Six of the Best Museums in Geneva, Switzerland

ARIANE MUSEUM

Europe’s major art museums can be overwhelming in size and crowds. Surely the most enjoyable museums are small and focused, so you leave without exhaustion. The Ariana Museum, housed in a magnificent Italian villa near the United Nations, displays only ceramics and glass, but the tableware has never been so beautiful. Inspect a thousand years of objects from Europe, the Middle East and the Far East and their mutual design influences. The only downside is the French only signage but with such wonderful shiny objects and stained glass it hardly matters. Best of all, entry to the permanent exhibitions is free. See musee-ariana.ch

BAUR FOUNDATION

Another case for small museums is this private collection of Chinese and Japanese art, which you can admire for an hour or two with great pleasure. You won’t find a second-rate piece, and each particular porcelain item is luminous. Imperial Chinese ceramics, snuffboxes, incense burners and jade compete for attention with Japanese netsukes, lacquered boxes, prints and bowls decorated with chrysanthemum motifs. You’ll be tempted to flee with a Ming vase, as burglars did in 2019. A compact and austere Japanese dry garden outside makes a stark contrast to the villa’s ornate facade. See baur-foundation.ch

INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS MUSEUM

The Red Cross was founded in Geneva by the 19th century businessman Henri Dunant. This exciting little museum traces its history and current humanitarian work. It’s a gruesome story, but the wandering through war, atrocities and natural disasters is a change – even if confronting – from the usual art museums. The multimedia exhibits are perfectly presented, although the signage isn’t the best, so get an audio guide. The video interviews with witnesses of the work of the Red Cross are very moving. Then you’ll have to clear your head: the charming Geneva Botanical Gardens are just down the street. See redcrossmuseum.ch

MARTIN BODMER FOUNDATION

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PATEK PHILIPPE MUSEUM

xxgeneva Six of Geneva's Best Museums Traveller's Story by Brian Johnston, check for later use Patek Philippe-Museum (Patek Philippe credit)

Photo: Patek Phillipe

The marriage of precision instrumentation and the beauty of the jewels in the cabinets of this watchmaking museum is spellbinding. Travel through 500 years of quest to measure time and present its remorseless ticking in an attractive way. Enamelled pocket watches depict coquettish shepherds, pastel scenes of Lake Geneva or Chinese pagodas, while intricate modern watches display dates, times, sunrise and sunset, and signs of the zodiac. The section dedicated to Patek Philippe is fascinating: the company invented the crown-wound watch and the first true wristwatches, and you can consult the registers recording the orders of queens and prime ministers of the 19th century. See patekmuseum.com

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