The best of Geneva for families

Chocolate-making and toy-train building are part of daily life and there pretty public spaces to run wild in. No wonder families with young children love Switzerland’s second city


BY CAROLINE BISHOP
Originally from the UK, Caroline Bishop is the editor of Switzerland’s English language newspaper, The Local.   

 

Top of the shops

You won’t need to try very hard to persuade children to step into Geneva’s Franz Carl Weber toy shop to spend the 50-franc voucher that comes with Mandarin Oriental Geneva’s Family Getaway package – but you may need to drag them out again. The oldest and best-known toy store chain in Switzerland, Franz Carl Weber is stuffed with every toy and game you can think of, from modern classics such as Lego and Playmobil to more traditional handcrafted wooden animals by Swiss company Trauffer. And to inspire young builders to really help bring those toy trains to life, among the many treats of the Family Getaway package is a train tour of Geneva’s Old Town.

Le Carrousel is another noteworthy toy shop, and stocks many products made from natural materials, including wooden puzzles and model kits, knitted teddies and cloth dolls.

From here, head into the pretty Italianate suburb of Carouge, which is brimming with independent boutiques and artisan shops. Here you’ll find high-end children’s clothes at Moi et Toi, model train sets at Rêve de Gosse and a huge array of classic and modern board games at L’Astuce.

Take it outside

Active youngsters will adore the zip wires and treetop rope bridges of the Geneva Adventure Park in Evaux, while animal lovers will marvel at the exotic birds in the small zoo and aviary within the city’s beautiful botanical gardens.

On summer days, the place to be is lakeside pool complex Genève Plage with its huge pools, water-slides and diving boards. Or escape the city and take the kids in the cable car up the nearby Salève mountain for wonderful views and some easy walks. Back in town, Bastions Park is geared up for family fun year-round with its giant chess boards, a children’s play area and an ice-skating rink in winter, plus parents can sit down for coffee at the park’s genuinely charming café-restaurant.

But for the coolest playground in Geneva, head to the distinctive Parc Gustave & Léonard Hentsch in the Charmilles district. “It’s a contemporary play area like no other,” says local blogger Michela Mantani, of genevafamilydiaries.net, “with tubular climbing structures, gleaming steel slides and round swings reminiscent of installation art.”

Museum piece

At separate locations, but run by the same organisation, the Science History Museum and the Natural History Museum are, unsurprisingly, two of the city’s most family-friendly museums. Both have fascinating permanent and temporary exhibitions that kids will love, plus a changing range of interactive events such as workshops, storytelling sessions and even excursions. “For us, it’s not just that children happen to visit with their parents – children are really at the heart of what we do,” says communications manager, Pascal Moeschler. Entry to the permanent displays is free for all, while kids aged under 18 also get in free to the temporary exhibitions.

Elsewhere in the city, Geneva Museum of Ethnography (MEG), runs regular workshops for kids alongside its temporary exhibitions stuffed with fascinating artefacts from around the world. Or take a tram out to Meyrin, on the outskirts of Geneva, to see the Universe of Particles exhibition at the Globe of Science and Innovation, part of famous European research lab CERN. You need to be a bit older than toddler years but budding scientists will be inspired by the atmospheric, interactive exhibition which tells the story of the universe and how scientists are attempting to solve its mysteries with the help of CERN’s groundbreaking particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.

Kids’ menus ­– and beyond

You can’t leave Geneva without picking up some Swiss chocolate to take home with you – should it survive uneaten for that long. Du Rhône and Auer Chocolatier are two of the oldest and most famous chocolate emporiums in the city and won't fail to delight. If you’re travelling in a group, consider booking a visit to the Stettler chocolate factory, which offers children’s chocolate-making workshops on demand.

As for a ‘proper’ dinner, kids will love the novelty of eating fondue. For an authentic Swiss experience, try restaurant Le Gruyérien in Plainpalais, which specialises in the classic cheese dish and is decorated in a traditional Swiss chalet style.

Also, consider the supremely family-friendly is Luigia. The pizzeria’s two Geneva branches not only serve delicious antipasti, pizzas and pasta, they also know how to entertain kids between courses: one branch offers table-football and the other a cinema room. On Sundays, Café Calla at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva hosts a brunch complete with special entertainment for children, so grown-ups can relax and let the hotel do the work.

Ready to relax?

Treat yourself with one of our enticing packages. There’s never been a better time to enjoy Mandarin Oriental, Geneva.

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