We made our first visit en famille to Geneva’s Botanical Gardens (CJBG – Les Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève) on a crisp and sunny autumn’s day last year . . . and we loved it so much that we couldn’t wait to head back there in early spring this year! Just how had this magical garden eluded us for so long?
If you haven’t yet explored this beautiful spot, then it comes highly recommended by the MBFF team! It is the perfect destination for a family outing as there is plentiful space for children to run, a playground, a carrousel, picnic spots galore, an animal park, café and restaurant . . . and all this surrounded by the beautiful sights and smells of the botanical gardens and the greenhouses!
A little history . . .
The original botanical gardens in Geneva were founded by Augustin-Pyrame de Candolle in the early 19th century and they were located in Le Parc des Bastions in Geneva (which was then empty, marshy terrain). As the collection of plants and trees grew, the arboretum was moved to the area above rue de Lausanne in 1904.
There is so much to see and explore in the CJBG . . . which just means you’ll have to go back and explore again and again! The CJBG website sets out a helpful guide for families here, depending on how much time you have available.
The gardens have over 15 000 different species of plants from around the world, flowering at different times during the year to guarantee a sensory display whatever the season you decide to visit! The different plant species are grouped in themes around the gardens, in the glasshouses, in the rockeries . . .
Let me highlight what the MBFF team enjoyed on our visits . . .
Enchanted Forest Playground & Carrousel des Fables
The playground was certainly a highlight for our boys on both visits, and it was quite difficult both times to lure them away! It really is a wonderful playground, with the equipment made of wood and rope and beautifully animated with cheerful figures in the surrounding foliage. There is also a sand attraction, so expect to return home with lots of sand souvenirs in pockets and shoes!
The Carrousel des Fables was conceived by the association Copyrart (an association with the aim of getting out-of work people back into the work world, using their artistic and professional skills). In 2002, the carrousel opened to the public in the place du Rhône in Geneva; it then moved to the Jardin Anglais in 2003; and then, in 2004 it moved to the present spot in the botanical gardens, in order to commemorate the 100 years since the moving of the CJBG from the Parc des Bastions to its current location. The carrousel is open to the public from April until October: Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays & Bank Holidays – 10h to 18h30 / School Holidays all week – 10h to 18h30 / Tel: (+41) 79 309 55 31;
In the different greenhouses of the botanical gardens you will find yourself voyaging from Geneva to different corners of the world as you immerse yourself in the different climates needed for the growth of plants originating from 5 separate continents. In order to survive and thrive in Geneva, these plants need to be protected under glass for part or all of the year:
- Winter Garden – the Winter Garden greenhouse is one of the oldest buildings in the botanical gardens. The original building of 1913 was moved to its present location in 1935 and a restoration programme was carried out in 1997-1998. The paradox of its name – The Winter Garden – lies in the fact that this greenhouse is used to display tropical plants and you will be hit by the heat and humidity as you enter (you might need to remove jackets in here!);
- Temperate House – near the route de Lausanne, this distinctive greenhouse with a large glass dome contains Mediterranen-type vegetation from the Mediterranen iteself and from Australia, South Africa and the sub-tropics of Asia and America. A path winds through the palm trees, ferns and vegetation so that you can get close to the plants. You will also find a collection of cacti at the entrance;
- Greenhouses along the railway tracks – there are three adjoining greenhouses here, and much of the collection is open to the public. You will find the cold greenhouse (can be visited upon special request), the hot greenhouse and the temperate greenhouse. There is also a large pond which allows the Victoria cruziana (one of the largest water lilies on earth, from South America) to flourish;
- Greenhouses of Pregny – these greenhouses are annexed to those of the botanical gardens and are used to grow the plants decorating the gardens and for those used in the CJBG flowerbeds. They are also used to protect the non-frost resistant plants during the winter months and there is also a collection of ancient varieties of fruit trees, inherited from the former owner, Baron Edmond de Rothschild. These greenhouse are not open to the general public.
The water used for watering the greenhouses is for the most part rainwater that is obtained from the roofs of the greenhouses and stored in cisterns underneath the greenhouses. Since 2015, the CJBG is cultivating 100 per cent BIO (a unique project in French-speaking Switzerland).
The Garden of Smell and Touch
In the Terre de Pregny section of the botanical gardens, you will find the most interactive part of the Jardins Botaniques: the Garden of Smell and Touch. This garden encourages visitors to discover the plants and identify the species by their odour or how they feel. This area is specially adapted for children and for people with diminished eyesight.
The Animal Park
You will find deer, flamingos and peacocks here, as well chickens, goats and sheep and some endangered indigenous animals.
Other areas to visit in the botanical gardens include: the Arboretum, the Alpine Garden, the Herb Garden, the Historic Rose Garden, the Path of Evolution, the Ruderal Zone, the Ethnobotanical Gardens (exhibition prepared for the 200th anniversary of the gardens) . . .
Guided visits, exhibitions & workshops
Ateliers Verts – see here for details of the Ateliers Verts workshops for children (Wednesday afternoons, 14h to 16h30 / reservations necessary).
La Visite du Jardinier guided visit – throughout the year, every Thursday, a FREE guided visit in French of the botanical gardens is offered by les Conservatoire & Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève / a specialist gardener of the gardens leads the tour / from March until October, at 14h, main entrance to CJB place Albert Thomas / no reservation needed.
Bicentennial Celebrations at the CJBG – there are several exhibitions and special programmes on offer throughout 2017, to celebrate 200 years since the conception of Geneva’s botanical gardens. See here for more details.
Visitors to the CJBG have several options for eating:
- Le Pyramus Restaurant – right next to the playground, families can either sit in the lovely restaurant (children’s menu available), indoors or on the terrace or enjoy the self-service section;
- Picnics – a large area for picnics is available in the Terre de Pregny section of the botanical gardens.
The Botanical Shop
A lovely shop can be found in the CJBG grounds, open Tuesday to Sunday. See here for more details.
The CJBG botanical gardens are open year-round:
end of October to end of March: 8h to 17h;
end of March to end of October: 8h to 19h30;
Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève,
chemin de l’Impératrice,
Tel: +41 (0)22 418 51 00;
1) Place Albert Thomas;
2) Avenue de la Paix;
3) Chemin de l’Impératrice 1;
4) La Console, route de Lausanne 192;
5) Par les quais de la rive droite;
6) Parking pour personnes à mobilité réduite;
7) Villa le Chêne (the reception area is in Villa le Chêne);
* On both visits, we have found good parking on route de Lausanne, which was ideal for quick access to the Animal Park, restaurant and playground!*
See here for more access and parking details.