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  • Writer's pictureTheresa Brandt

From Fountains to Castles: Unveiling Geneva's Hidden Treasures

A multicultural gem with a storied history, Geneva sits at the southwestern end of the lake of the same name, where it joins the Rhône River along the Franco-Swiss border. If you’re embarking on a Rhône River cruise, and can carve out the extra time, I highly recommend that you stay a couple of days pre- or-post sailing to enjoy the Genevois spirit of this beautiful city.

Here’s where I would start my explorations, given the gift of extra time in Geneva.

Jet d’Eau

You really can’t miss the world’s tallest water fountain - the water spouts 476 feet into the air (that’s nearly as tall as a 50-story building). This famous city monument is actually the third iteration of this pencil fountain style. The original one worked from 1886 to 1890, during which time it skyrocketed water each Sunday for 15 minutes. The second spurted water 295 feet high on Sundays and public holidays, and the current model was born in 1951. You may even see it illuminated pink, blue or another color in honor of a humanitarian occasion, apropos for this “Peace City.”

Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques

If you have a green thumb, and even if you don’t, you’ll find time at the Botanical Conservatory to be well spent. Enjoy more than 12,000 species of plants from around the world, arranged thoughtfully into themed gardens. Don’t miss the rose collection and the Animal Park, home to indigenous species, some endangered creatures, and everyone’s favorite chickens, goats and sheep.

Cathédrale St-Pierre

At this Gothic-Neoclassical cathedral, you can climb 96 interior spiral steps up to the northern tower (a must for architecture buffs as it gives you an inside peek at the construction of the cathedral), then climb another 60 steps to the southern tower for a look at the bells and a panoramic city view. At quite the opposite “end” of the cathedral, you can find 4th-century floor mosaics and a tomb in the basement’s Site Archéologique de la Cathédrale St-Pierre. During the summer, stop by the cathedral in the evening for free concerts: carillon at 5 p.m. and organ at 6 p.m.

Chillon Castle

Take a boat ride on glistening Lake Geneva to fairytale-esque Chillon Castle. Built on an island between 1536 and 1798, the medieval fortress was intended to protect and to gain control between northern and southern Europe. Today’s visitors can see the gracefully arched underground cellars, the Gothic-style windows, and the great halls that boast picture-perfect views of the lake. Lord Byron was so inspired that he wrote his poem “The Prisoner of Chillon” about the castle.

Bonus Sights

A couple more to add to your list!

Horlage Fleuri

Be sure to stop by the Jardin Anglais, if only to see the city’s most iconic (and most photographed) clock. It’s crafted of 6,500 living flowers and has been working steadily since 955.

Geneva Opera House

If you can, see an opera, ballet or recital in this grand opera house, inspired by the Parisian Palais Garnier.


If you like to roam and soak up the joie de vivre of a new place, try this pulsating neighborhood on for size. Home to university students, young Geneva residents and ex-pats, it brims with bars, restaurants, a regular flea market, adorable boutiques and several art galleries.

Make the most of your river cruise and your international airfare with extra time in Geneva! Let’s chat about how to work it into your itinerary. Reach out by booking a consultation through my Services page!


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