Luxury in Geneva

When international traders became bankers at the beginning of the 18th century, luxury insidiously invaded  the most exclusive areas of the city in spite of the austerity specific to  the calvinist society. The front of houses are decorated, art collections are formed, which finally ended up in the museums of the city, fashionable items such as decorated carriages are tolerated. This walk shows you how some rich citizens prided themselves upon circumventing the prevailing sumptuary laws.

 

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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Prestigious hotels around the bay of Geneva

Geneva was an international traders’ city since the Middle Ages. Accomodation was needed for businessmen and pilgrims on their way from northern to southern Europe. In the 19th century, after Jean-Jacques Rousseau and with the Romantic movement, the contemplation of nature became important for the travellers who found the necessary comfort in luxurious hotels built by the lakeside between 1830 and 1950.

Today, most of these hotel have been adapted to the needs of modern comfort and some of them have kept their original seduction. Internationally famous personalities, from heads of state to artists, have filled their guestbooks.

 

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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The New Look of Geneva in the 18th Century

French architects enjoy a European reputation which reaches Geneva. Several Geneva businessmen become extremely rich at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th century. For their families, they build mansions imitating to a certain degree the taste of the French aristocracy. The tour shows you how the French model chosen by rich Geneva patricians could be adapted to the specific features of the hilly old city.

 

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Meeting the History of Geneva in the Parc des Bastions

At first entitled the Belle Promenade, the parc des Bastions has been thoroughly modified when the military fortifications were dismantled in the 19th century. Today it is a favourite meeting place for the Genevans. The Reformation Wall on one side faces the old University building on the opposite side of this green lung of 64968 square meters of lawn, flower beds and walks lined with trees in the center of the city. While the Town Hall reminds us of a Italian mansion at the upper end, an ornate wrought-iron gate leads to the place Neuve at the lower end, where chess players gather during the summer months. Some of the most famous scientists, humanists, theologians and politicians are remembered in this garden. A quiet stroll along the meandering paths around various memorials and sculptures will allow you to meet them.

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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Along the waterside of Geneva

We shall walk from the Rousseau island to the “Jonction” where the rivers Rhone and Arve meet. Along the way, unexpected spots of untouched nature, testimonies of the industrial and agricultural past of the city, modern constructions on the right bank of the river will be shown to you.

Guide: Evelyn Riedener
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The Archaeological Site of Saint Peter’s Cathedral

The archaeological excavations under Saint-Peter’s cathedral cover more than 2000 years of Geneva history. Remains of prehistoric and Roman settlements, the corpse of a Celtic chief or saint, important remains of religious buildings erected since the beginning of the Christian period showing the emergence of Christianity during the 4th century, baptisteries and the apse of the cathedral of the year 1000. Every step lets you discover the importance of Geneva in former times.

Guide: Evelyn Riedener
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Saint Peter of Geneva, a general presentation of the cathedral

The first bishop-prince of Geneva, Arducius de Faucigny, initiated the reconstruction of the cathedral during the second half of the twelfth century with the help of his Chapter. Its rich decoration dating from the fifteenth century disappeared when the citizens of Geneva adopted the Reformation in 1536. The Greco-Roman façade was added in the middle of the eighteenth century. Once you enter inside its walls, you will immediately feel the “spirit of the age of cathedrals”. Saint-Peter’s cathedral is not the first church on this location. Under the present building, you will discover one of the largest subterranean archaeological sites of Europe. Recently, the archaeologists have probably unearthed the first oratory dating back to the middle of the fourth century.

Guide: Evelyn Riedener
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Henry Dunant and the Red Cross, the beginning of the international humanitarian vocation of Geneva

When Henry Dunant wrote “A Memory of Solferino” (1862), he could not fancy that only fifty years later the Red Cross would be involved in actions on every continent except Australasia. During our tour through the Old Town of Geneva, you will see, among others, Dunant’s birth place, the former headquarter of the future ICRC, the house in which “A Memory of Solferino” was written and the famous ” Alabama room”. You can pursue the tour with the visit of the International Museum of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. For further information on this museum, consult www.micr.ch.

Guide: Evelyn Riedener
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From an elegant suburb to the present international organisations

When Geneva was chosen as the seat of the League of Nations in 1919 and when the city became the seat of the European Office of the United Nations in 1946, new offices were needed. They were partly built on the right bank of the Rhone river in a area stretching from the lake side to the Palais des Nations to accomodate the main bodies of UNOG (ILO, WHO, OMPI, ITU and others). Some of the 18th century buildings in the midst of the parks are still in use today while Geneva architects have contributed to the building of many important offices on former private land. This tour tells you about the important work accomplished daily in this area for a better world.

 

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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Sculptures of the twentieth century in Geneva, works by major international and local artists

The display of sculpture on the streets is mainly a phenomenon of the twentieth century in Geneva. This walk will show you examples of works from the bronze figure of Prophet Jeremiah in front of the cathedral to the Iraklion columns of Maurice Ruche at the rond-point de Plainpalais. You will perceive how the city authorities integrated the various trends in contemporary sculpture into their town-planning and how the local artists participated in this development. Thus you’ll have the opportunity to see works by Max Bill, Alexander Calder and Henry Moore among others.

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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Women in the history of Geneva

Jeanne de Jussie reported on the events that led to the acceptation of religious Reformation in Geneva. Isabelle Eberhardt learned to ride horses along the Rhone River before she left for the deserts of the Maghreb. Several women distinguished themselves throughout the past four centuries in literature, teaching, medicine, feminism. You are invited to follow them in a walk on the trail of their unusual destiny.

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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Squares of Geneva, a look at the city’s town-planning

Favourite meeting places at the crossroads of European trade routes or intimate meeting places, the squares of Geneva greatly differ from each other. This walk exploring time and space offers an insight into the most important historical events that have occurred there shaping the peculiar destiny of the city.

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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The Museum of the Martin Bodmer Foundation, a world-famous private collector’s library

(Please book your reservation at the secretariat of the museum by telephone ++41 (0) 22 707 44 36)

Since 2003, the Martin Bodmer Library shows some of its treasuries to the public. From Egyptian papyruses of first importance, precious medieval illuminated manuscripts, Shakespeare’s First Folio to first editions of major writers of the twentieth century, the evolution of human thought is presented to the visitor in this museum built by the architect Mario Botta. For further information, browse through the website of the Bodmeriana : www.fondationbodmer.org.

Guide: Marlyse Beldi
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