Visiting CERN Geneva: Discover The World Of Particle Physics

cern geneva

While exploring all that Geneva, Switzerland has to offer, take time to visit the CERN laboratory located on the French-Swiss border outside the city. Best known as the European Council for Nuclear Research, the acronym CERN actually stands for the French Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire.

Founded in 1954, this European joint venture with 23 member states uses the largest and most complex instruments in the world to study the smallest particles that constitute matter to gain insights into the fundamental laws of nature.

Here’s what you need to know before your visit to CERN.

Visitor Information

AddressEsplanade des Particules 1,1217 Meyrin, Switzerland
Opening HoursMon-Sat 8.00 am to 6:00 pm
Entrance FeeGuided tours, exhibitions, and public events are all free of charge.
AccessibilityThe exhibition is wheelchair accessible. Some points are not accessible to those with limited mobility, wearers of specific medical devices, pregnant women, and those below a certain age. Guide dogs are allowed.
Public TransportCern can be reached by public transport. Look for free bus and tram tickets at the Geneva Airport.
ParkingThe car park is located behind the Globe of Science and Innovation and is free of charge.

History & Background

CERN, Geneva
CERN, Geneva – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

When World War II ended, Europe was no longer world-class in scientific research and advancement, and scientists were taking their knowledge and talents to the United States. A few visionaries, following the example of other international organizations, dreamed of creating an atomic physics laboratory in Europe.

The first to put forward a proposal was French physicist Louis Broglie at the European Cultural Conference which opened on December 9, 1949 in Lausanne. The proposal was given support at the fifth UNESCO General Conference in June 1950 held in Florence. At this conference, Isidor Rabi, an American physicist and Nobel laureate put forth a resolution authorizing UNESCO to “assist and encourage the formation of regional research laboratories in order to increase international scientific collaboration.”

The first resolution to establish CERN was adopted in December 1951 at a UNESCO intergovernmental meeting. An agreement was signed two months later to establish a provisional council.

Switzerland was chosen as the host country because of its location in central Europe, its long-standing as a stable country, and the safeguards it had in place to ensure research funds weren’t misappropriated to the military.

Exhibitions

CERN, Geneva particle_accelerator 2
CERN, Geneva – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Universe of Particles Exhibition lets visitors explore the fascinating universe of particles-the smallest building blocks of the universe and everything in it. Located on the ground floor of the Globe of Science, the exhibit shows tracks left by cosmic rays, the world’s first web server, and explains experiments through an interactive exhibit.

The Big Bang Show is a fascinating video exploring the origins of the universe. It’s presented in English every quarter hour (:15) and at (:45) in French.

Explore the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) underground facilities by bike with Passport to the Big Bang, an interactive cycle route. It features 10 exhibition platforms along the 27-kilometer ring to tour the world’s largest particle accelerator. The platforms are accessible all year long and no reservation is needed.

How to Book A Tour

For Individual Visitors

Tours for individuals in groups of less than 12 cannot book in advance. The Globe permanent exhibition and the movie Discover Cern do not require booking. For individual guided tours that include a visit to the Synchricyclotron and the Atlas Visitors Center, you must register at the main desk one hour in advance. No underground visits are included.

For Groups

Groups of 12 or more can book tours online 9 months in advance. Tours include interactive exhibitions, guided tours of the CERN site, and lab workshops for students. Additional activities (film screenings, science shows, etc.) may be added one month in advance. Tours are organized in groups of 24 and conducted in French or English.

Group tours are offered Tuesday-Saturday. Sundays are reserved for individual tours.

How to Get There

CERN Tram
CERN Tram – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

By Car/Coach

The GPS location is 1 Esplanade des Particules, Meyrin, Switzerland. From the Swiss side, follow the sign for Aeroport, Lyon, or Meryrin. From Meyrin, head toward St. Genis just across the French border. You will see CERN on the left side of the Route de Meyrin right before the border crossing.

If coming from the French side, head for St.Genis and the border. CERN will be on the right side immediately past the border crossing

By Train/Public Transport

A direct train from Geneva to CERN departs from the Geneva/Lyon station and arrives at Myren, CERN in about 20 minutes. A train operates daily and departs every 15 minutes

A direct bus departs hourly Monday-Friday from Verier, Blandonnet, and arrives at CERN in approximately 8 minutes.

Other Things to Know Before Visiting CERN

CERN, Geneva
CERN, Geneva – Image courtesy of Matthew Lewis
  • Arrive at Reception 20 minutes before your tour starts.
  • Wheelchairs are available at Reception if needed.
  • Free WI-Fi is available at the site.
  • French and English are spoken. Some staff members speak other languages.
  • Only groups with restaurant access can use the ATM located inside the fenced area.
  • There is an onsite gift shop that accepts major credit cards. Cash is accepted but change is only given in Swiss francs and euros.
  • You can learn more and prepare for your visit at Discover CERN online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can visitors tour the underground facilities at CERN?

Underground tours are rare and limited to small groups. Visits to the LHC tunnel aren’t allowed, but you can visit the experimental tunnels during LHC shutdowns. 

Is taking photos or videos allowed during the visit?

Yes, photos and videos are allowed anywhere at CERN as long as you don’t interfere with the rights and privacy of others. 

Is it possible to dine at one of the cafeterias at CERN?

The restaurants inside the fenced area are limited to groups on guided tours that have been granted access by request during booking. Restaurants in the area are available to anyone and can be reached on foot or by public transport.

Courtesy of Wikimedia for the image header.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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