You may not think of Geneva as a fabulous place to spend time museum-hopping, but this vibrant city has a plethora of museums to choose from. Whether you are searching for a way to spend a rainy afternoon or you have a love of history, art, and culture, you will find some of the best museums in Geneva.
From the Natural History Museum to the International Red Cross and Red Cresent Museum and everything in between, there a plenty of fun, interesting, unique, and somewhat odd things to find in the best museums in Geneva. Make a list, plan your day or weekend, and head out for adventure and just a touch of learning when you stroll through the different attractions.
Drop your bags at a Bounce storage locker in Geneva before you go as most museums do not allow large bags inside (whether it's backpacks or shopping items) and do not necessarily have bag checks. You want to be able to enjoy your day without any hiccups. Grab your kids, your friends, or your significant other, and check out some of these amazing places.
You can easily go on a world tour without ever leaving Geneva when you visit the major museums and view the permanent collections. An impressive collection of the city's history is a great learning tool. Seeing temporary exhibitions about Western culture and art offer a glimpse into the past.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is the most popular museum for the locals and it is the biggest natural history museum in Switzerland. The museum focuses on the flora and fauna of Switzerland. Admission to the Natural History Museum is free, and the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday but closed on Mondays.
The life-sized models of foxes, aardvarks, bears, alligators, and other interesting animals from around the world are interesting to see and take selfies with. There is a special collection of indigenous minerals and plants to Switzerland. This large collection is fun to see and you learn quite a bit about Switzerland’s natural surroundings.
If you have kids in tow, head for the children’s area complete with a working lab where they can let their creative juices flow and be visiting scientists for the day. The best part is that the kids are learning through hands-on experiments and that knowledge will stay with them longer than just strolling through the museum.
Address: Route de Malagnou 1. 1208 Geneva
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
Dive into the history of humanitarian aid and action when you visit the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. There are three distinct areas of the museum, each area created to give visitors the opportunity to discover, reflect upon, and feel the emotions surrounding the need for humanitarian aid.
When you visit, you will want to fully explore each area so you can take in the full scope of this unique museum. Those three areas are: Reducing Natural Risks, Defending Human Dignity, and Restoring Family Links. This is a museum that definitely gives you pause and makes you thankful that organizations such as the Red Cross are worldwide.
Address: Av. de la Paix 17, 1202 Geneva
Art and History Museum
This expansive museum is the newest and largest museum in Geneva and is made up of three different areas or wings. With over one million pieces in the collection, it is filled with amazing relics from the past as well as a fabulous fine art collection. General admission is free, however, there is a charge for temporary exhibitions. It was originally named Musée d'Art et d'Histoire.
Wander through the Archeology wing to see artifacts from ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Then, make your way to the Applied Arts wing to see relics from the Middle Ages including things used in day-to-day life such as weapons and furniture. Finish your tour of the museum in the Fine Arts wing to see paintings that date back to the Renaissance including pieces by Renoir and Van Gogh.
Address: Rue Ch. Galland 2, 1206 Geneva
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
Housed in an eccentric old factory building, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, or MAMCO is located within walking distance of the Patek Philippe Museum. This interesting museum is one of the best modern art museums in Europe and is supported by European artists associated with the Centre of Contemporary Art.
MAMCO is continually updating the exhibits so there is always something new and exciting to see when you visit. They also remodel the interior of the building three times each year making it a bit of a perpetual construction zone but still a fun place to visit. There are a few permanent exhibits including the Marcel Duchamp exhibit.
Address: Rue Des Vieux-Grenadiers 10, 1205 Geneva
Patek Phillippe Museum
Watch-making is an intriguing art form all by itself and the Patek Philippe Museum highlights the evolution of watch-making in Switzerland. The museum has an extensive exhibit of watches that date back to the early 16th century. The Patek Phillipe collection features an antique watch collection that is amazing.
Timepieces are not the only thing on display here, you will want to check out the collections of pistols, music boxes, and other interesting bric-a-brac. Patek Philippe began in 1839 and quickly rose to fame as one of the most revered watchmakers in Switzerland. General admission is free for children under 18 years old.
Address: Rue Des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, 1205 Geneva
Botanical Gardens and Conservatory
The Botanical Gardens and Conservatory may not technically be a museum, but it is home to over 16,000 plant species and offers a glimpse into the exciting world of horticulture. Their goal is to preserve local and exotic plants and be a natural refuge where people can learn about the preservation and advancements in horticulture and the ecological history of the area.
Admission to the botanical gardens is free and the gardens are open year-round. There are so many other aspects here that will draw you in and make you want to visit time and time again such as the animal park, rock garden, and discovery garden where you learn by touch and scent.
Address: Chemin de l'Impératrice 1, 1292 Chambésy
Tavel House – Maison Tavel
Tavel House was destroyed in 1334 by fire and sat empty for years until the city of Geneva took over ownership and fully restored it. The wealthy Maison family built the house in the 12th century. Today, Maison Tavel is a small museum that houses relics and artifacts from the Middle Ages through the late 1800s.
