Start your tour of Geneva’s architectural landmarks in the Place des Nations, the heart of International Geneva. This open square is home to Broken Chair, a gigantic sculpture with half a leg missing that is dedicated to the international campaign against landmines. From here, you can admire the Palais des Nations with all the flags of the world lined up. Head up Avenue de la Paix to the Pregny Gate to take a tour of the Palais; along the way you’ll pass the Musée Ariana, an impressive neo-classical/ neo-baroque building that’s home to a beautiful ceramics and glass museum.
The tour then takes you down Avenue de la Paix from Place des Nations towards the Jardin Botanique and some of the more unique buildings this side of Lake Geneva. Here you’ll pass by the Maison de la Paix, modern glass ‘petals’ that are home to Geneva’s Graduate Institute University, and a host of NGOs. Further down the road is the ultra-modern Japan Tobacco International headquarters, another unique glass and steel design complete with a reflecting pool in its central courtyard.
From here you can cut across to Avenue de France and take public transport across to the Bel Air region or take a stroll through the Jardin Botanique and continue on foot along the side of the lake. The highlight of the lakeside stroll is seeing 140 feet of water firing into the air from the Jet d’Eau, one of Geneva’s unmissable landmarks.
From Bel Air, walk along Rue de la Croix d’Or – while there is little architectural majesty to this street, it’s one of the city’s busiest and the gateway to the Vielle Ville, the old town. Head towards Bourg-de-Four Square, one of the oldest places in Geneva and a good spot to regather your energy with a coffee or lunch. From here, take some of the many winding streets that lead into the heart of the old town. Highlights include the 12th-century St. Pierre Cathedral, which mixes different styles, the Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva, and l’ancien arsenale.
Between the Vielle Ville and Carouge – the end point of the tour – is Parc des Bastions, the original site of Geneva’s botanic gardens. Here you’ll find the imposing 325 feet long Reformation Wall, which features huge carvings of the leaders of the Reformation etched into the ancient city walls.
After recharging a little in Parc des Bastions, finish your architectural tour of Geneva with a saunter through Carouge. To get there, take the 18 tram across the river Arve and stop at Marché, the heart of this little Italian-inspired town on the outskirts of Geneva. The entire area is a blend of Italian – specifically Sardinian – and French architecture and is known locally as a ‘small Italy’. The best way to explore is to head out into the many little streets and try not to strain your neck as you gaze at the ornate window designs.