Think of Switzerland and you tend to think of skiing holidays, fondue and banking. However, as we at the Locals recently discovered on a weekend break to Lausanne, there is a lot more to Switzerland than just the apres ski .
The historic city of Lausanne is incredibly easy to access from the UK, being only 40 minutes by train from Geneva’s airport, following a quick one-and-a-half hour flight from London Gatwick. Hard to believe but just 4 short hours after leaving work on a Friday evening you can be looking out over Lake Geneva from Ouchy, a former fishing village now absorbed by Lausanne as part of its lakeside playground.
Unlike Geneva, which is full of embassies and international organisations; Zurich with its clubs and more German culture; Lausanne gained its reputation as tourist destination for those looking to rest and recuperate from the hedonistic excesses of the Roaring ‘20s. After only a few hours of Alpine views it definitely becomes clear how this breathtakingly beautiful city became the ultimate hangover cure of the Jazz ages, and a favourite of Fitzgerald, Audrey Hepburn, and even Coco Channel.
Don’t let this fool you into thinking that peace and quiet is all that Lausanne has to offer though – this vibrant 21st century city now is home to numerous music, film and culture festivals (check out upcoming events here), as well as an abundance of restaurants and bars, making this a winning destination no matter what you’re after. If we haven’t convinced you to give Lausanne a try yet, perhaps a few of our favourite spots can do the trick.
Where to Stay
Being in Switzerland it’s unlikely that you’ll be disappointed in your choice of hotel, but we strongly recommend where we stayed, the Angleterre & Residence Hotel. Once a hotel & hospitality school this beautiful hotel is made up of several buildings sitting on the edge of Lake Geneva. Most rooms have views across the lake of the alps, and in the summertime you’ll be sure to take advantage of the lakeside restaurant patio. Sound inspiring? Well it must be as this is awe-inducing location was also the one time residence of British poet, Lord Byron.
How to get around:
A stay at any hotel includes a Lausanne Transport Card valid for the duration of your stay (including the arrival and departure days) transporting you from the lakeside resorts into the medieval part of town in no time at all. So there is absolutely no excuse not to get out and explore the city and surrounding areas.
What to do:
Saturday’s in Lausanne are busy. This is when the locals are out and about doing their weekly shopping and many of the towns historical streets and squares turn into markets, selling everything from antiques and vintage clothes to freshly foraged local mushrooms and other delicacies. Sample your fair share but make sure you save some room for the most important treat, as no visit to Switzerland is complete without chocolate!
As the Swiss are the largest consumers of chocolate in the world there is plenty of choice but we especially recommend Durig Chocolatier, a short bus ride from the centre of town on Avenue D’Ouchy. Dan Durig and his team are usually in full production mode but Dan is a wealth of knowledge who is happy to talk you through his chocolate process (inherited from his father).
While in the centre of town make sure to pay a visit to the historical district. A climb to the top of the 17th Century cathedral’s tower provides monumental views down the lake and of the city and surrounding area. Finally don’t forget to check out Lausanne’s animated moving clock. The clock located in the Place de la Palud comes to life everyday at noon, bringing to life a regional story to a crowd of enchanted children and tourists.
Sunday’s in Lausanne are a little sleepier as the Swiss use it as a day to relax with families and friends. That said Sundays are the perfect day to explore one of the cities numerous museums or galleries.
The Fondation de l’Hermitage sits on a hill above Lausanne and draws international exhibits and shows to the city, focussing on the impressionist period. If you go here make sure to enjoy Sunday brunch or lunch at the GREAT
restaurant next door, the restaurant of the Fondation de l’Hermitage. This quaint little cottage serves up everything from Asian style noodle salads to more regional dishes (cheese, steak tartare) and traditional breakfast foods.
If you feel like venturing a little way out of the city (as you should!) head up to the northern edge of Lake Geneva to the UNESCO world heritage site, Lavaux. The many tiny vineyards that make up the region cover 830 hectares between Lausanne and Montreux and can be traced back to the 11th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area. The only true way to get to a place of such cultural significance HAS to be on the CGN
steamboat to Cully. These boats are some of the only steamboats still in use and the traditional mode of transport on Lake Geneva. Breathtaking views and fresh air will truly transport you to a different era. Once there take the
slightly kitsch “Lavaux Express” up into the vineyards. This little tractor/train may seem better suited to a children’s park but shows you more of the vineyards then you would be able to cover on your own, and includes a rest
stop to try the wine!
Where to Eat:
For a small city, Lausanne has embraced the big city food scene. Some of the London trends are surely here (gourmet burgers anyone?) but some are a little more unique.
Try eatme – a tapas restaurant with a twist. All of the miniature courses take inspirations from the different regions of the world. Start with something american, and then switch to east Asian! This place is definitely popular so you’ll need to book and from the looks of things when we left, it turns into a popular late night spot.
What to bring home with you:
No trip is complete without souvenirs. The main variety of grape grown in this region is the chasselas grape, rarely grown for wine outside of Switzerland. Something truly unique you won’t easily find back in London
**Words by Laura and Amy
48 hours in Lausanne