Geneva with kids: A quick city guide for first-timers

For many years, there was every part of me that was dying to visit Geneva. You may ask why? We have been to Geneva already three times, right? But every time only to visit the famous Motor Show taking place near the Airport in the Expo hall. We´ve never got to visit the city itself! But now! Finally!!!

Before our trip, I searched Pinterest to prepare our itinerary. I was quite disappointed to find the guides, that were just copies of each other and designated to happy solo travelers in their 20´s. Nothing that could interest kids. Literally nothing. Don´t get me wrong, I have nothing against solo female travelers in their 20´s (ok, honestly, I do, but that´s just because of the fact I´m not 20 any more *loud sobbing*), but their main priority isn´t to entertain 3 kids in the different age-range. So I asked wonderful ladies in “our” international Facebook group for their recommendations and their response was huge! Really, just wow!

So, here is what we were able to see and do in our 3-hours itinerary for Geneva city. But well, I admit, I have included the best-known places mentioned in these above-mentioned guides too. And I was really sorry that we didn´t have enough time to visit all the given tips from the locals. But I´ve saved them to our next visit. Because I definitely want to come back to Geneva again!

Arrival

You can get to Geneva by all means of transport. By plane, car, train, or boat on the lake. We came here by train, which seems to me the most comfortable because you don’t have to look for a parking lot. In addition, the station is just 300 meters to the center.

We used Tageskarte (if you don’t know what Tageskarte/Day Pass is, read my post An epic train ride through Switzerland with the Day Pass). The Day Pass also applies to local public transport tickets.

City sightseeing

I recommend starting the sightseeing tour of Geneva at the local tourist office located on Rue de Mont-Blanc 18. Here, the lovely staff will provide you with all the information you need and provide you with colorful maps that are also interesting for children.

Cross the lake with a boat

Like most cities, the centre of Geneva is easily walkable. But your kids will love you if you take them for a ride across the lake with small yellow boats called mouettes. These boats are part of public transport. There is the ticket vending machine on the pier. But if you have the Day Pass, the ticket is included. You can board with a stroller, but it must be folded (so I recommend buggy stroller).

From the tourist office walk towards the lake, then turn left onto Quai de Mont-Blanc. On the level of the Kempinski Hotel, there is a terrace where you can enjoy views of the Jet d’Eau Fountain and have coffee or ice cream. Here is also the Mouettes Pier. Yellow boats go every few minutes. We set off on the M2 line in the direction of Eaux-Vives.

Jet d´Eau – Water Jet

The big fountain Jet d’Eau, which shoots the water to an altitude of 140 meters is, of course, one of the city’s main tourist attractions and can be seen on almost every postcard from Geneva.

It is possible to walk almost all the way out to the jet, but watch out, if the wind changes direction suddenly then you might very well get wet (sheepishly raising my hand 🙂 ).

In the rainbow or under the shower? 😉

Jardin Anglais with the flower clock

From the Jet d´Eau we walked along the lakefront promenade to the Jardin Anglais, a lovely lakeside park. The Swiss are famous for their watches, so it should be no surprise that they even made them out of flowers. The flower clock (L’Horloge Fleurie) has been in place since 1955. The clock contains more than 6,000 flowers and plants which vary by season and, of course, the clock shows the exact time. 

The Old Town

Then we went uphill to explore the streets of Vielle-Ville, the Old Town. Through the Place de la Madeleine, Rue de la Fontaine, Rue de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, we reached another landmark of the city, St. Peter´s Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Pierre).

Place de la Madeleine

St. Peter´s Cathedral – Cathédrale Saint-Pierre

From the outside, the church is quite interesting for the variety of architectural styles it features – its neoclassical 18th Century façade. versus gothic stained-glass windows? Really stunning!

The cathedral is best known for reformer John Calvin’s sermons which took place here in the mid-16th century. His chair is even displayed here (by the pillar in the left nave of the church).

Chapelle de Macchabées

If you want to enjoy the amazing panoramic views of the lake, the Jura Mountains and the French Alps, I recommend buying a ticket for 5 francs and climb up the steps to the cathedral tower. But the spiral staircase is very steep and narrow. Believe me, I’ve already climbed several cathedral towers (eg in Bern or Fribourg), but this was the narrowest!

The Old Arsenal

Just a few dozen meters from the cathedral you will find the Old Arsenal. An arcade where five cannons and mosaic frescoes depicting different periods of Geneva’s history.

Hôtel-de-Ville

Right opposite you will find the Town Hall with its arcades, lining the inner courtyard. It is interesting that in the Alabama room (unfortunately in reconstruction during our visit) were signed by representatives of sixteen countries to the Geneva Convention on Human Rights during wars
in 1864.

Maison Tavel

Just a few steps away is the house with the blue-gray sandstone facade, which is the oldest in Geneva. Today it houses the Museum of Geneva History. The entrance is free.

The house has several floors with various historical artifacts. Probably the most interesting is the twelve-room apartment on the second floor, which introduces everyday life in the 17th century.

Monument de la Réformation

The monument may be considered by some to be Switzerland’s Mt.Rushmore (carved heads of four American presidents). Giant statues portray the four Geneva reformers: Guillaume Farel, John Calvin, Theodore de Beze, and John Knox.

Roger Williams, who sailed on the famous Mayflower

The Broken Chair

The bus line, which took us to the Palexpo, also led past The Broken Chair memorial in front of the UN building, which is a memorial to victims of landmines and cluster bombs.

More awesome tips, where to take your kids

Once again, great thanks to all who have contributed with these great tips on where to go with the kids.

1. Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle

With the kids, you can visit the Natural history museum which is 10 min by walk from city center. This museum hosts animal & mineral displays on 4 floors.

2. Jardin Botanique

In the botanical garden on the lakeshore, you will find not only plenty of plants but also animals, as well as a cool playground.

3. L´Exploracentre

The new Science Museum, where children can experience the experiments that they will then learn at school about.

4. CERN

In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Science Center offers individual guided tours. However, these are recommended for children over 12 years of age.

5. Zoo de la Bâtie

A great place to go as a family. Animals park, playground, water, tables and grill, everything is there and it’s free. Having lunch at Café de la Tour is recommended.

6. Musée d’histoire des sciences

The small museum, which is free of charge, has interesting historical scientific exhibits as well as interesting interactive features where children can try out how things work.

7. Viaduc de la Jonction

Walk over the bridge to see the impressive confluence of Arve & Rhône rivers.

8. Bains bleus

At the end of the city tour, you can pamper yourself and head to the Hammam Spa with indoor and outdoor pools, massages and saunas.

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