Offering world-class museums, unrivalled sporting status and magnificent mountain views, Lausanne is a charming choice for a city break, finds Connor McGovern
Strung along the northeastern shore of Lake Geneva, Lausanne has quietly simmered whilst the banks and bling of Geneva and Zurich take the spotlight. Sprawling powerhouse it might not be, but that’s the appeal of Switzerland’s fourth city — compact and efficient Lausanne quietly promises visitors a vibrant cultural calendar, lively arts scene and a fairy-tale-like gothic heart. Headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the city has earned its reputation as a world centre for sport: watersports take place on the lake in summer, and its proximity to the mountains makes it the perfect base for those looking to hit the slopes or don their walking boots. These same slopes make meandering its avenues and passageways a little challenging, but Lausanne is a considerate host, and rewards with dreamy views of the Swiss Alps.
Morning: Head uphill to the Fondation de l’Hermitage, a beautiful, peach-coloured mansion that hosts a calendar of art exhibitions all year round. If the sun’s out, sit back with a coffee on the terrace and take in the gardens with their leafy panoramas of the city and Lake Geneva in the distance.
Afternoon: Amble down to the old town with its wooden stairways and winding, cobbled streets full of shops and cafes. Take a wander around the Gothic cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century and still dominates the city’s skyline. It’s a calming spot to visit after a lunch of local fare at Café Romand. Afterwards, don’t miss Blondel, a cosy, old-fashioned chocolate shop that’s been hand-rolling exquisite truffles since 1850.
Evening: Meander around the Flon district, an array of disused warehouses that has been reworked into a hub of hip eateries, shops and galleries. From there, squeeze into popular bar The Great Escape near the Palais de Rumine, where the rustic, no-frills interior teems with locals in the winter and spills out onto the terrace in the summer.
Morning: Lausanne’s ultra-modern Aquatis aquarium-vivarium is the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe. It houses 10,000 species of fish and around 100 reptiles and amphibians. With exhibitions, too, it’s a must-do
Afternoon: The Olympic Museum is a smart celebration of the world’s greatest sporting event. The museum is full of inspiring projections, photos and video footage that document the Games’ illustrious past and future, along with plenty of memorabilia and interactive exhibits.
Evening: Wander down to the lakefront at Ouchy. Once a separate village, this small resort retains a quaint, refined charm with its waterside promenade and high-end hotels. As the sun sets, gaze across the lake to neighbouring France or don a pair of roller-skates and do as the locals do.
WHERE TO STAY
After many years of renovation, the stunning Hôtel Royal Savoy Lausanne seamlessly combines modern hospitality with elegant, original art nouveau touches. Rooms are plush, comfortable and fitted with all the mod cons. Book a table at the elegant brasserie for Michelin-starred fare. royalsavoy.ch