Enlarge Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition Historical Dictionary of Switzerland

A view over Geneva and the lake
A view over Geneva and the lake
Location of Geneva
Geneva is located in Switzerland
Geneva is located in Canton of Geneva
Coordinates: 46°12′N 6°09′E / 46.200°N 6.150°E / 46.200; 6.150Coordinates: 46°12′N 6°09′E / 46.200°N 6.150°E / 46.200; 6.150
 • ExecutiveConseil administratif
with 5 members
 • MayorLa Mairie (list)
Sandrine Salerno SPS/PSS
(as of June 2019)
 • ParliamentConseil municipal
with 80 members
 • Total15.92 km2 (6.15 sq mi)
(Pont du Mont Blanc)
375 m (1,230 ft)
Highest elevation
(Chemin du Pommier)
457 m (1,499 ft)
Lowest elevation
(Le Rhône)
370 m (1,210 ft)
 • Total201,818
 • Density13,000/km2 (33,000/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Genevan or Genevese
French: Genevois(e)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (Central European Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (Central European Summer Time)
Postal code(s)
1200, or 1201–09 Genève, 1213 Petit-Lancy, 1227 Les Acacias[3]
SFOS number6621
Surrounded byCarouge, Chêne-Bougeries, Cologny, Lancy, Grand-Saconnex, Pregny-Chambésy, Vernier, Veyrier
SFSO statistics

Geneva (/ɪˈnvə/ jin-EE-və;[4] French: Genève [ʒənɛv] (About this soundlisten); Francoprovençal: Genèva [dzəˈnɛva] (About this soundlisten); German: Genf [ɡɛnf] (About this soundlisten); Italian: Ginevra [dʒiˈneːvra]; Romansh: Genevra) is the second-most populous city in Switzerland (after Zürich) and the most populous city of Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Situated where the Rhône exits Lake Geneva, it is the capital of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.

The municipality (ville de Genève) has a population (as of December 2018) of 201,818, and the canton (essentially the city and its inner-ring suburbs) has 499,480 residents.[5] In 2014, the compact agglomération du Grand Genève had 946,000 inhabitants in 212 communities in both Switzerland and France.[6] Within Swiss territory, the commuter area named "Métropole lémanique" contains a population of 1.26 million.[7][8] This area is essentially spread east from Geneva towards the Riviera area (Vevey, Montreux) and north-east towards Yverdon-les-Bains, in the neighbouring canton of Vaud.

Geneva is a global city, a financial centre, and a worldwide centre for diplomacy due to the presence of numerous international organizations, including the headquarters of many agencies of the United Nations[9] and the Red Cross.[10] Geneva hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world.[11] It is also where the Geneva Conventions were signed, which chiefly concern the treatment of wartime non-combatants and prisoners of war. Together with for instance New York City (global headquarters of the UN), Basel (Bank for International Settlements), and Strasbourg (Council of Europe), Geneva is a city serving as the headquarters of one of the most important international organizations, without being the capital of a country.[12][13][14]

In 2017, Geneva was ranked as the world's fifteenth most important financial centre for competitiveness by the Global Financial Centres Index, fifth in Europe behind London, Zürich, Frankfurt and Luxembourg.[15] In 2019, Geneva was ranked among the ten most liveable cities in the world by Mercer together with Zürich and Basel.[16] The city has been referred to as the world's most compact metropolis[17] and the "Peace Capital".[18] In 2019, Mercer ranked Geneva as the thirteenth most expensive city in the world.[19] Geneva was ranked first by gross earnings, second expensive, third in earnings purchasing power gross hourly pay in a global cities ranking by UBS in 2018.[20]


The city was mentioned in Latin texts, by Caesar, with the spelling Genava,[21] probably from the Celtic *genawa- from the stem *genu- ("bend, knee"), in the sense of a bending river or estuary, an etymology shared with the Italian port city of Genoa (in Italian Genova).[22]

The medieval county of Geneva in Middle Latin was known as pagus major Genevensis or Comitatus Genevensis (also Gebennensis). After 1400 it became the Genevois province of Savoy (albeit not extending to the city proper, until the reformation of the seat of the Bishop of Geneva).[23]


A view of Geneva by Frances Elizabeth Wynne, 4 August 1858
L'Escalade is what Genevans call the failed surprise attack of 12 December 1602 by troops sent by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, to take Geneva. This imaginative image was drawn by Matthias Quad, or the workshop of Frans Hogenberg, around 1603. Invaders are pictured crossing the moat in the center left while reinforcements are entering Plainpalais at the bottom. A column of defenders is in the center, headed toward the Savoyards. Lake Léman is at center top.

Geneva was an Allobrogian border town, fortified against the Helvetii tribe,[24] when the Romans took it in 121 BC. It became Christian under the Late Roman Empire, and acquired its first bishop in the 5th century, having been connected to the Bishopric of Vienne in the 4th.

Aerial view (1966)

In the Middle Ages, Geneva was ruled by a count under the Holy Roman Empire until the late 14th century, when it was granted a charter giving it a high degree of self-governance. Around this time, the House of Savoy came to at least nominally dominate the city. In the 15th century, an oligarchic republican government emerged with the creation of the Grand Council. In the first half of the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation reached the city, causing religious strife, during which Savoy rule was thrown off and Geneva allied itself with the Swiss Confederacy. In 1541, with Protestantism on the rise, John Calvin, the Protestant Reformer and proponent of Calvinism, became the spiritual leader of the city and established the Republic of Geneva. By the 18th century, Geneva had come under the influence of Catholic France, which cultivated the city as its own. France tended to be at odds with the ordinary townsfolk, which inspired the failed Geneva Revolution of 1782, an attempt to win representation in the government for men of modest means. In 1798, revolutionary France under the Directory annexed Geneva. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, on 1 June 1814, Geneva was admitted to the Swiss Confederation. In 1907, the separation of Church and State was adopted. Geneva flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries, becoming the seat of many international organizations.[25]



Geneva seen from Sentinel-2 Satellite

Geneva is located at 46°12' North, 6°09' East, at the south-western end of Lake Geneva, where the Rhône flows out. It is surrounded by three mountain chains, each belonging to the Jura: the Jura main range lies north-westward, the Vuache southward, and the Salève south-eastward.

The Geneva area seen from the Salève in France. The Jura mountains can be seen on the horizon.

The city covers an area of 15.93 km2 (6.2 sq mi), while the area of the canton is 282 km2 (108.9 sq mi), including the two small exclaves of Céligny in Vaud. The part of the lake that is attached to Geneva has an area of 38 km2 (14.7 sq mi) and is sometimes referred to as petit lac (small lake). The canton has only a 4.5-kilometre-long (2.8 mi) border with the rest of Switzerland. Of 107.5 km (66.8 mi) of border, 103 are shared with France, the Département de l'Ain to the north and west and the Département de la Haute-Savoie to the south and east.

Of the land in the city, 0.24 km2 (0.093 sq mi), or 1.5%, is used for agricultural purposes, while 0.5 km2 (0.19 sq mi), or 3.1%, is forested. The rest of the land, 14.63 km2 (5.65 sq mi), or 91.8%, is built up (buildings or roads), 0.49 km2 (0.19 sq mi), or 3.1%, is either rivers or lakes and 0.02 km2 (4.9 acres), or 0.1%, is wasteland.[26]

Of the built up area, industrial buildings made up 3.4%, housing and buildings made up 46.2% and transportation infrastructure 25.8%, while parks, green belts and sports fields made up 15.7%. Of the agricultural land, 0.3% is used for growing crops. Of the water in the municipality, 0.2% is composed of lakes and 2.9% is rivers and streams.[26]

Confluence of the Rhône and the Arve

The altitude of Geneva is 373.6 metres (1,225.7 ft) 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 surveying in Switzerland.[27] The second main river of Geneva is the Arve, which flows into the Rhône just west of the city centre. Mont Blanc can be seen from Geneva and is an hour's drive from the city.


Average temperature and precipitation 1961–1990[28]

The climate of Geneva is a temperate climate, more specifically an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification: Cfb). Winters are cool, usually with light frosts at night and thawing conditions during the day. Summers are relatively warm. Precipitation is adequate and is relatively well-distributed throughout the year, although autumn is slightly wetter than other seasons. Ice storms near Lac Léman are normal in the winter: Geneva can be affected by the Bise, a north-easterly wind. This can lead to severe icing in winter.[29]

In summer, many people swim in the lake and patronise public beaches such as Genève Plage and the Bains des Pâquis. The city, in certain years, receives snow during colder months. The nearby mountains are subject to substantial snowfall and are suitable for skiing. Many world-renowned ski resorts such as Verbier and Crans-Montana are less than three hours away by car. Mont Salève (1,379 m (4,524 ft)), just across the border in France, dominates the southerly view from the city centre, and Mont Blanc, the highest of the Alpine range, is visible from most of the city, towering high above Chamonix, which, along with Morzine, Le Grand Bornand, La Clusaz, and resorts of the Grand Massif such as Samoens, Morillon, and Flaine, are the closest French skiing destinations to Geneva.

During the years 2000–2009, the mean yearly temperature was 11 °C and the mean number of sunshine-hours per year was 2003.[30]

The highest temperature recorded in Genève–Cointrin was 39.7 °C (103.5 °F) in July 2015, and the lowest temperature recorded was −20.0 °C (−4.0 °F) in February 1956.

Climate data for Geneva (GVA), elevation: 412 m (1,352 ft), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1901–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 17.3
Average high °C (°F) 4.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 1.5
Average low °C (°F) −1.3
Record low °C (°F) −19.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 76
Average snowfall cm (inches) 10.8
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 9.5 8.1 9.0 8.9 10.6 9.3 7.6 7.9 8.1 10.1 9.9 10.0 109.0
Average snowy days (≥ 1.0 cm) 2.5 2.0 0.9 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 2.0 8.2
Average relative humidity (%) 81 76 69 67 69 66 64 67 73 79 81 81 73
Mean monthly sunshine hours 59 88 154 177 197 235 263 237 185 117 66 49 1,828
Percent possible sunshine 23 33 45 46 45 53 58 58 53 38 26 20 44
Source 1: MeteoSwiss[31]
Source 2: KNMI[32][33]


Coat of arms

Coat of arms of Geneva as part of the pavement in front of the Reformation Wall, 2013

Administrative divisions

The city is divided into eight quartiers, or districts, sometimes composed of several neighbourhoods. On the left bank are: (1) Jonction, (2) Centre, Plainpalais, and Acacias; (3) Eaux-Vives; and (4) Champel. The right bank includes: (1) Saint-Jean and Charmilles; (2) Servette and Petit-Saconnex; (3) Grottes and Saint-Gervais; and (4) Paquis and Nations.[35]


Logo of the city of Geneva, 2004

The Administrative Council (Conseil administratif) constitutes the executive government of the city of Geneva and operates as a collegiate authority. It is composed of five councilors (French: Conseiller administratif/ Conseillère administrative), each presiding over a department. The president of the executive department acts as mayor (la maire/le maire). In the governmental year 2020–2021, the Administrative Council is presided over by Monsieur le maire de Genève Sami Kanaan. Departmental tasks, coordination measures and implementation of laws decreed by the Municipal Council are carried out by the Administrative Council. Elections for the Administrative Council are held every five years. The current term of (la législature) is from 1 June 2020 to 31 May 2025. The delegates are elected by means of a system of Majorz. The mayor and vice change each year, while the heads of the other departments are assigned by the collegiate. The executive body holds its meetings in the Palais Eynard, near the Parc des Bastions.[36]

As of 2020, Geneva's Administrative Council is made up of two representatives each of the Social Demcratic Party (PS) and the Green Party (PES), and one member of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). This gives the left-wing parties four out of the five seats and for the first time in history a female majority. The last election was held on 15 March/5 April 2020.[37] Except for the mayor, all other councillors have been elected for the first time.[38]

Le Conseil administratif of Geneva [38]
(M. Conseiller administratif/ Mme Conseillère administrative)
Party Head of Office (Département, since) of elected since
Sami Kanaan[SR 1]      PS Culture and Digital Change (de la culture et de la transition numérique, 2020) 2011
Frédérique Perler[SR 2]      PES Planning, Construction, and Mobility (de l’aménagement, des constructions et de la mobilité, 2020) 2020
Alfonso Gomez      PES Finance, Environment and Housing (des finances, de l’environnement et du logement, 2020) 2020
Christina Kitsos      PS Social Cohesion and Solidarity (de la cohésion sociale et de la solidarité, 2020) 2020
Marie Barbey-Chappuisat      PDC Security and Sport (de la sécurité et des sports, 2020) 2020
  1. ^ Mayor (le maire de Genève) 2020/21
  2. ^ Vice President (Vice-présidente) 2020/21


Le Conseil municipal of Geneva for the mandate period of 2020–2025

  Ensemble à gauche (PST-POP & Sol) (8.8%)
  PS (23.8%)
  Les Verts (PES) (22.5%)
  PDC (10%)
  PLR (17.5%)
  UDC (8.8%)
  MCG (8.8%)

The Municipal Council (Conseil municipal) holds legislative power. It is made up of 80 members, with elections held every five years. The Municipal Council makes regulations and by-laws that are executed by the Administrative Council and the administration. The delegates are selected by means of a system of proportional representation with a seven percent threshold. The sessions of the Municipal Council are public. Unlike members of the Administrative Council, members of the Municipal Council are not politicians by profession, and they are paid a fee based on their attendance. Any resident of Geneva allowed to vote can be elected as a member of the Municipal Council. The Council holds its meetings in the Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville), in the old city.[39]

The last election of the Municipal Council was held on 15 March 2020 for the (législature) of 2020–2025. Currently, the Municipal Council consists of: 19 members of the Social Democratic Party (PS), 18 Green Party (PES), 14 Les Libéraux-Radicaux (PLR), 8 Christian Democratic People's Party (PDC); 7 Geneva Citizens' Movement (MCG,), 7 Ensemble à Gauche (an alliance of the left parties PST-POP (Parti Suisse du Travail – Parti Ouvrier et Populaire) and solidaritéS), 6 Swiss People's Party (UDC).[40]


National Council

In the 2019 federal election for the Swiss National Council the most popular party was the Green Party which received 26% (+14.6) of the vote. The next seven most popular parties were the PS (17.9%, -5.9), PLR (15.1%, -2.4), the UDC (12.6%, -3.7), the PdA/solidaritéS (10%, +1.3), the PDC (5.4%, -5.3), the pvl (5%, +2.9), and MCR (4.9%, -2.7).[41] In the federal election a total of 34,319 votes were cast, and the voter turnout was 39.6%.[42]

In the 2015 federal election for the Swiss National Council the most popular party was the PS which received 23.8% of the vote. The next five most popular parties were the PLR (17.6%), the UDC (16.3%), the Green Party (11.4%), the PDC (10.7%), and the solidaritéS (8.8%). In the federal election a total of 36,490 votes were cast, and the voter turnout was 44.1%.[43]

International relations

Geneva intentionally does not have any sister relationships with other cities. It declares itself related to the entire world.[44][45]



The Flowered Clock at the Quai du Général-Guisan (English Garden), during the 2012 Geneva Festival
Rue Pierre-Fatio in Geneva

Geneva has a population (as of December 2018) of 201,818.[5] The city of Geneva is at the centre of the Geneva metropolitan area, known as Grand Genève in French (Greater Geneva). Greater Geneva includes the Canton of Geneva in its entirety as well as the District of Nyon in the Canton of Vaud and several areas in the neighbouring French departments of Haute-Savoie and Ain. In 2011, the agglomération franco-valdo-genevoise had 915,000 inhabitants, two-thirds of whom lived on Swiss soil and one-third on French soil.[46] The Geneva metropolitan area is experiencing steady demographic growth of 1.2% a year and the population of the agglomération franco-valdo-genevoise is expected to reach a total of one million people in the near future.[46]

The official language of Geneva (both the city and the canton) is French. English is also common due to the high number of anglophone expatriates and foreigners working in international institutions and in the bank sector. As of 2000, 128,622 or 72.3% of the population speaks French as a first language, with English being the second most common (7,853 or 4.4%) language. 7,462 inhabitants speak Spanish (or 4.2%), 7,320 speak Italian (4.1%), 7,050 speak German (4.0%) and 113 people who speak Romansh.[47] As a result of immigration flows in the 1960s and 1980s, Portuguese is also spoken by a considerable proportion of the population.

