A weekend in Lausanne: travel guide, things to do, food and drink

 The Swiss city of Lausanne overlooking Lake Geneva  .
The Swiss city of Lausanne overlooking Lake Geneva .

Why you should visit Lausanne

Located in the canton of Vaud on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), Lausanne is often referred to as "Switzerland's San Francisco", said Rough Guides. Home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the French-speaking city is a "stunning place" of "steep hills tiered above a lake on south-facing terraces".

With a colourful old town and many world-class museums, said Earth Trekkers, Lausanne is a "delightful" destination. One day will give visitors "enough time to visit the highlights", but if you have more time, it makes a "handy home base" to explore this side of Switzerland.

Lausanne is sometimes "overlooked" by visitors in favour of Geneva, its "more famous neighbour", said Caroline Bishop on Lonely Planet, but "that's a mistake". It may be a small city, but it's "rich in art and culture", has a "gorgeous" lakeside location and boasts a range of attractions from "beaches and boat rides" to "vineyards and pop-up bars".

Fountain of Justice at Place de la Palud
Fountain of Justice at Place de la Palud

Top attractions and things to do

If you're searching for the "perfect place to explore without a set itinerary", said Earth Trekkers, then head to Lausanne's old town with its "picture-perfect" cobblestoned streets, colourful buildings, shops and restaurants. Place de la Palud, a "lovely" square located within the old town, is a nice spot to "grab a drink or a bite to eat". The square's "centrepiece" is the Fountain of Justice, Lausanne's oldest fountain. Just a five-minute walk from Place de la Palud you'll find the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne. A visit to this Gothic cathedral is "one of the best things to do" in Lausanne.

As the "Capitale Olympique", a must-do in the city is a visit to the Olympic Museum located next to the IOC headquarters. This "lavish" museum is dedicated to the history of the Olympic Games, said Wanderlog, and features "interactive displays, temporary themed exhibitions, and site-specific sculptural works". Other top attractions include the Fondation de l'Hermitage art museum, Collection de l'Art Brut, Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC), and the Plateforme 10 arts district.

Beau-Rivage Palace
Beau-Rivage Palace

Best hotels and places to stay

The best places to stay in Lausanne "take advantage of the location" and the "rich life on offer", said The Hotel Guru. For a "grand dame in the centre of town", Lausanne Palace will "tick all the right boxes". It houses luxurious bedrooms and suites, a "pampering" spa and Michelin-starred dining. Set within ten acres of private gardens, Beau-Rivage Palace is "wonderfully grand" and has a "fantastic" choice of restaurants.

"Tucked away" in the residential district between Lausanne's centre and lakeside, Hôtel Royal Savoy has "much to offer those in the know", said The Telegraph. For a "homely alternative", just steps from some of Lausanne’s "flashiest" hotels, Bernaldo Bed and Breakfast is a "charming" set of individually decorated rooms which are "made for lingering".

Lavaux Vineyard Terraces
Lavaux Vineyard Terraces

Eating and drinking

There are more than 300 restaurants in Lausanne, including 12 with at least one Michelin star and 12 which have been awarded a Bib Gourmand. It's only a small city, said Caroline Bishop on Time Out, but there are "plenty of good places" to eat here "if you know where to find them". Traditionalists can opt for "classic Swiss cheese dishes" at dedicated places such as Pinte Besson and Café Romand. Offering a "feast for the eyes, taste buds and soul", said Ewa Zubek on Culture Trip, Café Saint-Pierre combines "urban chic with chromatic plastic" and an "airy ambiance with colourful – and flavourful – dishes".

Lausanne may be known as the Olympic capital, but it's also one of the world's 12 "Great Wine Capitals". Just "a grape's throw away" from the city is Lavaux, a Unesco World Heritage vineyard. The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces stretch for about 18.5 miles along the shores of Lake Geneva from the Chateau de Chillon to the eastern outskirts of Lausanne. Nearly all wine-producing villages have their own cellars, said greatwinecapitals.com, which are generally open for visiting between Easter and October.

Cyclists sculpture at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne
Cyclists sculpture at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne

How to get to Lausanne

The nearest major international airport to Lausanne is 37 miles away in Geneva. From here you can then take a direct train or drive, with the journey taking around 45 minutes to an hour. In the city itself, Lausanne Station has direct rail services from Paris and Milan.

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