Ville de Genève

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Mise à jour: 08.07.2016
 

Streets and squares

History of Streets

The buildings in the Old Town date for the most part from the 18th and 19th centuries, but the street pattern can largely be traced back to the Middle Ages, like the names of the streets themselves. Although today many of them have been renamed in honour of an important figure, several old ones have still survived. This is the case for some of the streets along this Trail: the ones with names like Chaudronniers, Taconnerie, Boulangerie, Pélisserie and Grand-Mézel all speak of trades that were the lifeblood of the city.

Download the audio file "History of Streets" [mp3 1.38 Mo]

Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubigné

Terrasse Agrippa-d’Aubigné
© M. Levet

Walking round the back of the cathedral, you come to a charming terrace on two levels offering a clear view over the Rues-Basses (Low Town) below and the east face of the cathedral. Until 1940, a prison stood here, erected in 1840 on the former site of the residence of the Prince-Bishops of Geneva, which had itself become a place of incarceration with the Reformation. Stones from the bishops’ palace prison were used to build the supporting walls of the terrace, which actually conceals one of the city’s air raid shelters. This space was recently transformed into L’Abri, a multicultural centre for young talents.

The terrace is named in honour of Agrippa d’Aubigné, a famous French Protestant writer and soldier, who spent the last ten years of his life in Geneva and was buried in 1630 in the cathedral cloister.

Place du Bourg-de-Four

Place du Bourg-de-Four
© M. Levet

A favourite with Geneva’s residents, the Place du Bourg-de-Four is the oldest square in the city. Its Roman name of forum (hence «four» in French), indicating strong economic activity, became Bourg-de-Four when the square incorporated neighbouring buildings to become a district or “bourg”. Set on a slope between the plateau of the Tranchées area and the summit of the hill, it is a true crossroads where roads leading to Geneva converge. Listed in 1929, the square retains its function as a crossroads and invites you to take a welcome break halfway up the steep slope leading to the Old Town. Look out for the small statue of the King of the Burgundians, Gundobad (died 516 AD), nestled in the facade of No. 5, a remin¬der that his castle once stood on the approach to this square.

Rue des Granges

Rue des Granges
© M. Levet

This street that runs along the crest of the hill of the Old Town is still home to prestigious addresses today. Between the late 17th century and the first decades of the 18th century, Geneva witnessed a period of major urban and architectural development. The Rue des Granges housing development, built in a medieval district where barns and stables formerly stood, is a row of luxury mansions with courtyard and garden that reflects the ambitious modern aesthetic movement of the time. The mansions of the Rue des Granges meet the requirements of 18th century classical aesthetics, with strict proportions and simple, pared down decoration, and resemble those appearing at the same time in major French cities.

Grand-Rue

Grand-Rue
© M. Levet

The Grand-Rue owes its name to the fact that it was the city’s main thoroughfare in the Middle Ages, used by carriages of all kinds. Although Nos. 6 and 8 are the vestiges of 15th and 16th century medieval houses, the other constructions show the influence of the Renaissance and the Classicism of the two subsequent centuries, when Geneva enjoyed very strong urban growth.

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