In the city of Geneva, as of 2013, 48% of the population are resident foreign nationals.[48] For a list of the largest groups of foreign residents see the cantonal overview. Over the last 10 years (1999–2009), the population has changed at a rate of 7.2%; a rate of 3.4% due to migration and at a rate of 3.4% due to births and deaths.[49]

As of 2008, the gender distribution of the population was 47.8% male and 52.2% female. The male population was made up of 46,284 Swiss men (24.2% of the population) and 45,127 (23.6%) non-Swiss men. There were 56,091 Swiss women (29.3%) and 43,735 (22.9%) non-Swiss women.[50] As of 2000 approximately 24.3% of the population of the municipality were born in Geneva and lived there in 2000 – 43,296. A further 11,757 or 6.6% who were born in the same canton, while 27,359 or 15.4% were born elsewhere in Switzerland, and 77,893 or 43.8% were born outside of Switzerland.[47]

In 2008, there were 1,147 live births to Swiss citizens and 893 births to non-Swiss citizens, and in the same time span there were 1,114 deaths of Swiss citizens and 274 non-Swiss citizen deaths. Ignoring immigration and emigration, the population of Swiss citizens increased by 33, while the foreign population increased by 619. There were 465 Swiss men and 498 Swiss women who emigrated from Switzerland. At the same time, there were 2933 non-Swiss men and 2662 non-Swiss women who immigrated from another country to Switzerland. The total Swiss population change in 2008 (from all sources, including moves across municipal borders) was an increase of 135 and the non-Swiss population increased by 3181 people. This represents a population growth rate of 1.8%.[51]

As of 2000, children and teenagers (0–19 years old) make up 18.2% of the population, while adults (20–64 years old) make up 65.8% and seniors (over 64 years old) make up 16%.[49]

As of 2000, there were 78,666 people who were single and never married in the municipality. There were 74,205 married individuals, 10,006 widows or widowers and 15,087 individuals who are divorced.[47]

As of 2000, there were 86,231 private households in the municipality, and an average of 1.9 persons per household.[49] There were 44,373 households that consist of only one person and 2,549 households with five or more people. Out of a total of 89,269 households that answered this question, 49.7% were households made up of just one person and there were 471 adults who lived with their parents. Of the rest of the households, there are 17,429 married couples without children, 16,607 married couples with children. There were 5,499 single parents with a child or children. There were 1,852 households that were made up of unrelated people and 3,038 households that were made up of some sort of institution or another collective housing.[47]

Apartment buildings in the Quartier des Grottes
Geneva, with Lake Geneva in the background

In 2000, there were 743 single family homes (or 10.6% of the total) out of a total of 6,990 inhabited buildings. There were 2,758 multi-family buildings (39.5%), along with 2,886 multi-purpose buildings that were mostly used for housing (41.3%) and 603 other use buildings (commercial or industrial) that also had some housing (8.6%). Of the single family homes, 197 were built before 1919, while 20 were built between 1990 and 2000. The greatest number of single family homes (277) were built between 1919 and 1945.[52]

In 2000, there were 101,794 apartments in the municipality. The most common apartment size was 3 rooms of which there were 27,084. There were 21,889 single room apartments and 11,166 apartments with five or more rooms. Of these apartments, a total of 85,330 apartments (83.8% of the total) were permanently occupied, while 13,644 apartments (13.4%) were seasonally occupied and 2,820 apartments (2.8%) were empty.[52] As of 2009, the construction rate of new housing units was 1.3 new units per 1000 residents.[49]

As of 2003, the average price to rent an average apartment in Geneva was 1163.30 Swiss francs (CHF) per month (US$930, £520, €740 approx. exchange rate from 2003). The average rate for a one-room apartment was 641.60 CHF (US$510, £290, €410), a two-room apartment was about 874.46 CHF (US$700, £390, €560), a three-room apartment was about 1126.37 CHF (US$900, £510, €720) and a six or more room apartment cost an average of 2691.07 CHF (US$2150, £1210, €1720). The average apartment price in Geneva was 104.2% of the national average of 1116 CHF.[53] The vacancy rate for the municipality, in 2010, was 0.25%.[49]

In June 2011, the average price of an apartment in and around Geneva was 13,681 CHF per square metre (11 square feet). The average can be as high as 17,589 Swiss francs (CHF) per square metre (11 square feet) for a luxury apartment and as low as 9,847 Swiss francs (CHF) for an older or basic apartment. For houses in and around Geneva, the average price was 11,595 Swiss francs (CHF) per square metre (11 square feet) (June 2011), with a lowest price per square metre (11 square feet) of 4,874 Swiss francs (CHF), and a maximum price of 21,966 Swiss francs (CHF).[54]

