Three years ago our family moved to Geneva to start a new life as expats, 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. I have come to realize that if it’s a thumbs-up from them, it is pretty much the bee's knees.
Family Activities in Geneva
Geneva's Jet d'Eau is the city’s symbol and can even be seen from the sky as you land. During the warm season, you can get as close as you like to its mighty spray without worrying too much about getting wet. This majestic sight is the world’s tallest fountain, propelling 500 liters of water per second to a height of 130 meters, at a speed of 200 km per hour. A definite must see!
Our favorite destination on a hot summer's day is Genève-Plage. Built in 1933, this is Geneva’s art deco family lido set in a perfect location overlooking Lake Léman. Complete with a giant water slide, Olympic size pool, sand-pit and a wonderful children’s pool (where your little ones can chase the timed water jets), this is pure family heaven. You can also swim in the lake or, if you’re very brave, take a plunge from the 10 meter high diving platform.
The park of Bois de la Bâtie and the Botanical Gardens are the best places to visit if your little tribe loves animals. Here you will find flamingos, deer, goats, wild boars, exotic birds and some great play areas. The merry-go-round in the Botanical Gardens is a retro, Dalí inspired little treat, too.
Geneva can get a bit quiet during the month of August when most residents are away on holiday, but from July 21 to August 14, the city comes back to life with the Fêtes de Genève, a summer festival jam-packed with a great selection of open-air concerts, parades, fireworks and kids’ fairground attractions.
Last but not least, my favorite summer activity in Geneva is the open-air cinema CinéTransat at the Parc de la Perle du Lac. The shows are free of charge and are usually scheduled at nightfall in the lakeside park of La Perle du Lac. Bring your children to cartoon or sing-along night and do not forget your own pic-nic and blankets.
Child-Friendly Bistros and Restaurants in Geneva
For a quick bite to eat, my three little gourmands love to go to the food hall at Globus on Place du Molard where they can each choose what they fancy: Thai food, tapas, sweet or savoury crêpes and ice-cream, of course. It is a shame that they are closed on Sundays. Globus departments stores are also a great place to shop, think of them as the Swiss Harvey Nics.
A very child and baby friendly Thai restaurant is Café Dunia, part of a furniture concept store in the trendy area of Eaux-Vives. The last time we visited it was positively teeming with mums and babies, just the kind of place I love (but they’re closed on Sundays, unfortunately).
Pizzeria Luigia, on the other hand, is always open and it is just a short walk away from Geneva’s Natural History Museum. Luigia is not only a delicious Italian restaurant but a very hip one, too! Families are more than welcome and there is a kids play area with drawing material and a table football machine. J’adore!
For a bit of luxury and relaxation, have lunch at the bar of the hotel La Réserve Genève, where the children can play in the crèche downstairs while you finish your meal and enjoy some dessert.
For Sunday brunch in style, take your little troops to the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux-Vives in the beautiful setting of the park of Eaux-Vives, overlooking the lake. Brunch is served buffet-style for all those impatient, hungry tummies and there is a separate playroom next door where children are looked after by trained staff.
Geneva is pure chocolate heaven: For an afternoon snack, take a pit stop at Chocolats Rohr on Place du Molard, La Bombonniere or Auer Chocolatier on Rue de Rive. Chocolates can be bought individually (they will even wrap you a single one to nibble on as you walk), so there is no excuse not to try it!
Tea Shops, Toy Shops and Boutiques in Geneva
The trendy suburb of Carouge is the best place to go for some serious, inspirational shopping. From the main station, in next to no time you will find yourself spoiled for choice. There are so many trendy boutiques, artist’s workshops and cool bistros. If you are shopping for your little nippers, then Sam and Luna stocks some great Scandinavian brands.
If you are a tea addict, head to luscious Betjeman & Barton. For great design pieces for the home, go to the Style Design shop on rue Ancienne.
One of my favorite shops in Carouge is Autour du Bain, a scrumptious boutique of skin-friendly, parabens-free bath products which are all made in Switzerland (and yes, some contain Swiss chocolate!).
My little ones' favorite shop in Geneva is Franz Carl Weber, a gorgeous toy shop. I love the brilliant wooden toys at Le Carrousel which are all handmade in Switzerland. Their wooden alpine chalet takes pride of place in our living room.
For children clothing and accessories, check out Figue where they stock local Swiss labels (such as ethical brand L'Asticot).
Hotels in Geneva
La Réserve Genève is a luxurious but very child-friendly hotel. Let your kids enjoy the outdoor swimming pool or climb the huge wooden cabin in the hotel gardens.
If you wish to make the most of the hotel spa, the children can be looked after in the toy-filled crèche. This is where we spent our daunting first night as expatriates in Geneva, when our entire life had been packed away into boxes and loaded onto the back of a lorry, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
The Hotel Metropole is just a short walk away from the Jet d’Eau or Geneva’s Old Town, and it offers some great views over Lake Léman. Baby-sitting is available upon request.
More information about visiting Geneva
Check out our Geneva Visitor's Guide if you only have a day or two: