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Geneva ( , , , ) is the second-most-populous city in Switzerlandmarker (after Zürichmarker) and is the most populous city of Romandie (the French-speaking part of Switzerland). Situated where the Rhône River exits Lake Genevamarker (in French also known as Lac Léman), it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Genevamarker.

The city proper had a population of 186,825 in June 2008, and the metropolitan area had 812,000 residents, according to a 2007 census. The Geneva metropolitan area extends partly over Switzerland (517,000 inhabitants) and partly over France (293,000 inhabitants).

Geneva is a worldwide centre for diplomacy and international co-operation, and is widely regarded as a global city, mainly because of the presence of numerous international organisations, including the headquarters of many of the agencies of the United Nations and the Red Crossmarker. It is also the place where the Geneva Conventions were signed, which chiefly concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war. In the heart of the International Geneva is located the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studiesmarker an institution of advanced research and teaching which proposed MA and PhD programmes and prepare international actors to respond to the challenges of tomorrow's world.

Geneva has been described as the world's sixth most important financial centre by the Global Financial Centres Index, ahead of Tokyomarker, Chicagomarker, Frankfurtmarker and Sydneymarker, and a 2009 survey by Mercer found Geneva to have the third-highest quality of life in the world (narrowly outranked by Zürichmarker).
The city has been referred to as the world's most compact metropolis and the "Peace Capital".


The name Geneva is probably of Celtic origin. The city was mentioned in Latin texts with the spelling Genava. The name takes various forms in modern languages. Thus, it is Geneva in English and , , , , and .


For the Catholic ecclesiastical history, see Lausanne and Geneva bishopric


Geneva first appears in history as a border town, fortified against the Celto-Germanic Helvetii, which the Romans took in 121 B.C. It became an episcopal seat in the 4th century. In A.D. 443 it was taken by Burgundy, and with the latter fell to the Franks in 534. In 888 the town was part of the new Kingdom of Burgundy, and with it was taken over in 1033 by the German Emperor. According to legendary accounts found in the works of Gregorio Leti ("Historia Genevrena", Amsterdam, 1686) and Besson ("Memoires pour l'histoire ecclésiastique des diocèses de Genève, Tantaise, Aoste et Maurienne", Nancy, 1739; new ed. Moutiers, 1871), Geneva was Christianised by Dionysius Areopagita and Paracodus, two of the seventy-two disciples, in the time of Domitian; Dionysius went thence to Parismarker and Paracodus became the first Bishop of Geneva but the legend is fictitious, as is that which makes St. Lazarus the first Bishop of Geneva, an error arising out of the similarity between the Latin names Genara (Geneva) and Genua (Genoa, in northern Italy). The so-called "Catalogue de St. Pierre", which names St. Diogenus (Diogenes) as the first Bishop of Geneva, is unreliable.

A letter of St. Eucherius to Salvius makes it almost certain that St. Isaac (c. 400) was the first bishop. In 440 St. Salonius appears as Bishop of Geneva; he was a son of St. Eucherius, to whom the latter dedicated his Instructiones'; he took part in the Councils of Orange (441), Vaisonmarker (442) and Arles (about 455), and is supposed to be the author of two small commentaries, In parabolas Salomonis and on Ecclesisastis (published in P. L., LII, 967 sqq., 993 sqq. as works of an otherwise unknown bishop, Salonius of Vienne). Little is known about the following Bishops Theoplastus (about 475), to whom St. Sidonius Apollinaris addressed a letter; Dormitianus (before 500), under whom the Burgundian Princess Sedeleuba, a sister of Queen Clotilde, had the remains of the martyr and St. Victor of Soleure transferred to Geneva, where she built a basilica in his honour; St. Maximus (about 512-41), a friend of Avitus, Archbishop of Vienne and Cyprian of Toulon, with whom he was in correspondence (Wawra in "Tübinger Theolog. Quartalschrift", LXXXV, 1905, 576-594). Bishop Pappulus sent the priest Thoribiusas his substitute to the Synod of Orléans (541). Bishop Salonius II is only known from the signatures of the Synods of Lyon (570) and Paris (573) and Bishop Cariatto, installed by King Guntram in 584, was present at the two Synods of Valence and Macon in 585.

Middle Ages

From the beginning the bishopric of Geneva was a suffragan of the archbishopric of Vienne. The bishops of Geneva had the status of prince of the Holy Roman Empire since 1154, but had to maintain a long struggle for their independence against the guardians (advocati) of the see, the counts of Geneva and later the counts of the House of Savoy. In 1290 the latter obtained the right of installing the vice-dominus of the diocese, the title of Vidame of Geneva was granted to the counts of the House of Candia under count François de Candie of Chamberymarker-Le-Vieux a Chatellaine of the Savoy, this official exercised minor jurisdiction in the town in the bishop's. In 1387 Bishop Adhémar Fabry granted the town its great charter, the basis of its communal self-government, which every bishop on his accession was expected to confirm. When the line of the counts of Geneva became extinct in 1394, and the House of Savoy came into possession of their territory, assuming after 1416 the title of Duke, the new dynasty sought by every means to bring the city of Geneva under their power, particularly by elevating members of their own family to the episcopal see. The city protected itself by union with the Swiss Federation ( ), uniting itself in 1526 with Berne and Fribourg.


Plan of Geneva and environs in 1841.
The colossal fortifications, among the most important in Europe, were demolished ten years later.
The Protestant Reformation affected Geneva. While Bernmarker favoured the introduction of the new teaching and demanded liberty of preaching for the Reformers Guillaume Farel and Antoine Froment, Catholic Fribourgmarker renounced in 1511 its allegiance with Geneva. In 1532 the Roman Catholic bishop of the city was obliged to leave his residence, never to return. In 1536, the Genevans declared themselves Protestant and proclaimed their city a republic. The Protestant leader John Calvin was based in Geneva from 1536 to his death in 1564 (save for an exile from 1538 to 1541) and became the spiritual leader of the city. Geneva became a centre of Protestant activity, producing works such as the Genevan Psalter, though there were often tensions between Calvin and the city's civil authorities. Though the city proper remained a Protestant stronghold under St. Francis de Sales, a large part of the historic diocese returned to Catholicism in the early seventeenth century.

18th century

During the French Revolution (1789-1799), aristocratic and democratic factions contended for control of Geneva. In 1798, however, France, then under the Directory, annexed Geneva and its surrounding territory.

19th century

Swiss Army in Geneva on June 1st, 1814 (painting from 1880)

In 1802 the diocese was united with that of Chambérymarker. At the Congress of Vienna of 1814-15, the territory of Geneva was extended to cover 15 Savoyard and six French parishes, with more than 16,000 Catholics; at the same time it was admitted to the Swiss Confederationmarker. The Congress expressly provided—and the same proviso was included in the Treaty of Turin (16 March 1816) -- that in these territories transferred to Geneva the Catholic religion was to be protected, and that no changes were to be made in existing conditions without the approval of the Holy See. The city's neutrality was guaranteed by the Congress. Pius VII in 1819 united the city of Geneva and 20 parishes with the Diocese of Lausanne, while the rest of the ancient Diocese of Geneva (outside of Switzerland) was reconstituted, in 1822, as the French Diocese of Annecy.
View of Geneva in 1860
The Great Council of Geneva (cantonal council) afterwards ignored the responsibilities thus undertaken; in imitation of Napoleon's "Organic Articles", it insisted upon the Placet, or previous approval of publication, for all papal documents. Catholic indignation ran high at the civil measures taken against Marilley, the parish priest of Geneva and later bishop of the see, and at the Kulturkampf, which obliged them to contribute to the budget of the Protestant Church and to that of the Old Catholic Church, without providing any public aid for Catholicism.

20th century

On 30 June 1907, aided by strong Catholic support, Geneva adopted a separation of Church and State. The Protestant faith received a one-time compensatory sum of 800,000 Swiss francs (then about US$160,000), while other faiths received nothing. Since then the Canton of Geneva has given aid to no creed from either state or municipal revenues.

