Behind an unassuming stone façade in the Old Town, step into Geneva’s past and see artifacts and objects from centuries of life in Geneva at Maison Tavel. One of my favorite spots in Old Town, Maison Tavel is also the oldest private residence in Geneva. It was owned by the Tavel family from the 13th until the 16th centuries; today it houses Geneva’s Museum of Urban History and Daily Life.
I first discovered Maison Tavel while attending a temporary photography exhibition there two years ago. After touring the exhibition, I was pleasantly surprised by the permanent exhibitions that fill five floors of the museum. Today, it’s one of my must-see places for anyone visiting Geneva.
In the vaulted cellars (floor -1), old coins, weight and measures, and coats of arms are on display. Rooms on this level date from the 12th century. The entrance to Maison Tavel is on the main level (floor 0), along with objects from Geneva’s Medieval period, the Reformation, and the Escalade. On the first floor, you will find 18th century paintings, carved stone heads original to Maison Tavel’s façade, doors, ironwork, door knockers from around the city, and a model of the city from 1813. Don’t miss the turret on the first floor; it offers views of the Jet d’Eau and Lake Geneva. One level up (floor 2), rooms are laid out in the style of an apartment in the 18th century.
The most impressive part of Maison Tavel, in my opinion, is found on the third floor: The Magnin Relief Map. The map is a scale model and accurate depiction of Geneva before 1850. It occupies 32m² and is made entirely of metal. It took artist Auguste Magnin 18 years to create, and is the largest relief map in Switzerland. When you tour Maison Tavel, be sure to leave enough time to visit the map. Because several parts of the city haven’t changed very much since 1850 (especially the Old Town), see how many parts of Old Town, Plainpalais, and the lakefront area you can pick out!
Location and Practical Information
Maison Tavel is located in Geneva’s Old Town (Vieille Ville) neighborhood at Rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre 6. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11h00 until 18h00.
Admission is free to visit the permanent exhibitions; some temporary exhibits carry a charge of CHF 5 (inquire at the front desk). Click here for more information about Maison Tavel.
The nearest public transportation stops are Cathédrale and Hôtel-de-Ville on TPG bus #36. The closet parking is Saint-Antoine.
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