chocolates and chocolate-based products every day.

Here are chocolate hotspots in Geneva that you should not miss:

  • Favarger
  • Du Rhône Chocolatier
  • Teuscher
  • Stettler
  • Auer Chocolatier

2nd Largest City in Switzerland

Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland and has the second highest number of people next to Zurich. It’s also often called the world’s smallest metropolis because of its high standards of living. The city is able to maintain a fine balance between its energetic atmosphere and quaint feel.

Foreign Population

True to being a diplomatic capital, a whopping 40% of Geneva’s residents hail from different parts of Europe. Moreover, though locals mostly speak French (Swiss French in particular), they are usually multilingual, which is one of the reasons why many expats find it quite easy to blend in.

English is also commonly spoken, especially with the reputation of the city as a diplomatic capital drawing more and more foreigners to Geneva.

Education

Education in Geneva is the envy of many nations. The city has excellent public, private, and international schools. The latter two can be a bit pricey (as is everything else in the city), which is why many locals prefer to send their children to public schools instead. That way, they receive quality education at a fraction of the cost.

Sciences

Owing largely to the presence of the CERN, Geneva is known today as a center for the sciences and scientific research. The academy in Geneva, particularly the University of Geneva, is also passionately involved in scientific research and widely respected in the field.

Clean Air

Geneva does enjoy pretty clean air. According to the air quality index by the UNECE, there is minimal air pollution in the country, making it a great vacation place for those tired of living in heavily polluted cities. This is yet another factor that contributes to Geneva’s remarkable standard of living.

The Alps

To the east of Geneva are the beautiful French Alps, which you can very easily see from Geneva. In fact, many tourists who go hiking or mountain climbing can enjoy taking in the view of the alps. In fact, this is one of the most common leisure activities in the mountainsides of Geneva.

Festivals

People in Geneva love a good celebration. So it’s no wonder why there are so many celebrations and festivals happening every year. One of the biggest festivals is the Geneva Festival that happens every summer and is marked by a grand fireworks display.

International Organizations

Geneva is indeed an international hub, with 39 international organizations with offices in the city, not counting the NGOs. It’s also reported that 178 states are represented in these organizations. It’s the vast number of international organizations located in the city that gives Geneva its reputation as a center for diplomacy.

Conclusion

Aside from the beauty and natural charm of this city, Geneva is a must on your travel agenda if you’re looking for an inclusive international atmosphere, rich history, great food, and a breath of fresh air.

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