Geneva is our hometown, and is set on the shores of Lake Geneva with the beautiful Mont Blanc and Salève mountains as a backdrop! It is a city with a lot of parks, a beautiful Old Town with the Saint Pierre Cathedral towering over it, playgrounds for kids, and interesting museums! Whether you have just one day for a family trip to Geneva, or more days to explore, our list of best things to do in Geneva with kids could be useful for you!
The lake and the cute yellow boats
The city of Geneva surrounds the narrow part of Lake Geneva, before it turns into the Rhone river. Walking around the lake on a sunny day in this beautiful setting is always a popular activity. And you can do quite a long walk, from park to park on the right bank, crossing the Mont Blanc bridge to the left bank, or you can take one of the cute yellow boats to cross the lake and continue to explore there. The yellow boats, called ‘Mouettes’, are part of the public transport system and therefore quite cheap to take. If you have a bus ticket valid all day, it is valid on the boat as well, and otherwise you just purchase your ticket on site. You can view the timetable of the yellow boats here: http://www.mouettesgenevoises.ch/pw/en/
In Geneva, people always speak of the right bank or the left bank of the lake to indicate the area they are talking about. We will do the same in this article, and also add Old Town area and Carouge.
Old town of Geneva and the Cathedral
We love Geneva’s Old Town! We like walking around on the old streets and visiting its interesting sites. The cathedral in Geneva is a must-do when in Geneva! You can go all the way up on the towers by taking the stairs, and enjoy the beautiful view over the city and the mountains. While going up you will see the historic cathedral bell called ‘La Clémence’. Observe the bell, because later on, you can also go all the all the way down, under the cathedral, and visit the impressive archeological site of years and years of churches, and Roman ruins which were once built on the same spot where the cathedral stands today. At this archeological site, you will also see a part where they think the tower bell was moulded, you will see the shape of the bell on the floor. What I like about the archeological site is that all is well indicated with colors showing the different periods in time. And the most beautiful area for us is the Roman mosaic floor which is still very well preserved.
Pancakes in front of the Cathedral: there is a small pancake restaurant in front of the Saint Pierre Cathedral called Creperie Saint Pierre.
Other Geneva attractions in the Old Town are the historical cannons, and, the City Hall of Geneva. You can go on and peek inside, because the interior court of the City Hall has beautiful architecture and an interesting ‘stairway’ which isn’t really a stairway, but actually a small path going up, used in the old days to go up to the city’s meetings by horse!
Our favorite museum that we love in the Old Town is Maison Tavel. Maison Tavel is actually the oldest house of the Old Town of Geneva and a very nice museum. The entrance is free, the staff is friendly, and they have an explanation of the museum in various languages.
Another place worth noting is the small street called ‘Passage de Monetier’. Part of this street is very narrow, and what is so special about it is that you can only go through one weekend a year, during the annual ‘Fete de l’Escalade’ celebrations in the second weekend of December.
Promenade de la Treille and the longest bench
You can access, or leave the old town by passing through the Treille Gate and this will get you on the Promenade de la Treille where you will have a beautiful view, and where the longest bench of the world is located! There is also a small playground for children here, and a very important tree. When the first bud is seen on this tree, Geneva declares it’s officially spring! So just before spring, someone really checks the tree daily and the first spring bud always makes the headlines in Geneva!
If you walk down from the Promenade de la Treille, it will take you to the Parc des Bastions.
Geneva, ‘Rive Gauche’, LEFT BANK
Parc des Bastions
Parc des Bastions is a nice park centrally located in Geneva. It is where you will find the Reformation Wall. A wall with statues of the main persons of the protestant reformation. Parc des Bastions has a nice playground for children, a restaurant, sometimes smaller food stands with pancakes, and a big chess play area.
Museum of Art and History of Geneva
We like this museum in Geneva, especially the part on Egypt which will probably interest your children. They also organize special activities for kids in the museum on Wednesdays.
Museum of Natural History
We would recommend this museum for smaller children, and we think it is less interesting for bigger children. They have great temporary exhibitions though, so we sometimes do go back for specific exhibitions.
