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Top 10 things to do in and around Lausanne (Switzerland)

Lausanne is the second-largest city on Lake Geneva and capital of the canton of Vaud in Switzerland. While it is predominantly associated with Olympics (it is often referred to as the Olympic capital) due to the fact that the International Olympic Committee is headquartered here, there is another side to the city which draws in a number of visitors each year - its location in the noted wine-growing region of Switzerland. The city, I feel, is a mix of the old and the new. On one hand, we have the old town with its impressive Gothic cathedral, small alleyways dotted with a number of independent boutiques and cafes while on the other end is the ultra-modern Rolex Centre of Learning which serves as a campus hub and library. And then there are lots of parks & gardens and art galleries & museums as well. So, effectively there is a lot to see and do in and around Lausanne.

Here are 10 things you must try while you’re in Lausanne.

Olympic Park and Museum


Located on the shores of Lake Geneva is the Olympic Park and Museum - undoubtedly one of the most visited attractions in Lausanne. Not surprising since Lausanne is home to the International Olympic Committee and the museum with a large number of interactive displays draws in sports and Olympic lovers from all over the world.

Olympic Park and Museum in Lausanne

Olympic Park and Museum in Lausanne

There is a large and beautifully landscaped park with several statues representing different sporting activities ('Cyclists' - a sculpture by Gabor Mihaly and 'Les Footballeurs' - a colourful piece by Niki de Saint Phalle were my favourites) and Olympic symbols. The views of Lake Geneva from the park are fantastic.

Olympic Park and Museum in Lausanne

Olympic Park and Museum in Lausanne

Inside there are three main galleries spread over three floors. On the first floor are exhibits and displays about the history of the Games - the origins, how the games are organised, models of stadium designs, medals, mascots and torches from the games etc. The second floor is mostly about athletes, their equipment and clothes worn by these Olympians. The third floor is a permanent exhibit that is all about the Olympic Spirit. There are some interactive exhibits on this floor where visitors can test their balance, agility, and mental skills.

Olympic Park and Museum in Lausanne

The museum offers a wonderful insight into the world of Olympics and is highly recommended, especially if you are interested in sports.

Note: Admission to the park is free. Tickets to the museum are priced at CHF 18 for adults and CHF 10 for children.

Lausanne Cathedral


The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne is one of Lausanne's most majestic architectural monuments and attracts lakhs of visitors each year. Situated in the heart of the old town, the Lausanne Cathedral is considered to be one of the most beautiful gothic art monuments in Europe. The construction of the Cathedral is said to have started sometime in the 1170s and it was consecrated in 1275 by Pope Gregory X. The interiors are Gothic with a few elegant decorations.

Don't miss the views from the Cathedral tower. Around 150 steps take you to the top of the tower that offers breath-taking views of the city.

Lausanne Cathedral

The Palais de Rumine


The Palais de Rumine is a beautiful building in Florentine Renaissance style that houses four museums and a library - the museums of geology, zoology, archaeology & history, money museum, and the cantonal & university library. The building was constructed between 1891 and 1906 with help of a generous donation left by Gabriel de Rumine, a Russian aristocrat who had settled in Lausanne.

The Rolex Learning Centre (EPFL Learning Centre)


Designed by the Pritzker prize-winning, Tokyo-based design firm SANAA, the Rolex Centre was opened in 2010 and is an international cultural hub for Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). It is open both to students and the public and has several libraries, spaces to study, an auditorium, spaces for social gathering, laboratories, plus a few restaurants and cafes.

The Rolex Learning Centre is a very stylish, modern and inspiring building that is worth a visit especially if you are into architecture.

The Quais d'Ouchy / Ouchy Promenade


Take a stroll along the Ouchy Promenade which is around a kilometer-long and has three major parks along its route - Denantou Park, Olympic Park, and the Elysée Park. The promenade is a beautiful place to meander around and check out the gorgeous scenery. The tree-lined & flower-bedecked walkways, the birds chirping, the cool breeze of Lake Geneva and the sound of waves hitting the shores - everything adds to the beauty of the place. Whether you are on foot, on rollerblades or a bike, this is a beautiful part of the city to be in and to enjoy the views of the lake and the mountains. One could sit for hours and 'people watch', enjoy the sunset or just watch the ferries come and go.

There is a carousel, a lovely fountain and some ice cream vendors, cafes and restaurants nearby making it an excellent place for an evening out with the family.

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Ouchy Promenade in Lausanne

Collection de l'Art Brut (Musée de l'Art Brut)


The collection at Art Brut is unique and often considered as a historical point of reference because it features works of art by self-taught artists, who create without worrying about the mainstream art world. The works of art displayed in this museum are often referred to as 'outsider art' and the creators are inmates of mental asylums, children, prisoners, loners or marginalized people from different walks of life. What they all have in common though is that they produce original pieces of art that do not adhere to the artistic traditions seen in conventional artwork. It is a unique and interesting museum, totally worth a visit.

Fondation de l'Hermitage


Another museum - small but with impressive artworks from famous Swiss and international artists from the Renaissance era to the 21st century housed in a beautiful building surrounded by a park. The museum has over 600 pieces of artworks, a selection of which is regularly presented to the public via exhibitions.

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva


One of the most magical things to do in Lausanne is taking a ride on a steamboat in the evening. Absolutely fantastic! The sunset cruise, which is one of the many cruises offered by CGN, provides spectacular views of the sunset and the magnificent UNESCO vineyards of Lavaux. The cruise lasts a little over 2 hours (Lausanne to Montreux and back) and is an excellent way of taking in the stunning scenery. The dinner on board was also nicely done.

