Windows in Geneva's Old Town

A Grey Day In Geneva’s Old Town

In Switzerland by Nick Nomi0 Comments

Geneva is a funny old city – its dirty, busy, tram ridden high-street reminds me of Manchester in a strange kind of way, while the old city is beautiful and charming – the opposite of the high-street, and the red light district – a neon soaked, vibrant reminder of Switzerland’s open sex laws and also the only place it’s possible to find good chillies, and excellent Thai food, in probably a hundred mile radius! Like I said it’s a funny old place.

We visited Geneva for the day recently and found a grey mono sky covering most of the mountains and descending at a rapid rate towards the cobbled paths of the old town. While we walked, it became apparent that this kind of weather does absolutely nothing for the city – not like those such as York in England and even Venice in Italy, whose streets find a new lease of life during darker times. No, the streets of Geneva lacked a certain vigour – the life seemed drained from them and the lake? A large pool of lifeless grey waters mimicking the sky above (though shades of its usual blue were there but they lacked vibrance). We were tired from a late night and an early morning and so headed to the old town to grab a coffee in one of the prettier cafes by the old style carousel. Refreshed we then headed into Vieille Ville to take a look around its dank stoney streets…and we found a pleasant, almost empty old town – complete with beautiful old squares, antique bookstores and a rather lovely cathedral whose façades show a history that spans some 850 years. 

The main façade of Saint Pierre Cathedral

The main façade of Saint Pierre Cathedral

The cathedral sits at the highest point of the Old Town, it was built in the 12th century, and had various bits and pieces added later beginning in the 16th century. On a bluer day I would suggest climbing the 157 steps up the north tower to take in the incredible views of the city and the lake.

One of the towers from where to sea the city and the great green spire of the Saint Pierre Cathedral

One of the towers from where to sea the city and the great green spire of the Saint Pierre Cathedral

A street in the old town of Geneva

A near empty Rue due Puits-St-Pierre and the Maison Tavel (see below)

The grey building above is the The Maison Tavel or Tavel House – otherwise known as the oldest house in the city – it dates back to the 12th century. Though built by the Tavel family the house now belongs to the city of Geneva and currently houses a museum, that explores the history of Geneva through a series of exhibits and installations.

A sign for a cafe & bar in Geneva old town

The Old Arsenal with original cannons from the 17th century and three (2 in picture) frescoes by Alexandre Cingria, depicting different periods in Geneva’s history.

The Old Arsenal – now the state archives

The above image shows the Old Arsenal with original cannons from the 17th century and three (2 in picture) frescoes by Alexandre Cingria, depicting different periods in Geneva’s history. The arsenal was originally a granary built in the 17th century and later used as a military storehouse up until 1877. There are five cannons exhibited under the archways – each of which were still in use well into the 19th century. The building now houses the Geneva State Archives.

Asia African Museum in Geneva Old Town

The beautiful square of the Geneva Town Hall that mixes antique and modern architecture in Geneva Old Town

The beautiful square of the Geneva Town Hall that mixes antique and modern architecture in Geneva’s Old Town

Pictured above is the 15th century Geneva Town Hall, built between 1555 and 1578 by Peter Desfosses. Wrapped around the exterior is a unique access ramp – said to have been built in such a way to allow access to the building on both foot and horseback. This building also houses the Alabama Room – the very room where the first Geneva Convention was signed in 1864.

At work in the Geneva Old TownA door in Geneva Old town

A lonely old dog waits for his master in front of an antique bookstore

A lonely old dog waits for his master in front of a bookstore

Antique bookstore with exterior shelves built into the facade

The Librairie Ancienne Antiquités with exterior shelves built into the facade

Old doors and windows in the Geneva Old town

40 Grand Rue, Geneva, birthplace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

40 Grand Rue, Geneva, birthplace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Beautiful door handle and intriguing key hole shape

Beautiful door handle and intriguing key hole shape

If you look carefully as you make your way around the Geneva old town – you’ll note lots of beautiful, and rather intricate embellishments on the city’s architecture – the doors are mostly grand and wooden, many, like the one in the picture above and below – have beautiful keyholes in now extinct shapes and door knockers that are truly worthy of the name.

Huge and intricate door knocker

Huge and intricate door knocker

A courtyard in Geneva Old Town

Tovarich Vokda Shop in Geneva Old Town

Slightly out of place in the streets of the old town – but welcome nonetheless

Old signage in the Old town Geneva

There are literally tens and tens of old antique stores, libraries and galleries dotted around Geneva’s old town – many of them with signage as old as the shops themselves, some grand and others minimalistic to the point of obscurity but no less beautiful.

An antique store in the Old town of geneva

An antique store in the Old town of Geneva

If you liked this post please share it and feel free to let us know what you think in the comments:

Leave a Comment