Geneva Old Town

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During my recent trip to Geneva I managed to find a few hours to explore the old town – la Vieille Ville. It’s a relatively small area occupying a hill on the left bank of he Rhone at the end of Lac Leman. Due to it being the depths of Winter, it was relatively quiet. It was cold, but the sun was shining and it was quite pleasant strolling around the steep cobbled streets.

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Today Geneva is a modern metropolis that has spread out considerably from the fortified town of 1841 illustrated in this old map.

File:Map of Geneva in 1841.jpg

Image source:Wikipedia

The streets were lines with well restored old buildings, the majority four or five storeys high.

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The ground floor of many of them were occupied by interesting shops; this one selling antiquarian scientific instruments – clocks, telescopes, globes, manometers

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There were a significant number of expensive boutiques, antique shops and art galleries, some of the latter selling pictures by some selling works by well known artists. There’s clearly a lot of money in Geneva.

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The Protestant Cathedral of St Pierre stands on the top of the hill in la Place St. Pierre. It’s the highest point in the city and a good panoramic view can be enjoyed on a clear day from the top of it’s two towers.

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This statue was in the street near the Cathedral. I thought it’s style was similar to the work of Rodin. I didn’t make a note of the name of the person it represented.

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This statue of a rather emaciated young woman, by the Swiss sculptor Heinz Schwartz is in la Place Bourg de Four. I rather like it.

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Clémentine (1974) by Heinz Schwartz.

She must have felt chilly on the day I was there!

Just across from the cathedral is the Town Hall. It was here that the Geneva Convention on the humanitarian rules of war was signed and also where the League of Nations assembled for the first time in 1920.


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Inside the courtyard you can see the unusual sloping ramp. It is said to have been built to allow cannons to pulled up to the ramparts and, allegedly, to enable councillors to arrive at meetings on horseback or in their sedan chair.

Near to the Town hall there are a number of cannons on display inside a former granary. The walls of the building are decorated with  mosaic frescoes by Alexandre Cingria depicting important periods in Geneva’s history.

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After walking around for a while I called in to a pleasant small café on la Rue Saint-Léger, just off la Place Bourg de Four for a coffee to warm me up.

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It was very characterful

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and the walls were decorated with pictures and caricatures

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I guess that the area can be explored in half a day or less, depending on how long you spend mooching around the shops, boutiques and galleries and what attractions you visit. Barbara of Mildaysboudoir visited during the summer last year and wrote about it on her blog here. It looks like there’s more to see during the warmer months with stalls and other things going on.