Gardens by the Lake
Flowers on the clock
Your first stop is bound to be the Jardin Anglais (“English Garden”), which is located on the bank of Lake Geneva, also known as Lake Léman. This park was built during the mid-19th century on the site of a former industrial port.
The garden houses one of the city’s greatest tourist attractions: the famous Horloge Fleurie, a clock literally made of flowers and a tribute to Switzerland’s watchmaking tradition. This plant sculpture includes 6500 living flowers and a real clock mechanism whose second hand is 2.5 meters long. The Horloge Fleurie has been keeping track of time — and attracting people’s curiosity — since 1955.
Students, Chess and the Vieille Ville
At the city centre you can stroll through Geneva’s historical quarter, known as Vieille Ville (Old City). After walking the streets and visiting the Saint-Pierre Cathedral, you can discover a sanctuary for students and chess lovers: Parc des Bastions. It was built during the 18th Century in what used to be the limits of the old city walls. The garden is located in the back of the first University of Geneva and was once a Botanical Garden, which explains the existence of several non-European plants and trees.
A great sequoia tree rises towards the sky near the Reformation Wall. This 100 metres long bas-relief monument is dedicated to theologian John Calvin and other illustrious personalities that made Geneva a capital of protestant reform. The park’s attractions also include a chess game area with giant chess pieces. As one would expect, the place is a hangout for chess lovers who continually challenge themselves.
By the lake
Since the purpose of these parks is to provide a relaxing and refreshing environment, it is only natural that most of them are located near the water.
At Quai Gustave Ador there are several more places that paint Lake Léman with green and other flowery colours. Parc La Grange is a 12 square kilometre green area that is home to the city’s biggest rose garden. This is also where we find the Théâtre de Verdure, where you can watch open air concerts during summertime.
Close to La Grange is the Eaux Vives park, located on a hillside where we also find an 18th century castle (which today houses a restaurant).
While crossing the Rhône River that goes through both city and lake, we enter Île Rousseau. The park in this small island is popular among Geneva’s citizens. There is a restaurant and a nice view of the landscape.
The cherry on top is the famous Pearl of the Lake — La Perle-du-Lac, one of the city’s most popular green areas. The park is spread out on the west side of the lake and its name was suggested by the wife of Hans Wilsdorf, founder of the Rolex watch company. It stands on a privileged location where the remains of a Roman villa have been discovered. The Pearl includes gardens, tracks for cyclists and many spots where you can relax under the trees.
This place also provides you with an amazing view of the lake, the city and the mountains. During Summer , visitors can enjoy cultural activities that include open air cinema, among others. At Park Moynier, an adjacent garden, you can also visit the History of Science Museum.
A visit to Geneva’s green landscapes would not be complete without Ariana Park, built between 1877 and 1884 by Gustave Revilliod de la Rive, a local benefactor and collector. After his death, the property became available to the general public, and the Ariana Museum opened its doors to display the patron’s massive collection of artworks and ceramic pieces.
This green area is known for its size (45 hectares) and biodiversity, as well as its historical significance: it houses the Palace of Nations, the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. At the United Nations Square in front of the Palace, we find several monuments dedicated to peace, such as the Broken Chair — a 12 metre tall sculpture, created by Swiss artists Daniel Berset and Louis Genève, it pays homage to the victims of landmines and cluster bombs.
At this point, it should be clear enough that Geneva is not exactly a polluted, industrial, stressful city... but should need to step away from the urban environment, then skip to Bois de la Bâtie, a 20 hectare forest and wildlife preservation area. Visitors are encouraged to observe animals at the small local zoo and along the available hiking trails. Several restaurants with outdoor seating provide an opportunity for a relaxing and pleasant day.
If you want a bigger outdoor experience, head for Parc Pré Vert du Signal de Bougy, about 40 km north of the city. There, you'll find 110 hectares of woodland, ponds, and panoramic views of Geneva, the lake and the mountains. It is a great palce for a family outing — there are pic-nic areas, sports zones, a golf school with an 18-hole course, and animal watching areas. The park also organises tours, open air concerts and other activities for children. Grown ups who feel more adventurous are welcome to tackle the forest's hiking trails!