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Arts and Culture in Geneva in English
Culture In English
© M. Dégerine
Mise à jour: 30.11.2018

Arts and Culture in Geneva in English

The following web pages contain a directory of cultural activities in Geneva which can be enjoyed by English-speakers without any knowledge of French.

A dynamic, cosmopolitan city like Geneva supports creativity in the arts and facilitates public access to culture in all its forms.
Everything you need to know about art exhibitions, theatre or cinema productions and libraries and books in English is just one click away. All City of Geneva museums and art galleries provide English-language commentaries.

We wish you lots of exciting discoveries as you explore the City of Geneva’s cultural scene!

La Musicale
© Chistopher Park / Ville de Genève

ZOOM : “La Musicale” – The Geneva Library

Our “In Geneva In English” tour of the city’s libraries comes to an end with a grand finale of your choosing: classical, folk, RnB, jazz or pop… It’s all in the Musical Collection of the Geneva Library !

More information

Escalade Festivities 2018

Pageantry, disguises and bonfires: it’s Escalade season again! People of all generations come together to celebrate Geneva’s historic holiday in a mix of tradition, good humour and ceremonial commemorations.

From the 7th to the 12th of December, Geneva comes alive to celebrate the holiday that local kids and youth love the best: the Escalade. At this time, schoolchildren and teenagers get dressed up and parade noisily in the streets. Other traditional (and less traditional) events of the season include:

Stretch Your Legs

It’s too late now to register for the mass running event known as the Course de l’Escalade, but you can show up on 1 and 2 December to cheer on the 51'000 or so participants, young and old, as they run through the streets of Geneva in Switzerland’s most popular running event (www.escalade.ch)

After the Course de l’Escalade, there will be many other opportunities to parade around town:

  • Torch- and Candlelight Parade in the Old Town : Open to all, this torch- and candle-lit parade begins on Saturday 8 December at 7:45PM at 1 Rue de l’Evêché, where candles are on sale from 6:30PM to all those who wish to take part. More information on the Compagnie 1602 website.
  • Escalade Ball at AMR : Come and swing your hips with Conto Los Hierros at the AMR’s Escalade dance party! Cumbia, merengue, mambo, güagüanco et boleros are on the menu for those who want to celebrate the Escalade with a fun Latino vibe! On Friday 7 December at the Salle Sud des Alpes (10 Rue des Alpes). More information on the AMR website.

Raise Your Voices

Learn to sing the Escalade hymn “Cé qu'è lainô” and “Ah La Belle Escalade”

The Escalade is when kids go from door to door, singing the two traditional songs of the season, “Cé qu'è lainô” and “Ah La Belle Escalade”, and collecting sweets or small change. If you want to learn the words in old Geneva dialect, you can read the lyrics of Geneva’s unofficial national anthem here.

  • “Cé qu'è lainô”: An Exhibition : From 7 to 9 December, the Maison Tavel organises an exhibition about “Cé qu'è lainô”.

Smashing Times!

Smashing a chocolate cooking pot while saying “Ainsi périrent les ennemis de la République!” (“Thus did the enemies of the Republic perish!”) is a custom of the Escalade season. It honours the memory of an Escalade legend, Catherine Royaume (known in French as “La Mère Royaume”, “Mistress Royaume”), who first heard the enemy passing under her window and threw a cast iron pot of boiling hot vegetable soup on their heads.

Soup and Mulled Wine In Your Neighbourhood

Real vegetable soup is served outdoors in many parts of the city. In Saint-Jean, for instance, on Friday 14 December at 8PM, the Maison de quartier de Saint-Jean, concludes its costume pageant with free soup for everyone!

What’s In Mère Royaume’s Pot

Travel in time back to 1602 with Mère Royaume to discover the origin of the Escalade and its traditions. The Escalade heroine will be present on Wednesday 5 December at the Eaux-Vives Municipal Library. After the presentation, all participants will smash the pot and enjoy its contents! Free admittance, over 5 years of age.

Period Costume Pageant

  • Historic Procession in the Old Town : From 7 to 9 December, in the Old Town of Geneva, volunteer actors from the historical reconstruction group “La Compagnie 1602” perform scenes from the daily life of Geneva at the end of the 16th century. Soldiers with halberds and harquebuses, horse riders and historic characters parade through the streets in period costume. Musket and cannon firing demonstrations or halberd fighting drills are also performed.
  • Sunday 9 December, starting at 5PM, don’t miss the historic Escalade parade, with approx. 800 volunteers on horse and foot, starting at the Parc des Bastions. Full programme available on the Compagnie 1602 website.

