Generally speaking, Geneva is a great town for dogs. They’re allowed in cafés, shops, on trams and boats… but parks? Not always, as Pamela (my poodle-cross cocker-spaniel) and I recently discovered
To celebrate the arrival of spring and Pamela’s first haircut after a long fuggy winter, we descended into the nearby park for a refreshing roll (her, not me) in the grass. I let her off the lead and – busted! A municipal policeman (they’re the grey ones) swooped down on us – a notebook in hand.
With an unspecified fine in the post, I retreated to the Internet to search for grassy spaces where my apartment-dwelling good girl could legally roll in the hay.
This is what I found:
There are 21 official ‘sans laisse’ dogs parks in the city. This map is almost useless (because it doesn’t name the parks) but it does show you where they are.
Pamela and I decided to test a few.
ON THE RIGHT BANK – to the north of the city
Parc du Château Banquet
This is a fenced area on Quai Wilson near where it meets Rue de Lausanne. At the end of Spring, it was a grassless yard with a few plastic chairs in the sun. There was a friendly Labrador chasing a ball – but really, the most memorable thing about it was the rather sarcastic view of the magnificent park across the road.
On the Avenue de la Paix in Nations there is what seems to be the backyard of a once grand mansion. It is a grassy area large enough to slingshot a tennis ball for a solid run. It’s surrounded by clusters of pine trees hiding an abandoned campsite. Otherwise the natives were friendly and Pam had a good roll in the grass.
Parc de Budé
On Avenue de Budé, behind a large apartment block, is a sheltered area surrounded by friendly pines. The park may be in the middle of a dispute between the ‘have dogs’ and the ‘have nots’ as someone had spray-painted out the ‘dogs welcome’ signs. That hadn’t deterred the friendly dog owners who were basking in the sunshine. Children were playing in a nearby playground, and for once – they’d fenced in the children, not the dogs!
Pelouse de la Rue de Moillebeau
Here I learned the word ‘Pelouse’ – grassy verge. Basically, you can let your dog off the leash beside the footpath… It had very nice grass but I wasn’t so keen to test the map when the municipal police pulled up alongside me. Not that it mattered, it was a short and pleasant walk to the next location…
Promenade des Crêts
From Rue de Moillebeau you can walk up the side of the path through a wooded copse. It’s a pretty stroll through a mini-wonderland, and the view from the top is charming.
Parc des Franchises
We entered Parc des Franchises from Avenue Edmond-Vaucher. A shorter walk to the dog park would be from Route de Franchises. This is a gated running area in a much larger community environment, and I was beginning to notice a theme. These gated parks (avec clôture) are more suited to large dogs who need to get up some speed. Pam cowered at the sight of an enormous German Shepherd puppy playing with a Swiss Sheep Dog. Even shaved, she looks way too much like a sheep to join those working dogs.
RIVER WALKS NEAR JONCTION
There are wooded walks and stony beaches on both sides of the ‘jonction’ where the Rhône river meets the Arve river. A lot of it has been set aside for free-range dog walking. It’s quite beautiful. Wild, with overgrown shade trees and dense undergrowth. I confess though, when I set out by myself, now in the late afternoon, I was a little daunted by the graffiti, and the realisation that I hadn’t told anyone where I was going…
Sentier des Falaises & Falaises de Saint-Jean
‘Falaises’ means ‘cliffs’. Without clear markings on the map, I figure Sentier des Falaises must be the parkland at the end of Chemin William-Lescaze. Falaises de Saint-Jean is at the end of Avenue de-Warens. These two walks join up, and you can enter from the top, or the bottom near Sentier de Sous-Terre.
Rives de la Jonction
It’s easy to climb down to the river via Avenue de la Jonction, and walk along the Arve river. It’s a simple matter for your dog to enter the water here. If you have a water dog (as I do) you may want to consider what you’ll do if the dog goes in. How willing are you to wade waist deep into the fast moving snowmelt?
On the south side of the river, up on the headland and all the way to Pont Butin, is perhaps the largest off-leash area. There are several sections for running wild, and plenty of wooded walks. Two areas, this one and Bois de la Batie, are intermingled with other uses such as allotment gardens. Some of it is off-limits to dogs so you’ll want to read the signs as you go.
Sentier Rive Gauche et Droite de l’Arve
This walk is along both sides of the river from the Pont de Carouge at Octroi Pont Hans-Wilsdorf – and a bit beyond. It’s a pleasing walk in summer, but can be quite fast-flowing in the spring.
ON THE LEFT BANK / GENEVA CENTRE
Plaine de Plainpalais
The biggest surprise on this list was that the whole southern half of the diamond, which is Plainpalais, is a leash-free area. There’s not a shred of grass, and the whole place has been a building site for the last two years – but there’s something remarkable about that vast, orange expanse being available for a mighty knee-scraping game of fetch.
Within this former grand estate are two areas for dogs to be at liberty. One is within the fence – a generous area, with plenty of grass and room for dogs to run and play. The other (according to the map) is the pathway, which runs alongside Route de Florissant. My caveat here is – I’ve never seen dogs off leash in that part of the park.
Parc des Acacias
This parc is a small enclosure on the Rue des Noirettes side of this much larger park. It’s a bit of a puppy prison, with bark scatterings on the ground and not much in the way of entertainment. When Pam and I visited, there was an adorable Staffordshire puppy so excited to see us he was positively flying. Pam chose to ignore him.
Parc des Falaises / Chemin de Beau-Soleil
I couldn’t for the life of me find this one – or at least, not where they said it was. On the map with no names, it’s a small strip at the back of some apartments near Chemin des Glycines in Champel. Maybe there’s a path to the river, because, on the other side of the Arve, near the Sports Centre in Vessy, there’s a majestic walk that follows the arc of the river, over small stony beaches where locals sunbathe. All the cautions about fast running water apply here – but the wider sandy beach at least gives the illusion of being by the seaside.
Promenade Theodore Weber
This is a fenced area amid apartment buildings. It’s a little hard to find, with the entrance down a side street on Avenue Theodore-Weber, but is a charming park when you find your way from either the 12 Tram (Roches Stop) or the 5 Bus (Weber).
EAST SIDE OF GENEVA
Parc la Grange
This is an elegant park with sweeping lawns, concert areas, L’Orangerie bar and theatre, and the Crémerie. The open area for dogs is to the right of the Route de Frontenex entrance. Walking through the gates, turn right, and follow the (off-leash) wooded area to the grassy playing field. Or you can also turn left and walk the wooded path that runs parallel to Avenue William-Favre all the way to Quai Gustave-Ador. Although dogs aren’t allowed in the children’s play area, there’s also the bonus of an excellent playground and a beautiful rose garden. This park is a very simple way to feel rich.