Historical population

William Monter calculates that the city's total population was 12,000–13,000 in 1550, doubling to over 25,000 by 1560.[55]

The historical population is given in the following chart:[56]


The 2000 census recorded 66,491 residents (37.4% of the population) as Roman Catholic, while 41,289 people (23.20%) belonged to no church or were agnostic or atheist, 24,105 (13.5%) belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church, and 8,698 (4.89%) were Muslim. There were also 3,959 members of an Orthodox church (2.22%), 220 individuals (or about 0.12% of the population) who belonged to the Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland, 2,422 (1.36%) who belonged to another Christian church, and 2,601 people (1.46%) who were Jewish. There were 707 individuals who were Buddhist, 474 who were Hindu and 423 who belonged to another church. 26,575 respondents (14.93%) did not answer the question.[47]

According to 2012 statistics by Swiss Bundesamt für Statistik 49.2% of the population are Christian, divided into 34.2% Roman Catholic, 8.8% Swiss Reformed (organized in the Protestant Church of Geneva) and 6.2% other Christian (mostly various other Protestants), 38% of Genevans are non-religious, 6.1% are Muslim and 1.6% are Jews.[57]

Geneva has historically been considered a Protestant city and was known as the Protestant Rome due to it being the base of John Calvin, William Farel, Theodore Beza and other Protestant reformers. Over the past century, substantial immigration from France and other predominantly Roman Catholic countries, as well as general European secularization has changed its religious landscape. As a result, three times as many Roman Catholics as Protestants lived in the city in 2000, while a large number of residents were members of neither group. Geneva forms part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg.

The World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation both have their headquarters at the Ecumenical Centre in Grand-Saconnex, Geneva. The World Communion of Reformed Churches, a worldwide organization of Presbyterian, Continental Reformed, Congregational and other Reformed churches gathering more than 80 million people around the world was based here from 1948 until 2013. The Executive Committee of the World Communion of Reformed Churches voted in 2012 to move its offices to Hanover, Germany, citing the high costs of running the ecumenical organization in Geneva, Switzerland. The move was completed in 2013. Likewise, the Conference of European Churches have moved their headquarters from Geneva to Brussels.

Protestant Rome

Reformation Wall in Geneva; from left to right: William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox

Prior to the Protestant Reformation the city was de jure and de facto Roman Catholic. Reaction to the new movement varied across Switzerland. John Calvin went to Geneva in 1536 after William Farel encouraged him to do so. In Geneva, the Catholic bishop had been obliged to seek exile in 1532. Geneva became a stronghold of Calvinism. Some of the tenets created there influenced Protestantism as a whole. St. Pierre Cathedral was where Calvin and his Protestant reformers preached. It constituted the epicentre of the newly developing Protestant thought that would later become known as the Reformed tradition. Many prominent Reformed theologians operated there, including William Farel and Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor who progressed Reformed thought after his death.

Geneva was a shelter for Calvinists, but at the same time it persecuted Roman Catholics and others considered heretics. The case of Michael Servetus, an early Nontrinitarian, is notable. Condemned by Catholics and Protestants alike, he was arrested in Geneva and burnt at the stake as a heretic by order of the city's Protestant governing council. John Calvin and his followers denounced him, and possibly contributed to his sentence.

In 1802, during its annexation to France under Napoleon I, the Diocese of Geneva was united with the Diocese of Chambéry, but the 1814 Congress of Vienna and the 1816 Treaty of Turin stipulated that in the territories transferred to a now considerably extended Geneva, the Catholic religion was to be protected and that no changes were to be made in existing conditions without an agreement with the Holy See.[24] Napoleon's common policy was to emancipate Catholics in Protestant-majority areas, and the other way around, as well as emancipating Jews. In 1819, the city of Geneva and 20 parishes were united to the Diocese of Lausanne by Pope Pius VII and in 1822, the non-Swiss territory was made into the Diocese of Annecy. A variety of concord with the civil authorities came as a result of the separation of church and state, enacted with strong Catholic support in 1907.[24]


In 2014 the incidence of crimes listed in the Swiss Criminal Code in Geneva was 143.9 per thousand residents. During the same period the rate of drug crimes was 33.6 per thousand residents. The rate of violations of immigration, visa and work permit laws was 35.7 per thousand residents.[58]


View of Geneva to the south. Mont Salève (in France) dominates the foreground, with the white summit of Mont Blanc just visible behind it and 70 km (43 mi) away to the southeast. To the left of Mont Blanc is the point of Le Môle.
View of Geneva from the Salève.

Heritage sites of national significance

There are 82 buildings or sites in Geneva that are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance, and the entire old city of Geneva is part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites.[59]

Religious buildings: Cathedral St-Pierre et Chapel des Macchabés, Notre-Dame Church, Russian church, St-Germain Church, Temple de la Fusterie, Temple de l'Auditoire

