If you think Geneva is an expensive place to visit you are right. The good news is Geneva can be done on a budget (more on how can be found in this post). There are plenty of amazing free attractions that the kids will love. Here are some of our favourite free things to do in Geneva:
Jet d’eau is a jet of water which shoots 140m into the air from the shores of Lake Geneva (AKA Lac Leman). It is Geneva’s most iconic landmark and it’s completely free. You can’t miss it, it is visible from vantage points all over the city. If you are anything like me, you won’t be able to stop taking pictures of it.
If, like us, you are visiting Geneva with children you might find they are not all that excited by looking at a jet of water (no matter how tall it is). What they will find exciting is trying to get as close as possible to it. Be warned, you may get wet.
There is a jetty which goes right up to and past the Jet d’eau. We went right up to the barrier that marks the end of the wooden walkway but you can go further along a concrete walkway. The problem is if the wind changes direction you may find yourself stuck on the wrong side of the water as gravity brings it back down to Earth. This happened to a foolhardy couple while we were watching.
Walking around the lake
From the point where the river Rhone drains the lake in Geneva you can walk along the shore in either direction. Whichever direction you choose you won’t be disappointed. The highlight of the southern shore of Lake Geneva is the Jet d’eau (see above). You will also pass through a boat yard and find some fab parks including the Baby Plage.
The north shore is also lined with fun parks to explore and jetties to explore. A wander down this way will take you past the Musée d’histoire des sciences which has some fabulous interactive exhibits outside. Just beyond the museum is the Conservatoire et Jardin Botanique, another wonderful free place to visit (more below).
Natural History Museum
We were in two minds about whether to visit the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. We love nature and have visited many Natural History museums but we didn’t want to waste our time in Geneva seeing something we could see anywhere. However, the rain came down one afternoon and the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle was nearby so we decided to pay a visit. We were not disappointed.
Switzerland’s largest Natural History museum was beautifully presented with some wonderful exhibits on native and exotic wildlife. The kids loved it. They rushed from one animal to the next in high excitement.
The only small downside was that all the signs were in French only. If you don’t speak a lot of French (or Latin) and you don’t know your wildlife you might be a bit baffled. It’s my specialist subject (zoology, not French which is at best adequate holiday French) so we got by.
We are also big fans of a good Botanical Garden and the good news is that Geneva has one you can visit for free. Geneva Botanical Garden was one of the best we’ve been to and beautifully maintained. We really felt we were exploring the world through plants. They had some great educational exhibits too.
Ted also enjoyed going on the weirdest carousel I have ever seen. I can’t describe just how strange it is so check out the picture above. The carousel was the only experience we paid money during our entire stay in Geneva.
Parks and Gardens
Geneva is not short on free parks. We visited in the Spring so we were greeted everywhere with colourful flowers. Every park had its own personality, here are just a few of our favourites:
- Jardin Anglais – this is the first park you come to on the southern shore of Lake Geneva. It is small and touristy compared to some of the other parks but at the same time it’s varied. If you visit here first it will set the tone for your stay. The flower clock is the biggest draw but we also loved the statues of Geneva and Switzerland, the fountain and the fabulous views of the Jet d’eau and the lake.
- Parc des Bastions – This was a wonderful park to stumble upon. Not just because it had the best playground we encountered. We didn’t think the children (age 1 and 4) would have the patience for a game of chess but we were able to get them to pose for a couple of cute pictures on the giant boards. It is also home to the impressive Reformation Wall and wisteria that has received more Instagram comments than any other plant on my feed.
- Parc de La Grange – We loved this park for its wide open spaces where the kids could burn off some energy and its lovely formal gardens.
- North shore parks – the route along the northern shore of Lake Geneva is lined with a series of small parks. These are a mixture of formal gardens and spaces for children to run and play.
Some free things to do in Geneva that we didn’t visit:
I was extremely tempted to visit CERN on our trip but I decided it would be a hard sell for the kids. The good news is that you can visit when you are in Geneva for free. There is a well reviewed museum and you can even book yourself onto a free tour (children must be 12+).
Geneva Science Museum
If the exhibits you can interact with outside of the museum are anything to go by then this is a great free museum for kids. We will definitely make time for the Musée d’histoire des Sciences next time we visit Geneva.
Are there any more great free places to visit in Geneva with kids? Please let me know what I’ve missed in the comments.