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Happily situated in a park overlooking Lake Geneva and bordering both Switzerland and France you can find the Palais des Nations — symbol of the shared heritage of the international community. As a visitor, you can stroll through the lavishly decorated conference rooms where legendary agreements have been signed and milestones have been achieved in human rights, world health and peace.
After World War I, the organisation of the League of Nations was established to put an end to all wars. Geneva was chosen as the organisation’s home base and by that the international centre of diplomacy. Therefore, a palace was constructed in the Ariana Park, with countless conference rooms, each decorated and filled with gifts from the member states. Today, the flags of the member states fly high along the avenue leading to the entrance, conveying an international atmosphere well before you step inside.
Even though the complex hosts more than 9,000 meetings each year, a large section is open to the public. The walls of the large conference hall are decorated with paintings donated by France, while the wooden floor of the presidential podium comes from Australia. In 1937, the United States donated the first simultaneous interpretation system and the original furniture was a gift from Switzerland.
The unique frescos adorning the walls of the Council Chamber on the 3rd floor give this room a completely different ambiance. Three of these frescos are by Karl Hügin. The ‘Victims of War’ portrays women crying next to the body of a soldier, still holding his sword. A few years ago, Room XX was renovated and renamed the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room. As part of that renovation, Spanish artist Miquel Barceló turned the room’s domed ceiling into an impressive and colourful work of art.
The Palais des Nations is surrounded by the lovely Ariana Park, where peacocks roam freely and you can find 800 different tree species. The park was once a family estate. The family agreed to the construction of the palace, on the condition that people and peacocks could roam freely on its grounds. Most of the birds have been donated by a Japanese zoo throughout the years. The park also has 19th-century villas and dozens of statues, towers and memorial stones — some of which were donated by the member nations. The celestial sphere from 1939, with its 85 gilded constellations and 840 silver-plated stars, is a definite must-see.