In Part 1, I’ve already provided a view of Geneva, the international city of French Switzerland. Now I’d like to turn to the highlights of Geneva’s old town – medieval Geneva.
Geneva’s Veille ville, rises above the lake’s shores, and, with its car-free streets, it’s a pleasnt place to stroll and enjoy old Geneva. Just ensure you have good walking shoes for the steep, cobblestoned hills!
St. Pierre Cathedral – This cathedral took seventy years to build, from 1160 to 1230. A Gothic cathedral, with elements of Romanesque, it also has a (hideous – yikes!) Neoclassic portal that was added in the 18th century and is best to ignore – at least I chose to.
The cathedral became a protestant place of worship in 1536 and was stripped of much of its Catholic art, only some of the stained glass survives. It current interiors are decidedly sober.
Place du Bourg-de Four– This lively square is thought to be built on the site of the Ancient Roman Forum. During medieval times, it was the city’s most important marketplace. Today, the 17th century fountain is surrounded by 15th century buildings – and outdoor seating in this lovely square is full on a sunny day in Geneva. Nearby is the 15th century Hotel de ville. This building is where the Geneva Convention was signed, and where the International Red Cross was first recognized as an international humanitarian organization.
Birthplace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau- This brought me back to my days as a political science major oh so many years ago – and how much I loved my political theory classes and the works I studied by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I remembered that he was Swiss, but I had forgotten that he was from Geneva, born on the Grand rue, 40 back in 1712. Although he left Geneva at the age of 16, and although his books were burned in his native city, today Rousseau is closely associated with Geneva and his birthplace is marked with this plaque.
Maison Tavel – This home is the most ancient residence in Geneva. Mostly built in the Gothic style, this building was completely reconstructed after a fire in the year 1334, which destroyed much of Geneva. The first reference to this house, belonging to the Tavel family, is documented n 1303.
Today, The Maison Tavel hosts the Museum of old Geneva, documenting the city’s history from the 14th to the 19th century. I had too little time to dedicate to this interesting museum, but I learned a great deal about the growth of the city, and I enjoyed chatting with the knowledgeable museum staff. My kids would have been fascinated by the city’s old guillotine. The museum is free and open Tuesday – Sunday, 10:00-17:00.
So there is lots to see during your visit to pretty, lakeside Geneva. I already look forward to my next trip.