Family Vacations to Geneva, Switzerland

Family Overview - Geneva, Switzerland
One of the tallest fountains in the world and the symbol of Geneva, Jet d'Eau can be spotted throughout the city (Digital Vision)

Geneva Highlights

  • Admire the Jet d'eau, the world's tallest water fountain.
  • Learn about the International Red Cross and how you can help by visiting its museum.
  • Meander through Ariana Park to meet the peacocks and admire the sculpture.
  • Go jump in Lake Geneva for a swim.
  • Ride a ferry to Montreux to explore a splendid, 13th-century castle.

Global organizations, chocolate, and watches are some of the things that come to mind when thinking about Geneva. The city anchors the southwest corner of Lake Geneva at the border between Switzerland and France (the French call the lake Lac Léman). With the Rhône River flowing through, one of the largest lakes in Europe spreading from its shores, and one quarter of the city covered by public parks, Geneva is a beautiful European city.

It is also a city with a formal feel—a result of the dozens of international organizations including the World Health Organization, the International Red Cross, and the United Nations, headquartered here. Don't be put off by the institutional facades. Instead, take advantage of the groups that offer tours, and then discover the family-oriented side of Geneva.

At the Musée International de la Croix Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge (International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum) find out about wartime acts of mercy by Florence Nightingale and others. Discover how the Red Cross helps war prisoners, flood victims, and others in need, always a good motivational message for older children.

On a guided tour of the Palais des Nations, the second largest United Nations home (New York City's is the largest), see the vast 2,000-seat Assembly Room and meander through the garden. Part of Ariana Park, sculptural monuments dot the grounds and peacocks roam freely, mandated by the family who donated the land.

Two of Geneva's symbols are by Lake Geneva's lakefront. The Jet d'eau, one of the world's tallest water fountains, shoots a column of water 459 feet into the air. The flower clock on the Quai du Général-Guisan in the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) reminds the world of Geneva's eminence in the watch industry. The dial consists of more than 6,500 flowers and its second hand, at more than 8.2 feet, is the largest in the world.

Get a view from the lake on a scenic, 40-minute boat tour or take the ferry to Montreux to explore the Château de Chillon, an impressive lakeside castle dating to the 13th century. The castle's dungeon inspired Lord Byron to write the poem "The Prisoner of Chillon."

What good is a lake if you can't swim in it? Little tykes can dangle their toes in the water at Baby Plage (beach) in Quai Gustave-Ador and the whole family can splash in the pool at Genève Plage at Port Noir. Teens may also want to go to Bains des Pâquis, Quai du Mont-Blanc, an historic pier jutting into the lake that's become a popular place to hang out.

The bistro-lined Place du Bourg-de-Four, in the heart of Old Town, is another good people-watching spot. With little kids who tire easily, rest your feet on a 45-minute sightseeing mini-train tour of the Old Town or of the parks and residential areas. But before you board, buy some of that famously rich Swiss chocolate.

Tip: Geneva has a system of free bike rentals. All you need to do is leave a deposit, which you get back upon returning the bike.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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