Visit CERN: the European Organization for Nuclear Research

Seeing is believing! There is nothing like seeing physics in action to excite and inspire. At CERN, you will hear, first hand, about what’s going on at the forefront of physics, and you will see the scale of the engineering and technology required to help us answer some of the big questions:

  • what are the basic building blocks of matter?
  • how did the Universe begin?

More than 90,000 people visit CERN every year (including more than 400 UK schools) and the overwhelming response is enthusiastic. To quote one teacher: “My students talked about it for weeks!”

The majority of UK visitors are schools and teachers, but visits for individuals and other groups are also very welcome.

CERN has two public exhibitions that are open Monday to Saturday 08:30 to 17:30. No pre-booking is required and you can just turn up.

Neither STFC nor CERN provide funding for visits, but some funding may be available to schools through the following schemes:

Book a visit

Before making any other arrangements, you must book your visit through the Visit CERN website.

Visits to CERN are free but demand is high, so you will need to book well in advance.

Specific tours are available for:

  • schools
  • groups (not schools) of 12 to 48 people
  • individuals and small groups of up to 11 people.

Individuals and small groups will join a group of up to 24 people for a visit that will include the chance to see one of the experiment control rooms. These visits are extremely popular and can only be booked 15 days in advance.

Groups should arrive and leave from the official reception desk at Building 33. It is in the building to the left of the flag poles, opposite the tram stop.

CERN straddles the border between Switzerland and France and some itineraries will take you across the French border, so please remember to take your passport with you.

School visits

CERN is a working lab so what you see will depend on what is available at the time of your visit. Your visit will be restricted to one ‘itinerary’, that is, a half-day guided tour that might include one of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment control rooms, the magnet assembly hall, the antimatter factory (where antiatoms are produced and studied) or the computer centre which handles data from the LHC. Underground visits to the LHC experiments are rare, and visits to the LHC itself are not available.

When booking your visit, you can request a particular itinerary. The CERN Visits Service will try to accommodate your request, but there are no guarantees. If your group comprises more than 24 people, you will have a greater range of itineraries if you have your own transport.

If you want to extend your visit, then you can visit Microcosm and the Universe of Particles, or you may be able to arrange a talk from a CERN physicist through the UK’s particle and nuclear physics outreach officer (current contact email is elizabeth.cunningham@stfc.ac.uk).

Alternatively, there are lots of other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities in and around Geneva. See ‘Other activities and attractions’ below.

As part of your school visit, you may be able to carry out real experiments in CERN’s purpose-built S’Cool Lab. Sessions are free, but you must book in advance.

To get the most out of your visit, we have teaching resources to help you prepare your students.

Travel to CERN

Travel by air

EasyJet flies to Geneva from Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham East Midlands. Other budget airlines also serve Geneva from a range of UK airports, sometimes during the ski season only. BA and Swiss also serve Geneva from several UK airports and, at certain times, they can be as cheap as the budget carriers.

Travel by coach

Most coach companies will give you a quote for travel to and from Geneva. The distance from Calais is about 500 miles. A coach will give you the greatest freedom when you are in Geneva (and means that a wider choice of CERN itineraries will be open to you as well as allowing you to take in other attractions on the way).

Travel by train

Eurostar offers a service between London and Geneva.

During the visit

On arrival at CERN, you should report to the main reception building opposite the tram stop.

If you arrive outside office hours, you can gain access to the hostel via the security guards at the main entrance.

Health and safety

For all visits, please make sure that you are wearing closed, flat or block-heeled shoes. CERN will provide helmets where required.

Access to underground areas is forbidden to pregnant women and to anyone with a pacemaker, defibrillator, electronic medicine dispenser (for instance insulin pump), hearing aid, or metal implant. If this applies to you or anyone in your group, please tell the visits service.

Luggage

CERN has no facilities for left luggage, and you will not be able to take overnight bags or suitcases with you on your tour (cameras, handbags or small rucksacks are no problem). Please leave your luggage at your hotel, in your coach or in the lockers at the airport.

