Geneva is known as the smallest metropolis on the planet, a reputation due in part to some of the most important international organizations being headquartered there. It is also a major center for finance and trade fairs. Small wonder, then, that Geneva has a cosmopolitan charm all its own – and is one of the most livable (if most expensive) cities in the world
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City of international organisations
Palace of Nations:
Some 8000 conferences and gatherings every year bring people from all over the world to the Palace of Nations, where the United Nations (UN) has its second headquarters. The global organization employs around 1600 people in Geneva, among them the staff of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Originally the headquarters of the League of Nations, the imposing Neo-Classical building erected between 1929 and 1936 was given over to the United Nations in 1946.
Palais des Nations: Avenue de la Paix 14, +41-22/917 48 96. Opening times: Mon-Fri 10am-12noon, 2-4pm (September-March), daily 10am-12noon, 2-4pm (April-June), daily 10am-5pm (July, August). Admission: 12 Swiss francs (reduced 7-12 Swiss francs), guided tour included.www.unog.ch
La Perle du Lac:
Just a short walk from Palais des Nations, a Genevan rarity awaits visitors in charming Mon Repos park: La Perle du Lac, the only restaurant in the entire city not separated from Lake Geneva by a road and well worth a visit if only for that reason. On the menu: French haute cuisine, which is served both in the restaurant’s elegant indoor salons and on the terrace for which, on sunny days, it is wise to reserve in advance.
La Perle du Lac: Rue de Lausanne 126, +41-22/909 10 20. Opening times: Tue-Sun 12noon-2pm, 7:30-10pm. www.laperledulac.ch
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum:
Like many other global organizations – such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – the International Committee of the Red Cross has its headquarters in Geneva. In 1988, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum opened up right next door. It documents the history and present activities of this global humanitarian movement, which has been working to protect the victims of war and internal conflicts for the past 150 years.
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum: Avenue de la Paix 17, +41-22/748 95 25. Opening times: temporarily closed due to maintenance. www.micr.ch
Luxury watches & luxury accommodation
Patek Philippe Museum:
Geneva is also famous for being the cradle of the Swiss art of watchmaking, and chronometers of every kind are in evidence at every turn: Take the floral clock in the English Garden, for example, or the clock with the longest pendulum in the world (30.02 meters) at Hotel Cornavin. Thanks to luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe, Geneva even has its own watch museum, which traces the company’s 170-year history in chronometers and also exhibits historical watches not just from Switzerland but also from all over Europe. The oldest of these dates all the way back to the 16th century.
Patek Philippe Museum: Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, +41-22/807 09 10. Opening times: Tue-Fri 2-6pm, Sat 10am-6pm. Admission: 10 Swiss francs (reduced, 7 Swiss francs). www.patekmuseum.com.
Welcoming the world: High-profile international visitors will not be disappointed by the standard of accommodation the mini-metropolis has to offer. Some of the best hotels in Europe can be found on Geneva’s lakeside promenade and the Beau-Rivage on Quai du Mont Blanc is one of the oldest and most famous. Peter, Grand Duke of Russia, the Japanese Emperor Akihikto and the Dalai Lama count among its many illustrious guests. The Empress Elisabeth of Austria (fondly known as “Sisi”) spent the last night of her life at the Beau-Rivage; she was mortally wounded by an assassin in the town the following day. The gourmet restaurant Le Chat-Botté (one Michelin star) also belongs to the hotel.
Hotel Beau-Rivage: Quai du Mont Blanc 13, +41-22/716 66 66. www.beau-rivage.ch
Château de Chillon:
A drive along the banks of Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman, as it is called in French) is a must considering the many worthwhile sights to be seen there. Your tour will take you through Lausanne and Montreux – and also to the Castle of Chillon, which stands on a rock amid the waters of the lake and was first documented as far back as 1150. With its mighty medieval walls, vaults and dramatic spires, the castle in the lake has been an inspiration to artists and authors alike and is one of the most popular attractions in Switzerland today.
Château de Chillon: Avenue de Chillon 21, +41-21/966 89 10. Opening times: daily 9am-7pm (April-September), 9:30am-6pm (October, March), 10am-5pm (November-February). Admission: 12 Swiss francs (reduced, 6-10 Swiss francs). www.chillon.ch
Pictures: Ocean/Bosshart/Corbis (2), Hemispheres/laif, mauritius images, PR (3)