Visit the Old Town’s Secret Passageway

Once a year, for the Escalade, Geneva residents are allowed to use the Passage de Monetier, which is kept locked the rest of year. The remnant of an ancient path at the foot of the 5th century city wall, it is part of a network of more or less secret passageways that allowed soldiers defending the town to access their battle stations quickly. Entrance on 19 Rue du Perron, Saturday 9 December (from 1oAM to 10PM) and Sunday 9 December (from 10AM to 5PM)

The Children of the Escalade : a novel for the children of Geneva (IN FRENCH)

How can kids relate to the events of the long night-time battle of the Escalade? Young readers over 8 years of age can find out by meeting Olivier May, the author of the first children’s fiction book about the Escalade (ages 8-12), “Les Enfants de l’Escalade” due to be published in Autumn 2018 at Editions Auzou.

Meet Olivier May at the Bibliothèque de la Cité Municipal Library on Saturday 8 December at 2 :30PM (Free admittance).

Crackers, Chocolates and Mistress Royaume at the MAH (Art and History Museum, IN FRENCH)

Children between 6 and 10 years old are invited to take part in the following free Escalade activities at the Geneva Art and History Museum:

“It was dark and frosty night in 1602, when the Savoyards attacked Geneva and tried to scale the city walls with ladders…” Hear the whole story on Wednesday 5 and 12 December at 3PM.

While you’re in the Museum, make sure to take a look at the actual Escalade ladders and other bits of war booty, in the company of Mère Royaume, with the MAH visitors’ discovery guide, available free at the MAH welcome desk, that takes you from the Art and History Museum to the Maison Tavel.

In the Days of the Escalade

An Escalade Experience at the International Museum of the Reformation.

For families and kids who aren’t afraid of the dark, on 8 December at 3:30PM, the International Museum of the Reformation invites you to listen to a story that takes you back in time to the days of the Escalade (IN FRENCH). Use a flashlight to discover intriguing artefacts from the days of 1602! (Entrance fee: CHF 6.--, register on site starting at 3PM)

On Sunday 9 December, English-and French-speaking guides go back to the days of the Escalade and present the surprising historical figure of Theodore Beza, a Frenchman who came to Geneva to direct the Reformation after John Calvin’s death. (Museum tickets from CHF 6 to CHF 13, tour guide free, no registration needed.)

Traffic Delays

Because of the many different parades and outdoor events, there will be traffic delays and restrictions in Geneva. For more information, check out the Geneva Cantonal Police website or Facebook pages.

Living in Geneva

  • The Arts Centre | www.ecolint-arts.ch
    The Arts Centre offers, in particular, staged productions, workshops and conferences and welcomes resident professional artists.
  • L’Abri | www.fondationlabri.ch
    L'Abri is a space dedicated to performance, exhibitions, rehearsals, exchanges and artistic experimentation for young talents.

Useful Links

  • Glocals.com | www.glocals.com
    English community online to meet expats and locals in Geneva, join local activities and share information.
  • Geneva Angloinfo.com | www.angloinfo.com
    Everything you need for life in the Lake Geneva region
  • Know-it-all passport® | www.knowitall.ch
    English-language guidebook and community website for Geneva, Vaud and neighboring France
  • Things To Do In Geneva | www.thingstodoingeneva.ch
    A lifestyle, leisure and cultural blog that keeps an eye out for trending activities and events for expats and anglophones in the Geneva area.
  • Geneva Tourism | www.geneve.com
    Geneva Tourism Conventions will guide you through the city and its region. Find all th information you need: walks, events, and exhibitions.
  • CAGI- Geneva Welcome Center | www.cagi.ch
    CAGI's web-portal dedicated to welcoming international expats in Geneva Local media in English
  • WRS, Lake Geneva’s Voice | www.worldradio.ch
    The English-language radio station (the only English-language radio broadcasting in Switzerland and works with BBC World Service).
  • Le News | www.lenews.ch
    Le News - Weekly Swiss News in English (Free, Le News is published every two weeks, on a Thursday).

Contact

Direction et secrétariat du département de la culture et du sport

Route de Malagnou 19
1208 Genève
Tél.+41224186500
Fax+41224186501
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