Civic buildings: Former Arsenal and Archives of the City of Genève, Former Crédit Lyonnais, Former Hôtel Buisson, Former Hôtel du Résident de France et Bibliothèque de la Société de lecture de Genève, Former école des arts industriels, Archives d'État de Genève (Annexe), Bâtiment des forces motrices, Bibliothèque de Genève, Library juive de Genève «Gérard Nordmann», Cabinet des estampes, Centre d'Iconographie genevoise, Collège Calvin, École Geisendorf, University Hospital of Geneva (HUG), Hôtel de Ville et tour Baudet, Immeuble Clarté at Rue Saint-Laurent 2 and 4, Immeubles House Rotonde at Rue Charles-Giron 11–19, Immeubles at Rue Beauregard 2, 4, 6, 8, Immeubles at Rue de la Corraterie 10–26, Immeubles at Rue des Granges 2–6, Immeuble at Rue des Granges 8, Immeubles at Rue des Granges 10 and 12, Immeuble at Rue des Granges 14, Immeuble and Former Armory at Rue des Granges 16, Immeubles at Rue Pierre Fatio 7 and 9, House de Saussure at Rue de la Cité 24, House Des arts du Grütli at Rue du Général-Dufour 16, House Royale et les deux immeubles à côté at Quai Gustave Ador 44–50, Tavel House at Rue du Puits-St-Pierre 6, Turrettini House at Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville 8 and 10, Brunswick Monument, Palais de Justice, Palais de l'Athénée, Palais des Nations with library and archives of the SDN and ONU, Palais Eynard et Archives de la ville de Genève, Palais Wilson, Parc des Bastions avec Mur des Réformateurs, Place de Neuve et Monument du Général Dufour, Pont de la Machine, Pont sur l'Arve, Poste du Mont-Blanc, Quai du Mont-Blanc, Quai et Hôtel des Bergues, Quai Général Guisan and English Gardens, Quai Gustave-Ador and Jet d'eau, Télévision Suisse Romande, University of Geneva, Victoria Hall.

Archeological sites: Foundation Baur and Museum of the arts d'Extrême-Orient, Parc et campagne de la Grange and Library (neolithic shore settlement/Roman villa), Bronze Age shore settlement of Plonjon, Temple de la Madeleine archeological site, Temple Saint-Gervais archeological site, Old City with Celtic, Roman and medieval villages.

Museums, theaters, and other cultural sites: Conservatoire de musique at Place Neuve 5, Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques, Fonds cantonal d'art contemporain, Ile Rousseau and statue, Institut et Musée Voltaire with Library and Archives, Mallet House and Museum international de la Réforme, Musée Ariana, Museum of Art and History, Museum d'art moderne et contemporain, Museum d'ethnographie, Museum of the International Red Cross, Musée Rath, Natural History Museum, Plainpalais Commune Auditorium, Pitoëff Theatre, Villa Bartholoni at the Museum of History and Science.

International organizations: International Labour Organization (BIT), International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Meteorological Organization, World Trade Organization, International Telecommunication Union, World YMCA.

Society and culture


The city's main newspaper is the daily Tribune de Genève, with a readership of about 187,000. Le Courrier mainly focuses on Geneva. Both Le Temps (headquartered in Geneva) and Le Matin are widely read in Geneva, but cover the whole of Romandy.

Geneva is the main media center for French-speaking Switzerland. It is the headquarters for the numerous French language radio and television networks of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, known collectively as Radio Télévision Suisse. While both networks cover the whole of Romandy, special programs related to Geneva are sometimes broadcast on some of the local radio frequencies. Other local radio stations broadcast from the city, including YesFM (FM 91.8 MHz), Radio Cité (non-commercial radio, FM 92.2 MHz), OneFM (FM 107.0 MHz, also broadcast in Vaud), and World Radio Switzerland (FM 88.4 MHz). Léman Bleu is a local TV channel, founded in 1996 and distributed by cable. Due to the proximity to France, many 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 news of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Huguenots reached Geneva.

Geneva celebrates L'Escalade on the weekend nearest 12 December, celebrating the defeat of the surprise attack of troops sent by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy during the night of 11–12 December 1602. Festive traditions include chocolate cauldrons filled with vegetable-shaped marzipan treats and the Escalade procession on horseback in seventeenth century armour. Geneva has also been organizing a 'Course de l'Escalade', which means 'Climbing Race'. This race takes place in Geneva's Old Town, and has been popular across all ages. Non-competitive racers dress up in fancy costumes, while walking in the race.

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 effect, the sautier issues a formal press release and the local newspaper will usually mention the news.[60]

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 has been appearing earlier and earlier in the year. During the 19th century many dates were in March or April. In recent years, they have usually been in late February (sometimes earlier).[61] In 2002, the first bud appeared unusually early, on 7 February, and then again on 29 December of the same year. The following year, one of the hottest years recorded in Europe, was a year with no bud. In 2008, the first bud also appeared early, on 19 February.

Music and festivals

Fireworks at the Fêtes de Genève, 2012

The opera house, the Grand Théâtre de Genève, which officially opened in 1876, was partly destroyed by a fire in 1951 and reopened in 1962. It has the largest stage in Switzerland. It features opera and dance performances, recitals, concerts and, occasionally, theatre. The Victoria Hall is used for classical music concerts. It is the home of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

Every summer the Fêtes de Genève (Geneva Festival) are organised in Geneva. According to Radio Télévision Suisse in 2013 hundreds of thousands of people came to Geneva to see the annual hour-long grand firework display of the Fêtes de Genève.[62]

An annual music festival takes place in June. Groups of artists perform in different parts of the city. In 2016 the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary.[63]

Further annual festivals are the Fête de l’Olivier, a festival of Arabic music, organized by the ICAM since 1980,[64] and the Genevan Brass Festival, founded by Christophe Sturzenegger in 2010.[65]


The Canton of Geneva's public school system has écoles primaires (ages 4–12) and cycles d'orientation (ages 12–15). Students can leave school at 15, but secondary education is provided by collèges (ages 15–19), the oldest of which is the Collège Calvin, which could be considered one of the oldest public schools in the world,[62][66] écoles de culture générale (15–18/19) and the écoles professionnelles (15–18/19). The écoles professionnelles offer full-time courses and part-time study as part of an apprenticeship. Geneva also has a number of private schools.[67]

In 2011 89,244 (37.0%) of the population had completed non-mandatory upper secondary education, and 107,060 or (44.3%) had completed additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule). Of the 107,060 who completed tertiary schooling, 32.5% were Swiss men, 31.6% were Swiss women, 18.1% were non-Swiss men and 17.8% were non-Swiss women.