League of Nations conference in 1926
The international status of the city was highlighted after World War I when Geneva became the seat of the League of Nations in 1919-—notably through the work of the Federal Council member Gustav Ador and of Swiss diplomat William Rappard who is one of the founders of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studiesmarker, the Europe's oldest graduate school of international and development studies.

In the wake of the war, a class struggle in Switzerland grew and culminated in a general strike throughout the country—-beginning on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, and directed from the German-speaking part of the nation. However the prevailing friendliness toward France in Geneva moderated its impact upon that city.

On 9 November 1932, several small Fascist-inspired political parties, such as the National Union, attacked Socialist leaders, which action led to a later demonstration of the Left against the Fascists. On that occasion, young recruits in the Swiss Army fired without warning into a crowd, leaving thirteen dead and 63 wounded. As a result, a new general strike was called several days later in protest.

After World War II, the European headquarters of the United Nations and the seats of dozens of international organisations were installed in Geneva, resulting in the development of tourism and of business.

In the 1960s, Geneva became one of the first parts of the nation where rights movements achieved a certain measure of success. It was the third canton to grant women's suffrage on the cantonal and communal levels.

Geography and climate

Geneva seen from SPOT Satellite
Geneva is located at 46°12' North, 6°09' East, at the south-western end of Lake Genevamarker, where the lake flows back into the Rhône River. It is surrounded by two mountain chains, the Alpsmarker and the Jura.

The Geneva area seen from the Salève
The city of Geneva has an area of , while the area of the Canton of Genevamarker is , including the two small enclaves of Célignymarker in Vaudmarker. The part of the lake that is attached to Geneva has an area of and is sometimes referred to as Petit lac ( ). The Canton has only a long border with the rest of Switzerland. Out of a total of of borders, the remaining 103 are shared with Francemarker, with the Départment de l'Ainmarker to the North and the Département de la Haute-Savoiemarker to the South.

The altitude of Geneva is , and corresponds to the altitude of the largest of the Pierres du Niton, two large rocks emerging from the lake which date from the last ice age. This rock was chosen by General Guillaume Henri Dufour as the reference point for all surveying in Switzerland.The second main river of Geneva is the Arve Rivermarker which flows into the Rhône River just west of the city centre. Mont Blancmarker can be seen from Geneva and is only an hours drive away from the city centre.


The climate of Geneva is temperate. Ice storms near Lac Lémanmarker are quite normal in the winter. In the summer many people enjoy swimming in the lake, and frequently patronize public beaches such as Genève Plage and the Bains des Pâquis. Geneva often receives snow in the colder months of the year. The nearby mountains are subject to sunstantial snowfall and are usually suitable for skiing. Many world-renowned ski resorts such as Verbiermarker are just over an hour away by car. Mont Salèvemarker (1400 m) dominates the southerly view from the city centre and is the closest skiing destination to Geneva.


Society and culture


The city's main newspaper is the Tribune de Genève, with a readership of about 187,000, a daily newspaper founded on 1 February 1879 by James T. Bates.Le Courrier, founded in 1868, was originally supported by the Roman Catholic Church, but has been completely independent since 1996. Mainly focused on Geneva, Le Courrier is trying to expand into other cantons in Romandy. Both Le Temps (headquartered in Geneva) and Le Matin are widely read in Geneva, but both journals actually cover the whole of Romandy.

Geneva is covered by the various French language radio networks of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, in particular the Radio Suisse Romande. While these networks cover the whole of Romandy, special programs related to Geneva are sometimes broadcast on some of the local frequencies in the case of special events such as elections. Other local station broadcast from the city, including RadioLac (FM 91.8 MHz), Radio Cité (Non-commercial radio, FM 92.2 MHz), OneFM (FM 107.0 MHz, also broadcast in Vaudmarker), and World Radio Switzerland (FM 88.4 MHz), Switzerland's only English language radio station.

The main television channel covering Geneva is the Télévision Suisse Romande. While its headquarters are located in Geneva, the programs cover the whole of Romandy and are not specific to Geneva. Léman Bleu is a local TV channel, founded in 1996 and distributed by cable. Due to the proximity to Francemarker, French television channels are also available.

