Check out my guide of what makes this city great, and how to explore it best! My next post will tackle that most important of questions….where to eat!
Lausanne sits in the French speaking part of Switzerland and in the Vaud region (or canton), about 40 minutes train from Geneva Airport. It’s set on the banks of Lake Geneva – a vast and blue lagoon around which many Swiss towns sit (Montreux, you may have heard of). Mountains loom around the lake and in the distance, the odd snowy peak winks. All in all, it’s really rather picturesque.
It’s an incredible steep city, spanning around 500m from lake side to its top – best get on those squats before you arrive and have to tackle its stairs!
This ancient grandeur is contrasted with sleek, urban modernity in the Flon district. This is an interesting zone. It used to be an industrial area, packed with ugly warehouses which then fell into disrepair and crime. In 1998 the council cleared it and redeveloped the whole area over 10 years into an arts and culture hub! Now it is young and hip with modern art displayed in the streets, ecological architecture everywhere and is the home of Lausanne’s nightclub and bar scene. It’s altogether very cool.
There’s great shopping in the Town Centre, around the Rue de Bourg pedestrian zone and in the streets off the Place de la Palud square. Come to this square on the hour between 9am-7pm to see the intricate cuckoo clock there go off, singing the story of the history of the Vaud area! On Saturdays the whole centre hosts a farmers market with producers from all over the canton coming to show their wares.Head from the city down (200m or so!) to the Ouchy District, a former fishing village sitting on Lake Geneva, or Lac Lemon as the locals call it. This gorgeous lakeside zone offers stunning views of the lake, the Savoy Alps and bordering vineyards. There’s also tonnes to do here. Lausanne is the seat of the Olympic Committee and here you can find the Olympic Museum. As more of an eater than a sports woman, I was sceptical about this but in fact it was an incredibly enjoyable visit; the centre is state of the art and interactive. Also in this area is the Musee de l’Elysee, a photography museum in a striking 18th century mansion, and many beautiful old buildings – making it a place for a very nice stroll. If you’re feeling bolder, take a pedalo out on the lake or indulge in some of the available water sports: sailing, water skiing, wake boarding – it was all going on whilst I was there.
Besides exploring all the attractions Lausanne’s diverse districts has to offer, perhaps through one of the Tourist Board’s guided city tours, there are some other great things to do whilst you’re there.
Boating on Lake Geneva: What better way to explore this stunning region and enjoy its panoramic views than from the water? Luxurious Compagnie Generale de Navigation (CGN) steam boats traverse the lake, stopping off at its surrounding villages and serving wonderful food and wine on board. Tie this in with a trip…
Wine Tasting in the Lavaux Wine Country: Just outside the city of Lausanne, easily accessible via a 15 minute train, is the Grandvaux area where much of the region’s wine production takes place. This area is so beautiful it was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2007! The Swiss are wonderful wine makers but keep 98% of it for themselves, exporting internationally only a fraction of their production. There are a number of wineries here, most of which offer special tastings, however we headed to the Domaine Croix Duplex which offers the best views over the lake and vineyards from its hillside terrace. This small winery is still family owned and produces a host of different wines that the friendly staff will guide you through. Make sure to try plenty of chasselas – this is the local grape and is all too quaffable.
During my visit I stayed in the beautiful Chateau d’Ouchy. This luxurious 4 star chateau dates back from the 12th century and occupies a prime spot on the shores of Lake Geneva, just opposite the entrance to the metro. Equipped with 50 rooms, suites, spa, pool and restaurant this is a real haven and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay.
Transport in Lausanne couldn't be easier. Lausanne is the only city in Switzerland (and the smallest in the world) to have a metro, recently launched in 2008, and it really does make traversing this hilly city a doddle. Even better, hotels in Lausanne give guests a free transport card upon arrival providing free public transport for your whole stay!
The rail network is also excellent – you can get all around Lake Geneva easily, quickly and, of course knowing the Swiss, punctually.
Flights are regular from UK airports to Geneva, beginning at circa. £80 with EasyJet or Swiss Airlines.
Once in Geneva, trains run several times an hour from the airport to Lausanne, getting you there in circa. 45 minutes. As easy as pie.
In short, Lausanne is a firm addition to my line up of all star Europe mini break destinations. Food, scenery, culture and history…name a better formula for a get away and I’ll buy you your flights!
Next piece: How to eat Lausanne!