This post is part of a series about the top 5 kid friendly activities in several cities around the world. The series highlights not just child centred entertainment options but sights and elements of cities the whole family can enjoy, without renouncing sightseeing. These are our top 5 kid friendly activities in Geneva, Switzerland.
The other day I shared an itinerary for a day in Geneva with kids, but the city has a lot more to offer than what can be covered in an afternoon. I have been to Geneva many times and each trip makes me discover new attractions and parts of town that are both child friendly and interesting for adults: a win-win combination!
Top 5 kid friendly activities in Geneva
Visit to the UN headquarters and the broken Chair Monument
If you take the bus from Geneva airport into the city centre, the first part of town you pass is the UN area, where many international organisations (and big businesses) have their European headquarters. I have always been fascinated by International institutions and while I can see their shortcomings, I love what they stand for and I am very keen in making my kids aware of the problems of this world but also the many efforts made to make it a better place.
In Geneva, there are two ways this can be done: a guided tour of the institution themselves (suitable for older kids) and a visit to the nearby broken Chair monument (suitable for all ages, depending on how explained it)
The ‘broken chair’ monument was erected in 1997 by artist Daniel Berset at the request of Handicap International. It is 12 metres high and it is very impressive for both its size and meaning.
The monument stands on 3 legs, its fourth visibly damaged, and commemorates the victims of landmines around the world and raises awareness about this awful practice.
The plague of landmines is a theme close to my heart and one I want my kids to be aware of: talking to children about the practice is not easy but I confide in their intelligence and I believe that, with an age-appropriate explanation, they can engage with war and its consequences from a very young age. The first topic of this kind I addressed with my kids was the current refugee crisis and you can find how I went about it and useful resources in my post ‘how to tell your kids about the refugee crisis and make a difference‘.
Admire the lake and the Jet d’Eau
Geneva lies on the shores of beautiful Lac Leman and a stroll along its shores is a must no matter what time of the year you are in town. The lake is home to Geneva’s symbol and something the kids adored: the jet d’eau, a tall fountain of water.
The jet d’eau is a water feature 140 metres tall: I only recently learned that it was originally built to regulate the pressure in Geneva’s pipe system but became quickly so popular with the locals that they not only kept it but made it into the symbol of the city. My kids loved it: the ‘jet’ only runs when weather allows and you can never take it for granted. This made for great excitement and ‘I spy’ games and my son was in awe of the fact that is is a record-breaking attraction: the jet is the tallest fountain in Europe.
Stroll around Geneva Old town
The history of Geneva dates back to Roman times, but it is the Middle ages that left the biggest mark on the city’s old town architecture. The old part of town, on the left bank of the lake, is a maze of cobbled medieval streets and a pleasure to discover on foot. The top attractions for kids in this part of town are the small, independent shops, the fantastic Parc des bastions (which has a wall with massive carvings of the main reformers that shaped geneva’s religious beliefs) and some interesting sights including the Old Arsenal and Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva now hosting, among other things, an impressive 3D map of the city as it used to be in the 19th century.
The top attractions for kids in this part of town are the small, independent shops, the fantastic Parc des Bastions (which has a wall with massive carvings of the main reformers that shaped Geneva’s religious beliefs) and some interesting sights including the Old Arsenal and Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva now hosting, among other things, an impressive 3D map of the city as it used to be in the 19th century.
A curiosity your kids might enjoy: a big part of Frankenstein’s story is set in Geneva. Mary Shelley, the author, spent some time in Geneva during a trip to Europe she took in 1818 and here is where she came up with the idea for her book. Geneva commemorates this fact with a zombie statue in the area called Plainpalais, excellent for kids not just for the monsters connection but also for hosting skating rings and rollercoaster rides.
Play in Geneva’s many parks
The mark of a child-friendly city is, I believe, an abundance of green spaces and Geneva has a generous amount. In the old town, the most impressive is Parc Des Bastions, but you have some gorgeous green spaces also along the lake, namely the Jardin Anglais and the Parc des Eaux vives.
Top tip for families visiting Geneva with kids: the left bank of the lake is a kids paradise stretching from the Jardin Anglais all the way up to the Parc des Eaux Vives, a few minutes walk up the road. Along this stretch, you will find Geneva’s marina, with boats and ducks, the children’s beach (baby plage), a vintage merry go round and many ice cream sellers. You can read more in detail about our itinerary in this area here.
Explore Geneva’s surroundings
Last but not least, Geneva’s surroundings are also likely to be a hit with your kids. The city is well connected with the surrounding countryside and with a short train ride it is possible to reach many beautiful locations along the lake or on the mountains.
An easy excursion from the city is a visit to the top of the Saleve, the mountain overlooking the city. Only 20 km from the city centre, the summit can be reached by car or cable car and offers incredible views over the city and surrounding areas.
Near Geneva, there are also many gorgeous smaller villages that are worth a visit, including the one we visited our last time there: Nyon. Last but note least, Geneva is connected with good and efficient trains to the rest of Switzerland and you can easily visit from here other cantons and beautiful towns such as gorgeous Lucerne and Alpine paradise Zermatt
Do you like city breaks with kids? Follow my board on Pinterest for more ideas and destinations for the whole family