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 the summer with two kids and granny in tow, I was keen to show them some of my favourite places to visit in Geneva. I wanted to show them the charms of the old town, the magnificent Jet d’eau and the baby plage.
There are so many things to do in Geneva with kids, which makes narrowing it down hard, but the following is my perfect itinerary for a brilliant day out this beautiful city:
Guest post and photos by Philippa Langrish
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.
Things to do with kids in Geneva
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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.
Our one day tour of Geneva included some of the most family-friendly sights:
- Parc des Bastions
- Lunch in the old town
- Lac Leman
- Baby Plage
- Le Jardin Anglais
Parc des Bastions
Start your day in Geneva at Le Parc des Bastions. This 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. As we had my young children with me, we sat outside so that the 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.
Also known as Lake Geneva, the view over the lake from here is spectacular. My two children love 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 walking along the lake for 15 minutes ending up at Baby Plage, which is a quaint little manmade beach with an ingenious make-shift playground, made entirely from old tyres and ropes.
This is one of my favourite activities in Geneva and kids will love swimming 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.
Other things to do in Geneva with kids
If you have longer in Geneva then some of the other popular things to do with kids include:
- The Museum of Natural History
- Genève-Plage – a park on the banks of Lake Geneva with a swimming pool
- The Flower Clock – an outdoor flower clock created with more than 6,000 flowering plants that changes seasonally
- Geneva Botanical Gardens