The "discreet charm" of bourgeois yet vibrant Geneva may be subtle, but it grows rapidly on visitors and residents alike. From the Mont Blanc bridge in the evening, when the skyline of gracious, orderly stone buildings is reflected on the lake, Geneva's charm is visible to all. Without a doubt, this is a prosperous and attractive city.
As the capital of French-speaking Switzerland (Suisse romande), Geneva has a gorgeous setting with a lake, river and mountains. This and the fact that it occupies a central location within Europe make it a magnet for tourists and, not surprisingly, one of Switzerland's top destinations. Relatively small and manageable, Geneva is easy to explore on foot, and the authorities are working hard at keeping car traffic to a minimum.
Geneva is also physically diverse, with a charming medieval Old Town, a busy commercial district and handsome architecture, from elegant stone and wrought-iron facades to the laid-back, village vibe of the Carouge suburb. Seen from the train station, Geneva's graceful skyline is capped by the Alps, with the cathedral's spires in the middle ground and the water jet gushing up from the lake in the foreground.
The city's prosperity is evident everywhere, from luxury hotels, upscale restaurants, and Mercedes and Jaguars on the streets to opulent villas dotting the Geneva lakefront. Geneva has a long tradition of hosting royalty and other well-heeled people, along with an established reputation for welcoming less-fortunate refugees.
Switzerland's second-largest city after Zurich, Geneva boasts an average per capita income of more than 51,000 CHF, one of the highest in Europe. Banks, insurance firms and jewelers are ubiquitous, but Geneva is also proud of its intellectual roots: In the 16th century, the city was the cradle of Calvinism, and it is now a major science center and cultural capital.
Since the Red Cross (formally, the International Committee of the Red Cross) was founded there in 1863, Geneva has nurtured a long-standing humanitarian and internationalist tradition, and now hosts more than 125 multinational companies, about 30 international organizations (including the principal United Nations agencies), about 300 nongovernmental organizations and some 200 diplomatic missions. Geneva also often ranks among the world's most livable cities.
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