This post (the second of a three-part Switzerland travel series) was written by Deborah Grossman from the San Francisco Bay Area.
In South West Switzerland, Geneva may get the fame. But Lausanne has won my heart. Some cities are the perfect size, and Lausanne fits the bill. As the fourth-largest city in the country and home to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Lausanne has grand hotels, a bustling tourist life, and an excellent metro system. Yet the many quiet neighborhoods, the mix of historic and trendy venues, plus many local festivals and traditions give the destination a small-town ambiance.
Lausanne: City of Neighborhoods and Olympic Spirit
Located on Lake Geneva, the city rises to three hills, each surrounded by alluring neighborhoods. The tourist metro card—available in most cities—enables free rides on the tram, bus, train, and many of the boats around the lake. The port, once a launching point for Crusaders, is fronted by a story-book row of Belle Époque hotels.
Speaking of grand hotels, the newly renovated Royal Savoy is a Lausanne gem. Located between the lake and the town center with easy access to the tram, the hotel offers a beautiful spa and excellent restaurant, Brasserie du Royal from Michelin-starred, French chef Marc Haeberlin. The food is light and seasonal accompanied by fine Swiss and international wines. The rooftop SkyLounge, open April through October, offers innovative cocktails and beautiful views of the city and lake.
The Olympic Museum with its grand park between the main building and the lake is a must-see. From the ancient Greek origins to the cultural implications of the host country’s choice of clothing and giveaways, you see, hear, and touch the culture and tradition of Olympic achievements and spirit through interactive displays and instructive artifacts. Given the allure of the current exhibition and the late hour, I had to drag myself from the permanent exhibits—the cultural and historic implications of the toys and costumes at each Olympics was fascinating. Next visit, I will devote an entire day to the permanent and special exhibitions plus the TOM (The Olympic Museum) Café.
The Old City neighborhood with narrow, hilly streets is topped by the cathedral and its unusual and ornate painted doors and traditional night caller who sings out the time. The commercial town center at Place St. François is a shopper’s paradise for fashion, wine, and chocolate. The conveniently located, five-star Lausanne Palace Hotel is centrally located with Michelin-starred Table d’Edgard and lively La Brasserie du Grand Chène. Another noteworthy dining experience in Brasserie de Montbenon with stunning views from the terrace.
Down the hill, the former warehouse district is now the hip Quartier du Flon with restaurants, cinemas, and dance halls. The train station has easy access to downtown—and walkable to communal wine bars such as Midi 20. Lausanne is also family friendly with free concerts, ice skating and new Aquatis: the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe. Aquatis innovatives with high-tech, interactive scenography.
Insider’s Tip: If you have a car, a short drive west leads to wineries in the sleepy village of Mont-Sur-Rolle leads to wineries such as Château de Châtaneréaz with excellent tastings of local wine varieties. The winery is located in the La Côte appellation, known for many top producers in the Lake Geneva region.
Deborah Grossman is a freelance food, drink and travel writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find samples of her travels at deborahgrossman.com.