During the 2011–2012 school year, there were a total of 92,311 students in the Geneva school system (primary to university). The education system in the Canton of Geneva has eight years of primary school, with 32,716 students. The secondary school program consists of three lower, obligatory years of schooling, followed by three to five years of optional, advanced study. There were 13,146 lower-secondary students who attended schools in Geneva. There were 10,486 upper-secondary students from the municipality along with 10,330 students who were in a professional, non-university track program. An additional 11,797 students were attending private schools.[68]

Geneva is home to the University of Geneva where approximately 16,500 students are regularly enrolled.[69] In 1559 John Calvin founded the Geneva Academy, a theological and humanist seminary. In the 19th century the Academy lost its ecclesiastic links and in 1873, with the addition of a medical faculty, it became the University of Geneva. In 2011 it was ranked 35th European university.[70]

The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies was among the first academic institutions in the World to teach international relations. It is one of Europe's most prestigious institutions, offering MA and PhD programmes in law, political science, history, economics, international affairs, and development studies.

The oldest international school in the world is the International School of Geneva, founded in 1924 along with the League of Nations. The Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations is a private university in the grounds of the Château de Penthes.

CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) is probably the best known of Geneva's educational and research facilities, most recently for the Large Hadron Collider. 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.

Geneva is home to five major libraries, the Bibliothèques municipales Genève, the Haute école de travail social, Institut d'études sociales, the Haute école de santé, the Ecole d'ingénieurs de Genève and the Haute école d'art et de design. There were (as of 2008) 877,680 books or other media in the libraries, and in the same year 1,798,980 items were loaned.[71]


Geneva's economy is services oriented. The city has an important and long-established finance sector, which specialises in private banking, managing assets of about US$1 trillion, and the financing of international trade. In the September 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Geneva was ranked as being the 15th most competitive financial centre in the world (up from 20th in March 2017) and the fifth most competitive in Europe (after London, Zürich, Frankfurt, and Luxembourg).[15]

Geneva hosts the international headquarters of companies such as Japan Tobacco International, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Vitol, Gunvor, Mercuria Energy Group, Merck Serono,[72] SITA, Société Générale de Surveillance, STMicroelectronics, and Weatherford International.[73] Many other multinational companies such as Caterpillar, DuPont, and Cargill have their international headquarters in the city; Take Two Interactive, Electronic Arts, INVISTA, Procter & Gamble and Oracle Corporation have their European headquarters in the city. Hewlett Packard has its Europe, Africa, and Middle East headquarters in Meyrin, near Geneva,[74][75] as does PrivatAir.[76][77]

There is a long tradition of watchmaking in the city, which dates back to the 16th century.[78] Many watchmakers have been based in Geneva since their foundation, such as (Baume et Mercier, Charriol, Chopard, Franck Muller, Patek Philippe, Rolex, Universal Genève, Raymond Weil, Vacheron Constantin and Frédérique Constant).

Two major international producers of flavours and fragrances, Firmenich and Givaudan, have their headquarters and main production facilities in Geneva.

The private sector has a number of employers' organizations, including the Fédération des Entreprises Romandes Genève (FER Genève) and the Fédération des métiers du bâtiment (FMB).[79][80]

Many people also work in the numerous offices of international organisations located in Geneva (about 22,233 in March 2012).[81]

The Geneva Motor Show is one of the most important international auto shows. It is held at Palexpo, a large convention centre next to the International Airport.[82]

In 2009, Geneva was ranked as the fourth most expensive city in the world. Geneva moved up four places from eighth place the previous year.[19]

As of  2011, Geneva had an unemployment rate of 6.3%.[83] As of 2008, there were five[clarification needed] people employed in the primary economic sector and about three[clarification needed] businesses involved in this sector. 9,783 people were employed in the secondary sector and there were 1,200 businesses in this sector. 134,429 people were employed in the tertiary sector, with 12,489 businesses in this sector.[49] There were 91,880 residents of the municipality who were employed in some capacity, with women making up 47.7% of the workforce.

