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Jet d'eau, Geneva

Jet d'eau LEFT: The Jet d'eau drenches careless boaters from March through early October.

The Swiss build houses, dams, and tunnels to last for centuries. It may seem curious, then, that Geneva's trademark should be something as ephemeral as a plume of water.

Still, the generically named Jet d'eau ("water jet") isn't your common garden-variety sprinkler. Electric pumps totalling some 1,300 hp keep an estimated seven tons of water in the air, and the jet is nearly three times the height of the Statue of Liberty.

The Jet d'eau made its debut in 1891 with a plume of 30 meters or 98 feet. Subsequent renovations (most recently, in 1951) increased the jet's height to its present 130 meters or 425 feet, making it Europe's tallest fountain and a dramatic symbol of Swiss engineering prowess.

Today, the Jet d'eau looks as streamlined and modern as it must have appeared in 1929, when travel writer Paul Guiton wrote:

The new town has made its way joyously along the shores of the lake, embracing it and caressing it with its long monumental quays, laid out as public promenades and bordered by hotels. How can one give any idea of this town and the grace with which it blends water, stone and verdure in a harmony of supreme distinction? The lake itself, wide as a sea, makes itself one with the city.... What a place in which to turn aside from the disquietudes of life, of art or thought!  *

Finding the fountain

The Jet d'eau is hard to miss. You'll get a nice (if distant) view from the Pont du Mont Blanc, the bridge that connects the city's north and south banks where the Rhône River meets the Rade de Genève or boat harbor. From the southern end of the bridge, continue along the Promenade du Lac to the Quai Gustav Ador. A breakwater, the Jetée des Eaux-Vives, leads out to a boat basin, with the Jet d'eau a short distance beyond in Lake Geneva (a.k.a. Lac Léman).

Related Web link

Jet d'eau
This English-language page has technical specifications and visitor information, plus a video of the Jet d'eau in operation.

Jet d'eau: Recommended Walk
Follow the map and directions to "watch the fountain from all sides and enjoy the city."


* Switzerland: Western and Southern, Paul Guiton, The Travel Lovers Library. Hardcover, 1929.