Lausanne - Cathedral

Not commonly thought of when listing the must see cities in Switzerland, Lausanne is a pleasant surprise in the Southwestern part of the country.  Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, it is a beautiful town with a historic old town.  With its central location, Lausanne is a good hub city for day trips around Switzerland.  Day trips to Geneva, Bern, Interlaken, Lucerne and even Zurich (although it would be a long day) are all possible by train from Lausanne.  There is plenty to enjoy in Lausanne itself, although walking its hills will be a bit of a workout.

Things you MUST see/do:

The Olympic Museum – Located on the edge of Lake Geneva just a short walk from Ouchy (Lausanne’s lakefront area), the Olympic Museum covers the history of the modern Olympic Games.  This location was chosen because it is where the offices of the IOC are located.  Outside the Museum you will find a nice garden area that contains many neat artifacts related to Olympics or Olympic host cities.  At the top of the garden is a set of poles that list all the host cities of the summer and winter Olympics in the modern era and the Olympic Flame that continually burns.  Inside the building there are exhibits that go through a history of the host cities and their details (the torch, etc.) and the history and evolution (of the equipment) of many of the sports that are an integral part of the games. There is also a 3-D movie about the Olympics (we missed it, as the video was not working when we were there) and a video library of different events from previous Olympic Games.  Last, there is an interactive exhibit where you can try your hand at different skills needed to compete in certain events.

Cathedral Notre Dame – The largest cathedral in Switzerland, this gothic style cathedral was consecrated in the 13th century.  In the 15th century, most of the decoration was removed by Protestants.  Make sure to enter the cathedral to see the rose window which is the only remaining original piece of the church.  In the 19th century, work began to restore the original decorations in the cathedral.  Take note of the amazing organ that cost 4 million CHF to make.  The cathedral is the only one that still has a watchman who climbs the tower and yells the time every hour from 10pm – 2am.  Across from the cathedral’s main entrance, there is an unmatched view of the city, the waterfront, Lake Geneva, and on a clear day, the French Alps.

Lausanne Castle – Located at the summit of the old town, the building is quite nice if somewhat plain.  It is not open to the public but beside the castle, there is a terrace that provides some spectacular views over the city.  There is a statue of Major Abraham Daval in front of the castle who is a local hero for trying to free Lausanne from Bernese rule in the 18th century.

Place St. Francois (St. Francis) – A gothic style church in the heart of Lausanne’s old town.  The church has kept its gothic style but Protestantism in the 16th century gutted the inside.  Standing in front of the church, to the left is the Rue de Bourg, which is a pedestrian street that contains many interesting shops. 

Rue du Grand-Pont – This is the main street through the city, however there is a nice square located around the Flon metre station (which has a living roof).  There are many trendy restaurants and bars under the Rue du Grand-Pont and surrounding the square.

Place de la Palud – Located just down from the Cathedral Notre Dame, is the Place de la Palud.  It contains a beautiful fountain featuring the Justice figure.  This fountain was the location where people of the old town used to get water before houses had plumbing.  The square also contains a mechanical clock that performs a story in French on the hour between 9am and 7pm.  Not a must-see but if you have time, worth stopping.

Palais du Rumine – Built in the Florentine renaissance style in the 19th century to house a university, it is a very picturesque building that now houses museums and a library. 

Ouchy – Ouchy is the name given to Lausanne’s peaceful lakefront.  It is easily accessed by metro from upper Lausanne.  There are many interesting features to see here including the hotel, Le Chateau d’Ouchy, which was designed to look like a medieval castle the waterfront park and many charming cafes (we recommend Café du Vieil-Ouchy).  Also, check out the interactive weathervane directly across from the metro station towards the waterfront.

Travels4Couples highly recommended EXPERIENCES:

Cruise to the Chateau de Chillon – Hop on a 100 year old paddle-wheeler and cruise from Lausanne to a medieval castle, Chateau de Chillon, located on a rocky outcropping on Lake Geneva.  The cruise itself is an enjoyable trip when the weather is pleasant.  We would recommend getting a first-class seat if possible, as the seats are much more comfortable and the view is better.  The castle is in a beautiful location and great location for defence as it was surrounded by water.  The inside is nice with an inner courtyard and many rooms throughout.  Don’t miss the latrine, as it is quite the thoughtful plan (although I would think a little cold on the bottom).

Take the ferry to Evian-les-Bains, France – This town is most famous for its bottled water, Evian.  On a nice day, take the short 30 minute ferry across Lake Geneva and explore Evian-les-Bains.  There is a nice promenade along the lake with views back towards Lausanne.  There are also tours available into the town’s mineral water facilities.

Drive to Gruyeres –If Disney could create the perfect medieval town, it would be Gruyeres.  It is a possible day trip from Lausanne, probably the easiest with a car, taking about an hour to drive.  Upon arrival, park and then walk up the trail to the town located at the top of a small hill.  Due to its location, it is like stepping back in time as there are no cars and the town’s buildings and castles are well preserved.  Walk up the main street and enjoy the shops, restaurants and cafes.  At the end of the street, is the castle open year round with regular tours.  We HIGHLY recommend the cheese fondue in Gruyere – it was the best we had ever tasted.

Travels4Couples #1 ROMANTIC thing to do in Lausanne:

Take the Golden Pass Train – The Golden Pass Train actually leaves from a town very near Lausanne, called Montreux.  The train travels between Montreux and Interlaken.  The train takes a very scenic path between the cities through the Alps.  Along the path you will get to see chalets, ski resorts, and farms all the way up the hills.  The best section is between Montreux and Zweisimmen.  For the most romantic experience, book front row seats ahead of time in the panoramic train (extra fee).  The train was designed so that the engineer sits in a section above the general sitting area, leaving the front of the train for passengers.  These seats provide a complete 180° view of the Swiss countryside.  The experience is well worth the extra money to reserve these seats.