For more information on the other CGN cruises and tickets, visit www.cgn.ch

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Sunset Cruise on Lake Geneva

Lavaux's UNESCO listed Vineyards


Between Lausanne and Montreux is a vast network of pathways that criss-cross through the slopes of the UNESCO listed vineyards of Lavaux. The Lavaux region which stretches for around 30kms along the northern shores of Lake Geneva consists of over 800 hectares of hillside vineyard terraces.

Vines were being grown in the Lavaux region as early as the 12th century. But it was owing to the help and support of the Bishops of Lausanne and the Cistercian monks that the region was soon transformed into a winegrowing land. The terraces were built on the sides of the slopes way back in 1330s. Over the years there were many changes but wine growing remained a major part of the region's income source. The 19th century saw the wine growers having to adapt their methods of cultivation to ensure that the plants survived and thrived. This centuries-long connection between the people of the region and the environment has led to a system of cultivation that makes optimal use of the local, natural resources to enable the production of the highly valued Swiss wine.

As one of the local wine growers mentioned, the Lavaux vineyards enjoy the benefits of the sun's rays three times over - firstly directly from the sun, then from the rays bouncing off the lake and finally the warmth that is stored up in the many stone walls along the terraces. They call it the 'triple sun' effect. Very interesting!

These hillside vineyards have been protected by UNESCO since 2007 and today wine lovers and visitors to Switzerland come to Lavaux to experience the beauty of this place. You can get to Lavaux by train, boat, bus, car or by the funicular. Once in Lavaux you can opt to take in the scenery of the terraced vineyards by bus, train, bike, car or one of the small trains on wheels (Lavaux Express or Lavaux Panoramic). For those who enjoy hiking/walking, the region offers a number of walking trails. Whichever way you decide to explore the vineyards, it is simply amazing. Definitely not to be missed!

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Lavaux UNESCO listed Vineyards

Tour of a Wine-growing Estate + Wine Tasting


And while you are in the Lavaux Vineyards why not awaken your inner wine connoisseur by visiting one of the wine estates and sampling their most popular wines! Most vineyards offer guided tours of their cellars along with wine tasting and the possibility to organise lunch or dinner in the vineyard's exceptional setting.

We visited the Clos de la République wine estate whose current owner is Patrick Fonjallaz. The Fonjallaz family has been involved in the vineyards of Lavaux from the 16th century onwards making them Switzerland’s oldest family firm. Patrick represents the 13th generation!

The Clos de la République estate is spread over 34 hectares and all their wines are made on the property. The highlight of the cellar at this estate is a 32,000-litre cask that was simply beautiful. The tasting session was also good, which was no surprise considering the majority of the estate's wines have won awards/medals. In addition to the tasting, we also enjoyed a lovely meal that was prepared on site and served on the terrace overlooking the lake.

To book your visit to the Clos de la République estate visit www.closdelarepublique.ch

Clos de la République wine estate

Clos de la République wine estate

Clos de la République wine estate

Clos de la République wine estate

Clos de la République wine estate

Clos de la République wine estate

Clos de la République wine estate

Getting around in Lausanne

Just like Basel provides a free 'Basel Card', Lausanne provides the 'Lausanne Transport Card' that offers the holder free transport and discounts. You can ask the hotel where you are staying for your personal 'Lausanne Transport Card' that you can use on public transport (like the train, metro or the bus) for a maximum of 15 days. You can also use the card to get discounts at many museums and shops.

For more information on the Lausanne region, visit www.lausanne-tourisme.ch

12 comments:

  1. I lived in Switzerland for quite a while but never had a chance to visit Lausanne, but I will definitely consider it now that I read your article! Wine tasting sounds like a fun and tasty activity to do with my co-travelers :)

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    1. Wine tasting was fun! The cruise is also not to be missed.

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  2. Lavaux Vineyards look amazing! I did not know that there are UNESCO listed vineyards in Lavaux. I definitely need to put this on my bucket list. Since I'm an artist, Fondation de l'Hermitage sounds like a place I would spend a lot of time in. How long a trip do you recommend in Lausanne?

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    1. There are lots of arts galleries and museums in Lausanne which I think you would love visiting. Plus the visit to the vineyards, the cruise, other sightseeing - I would recommend 3-4 days to take in everything at a leisurely pace.

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  3. The blue/green/white of Switzerland sure lives up to its name in these gorgeous photos of Lausanne. While I'd LOVE to spend time in the Olympic Museum, I'd be hard pressed to spend even a moment inside in such a beautiful setting!

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  4. OMG Lausanne seems like that perfect Switzerland town sans the Alps. I would love to take the sunset cruise at Lake Geneva and just chill in the Vineyards. So much to do!!

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    1. Lausanne is a beautiful city and it actually boasts of a dramatic panorama over the Alps and Lake Geneva.

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  5. That was such an amazing trip around Lake Geneva and you are right, the boat trip was one of the top highlights.

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    1. What a fabulous trip, right? I miss the boat cruises, the vineyards and the wine tasting :)

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  6. Oh wow there's such a diverse range of things to do in Lausanne! I love how quaint and colorful it all is, from the flowers to the buildings to the sculptures! I'd love to visit during my Euro trip next year!

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  7. I would love to do the Sunset Cruise!! It looks amazing!! XO

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  8. Lausanne seems like the ultimate Swiss mountain town. There are so many things to do and your pictures are so beautiful they're making me want to visit right away!

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