Traditions and customs

Geneva observes Jeûne genevois on the first Thursday following the first Sunday in September. By local tradition, this commemorates the date the news of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Huguenots reached Geneva. The Genevois joke that the federal equivalent holiday, Jeûne fédéral, is observed two weeks later on account of the rest of the country being a bit slow on the uptake.

Since 1818, a particular chestnut tree has been used as the official "herald of the spring" in Geneva. The sautier (secretary of the Parliament of the Canton of Geneva) observes the tree and notes the day of arrival of the first bud. While this event has no practical impact, the sautier issues a formal press release and the local newspaper will usually mention the news.

As this is one of the world's oldest records of a plant's reaction to climatic conditions, researchers have been interested to note that the first bud appears earlier and earlier in the year. During the first century, many dates were in March or April. In recent years, it has usually been in mid-February and sometimes even earlier.In 2002, the first bud appeared unusually early, on 7 February, and then again on 29th of December of the same year. The following year, which was one of the hottest years recorded in Europe, became a year with no bud. In 2008, the first bud also appeared very early, on 19 February.


Museums and art galleries are everywhere in the city. Some are related to the many international organizations as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museummarker or the Microcosmmarker in the CERN area. The Palace of Nationsmarker, home of the United Nations headquarters can also be visited.


The main sport team in Geneva is Servette FC, a football club founded in 1890 and named after a borough on the right bank of the Rhône. Servette was the only club to have remained in the top league in Switzerlandmarker since its creation in the 1930s. In 2005, however, management problems resulted in the bankruptcy of the club's parent company, causing the club to be demoted two divisions. It is now playing in second division.

Geneva is also home of the Genève-Servette Hockey Club, who play in the Swiss National League A. In 2008 the team made it to the league finals but lost to the ZSC Lions.

Administrative divisions

The city is divided into eight quartiers, or districts, sometimes composed of several neighborhoods. On the Left Bank are (1) Jonction, (2) Centre. Plainpalais, and Acacias, (3) Eaux-Vives, and (4) Champel, while the Right Bank includes (1) Saint-Jean and Charmilles, (2) Servette and Petit-Saconnex, (3) Grottes and Saint-Gervais, and (4) Paquis and Nations.


As of June 2008, the population of the Commune (city) of Geneva was 186,825. The city of Geneva is at the centre of the Geneva metropolitan area, known as the agglomération franco-valdo-genevoise in French. The agglomération franco-valdo-genevoise includes the Canton of Genevamarker in its entirety as well as the District of Nyon in the Canton of Vaudmarker and several areas in the neighboring French departments of Haute-Savoiemarker and Ainmarker. In 2007 the agglomération franco-valdo-genevoise had 812,000 inhabitants, two-thirds of whom lived on Swiss soil and one-third on French soil. The Geneva metropolitan area is experiencing steady demographic growth of 1.2% a year and the agglomération franco-valdo-genevoise is expected to reach one million people in 2030.

The population of the Canton contains 148,500 people originally from Geneva (33.7%), 122,400 Swiss from other cantons (27.6%) and 170,500 foreigners (38.7%), from 180 different countries. Including people holding multiple citizenship, 54.4% of people living in Geneva hold a foreign passport.

While Geneva is usually considered a Protestant city, there are now more Roman Catholics (39.5%) than Protestants (17.4%) living in the Canton. 22% of the inhabitants claim no religion. Some did not respond, and the remaining practice Islam (4.4%), Judaism (1.1%), or other religions.


Geneva's economy is mainly services oriented. The city has an important and old finance sector, which is specialized in private banking (managing assets of about 1 trillion USD) and financing of international trade. It is also an important centre of commodity trade.

Geneva hosts the international headquarters of companies like JT International , Mediterranean Shipping Company, Serono, SITA, Société Générale de Surveillance and STMicroelectronics. Many other multinational companies like Caterpillar, DuPont, Take Two Interactive, Electronic Arts, INVISTA, Procter & Gamble and Sun Microsystems have their European headquarters in the city. Hewlett Packard has its Europe, Africa, and Middle East headquarters in Meyrinmarker, near Geneva. PrivatAir has its headquarters in Meyrin, near Geneva.

