Geneva with kids: what to do + one day itinerary

Geneva with kids cover photo: view over lac leman

What to do in Geneva with kids? What are the best things to do in Geneva with kids and what is the best way to visit Geneva with children? This post shares our family-friendly itinerary for this beautiful and kid-friendly city. 

Why going to Geneva with family

The weekend just gone has been highly unusual for our family.

My husband was away so the kids and I decided to plan a little adventure.

Alone, the three of us jetted off to Geneva, Switzerland!

I chose Geneva for many reasons.

Geneva is in a beautiful position on Lac Leman and is, therefore, ideal as a base for easy excursions and day trips.

Our family guide to the best things to do in Geneva with kids in one day. In the photo: binoculars looking towards the lake
Geneva is a wonderful city to visit with kids. Beautiful, safe and well organized, it is one of our kids’ favorite destinations and this is what they love most about it

The second is that is an easy and safe city.

Public transport is easy to negotiate, it is efficient and well organized, something important when alone with two kids. Last but not least, it is beautiful and promised entertainment come rain or shine!

I had traveled alone with the kids before, usually to go to Rome to visit my parents, but this was the first time I had ever brought them on a ‘real’ holiday abroad and I had some last-minute doubts about it.

The weather forecast, promising when we booked our tickets, was foreseeing incessant rain and cold weather for our entire weekend and I found that disheartening.

We are used to rain.

Here in Dublin is just a normal state of affairs, but the confidence I had felt about entertaining the kids abroad in the sun deserted me when picturing me and them in a city I don’t know much about and in wet conditions.

The moment you have non-refundable flights booked is not the time to have such doubts and so I cheered myself up and ‘Plan B-  what to do in Geneva with kids when it rains’ in hand, I got the kids in their rain jackets and packed us up in a taxi to the airport!

My ‘whatever the weather attitude’ paid off.

Geneva repaid me welcoming us to a beautiful, sunny, summer day and pulled all the stops to show us how beautiful and family-friendly a city it is.

While we missed dad, we had a wonderful weekend: Geneva is a city break with kids I highly recommend.

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What to do in Geneva with kids: sunny day itinerary (Plan A)

We got to Geneva dressed for the winter, but as soon as we got to the city center, I realized my mistake: the sun was shining and the temperature was so mild that the kids wasted no time in getting undressed!

In the space of a few seconds, they were in their t-shirts, while I was not only roasting in my jumper and raincoat but also had my arms full of all their winter layers!

I was never as happy as in that moment to be a light packer.

My backpack was light enough and empty enough to contain all these extra bits and so, hands-free, and just a little bit heavier, we headed into town.

Update! After many trips to Geneva, we now have our packing down to a fine art! Find here >>> my complete packing list for Geneva in all seasons.

geneva's water fountain as seen from the South side of the lake, with red, foldable chairs in front, for locals and passers by to sit and admire the lake. The water fountain was on of the highlights of my Geneva with kids adventure
Geneva’s jet d’eau, the big water fountains now symbol of the city.

What to do with kids in Geneva? Head to the lake!

The most striking feature of the city of Geneva is its geographic location: the city is built along the banks of Lac Leman and is surrounded by the beautiful peaks of the Swiss and French Alps. 

On a sunny day, the lake shines under the bright sky and acts as a magnet for locals and tourists alike.

Plan A in action, I ditched the foreseen stop home to leave the bags and headed straight for the lakefront!

The easiest way to reach the lake from the airport is to catch the train connecting the Geneva airport to Cornavin station, the main train station in town.

Before you leave the air terminal you can get a free ‘visit Geneva’ ticket, valid 1.30h and in 7 Swiss minutes, you are into town.

Need to know! If you forget, there is no re-entry: make sure you grab your free ticket before you leave the arrival hall!

From the station, you can then walk to the lake following Rue des Alpes or Rue de Mon Blanc which will bring you to the lake shores in a matter of minutes.

My son looking towards Geneva Lake, with a yellow and red water taxi passing by
Matti loved the lakes and thought it was the biggest he had even seen!

The lake is one of my favorite features about the city and the one I had gotten the kids excited about and the reaction they had when they first saw it was exactly what I had hoped for.

‘Oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ greeted the lake and its many vessels (what is with kids and means of transport?) and my son declared that it was ‘the biggest lake he had ever seen’ and, therefore, the best.

I pondered if I should correct him and remind him that he saw Lake Ontario, but alone and outnumbered I thought it wiser to let this go and let him bask in his record-setting moment.

After admiring the many boats from the shore I deemed the weather good enough for a little excursion on the lake itself. 

I had read that Geneva’s public transport system includes some water taxis (they are called mouettes) that criss-cross the lake at regular times and following predetermined itineraries and so I headed to the nearby stop, ‘Paquis’.

Here, three mouettes were docked and we took one that promised to bring us close to Geneva’s symbol, the big fountain of water towering over the lake (the jet d’eau)!

The boat ride was a hit: the mouettes are covered, but they have no windows and you sit very close to water level, getting the breeze in your face as you speed across the lake.

I thought it was a fabulous way to get around and the kids adored it: in less than ten minutes, we were on the opposite shore of the lake, admiring Geneva’s right bank from afar and beside the water fountains, that started working just as we arrived.

The jet d’eau is the world’s tallest water fountain and originally regulated the water pressure in the city’s pipes.

Due to its impressive nature, however, it soon became a symbol of the city and the inhabitants are very fond of it.

I love the jet d’eau: in its simplicity, I find it beautiful and strangely comforting, a presence you look out for and you feel thankful for whenever you spot it.

If the wind is too strong or the weather doesn’t allow it to run safely, the jet stops and you never take it for granted!

Geneva’s left bank

The left side of Geneva is the part of town with the older quarters and, I believe, the most pleasant with kids.

Unlike the north side, where the station and alternative quarters are, Geneva’s left side is full of parks and medieval streets and a  real pleasure to wander through.

This is the area of town with the highest concentration of family-friendly attractions and here is where you will find many of the best things to do with kids in Geneva.

Beautiful house in Geneva.
Geneva’ beautiful South Side. Geneva’s architecture is strongly reminiscent of some Parisian corners, with elaborate facades and black roofs

The Jardin Anglais

Along the lake, just at the end of the bridge, you find the beautiful Jardin Anglais.

This is a beautiful garden just on the shores of the lake with a few attractions: a lovely cafe brings here a stylish after-work crowd and street performers act as a magnet for families with kids.

I was really surprised by the number of families around.

I had always thought of Geneva as a city attracting mostly a young international crowd with temporary contracts at the UN, but the many young families proved me wrong.

The number of prams, kids’ activities, and facilities for families is impressive and the city that caters to its younger ones really well.

The Jardin Anglais is also where Geneva’s famous flower clock is.

The whole of Switzerland is famous for their watches and watchmaking skills so I took this clock as a beautiful way to showcase their ability: the clock is made of flowers and, of course, marks the time with Swiss precision!

My kids loved the flower clock and fount it hilarious that it worked! This is a stop I recommend if spending one day in Geneva with kids
The flower clock

Geneva’s little train

Here is also where the Little Train of Geneva has its main station.

I read about this little train online and I knew straight away it would be a hit with my kids.

It has the shape of a typical tourist train but there is something special about it: it only uses solar power to go and it is, therefore, a very green transport option!

The train chugs very slowly along the lake’s rive gauche and in about 20 minutes connects the Jardin Anglais with the parc des l’eaux vives, a big park farther up the lake.

It is not a long stretch and an adult can easily walk this distance in a few minutes, but it is a really fun ride for the kids and a way to spend part of the afternoon having them contained and entertained.

We got on at its main station and used our return ticket to decide where to stop: a place that really appealed to us was the baby plage, the children’s beach, so on our way back this is where we got off.

The little train is also a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the UN headquarters.

They are on the opposite side of the lake and therefore not easy to visit if you only have one day, but the good PA train system points them out to you, explaining what each building hosts.

The little train of Geneva,  perfect if you are visiting the city with kids and want to spend the afternoon along the lake shores
The little train of Geneva takes you along the lake on a slow but pleasurable ride lasting 35 minutes

The baby plage, the children’s beach

The baby plage is a stretch of sandy coast, equipped to welcome babies and young children.

Water buoys separate the part of the lake that is safe for kids from the open waters, where boats and water sports are practiced and the beach is equipped with a lawn, a sandy area and an unusual but beautiful set of climbing equipment build under a massive shady tree.

My kids were in heaven: I dropped my bag near one of the benches and let them roam between the beach and the frames.

