My visit to Lausanne marked my first trip to Switzerland and I was absolutely thrilled by the beautiful rising hills, the views out to Lake Geneva and the Alps beyond. Lausanne is the fourth biggest city in Switzerland, well-known for hosting the International Olympic Committee, and as the Capital of the Canton of Vaud, there are many luxurious things to do and fantastic places to explore.
1. Stay in a luxurious hotel
Lausanne is home to several gorgeous five-star hotels which like the city itself, are a blend of tradition and luxurious modernity. I would highly recommend Hotel Royal Savoy Lausanne, which was my home for my two-night stay in the city. Located in a historical building, it has been completely refurbished and boasts gorgeous lakeside views, a stunning terrace for evening drinks and an absolutely top-notch restaurant.
Of course, I had a little snoop at one of the other top hotels in Lausanne. The Beau Rivage Palace is an absolute gem and it is located pretty much right on the banks of Lake Geneva.
For me, this Grand Dame absolutely typifies traditional luxury with a stunning exterior and great interior…
And a drinks terrace that’s basically floating on the lake. Added to these assets are a two-Michelin star restaurant and an award-winning spa and you can see why Beau-Rivage Palace is one of the most luxurious hotels in the city.
A great luxe-for-less option is Chateau D’Ouchy which looks like a fairy tale castle from the outside and has a gorgeous location in the Ouchy district right on the banks of Lake Geneva.
2. Eat and Drink Chocolate
Well obvs, you’re in Switzerland! I learnt a lot about the chocolate-making process during my day at Hotel Chocolat in St Lucia and one thing I found out was how instrumental the Swiss were in making chocolate as it is today. Swiss company Nestlé (owned by German-born Henri Nestlé and Vaud-native Daniel Peter) added condensed milk to solid chocolate to invent milk chocolate in 1875. And in 1879 Rudolf Lindt invented the conching machine that gives chocolate a smooth consistency…later the company bought the Lindt bunny into our lives.
The best place in the city to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate is Le Barbare which is located just by Escalier du Marché; it’s not like any hot chocolate I’ve had in the UK, the consistency is thick and smooth more like a pudding.
The best place to buy chocolate is La Chocolatiere, honestly this is the best chocolate that I’ve ever had in my life…perfectly sweet but not too sickly or sugary. If you fancy trying your hand at making your own chocolate Durig hold chocolate workshops allowing you to follow the journey from bean to praline!
3. Take a cruise on Lake Geneva
Western Europe’s biggest lake is an absolutely magnificent site to behold….with the shadow of the Swiss and Savoy Alps lining one side the green valleys, vineyards and châteaux on the other, sailing through the clear waters feels like a once in a lifetime experience.
The Belle Epoque fleet of paddle-boats are known to be some of the most elegant in the world and have been declared a historical monument of national importance. I boarded the SS Vevey and sailed from Ouchy to Cully, taking in the beautiful scenery that surrounded me. On my boat you could have lunch or a glass of wine but there’s also an option to purchase tickets for a gourmet cruise and fine dining experience.
4. Wine tasting in Lavaux
One of the absolute highlights of my trip was exploring the vertiginous vineyards of the Lavaux district. There are 14 villages spread along the 40 kilometres of this UNESCO world heritage site and plenty of beautiful viewpoints to stop and have a sip while taking in the gorgeous panoramas.
I visited Cave de Moratel, a small family run vineyard in Epesses, producing the most delicious wines fermented and made in their cellars. As well as exploring the cellars, you can take a walk through their vineyards or take a break from hiking through the hills and enjoy a glass of wine and some nibbles from the comfort of their chalet.
5. Lunch with a view
The thing about Lausanne that really stole my heart was the unbeatable views and I loved admiring a perfect panorama as I sipped a glass of wine and tucked in to a plate of cheese.
Tout un Monde in the Lavaux wine region boasts an absolutely heart-stopping view of both the Alps and the Vineyards beneath and serves a menu of meat, fish and vegetables mostly from Swiss producers.
