A Day in Geneva, Switzerland
Our 10-day trip by train around Switzerland began in Geneva. Honestly, organizing the trip to Switzerland was completely overwhelming. The country is teeming with amazing train rides, hikes and things to do. Switzerland is also really expensive. In the end I turned to Google Flights. I put in our desired travel dates and booked the cheapest flights available, leaving the details to be filled in.
That is how we ended up flying EasyJet from Amsterdam to Geneva. The base leg and final approach are amazing. We could see the Jet d’Eau the moment we popped out of the clouds. Once we landed we went to wait for our bags and meet up with my mom who joined us on the trip. Unfortunately her bag never arrived (she flew KLM) and we left the airport a bit lighter than expected.
Getting from the airport to the city couldn’t be easier. If you have a Swiss Travel Pass all your trips are already covered starting on the date printed on your ticket. If you’re not on the Swiss Travel Pass simply find the machine before you leave baggage claim, and pull a ticket for 80 minutes free on Geneva public transport. Now follow the group down to the trains headed into the city. Our train had plenty of space for luggage. Trains come frequently so they are not crowded. It takes about 6 min by train to get into the city.
We had just a few block walk to Hotel Central, which really is in a central location to everything we needed in Geneva. They have regular hotel rooms but for our group we booked one of their two bedroom apartments for more space. We were pleasantly surprised to find A/C units in each of the bedrooms guaranteeing a great night’s sleep for the whole group.
We knew this would be a long travel day for my mom (and us) so we made dinner reservations a few blocks away at Les Armures. This restaurant is known for their fondue and we wanted to give it a try. (President Clinton and Secretary Clinton even gave this place a try during his presidency. A bronzed thank-you note on White House stationary is displayed on the exterior of the building.)
We were seated on “the terrace” which in Europe means on the streets in front of the restaurant. The setting could not have been more charming. We could hear buskers playing music in the distance and foot traffic moved through the square but not amongst the tables. The restaurant even had kids high chairs!
Everything we ate was delicious. The fondue with herbs was the clear winner, although the salad and grilled vegetables were also amazing.
Dinner happened to be just a few blocks from a wonderful little playground with stunning views. These rocking horses were the boys’ favorite. They held “races” as they overlooked the city. After the playground we walked back down the hill to our hotel for the night. Jeff popped into a local grocery store for some pastries for the morning while I settled the boys for the night.
We were up bright and early the next morning to explore Geneva on foot before catching a train out of the city. The hotel was happy to let us store our things while we ventured out into the city. It was just a few block walk down to the river. We have a lot of swans in the Netherlands, but they seemed like nothing compared to the flocks congregating on Lake Geneva.
Everywhere we turned there were more swans swimming on the crystal clear lake. While we were admiring the swans we saw one of the local ferry boats approach a nearby dock. Using our Swiss Travel Passes (or alternatively the local transportation passes given by your hotel and paid for with a tax on your room) we boarded the boat.
These short ferry boats are specifically designed to fit under the bridges. They quickly zip you across the lake from one part of town to another. My boys LOVE transportation of any kind, so these boats are exactly the sort of thing we like to include on trips. The boys love riding the boat just for the sake of riding it and the adults get a chance to enjoy the scenery. There is plenty of scenery to be enjoyed in Geneva.
We hopped off the ferry boat and walked down the waterfront a bit just exploring. We opted for no strollers on the trip, instead using a Tula Toddler Carrier for our middle little.
We encountered this amazing sunflower garden in the middle of a street in downtown Geneva. An entire section of the curb has been given over to these sunflowers to create an urban garden. We were not the only people who stopped to enjoy these beauties.
Curiosity, more than anything else led us over the bridge to Bains des Paquis Geneva. These baths are open to the public and starting at 9:30am there is a charge to enter. We were passing through well before 9:30 so we popped in to enjoy the beach. The boys played in the smooth gravel while early morning swimmers completed their laps.
We took our time walking out to the end of the man-made peninsula to check out the lighthouse. The water is so crystal clear you can see to the bottom. The rocks lining the jetty are flat and designed for sunbathing, making them perfect for the boys to scramble over with dad. I should have grabbed a coffee at the cafe there, but was too busy enjoying the views.
The beach is an amazing way to view the Jet d’Eau. We had stunning views across the lake of this 140 meter tall jet of water. You can actually walk on another jetty out to the fountain, but we didn’t want to risk getting the kids soaked. Instead we enjoyed our views from across the lake.
We walked back to the ferry terminal and hopped on a different ferry back to the other side of Lake Geneva. This ride took us through the splash zone of the fountain.
We were greeted by more swans on the other end of the lake. There was also a great little restaurant on a boat that looked to be doing wonderful breakfast business.
We headed away from the water and into the park where the boys insisted on touching every fountain they could find. It was already growing hot, so the cool water felt amazing. The wind was blowing the water just enough to create a light mist that felt amazing.
We couldn’t leave Geneva without visiting the flower clock. It was created in 1955 to commemorate Geneva’s role in the tradition of high-end watchmaking. It looks different all year long as different flowers bloom to make its face. The Geneva Ferris Wheel is just a block further, we didn’t check it out but it gets great reviews.
The Little Little was sleeping at this point so Jeff took the Big and Middle littles to a carousel we had seen set up in a plaza just a few blocks away. My mom and I hit some reliable and cheap stores to replace her lost luggage until the airline could locate her bag. An hour later we met up back at our hotel to retrieve our bags.
We walked back to the main train station where we picked up sandwiches from one of the many shops in the station. There is even a full grocery story where we bought some water, fruit and chips to supplement our lunch. We then easily boarded our local train to Montreux. We found plenty of space to store our luggage between the seats and enjoyed the quick hour ride down the lake.
One last thing I want to share is a webpage I found really helpful when looking for things to do in Geneva with kids, Geneva Family Diaries. It is designed for Expat families in Geneva but is a great resource for finding playgrounds and other family-friendly activities.