The beach is perfect for young kids and a favorite outing of local playschools.

We shared the space with a small class of kids around 5 years of age and younger, and they all had a ball: swings, climbing frames, a high rope bridge connecting two big tree branches – it’s a mix between a playground and an adventure trail for little explorers and excellent also for parents because secluded and easy to patrol.

Stroller and small child on the beach in Geneva, Switzerland
The baby plage really is for babies and young kids, thanks to its secluded waters and sandy beach
Swing set for kids on the shore of Lake Geneva
The playground at the baby plage is perfect for little explorers and sheltered from the sun by a big leafy tree

The merry-go-round

The little train follows a specific timetable which unfortunately did not match ou plans, so we decided to go back on foot.

My daughter does not love to walk but the distance proved manageable – an ice cream bought just before departing and a stop at the vintage merry go round helped the short trek!

My kids on  the vintage merry go round with horses and carriages on the lakeshore
For 5 francs the two kids got a ride on the vintage merry go round

Geneva old town

After an early start and such a long walk, we were ready to head to our home for the night.

I had hoped to be able to visit the old town, sitting just between the Jardin Anglais and where we were staying, but the kids were too tired for an extra walk and we had to let it go.

If you are staying in Geneva for a full day, rather than an afternoon like we did, make sure you take the time to visit.

The old town is really pretty and interesting and there are loads to keep the kids entertained including the reformation wall in Parc des Bastions, the big cathedral and a fantastic and free museum of the history of the city with a reconstruction of old Geneva worth seeing (I was in Geneva before and took notes for when I would be back with the kids!).

Good to know! In December, Parc des Bastions holds a lovely Christmas market. If you are thinking of going to Geneva in winter, it is definitely a good place to check out!

What to do in Geneva with kids when it rains (Plan B)

Expecting incessant rain I had made a detailed plan about what to do with the kids in case the lake and parks were not accessible and came up with some alternative activities.

Please note: unlike the rest of this post, this plan is drafted on the basis of research on the web and advice from friends rather than personal experience.

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Mamco) is very family-friendly and also offers tours that are specifically for families (on Sunday morning the family tours are offered in English as well).  Official site here

The Natural History Museum: Another family-friendly museum, devoted to the discovery of animal species, earth sciences and the history of men.

Many installations and reconstructions of different environments are designed with kids in mind, to give them a sense of what life around the planet and at different times must be like.

The main emphasis is placed on local species of animals and plants but you have life-size specimens from all over the world including alligators and bears!  Info, in French, here

The oldest house in Geneva, Maison Tavel: this is a museum I have visited during a previous trip to Geneva and one I thought the kids would love.

It is the oldest house in town and it is perfect to get a glimpse of life in a different time.

It develops over several floors, it is free and it contains, among other things, a 3D map of Geneva that shows what the city would have been in 1850 when still surrounded by its impressive fortifications.

It is close to the main Geneva cathedral, also a beautiful building with an interesting history linked with the reformation, an important aspect of swiss culture and history

Things to do in Geneva with children: summary

  • Get close to the water and head to the baby plage for a playground with a view, a sure hit with children and parents alike
  • Stroll around Geneva’s medieval streets, and make the most of the old town hopping on the kid-friendly Geneva Old Town tourist train
  • Explore Geneva’s beautiful museums
  • Spend time at the park
  • Treat your kids to Swiss chocolate
  • Have a budget-friendly family meal at Chez Ma Cuisine – relaxes city center restaurant serving delicious and well priced chicken

Useful info –  Geneva for children

Transport in Geneva

Geneva has a fantastic public transport system, efficient and family-friendly.

Kids under 6 are free and adult tickets can be bought at bus tops with change or credit/debit cards (widely accepted).

Buses have small steps and while they didn’t seem to recline entirely, they were easily managed by the may buggies around and even in rush hour we always managed to get a seat – not something I am used to in Dublin or, even less, in my beloved hometown of Rome!

If you are staying more than one day, consider getting the geneva card for a good discount on transport and attractions.

Top tip! before you leave Geneva’s airport arrival lounge, grab your free train ticket into town. You find the machine at luggage collection.

Where to eat in Geneva with kids: food options

Geneva will spoil you with food choices but be warned: prices are steep.

