Old City -
The old city on the hill above Lake Geneva dates back to Roman times (there are Roman ruins underneath the cathedral of Saint-Pierre), Julius Caesar himself helped found the city. Jean Calvin, a leader of the Protestant Reformation, lived in Geneva, and preached in a church in this part of town. The old city is largely pedestrian, and kids will have fun climbing up the hill, exploring squares and narrow cobbled streets, and stopping into the cafes for hot chocolate).
Here's our favorite walk through the old city:
From Place de Neuve, walk up the Rampe de la Treille, on the right is a terrace, with a long wooden bench, children's play place with toddler swings, bouncy horses, and picnic tables.
Turn left at Rue Henri Fazy and walk down to cobblestone street to Rue de l'Hotel de Ville.
In the covered arcade, the old Arsenal
, are five 17th and 18th century cannons and mosaics showing events in Geneva's history - Julius Caesar coming to Geneva, a fair in the Middle Ages, and religious refugees.
Continue down Rue du Puits St. Pierre, to the Maison Tavel.
- Step into the home of the Tavel family, who lived here in the 12th century, and the oldest house in Geneva. On the top floor is a detailed model of Geneva in 1840 - it's easy to see the extensive star-shaped fortifications that guarded the old city. Rooms on the lower floors have traditional furnishings. The museum is free.
Turn right into the large plaza in front of the Cathedrale St. Pierre.
- The cathedral of Saint Peter has lovely stained glass windows in the Macabees Chapel, wooden chair of John Calvin, and a beautifully carved wooden 16th century choir stall.
Climb up the north and south towers of the church. On the way up to top of the south tower you'll see the cathedral bells. Make your way over to the north tower (through a maze of wooden beams), for panoramic views of the old city below, Lake Geneva and the Jet d'Eau in the distance.
From the cathedral, there are two routes out of the old city:
Walk around the back side of the cathedral to Terrasse d' Aubigne, go down the stairs at the left (you'll see two mosaics, symbolizing the Rhone and Arve Rivers), coming out at the Place de Madeleine. Place de Madeleine has a lovely carousel, younger kids will enjoy a ride.
Or, from Maison Tavel, walk down Rue du Puits St. Pierre to the fountain, turn left at Rue Jean Calvin, walk down to Rue de la Pelisserie, go down the stairs to Rue de La Rotisserie.
Parc des Bastions - Near the Place de Neuve entrance to the park is a small playground with swings, slide and bouncy things. Next to playground is café for snacks, and big size checkers and chess sets on the ground.
Patek Philippe Museum - Step into 500 years of Swiss watchmaking as miniature works of art. After seeing watches shaped like lutes, shoes, hats, strawberries, globes, pistols, butterflies, caterpillar, books, watches encrusted with pearls and diamonds, watches with birds that sing inside a gilded cage, watches adorned with tiny enamel portraits of European nobility, kids will have an entirely different appreciation for keeping time. Museum is open Tuesday - Friday in the afternoons, all day Saturday. Tip: This museum is best for older kids.