Lausanne, the capital of the canton of Vaud, is superbly located 40 minutes from the big city of Geneva (well, big for Switzerland) and 20 minutes from the lakeside resort towns of Montreux and Vevey. Lausanne is a small city of only 125,000 people. If you travel a kilometer or two in any direction you wind up in vineyards or villages or by the lake. It is truly a city with an extremely high quality of life.
There are only two distinct neighborhoods in Lausanne: the beach and the city. Like most lake or seaside cities, the beach is where the city people head as often as possible. Lausanne's closest beach is in a district called
The activities on the largest freshwater lake in Europe are practically endless. You can sail, fish, swim, water-ski, wakeboard, windsurf, or all of the above. Summer is short in Switzerland, so once the temperatures warm up, the inhibitions come off: this is playtime and the Swiss and tourists alike take to the water in droves. But don't worry, there is plenty to go around, literally: The lake is 72.3 kilometers (45 miles) long.
Although it sounds pretty unbelievable, spending time along this lake in the summer beats hanging out in the more famous places like Nice. No faux glamor, no polluted noisy streets nearby, no pretentiousness.
In towns like Ouchy and Lutry, a few kilometers east, there are easy-going folks swimming, fishing and dining, small pedestrian paths to walk along, beautiful turquoise water, quaint cafés with lake views, and all this without the ridiculous drunken crowds that race to the traditional beaches of France and Italy. And while you are less likely to come across a topless beach in Switzerland - there is some nakedness on
The city is where you will find upscale stores Bang & Olufsen,
Lausanne's Old Town has its own attractions, such as the
Lausanne is hilly, walkable and entirely livable. There are a few nightclubs in the alternative neighborhood of Flon, most notably
It is hard to find a hotel that is not well located in Lausanne because this is a small city and most accommodation is near something of interest. The questions to ask in this city are: how great is the view and is the staff efficient or not?
One of the best places to sightsee from your own bedroom is the luxurious Beau-Rivage Palace, voted Swiss Hotel of the Year a few years ago. Here you will find all the amenities you could ever imagine, plus the bonus of being located five minutes from the lake.
If you are looking for a hotel with fewer luxuries, there are plenty of options in the four and three star range. These hotels are more affordable and will offer you most of the basic comforts. Better examples of these include La Résidence Hotel–Restaurant, which is located on the lake front, and being owned by the Beau Rivage Palace, meets high expectations. It also happens to be the best four-star hotel in Lausanne. If this still remains slightly upmarket and you would rather stay in a larger, better known chain, then why not venture into the Mövenpick Ouchy on the lakefront? While rather bland from the outside, the views fantastic and the rooms are comfortable. Or if you are willing to sacrifice scenery for practicality then why not try the Victoria? Located in central Lausanne, it has recently been tastefully renovated and is right next to the train station.
The Lausanne Palace & Spa is another example of extreme luxury, located in central Lausanne. This hotel is beautiful and has wonderful views of the lake, but it lacks the discretion of Beau Rivage and can be quite snobby. This is in the five star bracket, which is the highest ranking in Swiss hospitality. You can therefore expect to find sauna and health care facilities, conference facilities, a number of restaurants offering excellent dishes, suites with personalized options such as fax, modem. Aside from being one of the top two best hotels in Lausanne, this hotel is also a member of the "Leading Hotels of the World" which is highly reputed for quality service a round the globe. For a larger hotel in the four star bracket there is the Hotel de la Paix which is located near the Lausanne Palace and benefits from the same panoramic views of the lake and mountains. Although it can be described as slightly disorganized, the interior has recently been refurbished and it is ideal for the businessperson or for a weekend visit. With only three stars, the Continental Hotel is another option. Very practically located right opposite the train station, it is a decent quality place to stay.
Just north of Lausanne near the tiny hamlet of Vers-Chez-Les-Blancs is the three-star Les Chevreuils dating back to the 19th Century. Les Chevreuils is a great place to stay year-round and its restaurant, le Jardin Gourmand, is delicious. Whatever might bring you to Lausanne you are sure to find something that suits your taste. So all we can say is: have a nice stay!
If we were to discuss the entire history of Lausanne, our tale would begin about 25 million years ago. For the sake of space, not to mention your personal happiness, we shall begin our brief historical tour at 6000 BCE. It is around this time that bones found in Vidy are dated. You can see these in the recently discovered Roman ruins in the lakeside suburb of Lausanne.
Skipping through the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, plus a few pillages and rampages through the town, we arrive at the 12th and 13th Centuries. Lausanne at that time was a bustling place, attracting pilgrims from all over who were particularly interested in the Cathedral. Pope Gregory X came to consecrate the Cathedral on October 20, 1275.