We had eaten on the plane so we only stopped for a burger on the main street (McDonald’s) but I looked at the price on the menus of several restaurants and mains would easily set you back 25 to 30 euro.

The good thing is that many restaurants seemed to cater for kids with kids’ menus and /or smaller portions available.

A good address I always find reliable is Le Pain Quotidien and a friend also recommended a place in the old town called the spaghetti factory and an R de Famille.

Our recommendation >>> On our second trip to Geneva, we discovered an excellent family-friendly restaurant: Chez ma Cousin.

Located in the old town, it serves amazing roast chicken and potatoes as well as additional kid-friendly options, it is cozy and well priced.  

Where to stay in Geneva with kids: accommodation

If your budget allows, a fantastic family-friendly hotel right in the heart of Geneva is Hotel D’Angleterre.

This is one of the many luxury hotels in Geneva and has special touches such as a welcome gift for little guests, child-size bathrobes, a Nintendo Wii console, kids menus for kids aged up to 6 years old and interconnecting rooms.

Another fantastic family hotel for when the budget is not an issue is The Hamlet while more budget-friendly options are NH City Hotel Geneva and Bernina Hotel, close to the station

If you prefer to stay outside of the city centre, I recommend a residential area on the South Side of Geneva, just beside parc Alfred Bertrand.

This area has many advantages including easy connection to the train station and the city center, the possibility to walk to the lake crossing the old town (if with older kids), a fabulous park with a playground nearby and a full array of shops and local restaurants that offer eat in and take out/delivery options.

I hope you enjoyed this quick account of our trip to Geneva with kids and it helped you plan your own. Safe travels!

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17 thoughts on “Geneva with kids: what to do + one day itinerary

  1. Cathy (MummyTravels) says:

    I love the idea of having a sunny day and rainy day plan, but I’m very glad you got to stick with Plan A – and really glad that you went ahead and did it anyway. I think sometimes it’s the fear of what if that puts us off and making that leap gives the confidence to keep exploring (admittedly, I just have one!). It sounds like you had a fantastic time and Geneva for less than a day is definitely impressive! Thanks for linking up to #citytripping

  2. Voyager says:

    Geneva as indeed entire Switzerland is so beautiful, that one easily falls in love with the country. Missed Geneva on a couple of times we have been to Switzerland, hope to get there soon. I have seen the towns and cities of Switzerland are very kid friendly .

    • Marta - Learningescapes says:

      It really is a beautiful country: I love the mountains and how cities seem to be so intertwined with the nature around. I only know Geneva and I remember visiting Zurich pre-kids: I hope I can see other parts of the country soon

  3. Mommy Eve says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m planning to visit Switzerland in Oct! I have read that you have been to Rome with your kids! I’m going to Rome in Aug!!
    Will save your blogpost for reference when I start planning my Switzerland trip. ❤️ #citytripping

    – Mommy Eve @twentysixoctober

    • Marta - Learningescapes says:

      Oh nice!!! Yes, I have been to Rome with the kids a few times (my parents live there), I hope my post can help planning! And great about Switzerland: I only really know Geneva and Zurich but they are both really beautiful and easy to visit 🙂

  4. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says:

    Some really helpful information here! We regularly go through Geneva airport but rarely look around the city. You have given me some ideas to try out. I love the little train and Lake Geneva is a fabulous place to hang out. Like the sunny and rainy day ideas Thanks for sharing your itinerary on #citytripping

  5. Christina Wagar says:

    I really enjoyed visiting Geneva pre-kids. I didn’t realize how kid friendly it was until I read your post. I love Merry-Go-Rounds, especially vintage ones with all the fantastic detailing. Also, I like how you gave rainy days ideas as well!

    • Marta - Learningescapes says:

      The merry go round was the best! It is similar to one we saw in Florence last year, but this came with the view of the lake: even better! The city overall is lovely: I can imagine life there can be very pleasant for families with children

  6. Ferna says:

    Geneva is the first place I heard of from my doctor guests 2 years ago and I also saw photos from their camera, it’s just really stunning. And this one will really give a good insights for us reader on how we could travel with kids to Geneva. Amazing read.

  7. Lauren Bishop says:

    You are so ambitious and incredible taking a one day trip to another country with kids!! I’m seriously impressed. It looks like you had a fantastic time. I would love to visit and ride one of those little water taxis. #citytripping

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