If you have children who love fire engines, then Geneva has a treat in store for you!
Not only is there a fire engine museum in Geneva, there’s also a fabulous fire engine climbing frame in the Ecole de Mail, around the back of the large fire station. We visited both today, as well as having a look through the gates of the working fire station. There’s so much to see!
The fire engine museum is in an unassuming building at 1 bis, Rue du Stand. It’s fairly central, less than 10 minutes walk along the Rhone river from Bel Air (or for us, a Janathon walk of half an hour from home) and there are plenty of bus and tram stops closer by. Set over 3 floors, it hosts a couple of large engines and a smaller 4×4 at the front, as well as a handful of smaller vehicles at the back. Upstairs are the horse-drawn fire engine carriages, buckets, uniforms, extinguishers and that sort of thing.
Mtoto had been looking forward to going to the fire engine museum as soon as he heard about it. Although we were both feeling ill and I was planning to have a day in, we went anyway, such was his enthusiasm. Sadly, it all dissipated just a few minutes after we got there. The concept was good and I’m sure the delivery will work for kids who are older than Mtoto.
The drawbacks are simply:
1. You can’t go in the fire engines.
2. There’s no obvious logic to what is placed where.
3. There’s no reception or obvious starting point.
4. There’s no trail, information pack or anything like that.
5. I don’t know who the staff are as no one introduced themselves.
6. To get from the ground floor to the first floor you have to go up a wooden staircase of about 20 steps. While it feels solid, it is hard work with a toddler.
7. There’s no shop or stall selling fire engine toys.
8. The entrance is through a curtain of blankets. Pushing the buggy through first, I almost smashed Mtoto into the bumper of the first fire engine that is parked dangerously close to the entrance and there’s no warning about it.
If I was on my own, I would have loved this museum. There are enough artifacts with information signs that I could have ambled around the museum for an hour or more. I loved details like the fire hydrants holding up the rope around the vehicles. What is a drawback when I’m with a child is a quirk when I’m on my own.
After the museum, Mtoto was desperate to get to the fire engine playground and we couldn’t get there fast enough. We did stop off though to look through the gate into the modern fire station at Rue du Vieux-Billard where we saw a fire vehicle with a snow plow on.
The fire engine playground is in the Ecole de Mail off Rue Gourgas and is opposite a larger playground in Parc Gourgas. It is about 10 minutes walk from the museum. The fire engine was installed in 1999 to celebrate 100 years of the fire service in Geneva. It’s a pretty good space. Mtoto needed a bit of help to get into the cab and to get around a couple of ladders, but otherwise he was fairly capable and enjoyed himself a lot. We stayed for around half an hour, which was pretty good going, considering that there is only one attraction in the playground. We didn’t visit Parc Gourgas this time, so we’ll have to tell you about it another time. Next week, maybe.
The fire engine museum is only open on Wednesdays and Sundays 10h-12h and 13h30-15h30, closed at lunchtime and closed in July and August, as well as on public holidays. The fire engine playground is in a school so the best time to visit is on Wednesdays, the weekend, or in school holidays and is probably worth combining the visit.
If you want to learn more about Geneva’s firefighters today, check out their municipal webpage, which includes links to photos of their recent work.