There is a long tradition of watchmaking (Baume et Mercier, Charriol, Chopard, Franck Muller, Patek Philippe, Rolex, Raymond Weil, Omega, Vacheron Constantin, etc.). Two major international producers of flavours and fragrances, Firmenich and Givaudan, have their headquarters and main production facilities in Geneva.

Many people also work in the numerous offices of international organisations located in Geneva (about 24,000 in 2001).

The Geneva Motor Show is one of the most important international auto-shows. The show is held at Palexpomarker, a giant convention centre located next to the International Airport.

In 2009, Geneva was ranked as the fourth most expensive city in the world. Geneva moved up four places from eighth place in last year's survey. Geneva is ranked behind Tokyomarker, Osaka, and Moscowmarker at first, second, and third respectively. Geneva also beat Hong Kongmarker, which came in at fifth place.



The city is served by the Geneva Cointrin International Airportmarker. It is connected to both the Swiss railway network SBB-CFF-FFS, and the Frenchmarker SNCF network, including direct connections to Parismarker, Marseillemarker and Montpelliermarker by TGV. Geneva is also connected to the motorway systems of both Switzerland (A1 motorway) and France.

Public transport by bus, trolleybus or tram is provided by Transports Publics Genevois (TPG). In addition to an extensive coverage of the city centre, the network covers most of the municipalities of the Canton, with a few lines extending into France. Public transport by boat is provided by the Mouettes Genevoises, which link the two banks of the lake within the city, and by the Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le lac Léman (CGN) which serves more distant destinations such as Nyonmarker, Yvoiremarker, Thonon, Evianmarker, Lausannemarker and Montreuxmarker using both modern diesel vessels and vintage paddle steamers.
Geneva Sécheron Train station
Trains operated by SBB-CFF-FFS connect the airport to the main station of Cornavin in a mere six minutes, and carry on to towns such as Nyon, Lausanne, Fribourg, Montreux, Neuchâtel, Berne, Sion, Sierre, etc. Regional train services are being increasingly developed, towards Coppet and Bellegarde. At the city limits, two new stations have been created since 2002: Genève-Sécheron (close to the UN and the Botanical Gardens) and Lancy-Pont-Rouge.

In 2005, work started on the CEVA (Cornavin - Eaux-Vives - Annemasse) project, first planned in 1884, which will connect Cornavin with the Cantonal hospital, the Eaux-Vives station and Annemassemarker, in France. The link between the main station and the classification yard of La Praille already exists; from there, the line will go mostly underground to the Hospital and the Eaux-Vives, where it will link up to the existing line to France. Support for this project was obtained from all parties in the local parliament.

Taxis in Geneva can be difficult to find, and may need to be booked in advance especially in the early morning or at peak hours. In addition, which may be surprising in a modern country like Switzerlandmarker, taxis often refuse to take babies and children.


Water, natural gas and electricity are provided to the municipalities of the Canton of Geneva by the state-owned Services Industriels de Genève (shortly SIG). Most of the drinkable water (80%) is extracted from the lakemarker; the remaining 20% is provided by groundwater originally formed by infiltration from the Arve Rivermarker. 30% of the Canton's electricity needs is locally produced, mainly by three hydroelectric dams on the Rhone River (Seujet, Verbois and Chancy-Pougny). In addition, 13% of the electricity produced in the Canton is made from the heat induced by the burning of waste at the waste incineration facility of Les Cheneviers. The remaining needs (57%) are covered by imports from other cantons in Switzerland or other European countries; SIG buys only electricity produced by renewable methods, and in particular does not use electricity produced using nuclear reactors or fossil fuels.Natural gas is available in the City of Geneva, as well as in about two-thirds of the municipalities of the canton, and is imported from Western Europe by the Swiss company Gaznat. SIG also provides telecommunication facilities to carriers, service providers and large enterprises. From 2003 to 2005 "Voisin, voisine" a Fibre to the Home pilot project with a Triple play offering was launched to test the end-user market in the Charmilles district.


