Maison Tavel is a nice example of medieval civil architecture in Switzerland, worth a visit anyway because it’s the oldest house in Geneva. It was rebuilt as a fortified mansion by Tavel family after the fire in 1334 which spared only the cellars. The building’s current appearance is the result of the 17th century modifications to the Gothic façade. Several other noble families came but it finally donated to city of Geneva in 1963 and turned into a museum in 1986.
It splits into 6 different levels (from cellar to the attic!) housing some beautiful exhibits, furniture, daily objects and other things from 16th to 19th century, maps, engravings, paintings. Although it kept me busy for a while I couldn’t enjoy it to the maximum because the info boards are all in French :( But some things are easy to see without any info about them, the room of the wooden doors, traditional equipment of period kitchens in Geneva on 2nd floor, the Genevan coinage (15th to 19th century) at the medieval cellar, and one of the highlights is the huge metallic relief map of Geneva as it was in 1850, it’s always fun to compare with current shape of the city.
There’s no entrance fee for permanent collection, 5chf for temporary exhibits that usually focus on local historical subjects.
It’s open Tuesday to Sunday 11.00-18.00
1. Maison Tavel
2. View from the tower window
3. Lake Geneva off in the distance above the roofs
After the unique and (to me at least) fascinating exhibit at the Espace Rousseau, the nearby Maison Tavel was something of a disappointment.
Granted, it's the city's oldest house, first built in 1303, and its museum has historical collections from Geneva dating from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century. This is all fine, and I don't mean to knock it, but basically it is not much different from any other picturesque and historically significant house that you can see in any other Old Town in any other European city.
Perhaps I just did them in the wrong order. I should have gone to the Maison Tavel first and the Espace Rousseau afterwards.
Constructed in 1303 and partially rebuilt after a fire in 1334, Maison Tavel has a double honour: this is the city's oldest remaining building (yes, it is pretty old) and one of its newest museums. Honestly, I first did not recognize it for what it was – namely for one of the chief attractions of Geneva, may be because I had no map or guidebook with me, I was just strolling along the streets…
As is perfectly natural for such an old house, the building has undergone several reconstructions over the numerous centuries of its own personal history, before finally opening as a museum in 1986. The front wall is typically 17th century, with gray paint, white joints, and stone sculpted heads. The house contains a courtyard with a staircase, a 13th-century cellar, and a back garden.
The museum’s main topic is the history of Geneva from the Middle Ages (from the construction of Maison Tavel itself, I presumed) to the mid–19th century.
I can mention just some of the highlights before I run out of space allowed by VT for a single tip, so for me they include:
- The Magnin relief in the attic is outstanding
- The copper-and-zinc model of Geneva in 1850, where you can actually listen to some history
- Objects of daily use
- Postcards for sale there: )) Yes, I could not miss this one….
Ah! Almost forgot… Admission to the museum is free.