Travel log: September 4, 2013; Switzerland
I will not pretend to know Geneva well. We only spent a few hours there, one morning at the end of summer 2013—completely by accident. We were returning home from Paris to Lyon, and had taken a bus bound for Geneva because we wanted to take advantage of our unlimited bus passes, which didn’t allow for intra-country travel. We thought we could go around this restriction by disembarking at a stopover, mistakenly assuming that the bus would stop in Lyon before crossing the Swiss border. This scheme had worked on our way up to Paris—the bus was headed for Amsterdam—but on the morning of our return trip, when we’d expected to arrive in Lyon, we awoke in Switzerland instead.
Safe, clean, and beautiful, Geneva radiates a welcoming atmosphere, even for accidental tourists like us. In the Old Town district, we occupied ourselves with sightseeing while waiting for the train that would take us back across the French border, from where we hitchhiked home to Lyon.
Geneva’s oldest square is a charming starting point for exploring the city. Surrounded by historical buildings—some centuries-old—it also contains an abundance of fountains, cafés, and restaurants, enough to entertain both tourists and locals.
Known variously in English as the Calvin Auditorium, Auditory, or Oratory, this simple chapel stands right beside the much more famous St. Pierre Cathedral. During the 16th century, this auditorium hosted a number of lectures by John Calvin and John Knox, both leaders of the Protestant Reformation.
Fans of religious history would love this cathedral, best known as the de facto site of John Calvin’s sermons, and for storing a wooden chair he had used. But even casual tourists would find much to appreciate here, with its atmospheric interior, beautiful stained glass windows, and spectacular views over Geneva—unparalleled in the city.
Arguably Geneva’s most famous landmark, the Jet d’Eau is visible throughout the city. The water jet reaches up to 140 m, and can be viewed at close range from the quayside, if you don’t mind the possibility of getting drenched. For me, though, nothing beats the view from atop the north tower of St. Pierre Cathedral.