Geneva’s Fountain, the Jet d’Eau
Geneva's Jet d’Eau, which began as an engineering expedience, has since become an iconic tourist attraction.
If you’ve been to Geneva—and even if you haven’t—you may be familiar with the Jet d’Eau, a huge water fountain in Lake Geneva and the unofficial symbol of this pretty Swiss city. Dubbed Europe’s tallest fountain, the jet leaps to an incredible 140 metres (460 feet) in height and boasts a history that is intertwined with that of the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva.
The Hotel des Bergues was Geneva’s first hotel, built at the end of the lake (where it flows into the Rhone River) in 1834 to accommodate visitors touring by boat. The surrounding neighbourhood grew into an area of watchmakers and small workshops. In 1886 hydraulic turbines were installed on the Rhone to provide power to the machines of these small factories in Geneva, as well as to the elevators of the hotel. In the evenings and on weekends—after the craftsmen had closed the valves in their workshops and gone home—excess pressure built up in the system. So an engineer created a temporary outlet, which spurted a 30-metre-high (100-foot-high) fountain right in front of the hotel.
In time, a reservoir system was created and the fountain wasn’t needed. By then, the residents of Geneva realised its appeal as a tourist attraction. In 1891 it was relocated into the lake and equipped with more powerful pumps. The fountain was improved further in 1951. Today it jets water at speeds up to 200 kilometres (125 miles) per hour.
Although the Jet d’Eau no longer powers the lifts in the Hotel (which became a beautiful residential-style Four Seasons in 2005), the fountain is picture perfect from many guest rooms. For a better—and wetter—photo opportunity, take a stroll on the pier leading out to the jet. For more information, visit Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva.