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Enjoy Switzerland’s Largest Natural History Museum in Geneva

Last Updated on April 10, 2024 by Darla

The Natural History Museum in Geneva (Muséum d’histoire naturelle in French) stands out as the largest natural history museum in Switzerland and undoubtedly ranks among the finest in the country. Spread across several floors, the museum is home to an extensive collection of specimens, which include insects, bugs, butterflies, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and more.

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History of Natural History Museum Geneva

The Natural History Museum (Muséum d’histoire naturelle in French) was founded in 1820. While the museum experienced several moves, it currently is located in the region of Eaux-Vives in Malagnou Park.

The Natural History Museum was built with the initiative of Henri Boissier, a Swiss intellectual, and professor, who wanted a way for the locals to learn more about natural sciences.

It would take a couple of years later before Boissier’s initiative would have concrete results. The actual project for a Natural History Museum would begin in 1794 and an Academic Museum was finally founded in 1811. In March 1820, its administration would be taken over by the city of Geneva itself.

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With 10,000 m2 of exhibition space, it is the largest natural history museum in Switzerland. Nowadays, it houses millions of specimens and offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about the natural world in the middle of the city.

Nowadays, the Natural History Museum Geneva is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. It is one of the best, if not the best natural history museums that you can find in the country. Covering several floors and housing millions of objects, you will learn a lot of new things from this museum.


Exhibits: Natural History Museum Geneva

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The Natural History Museum Geneva (Muséum d’histoire naturelle in French) is home to a wide range of exhibits from the animal and plant kingdoms. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the exhibits spanning multiple floors at the Natural History Museum in Geneva.

The exhibits are meticulously arranged, with each section showcasing a distinct group of animals belonging to the same animal kingdom or inhabiting specific biotopes such as forests or lakes, among others.

Permanent Exhibits

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The permanent exhibits at the Natural History Museum of Geneva cover a range of topics, including insects, bugs, butterflies, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, and more. Dioramas that show the animals in their natural habitats and these are very well done. As an example, the Alpine Ibex are positioned on sizable rocks to mimic their authentic appearance in the Swiss mountainous terrain.

Here are some of the animals that you can find at the museum:

  • Tigers
  • Birds
  • Elephant
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Crocodile
  • Owls
  • Hyenas
  • Rodents
  • Leopards
  • Kangaroos
  • Wild Boar
  • Alpine Ibex

Temporary Exhibits

The Natural History Museum also hosts temporary exhibits that change throughout the year. These exhibits cover a range of topics related to the natural world. From 2022 to 2023, the temporary exhibit focused on the 40 years of archaeozoology, which is a discipline that focuses on how bones can tell us more about past paleo-environments, hunting techniques, and more.

Visit the Natural History Museum Geneva’s website to learn more about the temporary exhibit when you are there: http://institutions.ville-geneve.ch/fr/mhn/.


What to Expect: Natural History Museum Geneva

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In the Natural History Museum in Geneva, the animals are meticulously presented in dioramas that artfully replicate their natural environments. The level of detail and precision is truly commendable, and the variety of animals on display is extensive, making the museum a captivating experience.

Comparatively, this museum is larger than the equivalent museums in Zurich, St. Gallen, Chur, and Lucerne, offering even more exhibits to explore and appreciate.

One aspect to consider is that the descriptions accompanying the exhibits are primarily in French, which could be disappointing for visitors who do not understand the language. However, many visitors can still infer the animals’ identities from their Latin names and visual appearances. Nevertheless, I believe that it would have been beneficial to provide English translations as well, particularly considering Geneva’s international status and diverse range of visitors.

Animals from Around the World

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Visitors have the opportunity to explore species from other continents such as Africa, Asia, and various aquatic ecosystems, including the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. This allows visitors to encounter and gain knowledge about a wide array of species from around the world.

All in all, I truly loved the Natural History Museum in Geneva. It had tons of animals on display and it goes beyond the exploration of local fauna. You can spend hours here expanding your understanding and appreciation of global biodiversity.

Furthermore, it serves as an ideal destination for escaping a rainy day or enjoying a visit with young children


How to Get to the Natural History Museum of Geneva

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The Natural History Museum of Geneva is easy to access by public transport from the city center. It is located in Malagnou Park, in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood of the city.

AddressMuséum d’histoire naturelle
Rte de Malagnou 1
1208 Genève
BusGenève, Muséum (Directly beside the museum)
Genève, Tranchées (2-minute walk)
Genève, Villereuse (4-minute walk)
TrainGèneve Train Station (26-minute walk)

Visitor Information: Natural History Museum Geneva

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The Natural History Museum of Geneva is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The museum is closed on Mondays, Christmas Day (December 25), and New Year’s Day (January 1). Visitors are advised to check the museum’s website for any changes in the opening hours.

We were able to get inside the museum for free.


Final Thoughts: Natural History Museum Geneva

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The Natural History Museum in Geneva is a fantastic destination in the city that impressed me so much. The only caveat is that most of the terms are only in French. Spanning a large space and thoughtfully designed, the museum offers a wealth of information and an immersive experience. It caters to both children and adults, making it a fantastic outing for families.

Visitors can expect a captivating journey through the museum, learn more about all the animals displayed, and gain a better understanding of various species and ecosystems.

Overall, I highly recommend visiting the Natural History Museum in Geneva. It offers an enriching and fulfilling experience for all who step through its doors.

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Darla is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country. Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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