Monday 25 September 2017

Geneva Old-Town/Rive Gauche Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.9 km (5.5 miles), terrain: flat with two hills, gain 87 meters
Or shorten it to just 5-km if you leave out the last leg along the leg

Geneva running routes:
Geneva Old Town / Rive Gauche route
Geneva Rive Droite / UN route

For more running routes, see Route List.

A runner in Parc des Bastions
In our other Geneva route, we went up the north shore of the lake. This time, we'll see the old town and the south shore (Rive Gauche). But you can easily split this route into either half, if you want shorter runs.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
The old town is perched up on a hill overlooking the exit of the Rhone River from Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). There is a fairly steep uphill climb to get to the top, but it's really worth it! The town has existed since pre-Roman days, founded by a Celtic tribe, and there are lots of interesting spots to discover.
Old-town café near the cathedral
And down behind the old-town, to the southwest, lies the university quarter, with its lively (and relatively cheap) pubs and restaurants and the Plainpalais fairgrounds.

So, if you're ready to discover Geneva's fascinating other half, get yourself to the Jardin Anglais park at the lakefront. This is one of the nicest spots in town, a great place to view the boats going by and to people-watch.

The steamship fleet heads off from several docks all around you, and out in the harbor the huge Jet d'Eau fountain rockets a stream of water into the sky.

In the summers, a big Ferris Wheel lifts visitors up above it all, right next to one of Geneva's landmarks, the immaculately trimmed flower clock. Remember, Geneva is the "City of Time", the headquarters of Swiss watch-making-craftsmanship for centuries.
The flower clock
Standing with your back to the flower clock, cross the busy street to run southwards into Place de Longemalle, a narrow square full of the mix typical of Geneva's downtown: banks, watch-sellers, jewelers, chocolate shops, restaurants, hotels and fountains.
In Place de Longemalle
Keep running south as the street goes uphill towards the cathedral spires ahead. You'll come to Place de la Madeleine, with an old church, a carousel and restaurants accompanying you into the old town.

Continue straight ahead, following Rue de la Fontaine uphill, with terraced parks above you on the right side. And of course, you'll go by fountains. In fact, everywhere you go in Geneva you'll find beautiful fountains.
Cafès at Place Bourg-de-Four
You'll soon reach the next square, the beautiful Bourg-de-Four, with alleys zig-zagging into it from several directions. There are some lively cafés and restaurants here (for later!). Keep to the right and keep heading uphill along Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville.

There are nice galleries and antique shops here, and the cathedral is coming up on the right. So at the first lane to the right, turn there and run straight towards Saint-Pierre cathedral, just a block away.

It's pretty impressive, with various additions from various eras. The oldest parts are over 850 years old.

Turn left and run downhill a bit to come to the front entrance, with its huge portico.
Saint-Pierre Cathedral
This is a Protestant cathedral. Geneva was a hotbed of Protestant activity during the Reformation. John Calvin preached here, and his house was just a block away. Many Protestants, persecuted in nearby Catholic areas, fled to Geneva for refuge.

Now turn with your back to the church and run out along Rue Otto Barblan, which ends at the armory in just a block (another great fountain here!).

Now turn left and run past the armory, with its cannon collection in the arcade.
The armory cannons
At the corner, the flag-covered town hall is waiting, which has a cool old courtyard inside the doors, take a peek!

Keep running southwest, along the right side of the town hall and you'll run under a columned gateway and out onto a wide terrace, with a view out over the south side of town. You can see the Alps rising behind the city.
Along the Promenade de la Treille: great lookout!
This park with the inspiring view is called the Promenade de la Treille. A lot of people come here to relax and enjoy the amazing view, and whole families come to picnic at the tables.

Down below, that other park and the neighborhood behind it is where we'll head next.

So, after taking in the view, turn right and run downhill along the street, passing the 1-kilometer-mark. You'll come to Place de Neuve at the bottom, flanked by a collection of elegant, classical buildings. The biggest one, the Grand Théâtre, is now inside a big tent, undergoing restoration.
Chess players in the park
On the left side, behind the iron fence, is Parc des Bastions. This is a great place, with chess-players, a restaurant-café, monuments, exhibits and the main university buildings along the south side.

