The Swiss city of Geneva home to several international organizations including UN, Red Cross and WHO is aptly known as a global city. But little does everyone know that this cosmopolitan city has a well preserved picturesque old town testimony to its 2,000-year-old history. Step onto the cobbled stone streets that will transport you back in time where tranquility rules and explore the amazing Geneva landmarks which make for the top things to do in Geneva old town.
The Old Town Geneva
St. Pierre Cathedral
The 12th-century St. Pierre Cathedral dominates a beautiful square in old town Geneva and was built on the location of a 6th-century basilica. The cathedral with lofty neoclassical facade features several architectural styles as it was rebuilt several times.
Do not miss the Maccabee chapel with its ornate interior and beautiful gothic paintings and the archaeological site located underneath the Cathedral which house the remains of the basilica and its mosaic paintings on which the magnificent St.Peter’s Cathedral stands today. A climb up the tower of the cathedral offers awe-inspiring views over the town of Geneva and Geneva Lake.
Museums of Old Town
The old town Geneva has some interesting museums. The historic building of Maison Tavel built in the 14th century is the oldest private dwelling in Geneva. The museum displays artifacts from urban history and everyday life in Geneva. The Barbier-Mueller Museum, founded in 1977 exhibits an extensive collection of artwork and sculptures representing the ancient and tribal art of the primitive civilizations. The International Museum of the Reformation located next to the St Pierre Cathedral displays information on the history of the Reformation.
The pillared building with cobbled stone floor houses five cannons dating back to 17th century. On the walls are three remarkable frescoes created by Alexandre Cingria portraying the history of Geneva. The Old Arsenal was originally built as a granary has also served as a military storehouse. The first floor of the building houses the Geneva State Archives.
Geneva Town Hall
The 15th-century town hall holds important parliament meetings and is the seat of government for Geneva Canton. The popular Alabama Room where the first Geneva Convention was adopted in 1864 is housed in the town hall. An interesting feature of the building is the ramp surrounding the building which made the upper floors accessible on foot as well as horseback.
Walk around the cathedral taking in the charm of the beautiful buildings to Agrippa-d’Aubigné terrace. The terrace has wonderful views of the rooftops of the city. On a clear day, one can even get a view of the iconic Jet d’Eau fountain in the backdrop. There is also a small playground for children. Built on the ancient walls of the city the terrace is named after and is named after Théodore Agrippa-d’Aubigné a French poet and soldier.
Hop Onto a Mini-Train
A fairy tale electro-solar train snaking through the old town, lakeside Geneva and prominent parks and gardens around Geneva city center makes for a unique experience. The mini train started in 1995 is accompanied by audio commentary in different languages. Check for different routes and prices of the tour here.
Saunter the cobblestone Alleys
The cobblestone alleys of old town wind through lovely buildings that exude old world charm. The alleys are lined with many art galleries, book shops, antique shops, museums, cafes, and restaurants.
Take a stroll around the old town and explore the squares dotted with enchanting fountains, windows overflowing with vibrant blossoms, intricate designs and ornamentations on the lofty wooden doors and the signboards of the cafes.
What is your favorite part of Geneva old town? Do share with us in comments.