#26Cantons52Weeks: Geneva

Geneva’s Jet d’Eau

Canton: Geneva / Genève / Genf

Destination: Geneva

Interesting thing: the Jet d’Eau (above) is not just a cool, 140-metre water ejaculation, but actually served a purpose: to release pressure from the city’s hydraulic power network when it was first switched on in 1886. Nowadays, OK, it’s just a tourist attraction.

Special guests: all by myself!

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It took me three attempts to see the Jet d’Eau in Geneva, probably the city’s most recognisable landmark and, arguably, one of Switzerland’s most well-known person-made structures. (Some Swiss-based friends and I were trying to think of others since the country lacks an Eiffel Tower / Tower Bridge / Statue of Liberty / Sydney Opera House / Prado Museum…).

Anyway, I arrived in Geneva early afternoon Friday but had an appointment with the Aussie consulate that kept me busy until nearly sunset, after which time I wandered down to the lakefront to find the jet already off. Next morning, I got up before sunrise and went for a 12km run on the lakeshore. I was hoping I might see the ‘switch-on’ but discovered that wasn’t until 10am. So I hoofed back down to see it after breakfast and almost missed my train. It was worth it though. Très impressive.

Geneva is interesting because the city seems to garner the most varied reaction from other Swiss-dwelling people I spoke to. There’s those who find it lovely: the most cosmopolitan city in Switzerland, prettily situated and with a great atmosphere. Others say it’s dull and claustrophobic (there’s less open space than Zurich and the public lakefront areas give way to private property after only a few kilometres). Some don’t like the vibe of a city full of people dining out on ‘company money’, diplomat-rich-types who aren’t the sort you’d choose to hobknob with. I’ve also heard crime rates for bag snatching and break-ins are quite high, for Switzerland. Others think the home of the UN, League of Nations and CERN is the most ‘international’ city Switzerland has to offer and a global seat of peacekeeping and academia.

I didn’t experience any crime, thank goodness. I felt safe there on my own, even during my early-morning jog, when it was pretty deserted. I couldn’t help but notice the conspicuous displays of wealth though, from the gated Chateaux along the lakefront to all the luxury brands displayed in neon around the lakefront, and the fancy five-star hotels. The city actually reminded me a bit of Luzern, which I’ve visited more often – both are situated at the top of a stunning lake with the mountains just across the water. But the feeling in Geneva is much more money, money, money.

It’s hard to judge atmosphere when you’re on your own. It was Friday night and I wasn’t out late. There was a bit of a buzz but where I was near the lakefront and main station was fairly subdued. If there’s sides to be chosen in a Geneva-Zurich rivalry thing, I guess I prefer Zurich but that might just be because I know it better. Plus my bad German is less-bad than my year 7 French!


Cantons visited / to go so far. 


Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden
















St. Gallen









*I spent a night in Vaud en route to Geneva. Will write that up next!


  1. Great description of Geneva! Very impressed that you ran 12 km in the winter, or any time of year really. Running must be a nice way to check out a city. Good luck completing your quest in the last few days of the year.

  2. I was in Geneva once about 8 years ago and wasn’t terribly impressed but I chalked that up to a complete lack of research on my part, I usually snoop around online to find recommendations for good neighborhoods, food, etc before I go places. We sort of just wandered around. I am interested to revisit though!

    1. It is a pretty town and I’m sure there’s some fab restaurants and bars if you had the time (and money!) A bit far from Zurich for a day-trip though…

  3. I’ve been living 3 years in Switzerland, but have been to Geneva to visit the Motor Show 😊 Hope to see the water jet once and experience the atmosphere od the city.

  4. Sounds like you’ll have to do more “research” by which I mean another field trip to Geneva, explore and soak it up some more.
    As someone who has been working with Geneva (and Lausanne) teams out of a Zurich HQ I can definitely tell there is some Röstigraben cultural rivalry going on, I still appreciated every business related trip to the Lac Léman!

  5. I love Geneva and really miss living there (now 50 km away in France), but it certainly isn’t its best in Winter. So much prettier in Summer when it’s stops being grey, with the buildings, sky and lake all blending together, and everything comes alive and people cram onto the quais on either side of the lake. Every time I have visitors the jet d’eau is off…it is so typical!

      1. It’s so much fun in Summer! The fete de Genève is amazing! Loads of food stalls and fairground rides pop up along the lake front and there is an enormous firework display lasting around an hour.

  6. Geneva really is better in the summer! All we have in the winter is cold rain. If you come back in the summer, make sure to take a swim at bains de paquis. There is a rock wall in the water, jumping platform, and floating docks to entertain you. Swans frequent the shore… although they evacuate all the people relaxing within a 3 ft radius, it is hilarious to watch! You can also have fondue and spa on the beach. It is really my favorite part of Geneva.

    I must admit I live on the French side of Geneva and enjoy French countryside living – affordable cheesy cuisine and country roads. Also, the Jura offers relatively (no switchbacks!) hard hikes that require no technical skills or equipment so they are easily doable by normies like me. I noticed you went for a run and I really love running when I go to new cities too! If you coe back, try the free bike-share in Geneva and go for a ride around (or partially around) the lake on the awesome bike routes. Many other Swiss do say that Geneva is dull and boring, but I find some ways to enjoy it 😉

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