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Things to Do in Lake Geneva - page 2

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HR Giger Museum (Musée HR Giger)
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3 Tours and Activities

Gruyères is a Swiss village world-famous for the production of cheese but this cute little Alpine enclave has an eccentric surprise tucked up its sleeve. Known for surreal and sometimes disturbing paintings, film props, album covers and – most famously – the mechanical monster from Alien, the renowned Swiss artist HR Giger (1940–2014) moved here in 1997, buying the medieval Château St Germain. The following year he opened the world’s biggest collection of his work in a wing of the castle; not for the faint-hearted, Musée HR Giger is no ordinary museum but a fully immersive adventure on the dark side of art, made all the more striking by the chocolate-box sweetness of the surrounding village.

Among Giger’s weird and macabre SciFi models, props, sketches and drawings for the film sets ofAlien,Dune andPoltergeist is some of his graphic erotica, all clearly labeled ‘Adults Only’ and displayed in sepulchral gloom. The exhibition also features a short movie on his life, the Academy Award he won for Alien and artwork from his own private collection, which includes pieces by Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dalí. Following a tour of the museum, most visitors head to the cavernous Giger-themed bar for a restorative strong drink.

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Penthes Estate (Le Domaine du Château de Penthes)

Located in the town of Pregny-Chambesy outside of Geneva, Switzerland, the Penthes Estate (Le Domaine du Château de Penthes) is a luxurious property that is home to two museums: the Museum of the Swiss Abroad and the Geneva Military Museum. The property is set in the middle of the hilly Empress’ Park (named in honor of Josephine de Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon I) and offers excellent views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps.

The Museum of the Swiss Abroad is devoted to showing the history of Swiss citizens who have affected the history of other countries, including artists, explorers, bankers, inventors and many others. The collection includes documents such as military patents and letters of dismissal, letters, journals, newspapers, photographs and stamps, as well as books, portrait, sculptures, uniforms, flags, medals and other personal belongings.

The Geneva Military Museum showcases weapons, uniforms and other papers from the Swiss military.

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Geneva Contemporary Art Centre (Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève)

Established in 1974, the Geneva Contemporary Art Center was the first contemporary art institution in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Designed as a space for production, research and experimentation, it has no permanent collection but instead has hosted more than 300 temporary exhibitions since its founding. The center is known for discovering new talent and introducing emerging Swiss and international artists to Geneva and the rest of the country. It shares space with the Centre de la Photographie Geneve, the Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain and the Fonds d’Art Contemporain and features a 1,000-square meter exhibition space, a cinema, an artist’s residency, a library and a children’s workshop.

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Geneva Ethnography Museum (Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève)

The Geneva Ethnography Museum (Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève), aka MEG, holds the largest ethnographic collection in Switzerland–its 80,000 objects and 300,000 documents are beautifully arranged in exhibits highlighting all parts of the world. With rotating exhibitions, an extensive anthropology library and an upstairs gallery featuring music from around the globe, there is enough material to interest an expert and entertain those taking a look around. Though most of the descriptions are in French, the new museum is worth a visit, having reopened in 2014 in an iconic, Swiss-designed pavilion reminiscent of an Asian-style pagoda.

Though the building looks small, its peaked roof gives way to huge exhibition spaces below. The permanent exhibition covers two rooms and is free to enter, while the temporary exhibition changes yearly and is paid for. A tour of both is a good way to spend an hour in the city, with less people around in the morning.

Visitors with a Geneva Pass can enter both exhibitions for free, with the added benefit of unlimited public transportation and admission to over 40 other attractions, including Geneva's Natural History Museum and Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

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Martin Bodmer Foundation (Fondation Martin Bodmer)

Known to many as the Bodmer Library, the Martin Bodmer Foundation (Fondation Martin Bodmer) outside of Geneva is a library and museum whose permanent collection attempts to retrace the history of civilization through writing. Bodmer established the library in the 1920s and built two neo-Baroque houses in the town of Cologny to house works focused on five pillars of world literature: the Bible, Homer, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Today, the collection includes more than 160,000 items.

