Geneva Attractions

by Wim Hordijk
(Vienna, Austria)

From High Energy Physics to High Altitude Views

Geneva is a city of many faces. Located in the far-western corner of Switzerland, at the tip of its namesake lake, it is steeped in history, surrounded by mountains, and host to the world's largest particle physics experiments at CERN (where, incidentally, the World Wide Web was also invented).

Having been part of Gaul, the Roman Empire, the Savoy Kingdom, the (original) Swiss Confederacy, and the French Republic, Geneva is now the second largest city in Switzerland. It went from being catholic to protestant, under the leadership of Calvin, then back to catholicism under the influence of France, until it officially became secular at the beginning of the 20th century.

Geneva is situated at the south-western end of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman, in French), where the Rhône river flows out of the lake into France. This lakeside location, together with the Jura mountains to the north and the Alps to the south, provides stunning natural scenery. On a clear day, even the top of the Mont Blanc can be seen.

Geneva's famous sight, the Jet d'Eau installed in 1951
A view across Lake Geneva, with the famous water-jet

The city is also host to the largest particle accellerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. It was here that the famous Higgs boson was found. It is possible to visit CERN, which offers several publicly accessible exhibits and guided tours.

From Geneva main station, take tram 18 (direction CERN) to the final stop.

Cern Campus in Geneva - a site worthwhile to visit
Some impressions from the CERN campus

But next to all the history, culture, and science, nature is not far away either. The mountains nearby offer plenty of places to hike, bike, ski, or just relax. One of the easiest mountain destinations is the Salève, clearly visible from along the lake in Geneva, but actually just across the border in France.

From Geneva main station, take bus 8 (direction Veyrier douane) to the last stop, then simply walk past the (now defunct) border control into France, and follow the signs to the Salève.

Lake Geneva - or Lac Léman - beautiful views all around
Another view across Lake Geneva, with the Salève mountain in the background

A cable car, the Téléphérique du Salève, takes you up to 1100m for some fine views over the city, the lake, and the Jura mountains to the north. From there, several hiking and biking trails take you further along the relatively flat top of the mountain, with various viewpoints from where you can also see the Alps, including the Mont Blanc, to the south. If you are adventurous, you can hike all the way down through the steep but spectacular Grande Gorge, or otherwise simply take the cable car back down.

The view from the top of Mount Salève to Geneva
The view of Geneva, the lake, and the Jura mountains from the top of the Salève

Next to direct train connections with the rest of Switzerland and parts of Franc, Geneva also has an international airport from where you can fly to almost anywhere in Europe or even further away. So, besides from being a worth-while destination in itself, Geneva also forms an ideal starting or ending point for a longer trip through Switzerland.

From high energy physics to high altitude views, there are a multitude of Geneva attractions to enjoy for everyone!

Wim Hordijk

Wim Hordijk, the wandering scientist, is an avid hiker and has been trekking all over the world.
More contributions by Wim:
- Grande Dixence, the tallest gravity dam in the World;
- A Perfect View from Mount Le Grammont in the Chablais Alps.

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