Living as an au pair in Apples in 2009 – 2010, I was only 40 minutes away from Lausanne by train. Lausanne is a beautiful city, and one I will always think of as home. My host mother took me here on my first weekend in Switzerland, and we bought Churros from a stall on Place St Francois and drank hot chocolate.
The first thing you’ll notice when you exit Lausanne’s train station is that in order to get into the city, you must walk up a very steep, cobbled hill. (Although, there is, of course, a metro running beneath the city. A metro system which is completely automated, might I add). If you exit from the other side of the station, you can walk down the hill towards the Port d’Ouchy, Lausanne’s lakeside, with views towards Evian-les-bains in France (see picture above). Interesting fact: the metro line from Ouchy to Lausanne Flon was the first funicular in Switzerland, opening in 1877.
Ouchy offers stunning views over Lake Geneva and the Alps, and is a popular spot to relax in summer. You can also hire pedalos and go swimming in the lake. From Ouchy’s port, you can take the boat across to France, reaching Evian in less than an hour. Tickets can be pricey – but what isn’t in Switzerland?
There are lovely restaurants and hotels in Ouchy, including the Chateau d’Ouchy, where I once had brunch with a colleague one morning in Spring. I also recommend going for a crepe at La Creperie d’Ouchy – very good! Lausanne is often cited as the Olympic City, because the International Olympic Committee’s headquarters are situated on the lake in Vidy and Ouchy is home to the Olympic Museum – well worth a visit!
Now, back to that steep climb into the city. Upon reaching its summit, you are greeted by the church of Saint-Francois across the street to your right, but if you continue on the path to your left, you will soon come to the Palais de Justice (law courts) which is a magnificent building, with a huge lawn overlooking the lake and the Alps. Further along from here you will pass the Esplanade de Montbenon, a beautiful flower-filled garden complete with picturesque water fountain against an Alpine backdrop.
The views from the Palais are perhaps only slightly surpassed by the views from the Lausanne cathedral, Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Sitting 500 ft above Lake Geneva on Lausanne’s hillside, this Gothic cathedral was consecrated in 1275 by Pope Gregory X. It is possible to climb the bell towers of the cathedral for a spectacular view of the city and the lake. I think it costs around 5 CHF to climb the tower but the money goes to repairing and preserving the cathedral.Afterwards, as you walk back through the old town of Lausanne, stop for some fondue at cafe de l’eveche; they have 11 types of fondue to choose from!
Something not always written about in guide books is the fact that Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel is buried in Lausanne. My friend and I visited her grave one Sunday in the Bois-de-Vaux cemetery. A lot of celebrities live in or have died/were buried in Switzerland. Freddie Mercury settled in Montreux, Tina Turner lives in Zurich, Phil Collins lives in Fechy, close to Lausanne, Shania Twain lives on Lake Geneva, and Roger Moore lives in Crans-Montana.
Switzerland is not known for being a party animal, but Lausanne certainly has a vibrant nightlife. Be prepared to spend a LOT of money when you go out, but you must at least visit the Kingsize Pub at Lausanne Flon. This is an English-themed pub, where back in 2010 the staff had to wear kilts (despite the fact that’s Scottish, not English), however when I was there last year, I didn’t see any kilts. It does get pretty packed on weekends, as they often do live piano duels, taking requests from the audience. Next door to Kingsize is the famous nightclub Mad, which is super expensive, but has 5 floors, a restaurant and a private room. They also do LGBT nights on Sundays. One of my favourite bars was Darling, on Place St Francois. Amazing views over the lake and lots of space for dancing, the drinks are cheap and it’s open to 5am (which helps if you miss the last night train!).
If you are in Lausanne in the Spring, you should stick around for the Lausanne carnaval the first weekend of May. There is a street parade, food stalls, concerts and lots of activities for children. Also in Spring, in April and May, there is a beautiful tulip festival in the lakeside town of Morges, 10 minutes from Lausanne by train. Situated in the Parc de l’Indépendance on the lake shore, Morges hosts the biggest tulip festival outside of the Netherlands. I have been to the tulip festival every year since 2010 – so peaceful and colourful.
http://www.cff.ch/home.html (Train services in Switzerland)
http://www.cgn.ch/en (Boat services in Switzerland/France)