Highlights include a Gutenberg Bible from 1452, a first edition print of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses from 1517, and the oldest surviving Gospel of James, as well as a collection of 22 papyri discovered in Egypt in 1952. Known as the Bodmer Papyri, the latter include segments from the Old and New Testaments, writings of Homer, and pieces of early Christian literature.

Visit for free with the Geneva Pass, which includes admission to over 30 city attractions, such as the towers of St. Peter's Basilica and the Art and History Museum.

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Rath Museum (Musée Rath)

Geneva’s Rath Museum (Musée Rath) is the oldest museum in Switzerland built specifically for art and one of the first buildings in Europe designed to host art exhibits. Built in the 1820s, it was designed as a temple of muses, inspired by the temples of ancient Greece. While it was originally used for permanent art exhibitions, teaching and other cultural events, by the late 19th century it became too small for its collections. Since the larger Musee d’Art et d’Histoire opened in 1910, the Rath Museum has hosted smaller exhibitions of Swiss and international art and archaeology, including temporary exhibits of the Musee d’Art. The most recent exhibition is Nightfall: Gothic Imagination Since Frankenstein.

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Maison de Rousseau & de la Littérature (MRL)

Welcome to Jean-Jacque Rousseau’s birthplace! Situated in Geneva’s scenic Old Town, this historic house is now home to the Maison de Rousseau & de la Littérature (MRL)—a museum and library entirely dedicated to the humanist author’s works and significant legacy. The exhibition retraces the steps and thought process of the impactful Enlightenment philosopher through a 25-minute interactive sound and image display that aims to bring Rousseau’s magnetic character to life. Modern-day authors and thinkers are always welcome to the MRL’s numerous talks and sessions.

As the MRL is located in the heart of Geneva’s most historic quarter, many city tours will at the very least whizz past it, including sightseeing tours and Segway tours.

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Baur Foundation, Museum of Far Eastern Art

It's no coincidence that the Baur Foundation is Geneva’s Museum of Far Eastern Art (Fondation Baur, Musée des Arts d'Extrême-Orient). The museum boasts over 9,000 East Asianartworks and artifacts in a private collection that covers a thousand years of history. The exhibition, which focuses mainly on China and Japan, is organized by country and includes some of the finest samurai swords, porcelains and jade ceramics in Europe.

Set in an elegant manor in Old Town Geneva, the Baur Foundation is frequented by art-lovers and passersby, alike, but is rarely crowded. A variety of temporary exhibitions, including a past exhibit on Cartier, and the museum's location within walking distance from Geneva's Art and History Museum makes it a great stop on any city museum tour.

Visitors holding a Geneva Pass can visit the museum for free, with the added benefit of free, unlimited public transportation and admission to over 40 other city attractions, including the Museum of Art and History and guided walking tours through Old Town.

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Alimentarium - Food Museum

Founded by Nestlé and just minutes from the company's global headquarters in Vevey, the Alimentarium - Food Museum is devoted to food, diet, and nutrition. Get insight into the history and future of the human diet through interactive exhibitions, hands-on workshops, tastings, and cooking demonstrations.

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Barbier-Mueller Museum (Musée Barbier-Mueller)

One of the key attractions of Geneva’s Old Town, the Barbier-Mueller Museum holds the world’s largest collection of non-Western art and artifacts. The core of the permanent collection comprises works from Oceania, Africa and indigenous artisans of the Americas, supplemented by an important collection of antiquities from Greece, Italy and other centers of the ancient world.

Forget what you know about dusty ethnological displays in natural history museums; here the outstanding quality of the exhibits is matched by thoughtful presentation, with regular exhibitions highlighting various aspects of the collection. From Malian pottery to pre-Columbian jade jewelry, from Roman statuary to Papuan masks, the Barbier-Mueller Museum is the result of almost a century’s worth of passionate collecting and world-class research.

