t Outdoor cafés in Place du Bourg-de-Four in Geneva
The capital of Switzerland’s westernmost canton, with which it shares its name, Geneva nestles against the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), where the Rhône and the Arve divide. It was settled by the Celtic Helvetii around 450 BC, who were attracted by the fertile land and defensive position. The same appealed to the Romans, who swooped in to secure the city in 121 BC. Fought over for centuries by different factions, the city gained its independence in 1536. By that point, the city of Geneva was established as a prosperous centre of trade, and on its way to becoming a stronghold of the Reformation. Known as the Protestant Rome, the city attracted Protestant refugees from across Europe. These newcomers both increased the city’s wealth and boosted its cosmopolitan character. Artists and philosophers soon followed, adding to the city’s culture. The city’s reputation as a place of mediation and civility was cemented in 1864, when the International Red Cross was founded by a group of Genevois. In the century that followed, the League of Nations and later the United Nations made their home here. Now home to more than 200 international organizations, including CERN, one of the world’s most advanced laboratories, it remains a centre of international cooperation.