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Immediately behind (uphill from) Cornavin railway station is Geneva's famous Grottes neighbourhood, which despite being in the city centre has preserved a friendly and bohemian village-like feel. The low rents explain the large presence of small artisanal enteprises (second hand bookshops, bicyle repairs, ironmongers, glassworkers, poets and artists' studios), edgy bars and clubs (many of which are run as cooperatives) and an interesting and eclectic mix of renovated and less-renovated historic buildings (converted barns stand side-by-side with renovated factories and turn of the century appartment buildings), narrow streets, small leafy squares and intimate courtyards.
Underlying this is a history of social struggle which has seen the neigbourhood organize itself to resist successive attempts by the authorities to knock it down and build modern office and accomodation towers. The ongoing stand-off with developers explains why some buildings remain quirky and unrenovated.
The Grottes neighbourhood is best visited by foot. Key sites include: