Life in Geneva

On an international scale, Geneva is a relatively small city. The city itself has 200,000 inhabitants and the Canton of Geneva a total of 470,000, in other words just a few less than Washington D.C. The city is however world-renowned and has exceptional assets that far exceed its size. It owes them to its history, the presence of numerous international institutions (International Geneva) and its economic vitality. The latter is supported by the presence of numerous multinationals that have their world or European headquarters in the Geneva region, by an important financial sector (Geneva has been ranked the world’s sixth most important financial centre by the Global Financial Centres Index) and by the expanding commodity trading sector, notably oil (Geneva ranks as the second most important trading centre for this commodity).

A historical and cultural city

Situated at the very heart of Europe, since the end of the Middle Ages Geneva has played an important role as a commercial, banking and industrial (watchmaking) centre. During the Reformation, Jean Calvin made it the Protestant equivalent of Rome. At that time, the city took in refugees from all over Europe and created networks that were to last for centuries. During the Age of Enlightenment, the country played an important role with writers such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Mme de Stael and a large numberof scholars including Ferdinand de Saussure, the founder of linguistics. 

Heir to this history, Geneva houses rich art collections and important documentary resources, notably at the University, the Institute and the United Nations. Moreover, the city’s cultural life is very diverse, notably offering musical performances, which, for a city of its size, are of a quality unrivalled anywhere in the world.

An international city

In 1919, Geneva was chosen to house the headquarters of the League of Nations. After 1945, it became the European headquarters for the United Nations Office (UNOG), where 172 States are represented by a permanent mission. Today, it hosts the headquarters of a large number of the UN’s specialised agencies, other international institutions such as and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), as well as the World Economic Forum.

It shares the status of the “the most important world conference centre with New York, with over 170,000 people participating in 4,500 international meetings each year.

Fourteen Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded to individuals or institutions from Geneva. The first was won in 1901 by Henry Dunant, founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the most recent was awarded, jointly with Al Gore, to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007. 

Exceptional quality of life

Geneva offers an excellent quality of life. International quality of life indices consistently rank it among the top ten cities in the world.

The city is clean and safe. It boasts high quality public facilities. Thanks to the first-class town planning, it is easy to move around either by bicycle or public transport. The railway network makes it possible to reach all Europe's major cities with ease. The international airport is 20 minutes from the city centre and is well connected to destinations across the globe.

The city’s population is also very international. The percentage of foreigners in Geneva is very high (40%): it is comparable to the numbers found in New York or Los Angeles and far higher than the percentages of foreigners in London or Paris. This gives rise to a city with a wide variety of cultural events and culinary experience.

Situated on the shores of the largest lake in Western Europe, and only a short distance from the Alps, Geneva is the ideal location for numerous outdoors activities, from water sports to hiking and skiing.