The Cité, one of two communities in Lausanne at the time, was surrounded by a wall, built centuries earlier for defense. After the installation of 20 more gates in the wall, Lausanne expanded outwards. These gates saw much traffic, as this small town was a major throughfare for those coming and going from Bern, Italy, the Jura, the Valais and Geneva.
Passing through several more centuries of religious wars, invasions, the plague, Lausanne came into vogue in the second half of the 18th Century, thanks to the famous philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Travelers started to come to see this beautiful hilly city, with flowing rivers and pristine countryside. These newcomers included everyone from Mozart to Voltaire to Goethe. These cultured visitors were only the beginning of Lausanne's interest in the arts and in education, as the city established the world-famous Academy, with faculties devoted to Science and Law, an art school that opened in 1823, a municipal theater, a science university, and of course, the city became the headquarters for the International Olympic Committee in 1915. In this century, Lausanne continued to grow despite the serious conflicts going on all around, most notably the two world wars.
Currently a city of 125,000, Lausanne has managed to keep its history visible and accessible. With the exception of building over the major rivers and knocking down its fortified walls, most of the city's landmarks are still around. Place de la Palud, for example, where you find twice-weekly markets, has been a meeting place for commerce since the 9th Century. The Town Hall has been home to the government for five centuries. The St-François Church, once the most imposing landmark in town, is believed to have once been made of wood, and rue de Bourg, now a very fashionable upscale street, has been courting visitors since the 9th Century. Regardless of where you look in Lausanne, everywhere there is history.
Even Lake Geneva, known as Lac Léman in French, was mentioned by Julius Caesar in 58 BCE; so when you are lying on the beach or buying your bread in Place Riponne, think about all of those who have come before you and be thankful we did not start this history lesson in 25 million BCE!
For a small city of only 125,000 people, Lausanne is a pretty hip place. There are two main reasons for this, By being a big promoter of culture and the arts, Lausanne stands out from decidedly non-artsy cities like Geneva or Zurich, and secondly, there are a lot of students in town who tend to liven things up regardless of where they hang out.
There are three or four absolute must-visit places in Lausanne. The most famous is probably Cave du Bleu Lézard where you will find the best live music, the coolest crowd, and fairly good food and drink with it. Don't be intimidated by the hordes of people wearing black. This is where both regulars and tourists soak up the atmosphere so jump right in. Two other famous places are Café de L'Eveche and Le Café Romand. Café de L'Eveche is where to go for pasta, vegetarian dishes and beer fondue; Romand is where people first frequent as teenagers and continue to frequent well into retirement. You must try their cheese fondue.
On a completely different price and prestige level is La Grappe d'Or, generally considered the best restaurant in town. You will spend at least CHF100 for dinner, most likely around CHF150, and that is just for one person. Well, if you are going to splurge, do so on the set dinner, and if you want the name but not the hefty price tag, visit this restaurant's little sister La Petite Grappe, which is cheaper.
The Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville (Crissier) is world-renowned and obligatory for anyone who truly loves food. Also called Restaurant Girardet, it specializes in fine French cuisine for the most part, but other dishes are available, depending on what is in season.
Lausanne Moudon is another excellent dining option specializing in brasserie-style cuisine. For a late-night drink, head to L'Arlov Jazz, or get a drink at VO in the same building. Open until 4a, almost unheard of in Lausanne, order a single malt or a cocktail, sit back and hear the smooth sounds of jazz on jam night Wednesdays or DJs on the weekends. Free entry, cheap drinks, and good jazz. Hard to beat, for sure. But if you wanted to try, head to MAD or Loft Electroclub for long nights of dancing and drinking to very loud live music.
For calm evenings, other highly recommended places include: Ma Jong for expensive but excellent Chinese food, Le Restaurant de la Croix d'Ouchy for delicious Swiss cuisine featuring smoked duck and goat cheese, the White Horse Pub for laid-back pub grub, Le Café Théâtre for meat or fish dinner with the locals (plus live music at night), enjoy an omelet at The Fox Café and pre-movie fries and a cocktail at Art Zoo.
As a general rule, cafés, bars and restaurants located around Place St-François are trendy, fun, but overpriced; those situated in the Flon district or around rue Enning will be cheaper and funkier; establishments around Place de la Palud tend to attract the locals and are lower key. Finding a good meal in Lausanne is not a problem as most places take pride in serving fresh food. You are not likely to be disappointed regardless of where you head, expect perhaps by the cost, as food and drink are not cheap in this rather expensive city.