“The water taxi was a relief from the busy streets, heat, and people.” – Guy
We decided to venture to Geneva one sunny and very hot Saturday in August. It was my birthday and we had made plans to visit some Swiss friends for lunch in the centre. Still tired from our long trip down to Ain, we were slow to leave the holiday house and didn’t make any firm arrangements, although I had researched (of course) and made a list of some possible activities.
What we did
We drove the fairly short journey from our holiday home in Maillat, taking just under an hour. The drive was incredible – full of the soaring mountains of the Vauche, terrifyingly high viaduct roads, and long tunnels.
Meeting our friends, we had an incredible meal at Luigia. Approaching from the outside, this Italian restaurant looks like a nightclub, but don’t be fooled! Once inside, the ambience changes to light, open, and welcoming. There is a huge selection of food on offer – pizza, pasta, salads, meat, and fish. I went for a Calzone with fior de latte, gorgonzola, salami, and Grana Padano. The children shared a Margherita with salami, and Guy had a Margherita with anchovies. All were cooked fresh in the in-house fired pizza oven, and all were delicious!
After lunch, we hopped back in the car and crossed the lake, whizzing by the horloge fleurie (flower clock). Parking in the ultra-swanky Grand Hotel Kempinski (and taking advantage of its ultra-swanky toilets), we set off to find the mouettes – small ‘water taxis’ that zip across the lake at regular intervals. The children noticed a carousel on the way and so we stopped to indulge them in a quick ride.
The water taxi was incredible, and a hit with everyone! Tickets were only 2 euros per adult (one way) and the boats on the main two lines depart every ten minutes. The kids loved the bench-like seats, and we all benefitted from the welcome breeze while we crossed the lake. There was lots to see on the short journey and we spotted the Jet d’Eau fountain as well as the beach and some beautiful old buildings lining the waterfront.
Once we disembarked, the heat was so oppressive that none of us felt like doing much. We decided to wander along the lakefront in the direction of the Baby-Plage, mainly because the kids know that ‘plage’ means ‘beach’ and were keen to visit! It was about a 20-minute walk with three hot and tired children in tow, but again there were lots of interesting things to see and do along the way. We walked down to the Jet d’Eau (explaining why we could not put our hand in the jet) and got splashed by the fountain, which was glorious!
Among the boat-spotting and sightseeing, we were passed by the Petit Train, a solar-powered vehicle transporting passengers to and from the main tourist sites in Geneva. The children asked for a ride but we felt it was a bit pricey – be warned, this is a recurring theme in Geneva.
Just before Baby-Plage, we came across L’Escale – a pop up arts and music venue with hammocks, a bar, and outdoor games. It was right on the waterfront and had a fantastic view of the marina. The children really enjoyed playing in the hammocks and exploring the giant Connect 4 and chess games. When we finally made it to the Baby-Plage, we were rewarded for our efforts, finding a fantastic adventure play area seemingly constructed from bike tyres. Set under a large canopy of trees, it was a wonderful escape from the heat. The floor was sand so we had no qualms about letting the children try out the various acrobatic equipment and they all had a great time!
We just had time for a quick paddle in the lake, finding a spot on the very busy beach, before heading back the way we came and catching the mouette back to the car park.
What we thought
We all had a wonderful afternoon in Geneva and although our time was limited, I think the heat would have made a longer trip very difficult. It is unusally hot in the region at the moment, and everywhere we go people have commented on how hot it is! Exploring towns and cities with children can be a really great experience, but we have found that it’s important to set realistic expectations and be prepared to change plans based on the kids’ moods.
Our afternoon trip was the perfect length. Geneva is full of incredible museums and galleries, and we barely scratched the surface of this beautiful city, but we all left feeling happy and fulfilled instead of overtired and stressed.
Geneva is a beautiful city and (to me) surprising – the old buildings and setting are stunning, but there is a vibrancy and ease to it that I didn’t expect. It’s clearly set up to encourage socialising and indulging in outdoor activities, particularly during the summer: there are plenty of spots to dive and swim in the lake, sandy beaches, an outdoor theme park, and of course ubiquitous cafes and bars featuring terrasses. I’d like to come back on an adults-only trip to explore it further!
- If you’re driving in from the French side, remember there’s a border. We were surprised when we crossed, both by how close it is to the centre, and that no one checked our passports. Nevertheless, it is a border crossing so it’s advised to have passports ready in case you are stopped.
- You may not need Swiss francs. We had a sudden panic when pulling up to the parking meter outside the restaurant, as we didn’t have any Swiss francs, but luckily everywhere seemed to accept both francs and Euros.
- If you’re an EU citizen, you cannot use your phone plan’s minutes and data while in Geneva. Switzerland is not part of the EU and the telecoms regulation does not apply. Watch out for pricey roaming charges!
- Geneva, and Switzerland can seem expensive if you are visiting from elsewhere in Europe. Bring water – look for public drinking fountains to refill – and a picnic to lower the cost of your day out.