Three years ago our family moved to Geneva to start a new life as ex-pats, armed with plenty of enthusiasm and a rather wobbly knowledge of French. Nestled between white mountain peaks and a crystal clear lake, Geneva is a city for all seasons with many attractions for the pint-sized traveler.
Here are our family recommendations about things to do and places to eat, vetted by my three little ones because I have come to realize that if it’s a thumbs-up from them, then it is pretty much the bee’s knees.
The historical Escalade Celebration (11th-12th December) celebrates the defeat of the French Savoyards in 1602 thanks to the promptness of Mrs Mère Royaume, who heard them outside her window at night and poured boiling hot soup over their heads thus alerting the sleeping Genevans.
Your budding knights and princesses will love this festival where children get dressed up and walk around the streets of the Old City asking for treats. The celebration ends on Sunday evening with a torchlight procession through the streets of the Old Town and a big bonfire in the Cathedral square.
The Natural History Museum is our favourite destination on rainy winter days. This is the largest natural history museum in Switzerland and on Sunday afternoons, it is packed with little explorers on the hunt for dinosaurs and stuffed wild animals, birds, fish and scary reptiles.
The MAMCO is Geneva’s Museum of Modern Art, and on the first Sunday of every month, they organise interactive guided tours for families with children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. There’s nowhere more hip in Geneva than this converted 1950’s factory, and your little ones will no doubt enjoy it.
If it’s a cold, rainy weekend and our three cheeky monkeys need to burn off some energy, we normally head to Yatouland, a fantastic indoor play centre with bouncy castles, trampolines and a dedicated play-area for babies. If you have older children or teenagers, then right next door to Yatouland you will find Gotcha, a paintball and laser games centre.
Geneva is also home to the CERN Microcosm, CERN’s interactive science centre where you’ll be able to explore the mysteries of the universe and have fun with physics. Every Saturday at 3 PM, they hold a special “drôle de physique” activity for children where they can taste liquid nitrogen ice-cream and learn all about cosmic rays, antiprotons, quarks and gluons!
No winter visit to Geneva would be complete without a bit of fun in the snow, so don’t forget to pack your hat and gloves! Sledging and skiing are within easy reach in St-Cergue – La Dôle, a resort with 35 kilometers of pistes and a great slope for sledging.
The pistes are best suited for beginner skiers and snowboarders, but there are also cross-country ski trails. From Geneva Station, take a train to Nyon and from there the train to St. Cergue.