I'll emphasise this now... BOOK YOUR GUIDED TOUR MANY MONTHS IN ADVANCE! spaces fill quickly. Don't give up if all spaces are filled, look almost daily, seriously, because things do change and they do try to put more tours on when demand is particularly high, but you have to get in there quick.
We managed to book a tour for the four of us to visit CERN, which was done as a surprise mainly for my eldest son (16), a keen young physicist-in-the-making who would like to work with CERN data when he is older.
We are all interested in physics but none of us are scientists, therefore we have some knowledge, probably more than the average Joe, especially my son, but none of us are university level.
So this is the position we were in when we took our visit.
The tours are conducted by genuine physicists who truely do have depth of their subject and are very happy, enthusiastic in fact, to chat particle physics and physics in general to anyone who is keen to do so, over and above the standard content of the tour.
Whether or not you will manage to actually go down to see the Collider is pure luck on the day. We couldn't unfortunately but there's plenty to see and learn without doing so.
I highly recommend the tour. But seriously - book WELL in advance (it's free).
There are also learning centers/exhibitions presented in a variety of styles, many are interactive and you can certainly spend several hours on these. They are designed for people with a range of levels of scientific understanding and are especially suited to those who have an interest in physics but have not studied it at University. There is also alot of information about CERN's history, spin-offs that have benefitted society etc etc, all well presented in a variety of ways, in French, German and English.
I'll state the obvious. This is not an amusement park. If you are genuinely interested in science you'll love it. They've put ALOT of effort into creating genuinely impressive and enjoyable interactive displays to inspire visitors, especially students, and have gone out of their way to make the subjects interesting without dumbing down the information or cheapening the experience. The displays are clever, appropriate and add to the experience. This will help those kids who find science only slightly interesting but are on a school trip there anyway. ie if they find the subject a little boring in general then the interactive and innotive displays will help. They are fun. The fact remains that if you love science and physics you'll enjoy your visit to CERN and the displays will add to that. If you have no interest then no amount of wizardry is likely to truely change that, but you may enjoy the displays anyhow. Like any subject, you're either interested or you are not.
Our entire holiday in Switzerland started out with the fact that we wanted to take our kids to CERN, and other plans developed from there. We are very glad we did - we all thoroughly enjoyed our visit and has served to strengthen my son's already strong ambition. The tour was excellent, the displays were very good and informative, we enjoyed ourselves, learned plenty and there's lots to see. Thank you.
Oh and tram 18 takes you straight there from Geneva.
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