In 2008, the total number of full-time equivalent jobs was 124,185. The number of jobs in the primary sector was four, all of which were in agriculture. The number of jobs in the secondary sector was 9,363 of which 4,863 or (51.9%) were in manufacturing and 4,451 (47.5%) were in construction. The number of jobs in the tertiary sector was 114,818. In the tertiary sector; 16,573 or 14.4% were in wholesale or retail sales or the repair of motor vehicles, 3,474 or 3.0% were in the movement and storage of goods, 9,484 or 8.3% were in a hotel or restaurant, 4,544 or 4.0% were in the information industry, 20,982 or 18.3% were the insurance or financial industry, 12,177 or 10.6% were technical professionals or scientists, 10,007 or 8.7% were in education and 15,029 or 13.1% were in health care.[84]

In 2000, there were 95,190 workers who commuted into the municipality and 25,920 workers who commuted away. The municipality is a net importer of workers, with about 3.7 workers entering the municipality for every one leaving. About 13.8% of the workforce coming into Geneva are coming from outside Switzerland, while 0.4% of the locals commute out of Switzerland for work.[85] Of the working population, 38.2% used public transportation to get to work, and 30.6% used a private car.[49]


Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Geneva.[86] Geneva is home to Genève-Servette HC, which plays in the National League. They play their home games in the 7,135-seat Patinoire des Vernets. In 2008 and 2010 the team made it to the league finals but lost to the ZSC Lions and SC Bern respectively.[87] The team is by far the most popular one in both the city and the canton of Geneva, drawing three times more spectators than the football team in 2017.[88][89]

The town is home to Servette FC, a football club founded in 1890 and named after a borough on the right bank of the Rhône. The home of Servette FC is the 30,000-seat Stade de Genève. Servette FC plays in the Raiffeisen Super League. Urania Genève Sport also play in the city.

Geneva is home to the basketball team Lions de Genève, 2013 and 2015 champions of the Swiss Basketball League. The team plays its home games in the Pavilion des Sports.

Geneva Jets Australian Football Club have been playing Australian Football in the AFL Switzerland league since 2019.



Geneva railway station
TCMC (Tramway Cornavin – Meyrin – CERN)

The city is served by the Geneva Cointrin International Airport. It is connected by Geneva Airport railway station (French: Gare de Genève-Aéroport) to both the Swiss Federal Railways network and the French SNCF network, including links to Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Montpellier by TGV. Geneva is 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. In addition to an extensive coverage of the city centre, the network extends to most of the municipalities of the Canton, with a few lines reaching 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 which serves more distant destinations such as Nyon, Yvoire, Thonon, Évian, Lausanne and Montreux using both modern diesel vessels and vintage paddle steamers.

Geneva Sécheron railway station

Trains operated by Swiss Federal Railways connect the airport to the main station of Cornavin in six minutes. Regional train services are being developed towards Coppet and Bellegarde. At the city limits two new railway stations have been opened since 2002: Genève-Sécheron (close to the UN and the Botanical Gardens) and Lancy-Pont-Rouge.

In 2011 work started on the CEVA rail (Cornavin – Eaux-Vives – Annemasse) project, first planned in 1884, which will connect Cornavin with the Cantonal hospital, Eaux-Vives railway station and Annemasse, in France. The link between the main railway station and the classification yard of La Praille already exists; from there, the line runs mostly underground to the Hospital and Eaux-Vives, where it links to the existing line to France. The line fully opened in December 2019.

TOSA Bus at PALEXPO Flash bus stops

In May 2013, the demonstrator electric bus system[90] with a capacity of 133 passengers commenced between Geneva Airport and Palexpo. The project aims to introduce a new system of mass transport with electric "flash" recharging of the buses at selected stops while passengers are disembarking and embarking.[91]

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. Taxis can refuse to take babies and children because of seating legislation.[92]

An ambitious project to close 200 streets in the centre of Geneva to cars was approved by the Geneva cantonal authorities in 2010 and was planned to be implemented over a span of four years (2010–2014), though as of 2018, work on the project has yet to be started.[93]


Water, natural gas and electricity are provided to the municipalities of the Canton of Geneva by the state-owned Services Industriels de Genève, known as SIG. Most of the drinking water (80%) is extracted from the lake; the remaining 20% is provided by groundwater, originally formed by infiltration from the Arve. 30% of the Canton's electricity needs is locally produced, mainly by three hydroelectric dams on the Rhône (Seujet, Verbois and Chancy-Pougny). In addition, 13% of the electricity produced in the Canton is from 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.

International organisations

The assembly hall of the Palace of Nations.

Geneva is the European headquarters of the United Nations, in the Palace of Nations building, which was also the headquarters of the former League of Nations. Several agencies are headquartered at Geneva, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organization, the International Labour Organization, International Telecommunication Union, the International Baccalaureate Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Apart from the UN agencies, Geneva hosts many inter-governmental organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, the South Centre, the World Meteorological Organization, the World Economic Forum, the International Organization for Migration, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Maison de la Paix building hosts the three Geneva centres supported by the Swiss Confederation: the International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, as well as other organisations active in the field of peace, international affairs and sustainable development.[94]

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

The Geneva Environment Network (GEN) publishes the Geneva Green Guide,[95] an extensive listing of Geneva-based global organisations working on environment protection and sustainable development. A website,[96] jointly run by the Swiss Government, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, includes accounts of 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 bodies as their headquarters' location.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement and the World Scout Bureau Central Office are headquartered in Geneva.

Notable people


Gustave Ador
Marion Bartoli, 2013
Christiane Brunner
John Calvin, ca.1550
Isaac Casaubon


Michel Decastel, 2012
Jean Henri Dunant, 1901
Kat Graham, 2017


Francois Huber
Paul Lachenal, 1939
Lenin in Switzerland, 1916
Amelie Mauresmo, 2014


Liliane Maury Pasquier, 2007
Pierre Prévost
Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Ferdinand de Saussure
Michael Schade, 2012
Michel Simon, 1964
Johann Vogel, 2006

See also

Notes and references

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