Off to Lausanne
Lausanne is the fourth largest city in Switzerland, as my wife informed me. 'It’s sort of sandwiched between the wine-growing regions of Lavaux, which is to the east of the city and la Côte on the western side. And they do a very good burger', my wife added with the skill of a dart player hitting the bull’s eye.
For some inexplicable reason the words sandwich, burger and wine all in the same sentence made me hunger for Lausanne. I’d heard it was a bit cool and hip, but I had never been there and now I was rather curious.
Ouchy Place de la Navigation © Elmedina Shureci
How I fell in love with Lausanne
Set on the shores of Lac Léman and famous for its romantic sunsets, Lausanne is a fabulous city to visit. The Old Town hosts markets peddling all sorts of goodies that will entice your appetite and keep you longing for more Lausanne. Within an hour of aimlessly wandering around you will, like me, adore this city and be convinced that there are fairies who come out at midnight and sprinkle flowers everywhere. This is a very colourful city in more ways than one.
But before I sing more of its praises, did you know that Lausanne is actually bigger than the Bern, which in terms of population runs in fifth? Not that size matters.
So, what does Lausanne have to offer and will you be left longing for more?
The only answer that we have for you is………. ‘Oh OUI! – Lausanne is fabulous!’
My first stop: Chateau Saint-Maire
It’s relatively easy to get around the city, partly due to the Métro de Lausanne - here some fun facts about the Lausanne Métro if you're curious. There are two lines – M1 and M2. If you arrive at the main railway station you can hop on the Metro across the road at Lausanne-Gare and take the train up to Riponne-Maurice Béjart. From there walk through Place de la Riponne and to your right you will see Palais de Rumine with its many museums. Further up and at the foot of the Avenue de l’Université you may wish to drop into Brasserie du Château which is a delightful little pub and brewery. Take the next right and voilà you have found Chateau Saint-Maire which was built in the 15th Century. Today it is the seat of the cantonal government. The good news is that from here it is now mostly downhill!
Oh! One small piece of advice from a close female acquaintance: unless you can mimic the locals and walk in high heels down cobbled lanes, in the snow, whilst drunk, do wear flat and comfortable shoes. How on earth they manage this feat is a mystery pertaining only to Lausanne. So I’m told. I don’t wear heels.
On we go to Palais de Rumine
If you have an interest in geology, zoology, archaeology, history, money museums, or care to visit the cantonal and university library, then do drop into Palais de Rumine. The name itself hints at the building’s architectural splendour which stands lavishing that Renaissance style that began in Florence in the early 15th century.
Next, Notre-Dame Cathedral – an absolute must-see
This 13th Century Gothic cathedral is enormous and you simply must go and see the spectacular stain glass windows. In fact, make this a priority. They are truly out of this world. Renown worldwide for being both majestic and near-angelic, they really are quite remarkable. If you can visit on a sunny morning you will stand in awe of the many vibrant colours and the light gleaming through the Rose Window into the nave and adjacent aisles. The experience will leave you mesmerised. There’s also a tower to climb, which is a must-do and a good calorie-burner, before you head out in search of a famous Lausanne burger...
But first let’s wander down the Escaliers du Marché which is a lovely little wooden stairway (in the photo here).
Place de la Palud – The fountain, the clock and many market delights!
At the lower end of Escaliers du Marché swing a gentle right and enter Place de la Palud, where you'll find the oldest fountain in Lausanne, the famous clock and, depending on which day of the week you drop by, a market. This is very much the heart of the old town and often a very busy and vibrant place where you can sit with a coffee and watch the world go by.
Feeling hungry? Well - I’m not surprised after all that walking and I did promise you a great lunch.
The Burgers of Lausanne
There are numerous places serving burgers in Lausanne and the competition to produce the best burger in town has led to something both unusual, very tasty and rather wonderful. For example, imagine a burger with not one but five cheeses melting within!
You won’t feel any guilt with this level of indulgence because Lausanne is an undulating maze of cobbled slopes, twists and turns, tunnels and romantic alleyways that will test your fitness. Consequently, a second burger mid-afternoon is perfectly okay considering the slopes! Here are ten of the most beautiful vista points you can take on after your first - or second - burger.
Now let’s do get back to burgers!
One small tip: being so close to France any beef you are served in Lausanne may be slightly south of cooked, albeit perfectly authentic, so you may wish to ask for ‘well done’ which will translate into my definition of ‘medium rare’. I’m slowly adapting my palate towards the local tint but remain somewhat held back by my father’s efforts at the BBQ, which during my childhood consistently delivered food the colour of ebony.
Next, Ouchy – and the Lake
This lovely part of the city is very easy to find, flat and picturesque. Occasionally, there’s a market on the waterfront selling handicrafts, including fragrant soaps and you are never far from an ice cream or crêpes (pancake) vendor. The flowers around the harbour in Ouchy are dazzling! Take your camera and be prepared to just sit and relax, but not for too long, because there still so much more to see.
Strolling east along the embankment you will discover the Olympic Museum. Heading in the other direction and west towards Vidy there are two wonderful outdoor swimming pools.
Tucked around the corner is a conceptual location known as La Jetée de la Compagnie which has a wine bar, an outdoor seating area and also runs morning yoga classes.
This is a beautiful part of Lausanne and perfect for swimming during the summer months, so don’t forget to pack a towel!
Both Parc Louis Bourget and Plage de Vidy are popular with locals. Be prepared for hundreds of little barbecues and people of all ages, chilling out, playing sports, swimming or reading books. This is a very relaxing part of Lausanne during the summer.
The Olympic Museum
Back towards Ouchy and as you walk past the small port, you will notice a row of paddle boats or pedalos adjacent to the 12th Century Château d'Ouchy. Just 400m along the quay are the steps leading up to the Olympic Museum. This is definitely worth a visit. Here you can explore thousands of years of history.
Jardin Botanique – Botanical Gardens
If you happen to prefer being outdoors and love plants, do go and see these gardens. It’s free and has over 6000 plants. It’s also worth checking if they are hosting any children’s events.
AQUATIS Aquarium and Vivarium
Great fun for kids and adults alike, AQUATIS is the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe with 10,000 freshwater fish. That’s a lot of fish, people! I mean, that’s a serious amount of fish. Who wants to count fish? “ME!” Kids just love this place. “Look out – there’s a Komodo Dragon!”
There’s a lots more than just fish here. It’s well worth booking online and checking out the special offers and discounts available.
Cool and Hip in Lausanne-Flon
The art of sitting at a café table, nursing an espresso for two hours whilst reading a paper is synonymous with Lausanne. Just add being hip and cool to the overall picture. Lausanne-Flon is no exception, it’s wonderfully relaxed and laid back, but picks up the pace after dark. There are numerous bars and clubs to check out.
(In case you were wondering, the green stuff in the photo is an actual green grass roof designed for the metro passage in Flon. Looks stunning!)
Leaving Lausanne is not easy
Once you discover Lausanne you will want to stay another day and then another day and then….. you will probably just want to live in Lausanne.
Looking for more inspiration before you visit Lausanne?
Here you'll also find top events happening in the city: Lausanne big events.
About the author:
This article was written by Bruce Anderson, a talented writer, comedian and now a life-long fan of Lausanne. He personally visited all the places mentioned in the article - and promised to come back for more.