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More Things to Do in Lake Geneva

Rousseau Island (Ile Rousseau)

Rousseau Island (Ile Rousseau)

Where the River Rhône meets Lake Geneva, where the city’s north and south shores face each other, you’ll find Rousseau Island (Ile Rousseau), the green, serene heart of Geneva. Four centuries ago this was a highly strategic position, and the island owes its unusual “arrowhead” shape to its original function as a fortress.

Things are much calmer now; with Italian poplars, weeping willows and stunning views of the city, this is a place for rest and contemplation, and a pavilion restaurant is on hand to provide food for thought. Appropriate, then, that the island should be named for local boy Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the great 18th century philosopher whose statue has been standing guard here since 1835.

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Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO)

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO)

Geneva’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary art—or MAMCO—is a vast contemporary art museum located in a former physical laboratory in an up-and- coming area filled with dozens of trendy art galleries and hip coffee shops; a veritable hub for Geneva’s creative types. The museum itself is specialized in experimental exhibits and notoriously non-traditional, keen to push the limits of originality by continuously coming up with bold ideas and novel styles. While MAMCO does have a mindboggling and acclaimed 4,000-item permanent collection, what really sets it apart is the four temporary exhibits it welcomes every year in order to keep things diversified and unexpected.

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Geneva Museum of Art and History (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Genève)

Geneva Museum of Art and History (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Genève)

Regularly dubbed the best cultural attraction in Switzerland, the Geneva Museum of Art and History (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Genève) is home to over 650,000 works of art and artifacts spread over five massive floors. The building itself is a splendor in its own right, a gem of Neo Classical architecture flanked by soaring Grecian columns, a series of allegorical sculptures representing various arts, like drawing, painting, and architecture, as well as a top frieze depicting the names of illustrious local artists. The museum’s diverse collections found inside, which have continuously been enriched since it first opened under the name Musée des beaux-arts in 1826, are a testament to applied arts and beaux-arts, as well as archaeology – painting-wise, some of the sought-after headliners include Rembrandt, Modigliani, Cézanne, and Rodin. In addition to all that, MAH also hosts a dozen temporary exhibits throughout the year, ranging anywhere between Picasso to Akhenaton.

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Museum of Natural History (Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Suisse)

Museum of Natural History (Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Suisse)

Geneva's Museum of Natural History (Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Suisse) is Switzerland’s largest natural history museum, and will make visitors believe they are travelling to several different ecosystems all in one place, thanks to highly immersive dioramas. It’s home many of Louis Jurine’s (one of Switzerland’s most notable entomologist and naturalist) collections, notably the hymenoptera, the coleoptera, and the hemiptera sets. The multi-storey museum has an entire floor dedicated to lifelike stuffed regional fauna, which will undoubtedly have visitors do a double take - noteworthy specimens include polar bears, penguins, and even whales. If taxidermy is not your forte, the superior floors focus on the evolution of mankind and the evolution of astronomy. And although every single item hosted by the museum is fascinating in its own right, the real star of the show is Lucy, a bronze statue of the famous Australopithecus and oldest known human fossil. The earthquake simulator is also a big hit – especially with families.

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Patek Philippe Museum

Patek Philippe Museum

Patek Philippe is one of the most prestigious names in timekeeping, and their watches having graced many a royal wrist since the company’s inception in 1839. The Patek Philippe Museum accordingly devotes much attention to the brand’s own products, from the present day’s precision pieces back to exquisitely detailed pocket watches of the early 19th century. Early examples were frequently jeweled, enameled and emblazoned with the arms of the owner.

The Antique Collection turns the clock back even further, tracing the development of timekeeping devices back to approximately 1500. The museum also houses a significant archive and library dedicated to timepieces and related mechanisms, and the whole complex is housed in a handsome early 20th century building distinguished by enormous windows.

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