EXPLORING GENEVA’s CULTURAL SIDE: WE RATE THE CITY’S MUSEUMS
by Brigitte Taylor
Whether you are new in town or just passing through, now that the weather has turned, you might be looking for activities around the city – preferably indoors. So why not indulge in a little culture and visit some of Geneva’s many museums over the winter season? Note: This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Look out for more round-ups including some of the city’s other museums. Let us know which museums you like and why. Drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PATEK PHILIPPE MUSEUM
Overall score: 3.5/5
It’s hard to think of Geneva’s cultural heritage without thinking about watchmaking – and perhaps the best illustration of this heritage can be found at the exquisite Patek Philippe Museum, located within an entirely renovated art deco townhouse in the Plainpalais area.
The museum’s collection is very impressive, with pieces from all over Europe, spanning almost five centuries of watchmaking, including the earliest watch ever made, and Patek Philippe’s collections from the mid-1800s to present day. Public guided tours are organised every Saturday, in French (2pm) and English (2.30pm). Private tours are available by appointment only.
At first, the ambiance at the museum feels quite cold, and secretive. Influencers, beware: photography is strictly forbidden. Photos, or even just taking your phone out of your bag while you are browsing the museum’s immaculate collection, will grant you a few stern words from security. The well-established watch brand guards its secrets very close to its chest – even the museum’s complete catalogue, in coffee table book format, will set you back CHF 600. But for those who are willing to look past this – prepare to be amazed. It is recommended that visitors start at the top floor, where the Patek Philippe history is explained through lovingly preserved items (such as the founder’s address book, containing detailed information about each supplier’s reliability), and work their way down the museum’s three floors.
One hour and a half should be enough to see everything.
Yes – the two-story boutique on Rue du Rhone.
Watchmaking aficionados, or those curious to see extraordinary craftsmanship from the past.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR
Families with small children and Instagram stars.
Patek Philippe Museum
Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, 1205 Genève
Open Tuesday to Friday (2pm – 6pm) and Saturday (10am – 6pm); closed on Sunday and Monday
MUSÉE d’ART ET d’HISTOIRE
Geneva’s main fine art museum, and home to 6,200 paintings, and 1,400 sculptures.
While you may not see many of the mainstream names hanging on its walls, the museum houses an extensive collection of European 16th century paintings, and of artwork made in Switzerland. The museum also boasts permanent exhibitions spanning archeology, books and graphic arts.
One of the current exhibitions (ongoing until March 3rd, 2019) celebrates the life and work of one of Switzerland’s most illustrious artists, Ferdinand Hodler – and it is definitely worth a visit!
What I particularly enjoyed about my visit to this vast museum, was how its fine art galleries were organised, guiding you across centuries and clearly illustrating the evolution of European painting.
Would recommend setting at least two and a half hours aside to see everything, but there is a selection of audio guides available for download directly to your device, tailored to what you would like to see, starting at just 30 minutes. More information is available here.
Yes! And it is not your regular museum cafeteria: Le Barocco is a chic but casual restaurant, and the ideal place to unwind after your visit, be it for a quick coffee before you go, or a delicious meal and a glass of wine.
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
Rue Charles-Galland 2
Open every day (11am – 6pm), except Monday
INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT MUSEUM
This museum is designed to make an impact on visitors, and it does not disappoint.
The museum’s permanent exhibition, The Humanitarian Adventures, explores three contemporary challenges – Defending human dignity, Restoring family links and Reducing natural risks.
At each of its three sections, the museum takes visitors through the history of the Red Cross, and clearly demonstrates the important role this organization plays in our current environment.
Among the museum’s collection of artefacts, visitors can see the original Geneva Convention, a sample of the Red Cross’ archives, and a number of gifts presented to Red Cross workers over the years by prisoners of war around the world.
This may sound daunting, but the museum succeeds in making the experience powerful, engaging and interactive, through the creative use of various audio-visual displays. To make the best out of your visit, you will receive an audio guide for free with the purchase of your ticket.
Those who have become jaded and cynical about the impact of humanitarian work – this place will unleash your inner idealist.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR
Families with young children. While the museum’s experience is surprisingly positive, some of the subject matter and testimonials might be too graphic for the little ones.
At least two hours
Yes! The museum has a cafeteria-style restaurant on its top floor, with a large terrace that is open during the summer.
Musée international de la Croix‑Rouge et du Croissant‑Rouge
Av. de la Paix 17
Open Tuesday to Sunday (April to October: 10am – 6pm; November to March:
10am – 5pm); closed on Monday; 24, 25, 31 December; and 1 January
Known as the Swiss museum of ceramics and glass, the Musée Ariana is located across the street from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, at the heart of Geneva’s international district.
The museum was built at the end of the 19th century, to house the vast collection of Gustave Revilliod, which included not only ceramics and glass, but also paintings, books and sculpture. The building’s architecture is described as “a fantasy”, as it incorporates neo-classic and neo-baroque elements, such as the monumental marble columns that ornate the main hall. The collection, on display across multiple rooms, is breathtaking: plates, vases, pots and figurines illustrate how Europe’s tastes evolved overtime, and how artisans around the world stepped up to meet demand, even in challenging times.
Those who love interior design and are curious about the origins of porcelain; architecture lovers; and those idle minds looking for an unusual outing on a rainy afternoon.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR
Families with young children – if anything, to avoid a “bull in a china shop” situation.
Free for the permanent collection.
One hour and a half should be enough to see all the rooms.
There is a small café on the upper floor, overlooking the beautiful marbled main hall.
10 Rue de la Paix