Turn left to run through the park. Along the left side, lining the wall to the outlook is a series of statues for the Protestant pioneers, many of whom spent time in Geneva.

Along the other side, the classical university buildings line your run. Normally, quite a few runners come through here mornings and evenings.

Just before you exit the park, turn right to stay on the walkway within the fence and exit the park on the south side. Now turn left, then right to get onto Rue Saint Léger, running southwestwards.

Follow the street for the next few blocks as it curves to the right. This is the university neighborhood, with some cool hangouts.

Cross the tram tracks at the 2-km-mark, with the Holy Cow gourmet fast-food hamburger restaurant (try it out some evening: their Montreux Jazz and Blues burger is amazing!)

After a block, you come to a big empty square, the Plaine de Plainpalais. This used to be a big swamp, but is now home to Switzerland's biggest flea market every Wednesday and Saturday.

Now just circle the square for a kilometer, running as you please, and come back to this spot again.

Then head back the same way you came, but when you come to the Parc des Bastions, stay on Rue Saint Léger, running along the outside of the park fence, heading towards the hill of the old town, straight ahead.

Stay on Rue Saint Léger as it goes by nice flower plantings at the park gate, then up through an archway into the old town.
Rue St. Leger, heading up into the Old Town again
Soon you'll find yourself at Place du Bourg-de-Four again. But this time, instead of turning left to head down the way we originally came, turn right to see a bit more of the old town, along Rue Etienne-Dumont. This is a nice street, with interesting boutiques and restaurants.

The street ends at Place Franz-Liszt, an elevated spot, with a busy road sunken down in the valley below.

Turn left to run through the Promenade Saint-Antoine square, which lines the roadway below.

Run to the traffic circle ahead, passing the 4-km-mark, then turn left and you'll be back at Place du Bourg-de-Four again.

Now turn right and head downhill again towards the lake, but keep right to stay on Rue Verdaine, to see a bit more of downtown.

When Rue Verdaine ends, turn left till you're back at Place de Longemalle, where you turn right and in a block you'll be back at the flower clock, right at the 5-kilometer-mark.

NOTE: Now you'll have to decide if this is the end of your run or if you want to add another four kilometers and run out along the south shore of the lake.
Musicians in the Jardin Anglais
So, if you want to experience a bit more of this beautiful lake, head to the water's edge in Jardin Anglais, and turn right to follow the water, heading out to Genève-Plage (Geneva Beach).
Along the Rive Gauche docks, with a steamship
There is a tree-lined promenade along the waterfront for the whole way. The line of apartment buildings has an elegant flair, but not much life. There are hardly any restaurants or stores along the way. The waterfront -- with its docks and boats -- is definitely the big attraction. And it's crowned by the view across the lake to the Jura Mountains, forming the nearby border to France.

You'll pass a water-taxi dock (ride these to get a great view from the water!) and then the narrow causeway to the Jet d'Eau fountain. You can run out there and take a close look!

After the big Eaux-Vives marina and then the appropriately named Baby Plage (a tiny beach), you continue following the promenade.
View along the whole lakefront stretch, from the Jardin Anglais
You'll then come to Port Noir, with the yacht club and Genève-Plage, an outdoor pool and a little lakeside beach. You can't get into either place, though, so you might as well cross the road at the crossing and turn back towards town.

On this other side of the street, running southwestwards, we can pull into a couple of elegant old parks along the way on the left side.

The first one is Parc des Eaux Vives, a huge park-like property on the sloping hillside, with a tennis club behind the mansion. The house is now used as a hotel. The property is actually private, and not a public park.

The grounds are impressive, so take a loop towards the house, then continue southwestwards through the wall to the next park. This will be the 7-km-mark.

This next one, Parc La Grange, also has a huge mansion, and big trees and a rose garden. But this one is a real public park. Again, loop around near the house and then exit at the lake road again, across from the Baby-Plage.

Now, just head back to the Jardin Anglais, passing the Jet d'Eau at the 8-km-mark.

So, what do you think? Geneva is not a bad town! No wonder it is rated as one of the world's top cities to live in.

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