Plaine de Plainpalais
Plainpalais area, and its big square has a skate park for older kids, and a playground for smaller kids. Events are often organized here during the year and it has a weekly market and food trucks on Sundays. On Wednesdays, Saturdays, and on the first Sunday of each month there is also a flea market on this square.
Bains Bleus is a spa and hot pool with an indoor area and an outdoor pool on the roof with views on Lake Geneva. You can go to Bains Bleus with kids, although it doesn’t have any slides or play areas, it would be just to enjoy the warm water and the views.
Genève Plage is a swimming pool with an access to the lake, giving you the option to swim in both. It has a big slide and a kids pool. Genève Plage is open from 15 May until 15 September, like most public swimming pools in Geneva.
Plage des Eaux-Vives, a beach in Geneva
New beach in town! If you visit Geneva in summer, you can go to this public beach in the Eaux-Vives area, which has a small part with sand, and cool cargo bikes selling good coffee and ice-cream. (Update: due to the delay in works, it is not yet sure the Plage des Eaux-Vives will be open in summer 2020).
If your children would like to navigate on the lake themselves, on the left bank, right after the famous landmark, the water sprout ‘Jet d’Eau’, you will find ‘Port Miniature’. Address: 35 Quai Gustave Ador.
Milkshake at Blacktap
Located on the big roundabout of Rive, Blacktap is an american style burger and milkshake bar. Kids will love the choices of milkshakes they serve here! They are quite big though…
Geneva, ‘Rive Droite’, RIGHT BANK
Bains des Paquis
On the right bank, approximately in front of the Jet d’Eau, is a public swimming area that has existed for decades already. And because it has existed so long, it still has a part for women (and children) only, and a mixed area. In the middle, a restaurant with reasonable prices, where you can enjoy a lunch or snack in summer, and a covered area where you can enjoy a cheese fondue in winter. A classic Swiss breakfast to order is of course a Birchermüesli!
Geneva’s Botanical Gardens, Jardin Botanique
Geneva has beautiful botanical gardens, and they are quite big. A part from the variety of plants and trees you can obviously see here, it also has a part with animals, like goats and ducks, a historic carrousel for children in summer, a playground, and you can access the lake from the botanical gardens as it has a tunnel going under the main road to access the lake shore. There is a small restaurant inside of the Botanical Gardens.
Museum of History of Science
Geneva has a small Museum on History of Science, which is beautifully located by the lake, in the Perle du Lac park. The museum entrance is free and it is child friendly! Since it’s a small museum, don’t expect to spend hours here but it is nice to visit and they organize exhibitions and events regularly. There are playgrounds in the park close to the museum.
Red Cross Museum, United Nations, and Ariana Museum
There are museums on the right bank of Geneva, although some more suitable with older children. There is of course the ‘Palais des Nations’, where the United Nations Office in Geneva is located. Guided tours can be taken here. The most beautiful part of the UN building is the Human Rights Room with its impressive ceiling created by the Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo. To access the Palais des Nations you would need to show identification, so make sure you have that on you.
Then there is the Red Cross Museum, a very interesting museum, but in my opinion with bigger kids. And in between those places is the beautiful building of the Ariana Museum, a museum of ceramics. In the park of the Ariana Museum are some cherry blossom trees which are offered by Japan, so make sure to check that out in spring time.
Science and the Big Bang! CERN is an interesting place to visit for anyone interested in science, although it sometimes is a bit difficult to understand what exactly they do there… The Globe of Science and Innovation can be visited year round and has a permanent exhibition called the Universe of Particles which takes the visitor into the world of particles and the Big Bang.
More information about visiting Cern: https://visit.cern/
Carouge is often referred to as the Italian quarter of Geneva. Colored houses, lots of restaurants, and a street decoration, often with umbrella’s which is quite a hit on Instagram 😊. Carouge has small boutique shops and is a beautiful area for a walk with the kids.
Of course, there is plenty more things to do with kids in Geneva! Check out below articles on Stand up paddling in Geneva, Family Hikes around Geneva, castles to visit, Swiss Food, and day trip suggestions from Geneva!