- Mika Vepsalainen
Tavel Family House - history at its best in the oldest private residence in Geneva
Updated: Apr 30, 2022
Come with us to visit a brilliant patrician house right in the heart of Geneva’s Old Town. The Musée Tavel tells you the history of a rich family: who they were, what they did and how Geneva became what it is today.
The Maison Tavel is a unique example of medieval architecture in Switzerland. It was destroyed by fire in 1334 when only the cellar was spared. A noble Genevan family, the Tavels rebuilt it for themselves as a fortified house with turrets as an urban palace with a facade decorated with sculpted heads. In 1963 the City of Geneva acquired the building and started a restoration to convert the building into a museum.
Located in the heart of the Old Town, the museum is definitely a must for anyone interested in history, a remarkable example of medieval architecture but simultanously also a museum of urban history and daily life thanks to its permanent exhibition on Geneva's past. As late as in 1979, new excavations brought to light the remains of an 11th century tower and a huge 17th century cistern for collecting rainwater.
The permanent exhibition rooms have been reconstructed with interior as 18th and 19th century flats featuring paintings, maps, models, furniture and more telling you about Geneva's past from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
Remember to check the interesting multimedia presentation about Geneva from its early days into modern times called "Geneva, history made-to-measure" and do not forget to visit the highlight of the museum in the top floor, the Relief Magnin. It is the largest historical relief in Switzerland giving you a brilliant overview of Geneva before the destruction of its fortifications in 1850.
There is no restaurant in the museum but enjoy the huge choice of options for lunch and coffee around you in the heart of the Vieille Ville, Geneva’s Old Town when you are done with the museum.
There is no museum shop either but you can buy a book or two at the ticket office in the entrance hall where you can also leave you bag and umbrella during your visit.
The museum has a good lift inside with which you can move easily from one floor to another in a wheel chair of with a pram. Getting in in a wheel chair is a bit more complicated. After entering from the main door, please use the intercom to call the guards and they will let you in through a ramp directly to the entrance hall.
The toilets and an unguarded cloakroom, resembling a cave, are in the underground reachable with the lift but the handicapped loo is a bit narrow and it is not possible e.g. to turn the wheelchair inside.
The museum is free.
Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre 6 - 1204 Genève