The Perfect Day in Geneva
When I lived in Geneva as a newlywed, I imagined it would be a dreamy place to raise a family. So when we returned to our familiar pristine patch of Switzerland in summer 2016 with two kids and granny in tow, I was keen to show them some of my favourite places to visit in Geneva; the charms of the old town, the magnificent Jet d’eau and the baby plage. There are so many things to do in Geneva, which makes narrowing it down hard, but the following is my perfect itinerary for a walking day tour in this beautiful city:
Where to Start & Park
If you are unfamiliar with Geneva parking can be a bit of a nightmare since there is practically zero street parking for non-residents. Residents receive a parking permit called a macaron which typically allows them to park for 90mins. Therefore my advice is look for an underground public carpark. If you are arriving by car head to Planpalais underground carpark, which you can access from any side of Planpalais, (a large tarmac area where they have the famous weekend flea market). Once parked, use the Parc des Bastions or Old Town exit and head to the main Parc des Bastions gate at Place Neuve.
Parc des Bastions
Parc des Bastions is a wonderful park adorned with a huge wall of Calvinist statues on one side (those sombre figures who reformed large parts of Europe driving out the Catholics) and the old public library and University building on the other side.
The park is beautifully landscaped with ancient trees providing shade, traditional drinking fountains, grassy lawns for the kids to bound over and inter-linking little pathways. There is the most wonderful children’s play park complete with sand-box, nearby café, oversized chess boards and table tennis. The park has a mellow air with people lying reading on the grass, balancing on slack lines balanced between trees, and musicians strumming melodies to while away the time. There are often cultural events in the summer here too.
Palais de Justice
After a brilliant time in the park we made our way past the Calvinist statues to the far gate which led us to the old town. When you exit the gate turn left and the road winds up to the ancient part of Geneva. There is little traffic here making it a perfect stroll for the kids. After just a few minutes we arrived at a quaint little square opposite the Palais de Justice. We lunched here at “Chez ma Cousine, On y mange de Poulet”. This simple restaurant which only serves chicken, chips and salad is a popular amongst locals. We sat outside so that our two-year-old could have a scamper about on the quiet pavement after he had finished eating.
If you follow the road it will lead you through the magical ancient architecture of the Vieux Ville down to the busy Rue de Rhone which is home to many luxury brands. You need not linger here (although the rather marvellous toyshop Franz Carl Weber is situated on the corner and is worth a look). Simply cross the main road and head to the waterfront where Lac Leman is waiting to greet you.
The view over the lake is spectacular. Gillan and Maya loved watching the Jet d’Eau shooting up into the sky. We picked a sunny day, so the promenade along the lake was speckled with street performers and a man blowing giant bubbles from a lasso. There is a big summer festival stage here at the beginning of August for 10 days where the children can enjoy authentic street food, fairground rides and performances.
After a full morning of walking we stopped at a little ice cream and coffee shop perched on the lake for a delicious scoop or three! Hurrah! My kids will walk practically any distance so long as there is ice cream waiting at the end.
We continued along the lake for 15 minutes ending up at Baby Plage, which is a quaint little man made beach with an ingenious make-shift playground, made entirely from old tyres and ropes. This is one of my favourite activities in Geneva where kids swing from the trees on rubber tyres over-looking the lake. Baby Plage is also a popular place to cool off with a little dip in the fresh shallow waters.
We slowly made our way back along the promenade, dawdling through Le Jardin Anglais, where the kids stopped to admire L’horloge Fleurie (a clock made of flowers), chase each other through the open pavilions and play next to the stunning bronze fountain.
A Full Day Tour
This walking tour of Geneva took us most of the day (we move pretty slowly with a two-year-old) but I made sure that it included some of my favourite city sights. However, if you have time to spare and would like to see more, then I would highly recommend jumping on a tram to Carouge, a Mediterranean style hamlet. Located about five stops from Planpalais, this town is filled with shady terraces, cafes spilling onto the streets, antique shops, secret alleys and passageways, and offers a little reverie away from the city.
Getting to Planpalais
By Train: If you are arriving by train take the line 3 bus to planpalais.
By Air: If you are arriving by or plane take the number 10 or 19 bus line
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