Eating

The CERN self-service restaurant is good value for money by Geneva standards (around 10 to 15 CHF for a main course) and serves a wide variety of food. As well as being a convenient place to eat, the world’s leading physicists all pass this way! You will certainly appreciate the international nature of collaboration if you spend time here. You must book in advance for a large group (specify this when booking your visit).

The restaurant takes cash only. Swiss Francs are preferred but you can also pay in Euro notes (your change will be in CHF).

There is a wide range of restaurants in Geneva, from McDonald’s and Burger King upwards. Good areas to eat include the old town, near the cathedral, where there are some relatively cheap and cheerful restaurants, and the streets around Gare Cornavin. Fondue is a local speciality.

Bank and cash machines

There are cash machines and a bank just outside the CERN restaurant.

Souvenirs

CERN has a souvenir shop. You can’t buy CERN merchandise online so it’s the only place to buy a Standard Model T-shirt, or a CERN hard hat! The gift shop accepts cash and cards.

Accommodation

CERN Hostel (school groups only)

There is hostel accommodation on site for visiting scientists and engineers. If the hostels are not being used for this purpose, then they may be used by visiting school or college groups for one night only. A double-room with en suite shower and toilet costs around 64 CHF per person per night. The rooms provide a good standard of accommodation and are situated close to the main visitor centre and restaurant. This is the most convenient place to stay.

You will not be able to book until the Visit Service has confirmed your visit, and you may not be able to book the hostel until closer to your visit. The age limit for school parties staying in the hostels is 16 years, and good behaviour is required!

Geneva Youth Hostel

The youth hostel in central Geneva is a good alternative to a CERN hostel.

Other accommodation

There are other hostels in the city centre, such as City Hostel, Centre Masaryk, and a range of hotels, both in Geneva and just across the border in France.

In general, accommodation is cheaper across the border in France. Some hotels offer a shuttle service to or from the airport. If you are part of a group and you choose to stay in France, you will need to have your own transport.

Travel in Geneva

The public transport network is comprehensive and reliable. Each stop is named and announced as you approach it, making buses, trains, trams and water taxis very easy to use. Full details of routes, times and fares are available, the main site is in French but the section labelled ‘Itineraries’ offers an English option.

You must have a valid ticket for every journey, or face a 200 CHF fine. Hotels in Geneva are required to give all guests a complimentary day ticket for the public transport system.

If you need to buy a ticket, these are available from machines at each bus, train tram and water taxi stop. A one-hour ticket costs 3 CHF.

From CERN to Central Geneva

The number 18 tram leaves the gates of CERN at roughly 12 minute intervals during the day and will take you to the main train station (Gare Cornavin). Journey time to central Geneva is approximately 25 minutes.

From the airport to CERN

Take the 23 bus (ZIPLO) or the 57 bus (Gare de Meyrin) from the airport and change onto the number 18 ‘CERN’ tram at Blandonnet (take the lift up to the tram stop). Journey time is approximately 30 minutes.

Taxis

Taxis are expensive. From Geneva Airport to CERN is about a 10 minute journey and will cost around 40 CHF.

Other activities and attractions

Museum of the History of Science: CERN’s experiments are just the latest in a long history of scientific discoveries in Geneva. Free entry.

Museum of Natural History: everything from dinosaurs to the challenges of protecting our environment. Free entry.

Patek Philippe Museum: astronomical clocks (including one made by Huygens), astounding precision engineering and an amazing collection of early automatons. Entry fee, greatly reduced for groups of 10 or more.

SIG: guided visits in English to hydroelectric and solar power generation sites in Geneva and the surrounding area offer a chance to see industrial engineering and learn more about power generation. Free, but you must book in advance.

Geneva is home to the United Nations and many other international NGOs as well as being a world banking centre. Contact the Geneva Tourist Office to find out about what’s on during the time of your visit or download maps or leaflets.

European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble: find out why X-rays are essential tools for physicists, chemists, materials scientists, biologists, medical doctors, meteorologists, geophysicists and archaeologists. Visits are free but must be booked in advance.

Last updated: 1 September 2022

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