Geneva is home to the University of Genevamarker, founded by John Calvin in 1559.

Located in the heart of International Geneva, The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studiesmarker was among the first academic institutions to teach international relations in the world and proposed MA and PhD programmes in Law, Political Science, History, Economics and Development Studies.

Also, the oldest international school in the world is located in Geneva, the International School of Genevamarker, founded in 1924 along with the League of Nations. Webster Universitymarker, an accredited American university, also has a campus in Geneva. Moreover, the city is home to the Institut International de Lancy (founded in 1903).

The Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relationsmarker is a private university on the grounds of the Château de Penthes, an old manor with a park and view of Lake Genevamarker.

The Canton of Genevamarker's public school system has écoles primaires (ages 4–12) and cycles d'orientation (ages 12–15). The obligation to attend school ends at age 16, but secondary education is provided by collèges (ages 15–19), the oldest of which is the Collège Calvinmarker, which could be considered one of the oldest public schools in the world.

Geneva also has a choice of private schools.However, out of all the educational and research facilities in Geneva, CERNmarker (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) is probably the best known on a world basis. Founded in 1954, CERN was one of Europe's first joint ventures and has developed as the world's largest particle physics laboratory. Physicists from around the world travel to CERN to research matter and explore the fundamental forces and materials that form the universe.

International organizations

Geneva is the seat of the European headquarters of the United Nationsmarker. It is located in the Palace of Nationsmarker building (French: Palais des Nations) which was also the headquarters of the former League of Nations. Several agencies are headquartered at Geneva, among which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization (ILO) or the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) just to name a few.

Apart from the United Nation agencies, Geneva hosts many inter-governmental organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Economic Forum (WEF), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Organizations on the European level, include the European Broadcasting Unionmarker (EBU) and the CERNmarker (European Organization for Nuclear Research) which is the world's largest particle physics laboratory.

The Geneva Environment Network (GEN) publishes the Geneva Green Guide, and extensive listing of Geneva-based global organisations working on environment protection and sustainable development. A website (by the Swiss Government, WBCSD, UNEP and IUCN) includes stories about how NGOs, business, government and the UN cooperate. By doing so, it attempts to explain why Geneva has been picked by so many NGOs and UN as their headquarters location.

Geneva in popular culture


Comic books

Film and television


  • The song "My Manic And I" by Laura Marling describes a lover who wishes to die in Geneva.
  • The New Jersey band Trophy Scars has a song entitled "Geneva" on their 2009 album "Bad Luck".
  • The Chicago band Russian Circles 2009 Album is entitled "Geneva"

See also


  1. Mercer's 2009 Quality of Living survey highlights [1]. Last updated 28 April 2009.
  3. Binz, Louis Brève histoire de Genève, p. 66.
  4. Louis Binz, Brève histoire de Genève, p. 69
  5. Binz, Louis Brève histoire de Genève, p. 78
  6. Swisstopo, Height reference for Switzerland. Last accessed on 1 February 2007.
  7. La Une de la FAO no 93 année 253 : FAO: La Treille, promenade et lieu d'observation climatique
  8. Population of Geneva, on the website of Statistique Genève. Last accessed 1 February 2007.
  9. OCSTAT. Les binationaux dans le canton de Genève. Résultats du recensement fédéral de la population 2000. Communications statistiques n° 24, Geneva, December 2005.
  10. Inhabitants of the Canton of Geneva according to their religion, on the website of Statistique Genève. Last accessed 1 February 2007.
  11. " Plan de commune." Meyrin. Retrieved on 29 September 2009.
  12. " Office Locations." Hewlett Packard. Retrieved on 22 July 2009.
  13. " How to Find Us." PrivatAir. Retrieved on 22 October 2009.
  14. " Overview." PrivatAir. Retrieved on 22 August 2009.
  16. Partnerships for the Planet - Stories from Geneva

Further reading

  • Jean de Senarclens, "Geneva: Historic Guide", Editions du Tricorne, 1995. ISBN 2-8293-0144-7

External links


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