The sitting room reflects the daily living of citizens during the Middle Ages. Admission to the museum is free. Artifacts showcase the daily lives of Geneva citizens and include dishes, furniture, tools, clothing, art, weapons and so much more.
Be sure to visit the attic where a pre-1850s Geneva scale model complete with city walls can be found. Make your way to the basement where medieval graffiti can be found which just may be one of the most interesting parts of Tavel House.
Address: Rue due Puits-St-Pierre 6, 1204 Geneva
The Rath Museum has the nickname The Temple of the Muses as it is dedicated completely to the Geneva fine Swiss art from 1826. Many people come to the Rath Museum just to see the building, which is an architectural marvel in Place Neuve located near the only part of the rampart walls that remain standing.
The exhibits are on a showcased on a schedule and therefore are rotated off exhibit every few months making it possible to visit often and not see the same things. Since the Rath Museum is affiliated with the Art and History Museum, the items off exhibit are moved to the Art and History Museum and many times displayed there as well.
The temporary exhibits come from all across Europe, the permanent exhibits offer a glimpse into how Swiss and international art has evolved through the years. Most of the exhibits change every three months or so making it fun to visit often. The collection was originally in the Musée Rath building from 1826 to 1903.
Address: Place Neuve 1, 1204 Geneva
This attraction is home to two collections of the best-known collectors in Switzerland: Jean-Paul Barbier and Josef Mueller. Both men traveled extensively throughout their adult lives and amasses enormous collections of art. There are over 7,000 items in the permanent collection including masks, ornaments, tools, and statues.
You will see art from far-off places such as Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Antiquity. The primitive art that created this collection is absolutely stunning, full of history, and something you will definitely want to see. With so much to see, make sure you set aside several hours to explore the Barbier-Mueller Museum; the African and Oceanic artwork is fabulous.
Address: Rue Jean-Calvin 10, 1204 Geneva
Also known as the Swiss Museum of Ceramics and Glass, the Ariana Museum is within walking distance of the United Nations, making it a fun museum to visit when you are planning to also visit the United Nations. It is across the street from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum. General admission is free, but the temporary exhibits charge a nominal fee.
You will see a vast array of kiln crafts from across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East including glass, porcelain, stoneware, imperial ceramics, and pottery. There are over 20,000 pieces on display with many that date back to the 1300s. The neo-baroque villa where the museum is located is an interesting thing to experience. This museum is truly one-of-a-kind.
Address: Ave de la Paix 10, 1202 Geneva
The Olympic Games are a time when the world comes together as one to cheer on athletes from around the globe, athletes that have proven themselves superior in their chosen sport. Geneva has a hidden gem in the Olympic Museum where they pay homage to the history of these games and showcase the love and pride that each athlete has for their country.
Located just a little way outside of Geneva but still easy to get to by public transport, bike, or car, the Olympic Museum in Geneva sits on the shores of Lake Geneva and has the picturesque Alps as a backdrop for breathtaking views. Starting with the ancient Greeks, you can trace the evolution of the Olympic Games through history.
Address: Quai d’Ouchy 1, 1006 Lausanne
What are the best free museums in Geneva?
Some of the best Geneva museums offer free admission. From the largest natural history museum in Europe to a house from the 1300s that turned into a fantastic museum in Geneva, free museums make it easier to see more when you are in the city.
Save a little on the budget by adding the museums with no admission fee to your itinerary. We recommend the Natural History Museum, Art and History Museum, Botanical Gardens and Conservatory, and the Tavel House – Maison Tavel.
Which are the best museums in Downtown Geneva?
The city centre of Geneva is a trendy place to be when searching for the best attractions, shops, and restaurants. Finding some of the best museums in downtown Geneva isn’t as hard as it seems.
Do a little shopping, grab lunch, and then head to these recommended places for a fun afternoon. Try Barbier-Mueller Museum and Tavel House – Maison Tavel. We did not cover the Ethnography Museum Geneva and A Globe of Science and Innovation (CERN), but they are worth looking into also.
Are there any cheap museums in Geneva?
Cheap is a relative term, especially when it comes to museum-hopping in Geneva. There are several free museums where general admission is free but there is a fee for temporary or special exhibits. Then there are those that offer discounts on certain days or accept coupons.
And finally, there are museums that have a low admission cost so families can enjoy them together. Be sure to visit the International Red Cross Museum and the Patek Phillippe Museum. The Olympic Museum is another fantastic spot to spend some time.
See the best of Geneva museums
Look out over Lake Geneva as you enjoy the permanent and temporary exhibitions at many of the Geneva museums. There are so many fabulous places to wander through, including those with beautifully lit galleries to enjoy some of the best art in Geneva.
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Old Town (15 minutes from Geneva Train Station) is a fun place to visit as is the Musee d'Art Moderne, where you will find Swiss and international art that will blow you away with its amazing collection. While on a culture trip to Geneva, check out the United Nations European headquarters near the city center.
Take a walking tour through the peaceful city of Geneva and check out valuable watches in the Patek Philippe collection and stroll through the historic district to check out a historical landmark or two before checking out more museums. Permanent collections at the museums in Geneva really grab you but when you see a frequently changing exhibition, that is where the magic happens.