Ways to visit CERN
Apart from being a World famous laboratory, CERN is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Switzerland and tops the list of things to see in Geneva. There are many ways to experience this inspiring institution.
1. Permanent Exhibitions:
CERN hosts two permanent exhibitions on its campus - The Universe of Particles and Microcosm. These are open to the public on most days except Sundays and special CERN holidays. It gives a great first introduction to CERN.
2. CERN General Tour:
The best way to experience CERN is to book a tour. CERN conducts a general tour during which the history and current research focus of CERN will be explained followed by a tour of some of its facilities. This can be booked two weeks in advance but they get booked out within minutes as soon as the slots open at 8 AM (CET). So this could be like booking your tatkal ticket. In case you don't succeed in getting a slot in this booking, keep looking on the same website for cancellations as slots could open if someone cancels. In the worst case, on the day of the intended visit, call directly the visit service and check if they have any free slots. Generally, if you are one or two persons, they might allow you to join that day's tour. Do not get surprised when you learn that you will not be taken to the world famous underground facility of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Even though an underground visit is not included in the general tour, you will get to see some really exciting stuff and won't be disappointed.
3. Specific Experiment Tour:
Visiting the LHC tunnel and the underground detectors are also possible, but with another kind of tour. As you probably know there are four main experiments or detectors that form the part of LHC - ATLAS, ALICE, CMS, and LHCb. All these experiments have individual tours and an underground visit is often included. Among the experiments, the ATLAS detector is really a huge one, but CMS scores as the most impressive one as you will have unique perspectives to appreciate its full might. So, if you have to choose among the experiments, then go for CMS. CERN operates in cycles meaning the LHC tunnel is in full operation for three or four years followed by a nearly two-year long shutdown during which all the major maintenance and upgrades are carried out. This shutdown period is the best time or maybe the only time to visit the underground facilities. The current shutdown is till May 2021. The normal operation will then continue till the end of 2024. The next shutdown called the Long shutdown 3 or LS3 is planned between 2025 and mid of 2027. These dates might get adjusted by a few months depending on the actual situation. So planning a visit to any of the experimental facilities during the shutdown period will most likely take you for an underground visit. Getting these visits could be easier if you organise it through someone working at CERN. The tours are run by volunteers and writing to these guides is the first step. Later it is followed through the visits service of CERN.