Europe & Britain | Inspiration

9 incredible facts you never knew about Lake Geneva in Switzerland

Lake Geneva is not only one of the biggest and most beautiful lakes in Europe – it’s also full of fascinating history and stories. From the record-breaking sights you can see along the lake, to all the famous artists the lake has inspired, here are 9 incredible facts about Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman, in Switzerland.

1. Lake Geneva is the largest lake in the Alps

Spreading across an area of 580 square kilometres (224 square miles), Lake Geneva is one big body of water. Although it’s the 23rd largest lake in Europe, it’s the largest lake in Switzerland, France and the Alps. It stretches up to 73 km (45 miles) in length and 14 km (8.7 miles) in width, and it will take you around three hours to drive around the whole lake.

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2. Lake Geneva spreads across two countries

Lake Geneva is so big that it spills out across two countries. Around 60% of the lake lies in Switzerland, while 40% lies in France. You can take a scenic ferry across the water and go from Switzerland to France in just 30 minutes.

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3. Lake Geneva houses one of the world’s biggest fountains

When you take a cruise across Lake Geneva with Trafalgar, you can see some incredible highlights from the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, to the 147-metre-high Jet d’Eau, one of the world’s biggest fountains. The famous fountain sits in the middle of the lake and jets 500 litres of water per second to an altitude of 140 metres!

You can even see the UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyard terraces on the shore of Lake Geneva. Learn more about the things you can see on a Lake Geneva cruise on this virtual tour around the lake with Martin from the Lake Geneva Boat Company in Switzerland

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4. Many famous people have lived on the shores of Lake Geneva

One of the most fascinating facts about Lake Geneva is that this beautiful lake has attracted plenty of star power over the decades. Actor Charlie Chaplin spent the last 23 years of his life here and there’s a memorial statue of him along the promenade in Vevey. When you cruise Lake Geneva with Trafalgar, you’ll also have the option to visit the Charlie Chaplin museum in his former estate, Manoir de Ban, set on the banks of Lake Geneva. You’ll sail the lake in a romantic side-wheel paddle steamer, before arriving at the estate where you’ll see props and sets from Charlie Chaplin’s iconic movies. You’ll also hear fascinating stories about his life, and top it all off with a walk through the peaceful gardens.

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Many other actors and artists have lived in the gorgeous towns surrounding Lake Geneva, including Audrey Hepburn, Richard Burton, James Mason, Noël Coward and Peter Ustinov. Singer Phil Collins lived in a home overlooking the lake, while Freddie Mercury owned a home in Montreux, on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. His band Queen also owned and operated Mountain Recording Studios in Montreux and Freddie recorded his last Queen album there. Today, you can see a bronze statue of Freddie Mercury facing the lake in Montreux.

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5. Lake Geneva’s real name is Lac Léman

During ancient Roman times, the lake was known as “Lacus Lemannus”, from an ancient Greek word, “Limanos”, meaning port’s lake. In the Middle Ages, the lake was called “Lacus Losanetes” or “Lac de Lausanne”. It was first called “Lac de Geneva” in the 16th century, with the rise of the Swiss Confederation and the city of Genève.

However, the French revived the original name “Lac Léman” in the 18th century and it remains the lake’s official name. Today, the French call it Lac Léman, Germans call it Genfersee, Italians call it Lago Lemano or Lago di Ginevra, and English-speakers usually call it Lake Geneva!

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6. The speed of sound was first tested at Lake Geneva

In 1827, Lake Geneva became the first place for the speed of sound to be tested in freshwater. And that’s not the only way the lake has contributed to science… 

7. Four submarines have explored Lake Geneva

This lake isn’t just long – it’s also deep! While the average depth of the lake is around 154 metres (507 feet), the deepest point is 310 metres (1,020 feet). That’s deeper than 103 Olympic-sized swimming pools! Four submarines have explored the depths of the lake, including the two Mir submersibles, famed for filming the Titanic wreck for James Cameron’s iconic film. 

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8. Lake Geneva looks like a shark

When viewed from above, the shape of Lake Geneva is similar to a shark or a crescent moon. It’s one of the few perfectly crescent shape lakes in the world and it looks stunning from above, with its deep blue waters contrasting with the lush green hills. 

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9. Lake Geneva has inspired countless artists

This incredible lake is so gorgeous, we’re not surprised it has inspired a bunch of poets, musicians, artists, and filmmakers. Here are some little-known facts about Lake Geneva and its history of inspiring the arts:

David Bowie spent a few months in Lake Geneva in 1976 and said the region inspired him to paint. 

The great British poet Lord George Gordon Byron was inspired to write a few sonnets and his poem “The Prisoner of Chillon” after sailing on Lake Geneva. His journey across the lake took him to see the stunning medieval castle Château de Chillon and hear the story of the imprisoned Genevois monk, François Bonivard.

The castle in the Little Mermaid movie (1989) is inspired by Château de Chillon, set on the banks of Lake Geneva. The creators of the movie were so impressed by the castle, they just had to feature it in their film.

Writers Mary and Percy Shelley were inspired to write horror stories during their holiday in Lake Geneva. It was here that Mary wrote her famous novel ‘Frankenstein’.

Lake Geneva was the inspiration behind ‘Smoke on the Water’, one of the greatest guitar tracks of all time. The English band Deep Purple were staying near the lake when a casino in Montreux caught fire. Smoke was seen all over the lake… And the rest is history. 

Do you know any fascinating facts about Lake Geneva in Switzerland? Let us know in the comments below!

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