Geneva's Old Town, in French called Vieille Ville, is an ancient maze of small streets and picturesque squares, filled with homey cafés, restaurants, galleries, museums and historical sights, lined by historical buildings adorned with beautiful masonry facades. You’re whisked a thousand years back into the times of ancient Geneva.
Apart from famous St. Peter's Cathedral, the must see places are Maison Tavel and the Old Arsenal located in front, Place du Bourg-de-Four and The Treille Promenade.
The altitude of Old Town is some 25 meters higher than the lake, so expect a little climb.
Place du Bourg-de-Four
In the very center of Geneva's Old Town is Bourg-de-Four Square, a must-visit square, the oldest place in Geneva, where the Roman marketplace used to trade its wares. Now a touristy locale full of exclusive shopping opportunities and the great place to have a cup of cafe.
The middle of the square is decorated by simple marble medieval fountains. Around the square are restaurants and coffee shops with very popular outside seating, often full of people for its unique historic and authentic atmosphere. The most famous are Café de Bourg-de-Four, La Clémence and Restaurant au Carnivore.
At Christmas time the square is romantically decorated and highlighted by rows of lamps. During hot sunny days, it will be full of local people and tourists as well, enjoying their day. It is astonishingly brilliant.
On Place Bourg-de-Four you will also find souvenir shops, newspaper stands, a police station, and ice cream parlor combined with an Italian restaurant, offering ice cream for 3,5CHF and several affordable snacks. Chocolates Tea Room is a cozy tourist shop with a wide selection of delectable Swiss chocolates.
Only one street away (Rue de Hotel de Ville) from Place du Bourg-de-Four is another little square with many important points of interest:
- Maison Tavel, the museum of history of Geneva
- The world famous luxurious Hotel de Ville, where many historical milestones occurred
- Old Arsenal - a series of canons decorated by mosaics portraying Caesar’s arrival in the city in 58 B.C
- A state archive, not necessarily interesting for tourists, as for historians
- Restaurant & Cafe de Ville
- St.Peter’s Cathedral
The Saint Peter's Cathedral stands tall in the Old Town of Geneva on the site of an ancient Roman Temple from the 4th century. Work began on this spectacular cathedral under Arducius de Faucigny, the prince-bishop of the Dioceses of Geneva in the 12th century. It was from this cathedral that John Calvin preached Protestantism in the 16th century. Saint Peter's Cathedral or Saint Pierre Cathedral was originally built in a Romanesque style with some Gothic influence, but today the cathedral displays a fusion of different styles. With a Neoclassical facade, this cathedral has played an important role in the history of Geneva and it continues to charm visitors with its austere interior.
- Hidden passage at Rue du Perron: Passage De Monetier, which is opened only 2 days a year, during the festival l'Escalade.
Old town is host for many galleries, such as Gallery Jacques de la Béraudière and Insolite.
The free public toilet is situated next to St. Peter's Cathedral, in the underground at the side of the main entrance
Around the Old Town