Le Deck at Le Baron Tavernier will challenge anyone with a fear of heights as you sit on the precipice suspended high above Lake Geneva. Perhaps not the place for a gourmet meal but certainly somewhere for wine, cheese and sunsets.
For casual dining with a view I can recommend TOM café at the Olympic Museum.
The beautiful terrace offers spectacular views of the lake and mountains and if you visit at the weekend, you can enjoy a very reasonably priced three course brunch buffet of very tasty food. Finally if you’re looking for a little Michelin-magic with a view the recommendation I was given was La Table D’Edgard, a one Michelin star restaurant located at Lausanne Palace & Spa.
6. Try Local Food
As well as some fantastic chocolate and wine, I had the chance to try a little of the local cuisine.
At Hotel Royal Savoy Lausanne I tried the Fera fish which was sourced directly from Lake Geneva and was totally delicious. I was sad not to have a chance to sample the famous Swiss Fondue but if I return I would definitely try it at Pinte Besson, the city’s oldest restaurant and famous for serving the best fondue in town. I also visited the city during Lausanne à Table, a food and wine festival with fine dining events in Lausanne and the local area. The signature event of the festival is Le Grande Table de Lausannois which is hosted in a different quirky location every year with food from some of the best local chefs.
This year saw a multi-course meal located in an emptied swimming pool!
If you have time for a day trip from Lausanne, you can find cheese heaven in Gruyères which is about an hour away by car or train. Or visit nearby Evian if you’re a fan on the eponymous mineral water.
7. Take a stroll around Ouchy
Ok, the name sounds like a minor injury but actually Ouchy (pronounced oooh-shee) is the gorgeous port located in the south of the city.
It’s absolutely perfect for a quiet stroll by the lake and you can hire a pedalo, drift along in one of the Belle Epoque steamers or simply sit on the harbour and admire the view. If you fancy a refreshment you can pop to the terrace of Château d’Ouchy or Beau Rivage Palace for a drink or the Crepêrie D’Ouchy for a sweet treat. Otherwise there’s plenty of food trucks lining the harbour selling ice-cream, sweets, churros and burgers. For a touch of culture there’s Musée de L’Elysée a photography museum in a mansion house surrounded by pleasure gardens or there’s also The Olympic Museum.
8. Check out the Nightlife in the Flon District
Lausanne is a vibrant mixture of old and new and in the heart of the city you can find the Flon District, a regenerated space that is now known ‘the hip district’. Here you can find contemporary bars, clubs and restaurants including MAD one of the country’s biggest club located in a converted warehouse.
9. The Olympic Museum
The Olympic Museum is the leading information centre and an absolutely comprehensive source of information about the games. I have to say it was genuinely the most interesting and well put together museum that I’ve ever been to with state of the art audio-visual technology and interactive elements. The journey through the museum began with origins in ancient Greece through to the nineteenth century and the founding of the Olympic Committee by Baron Pierre de Coubertin and finishing up with the modern day.
Everything about The Olympic is covered from the famous torches and the Olympic flames, a symbol of the games…
To the mascots representing each country and the special stadiums that were built.
Seeing the costumes, outfits and apparatus of the athletes was incredible. I was particularly interested in the apparel worn by famous British sporting heroes such as Chris Hoy’s cycling clothing, Torvill and Dean’s skating costumes. Other highlights included Jesse Owen’s shoe and the Jersey worn by record-breaking Usain Bolt. But the highlight of the museum for me was reading the stories of the athletes, many of which were highly emotional tales of over coming adversity and triumphing in the end. I really felt very moved by the museum and had to stop myself shedding a few tears both of National pride and the passion and courage of the athletes.
After lunch at TOM Café you can explore the beautiful gardens, sculpture park and the scenic views that surround the museum. There are 43 sculptures around the park all of which have a sporting theme and the art of the Olympic games.
10. Explore the history of the city and admire beautiful Gothic architecture
The Cathedral of Notre Dame crowns the city of Lausanne and is the biggest and most beautiful in Switzerland. Particularly to be admired are the rose window, painted portal and massive organ encompassing 7,000 pipes. For a day trip out of Lausanne you can explore Castle Chillon, a gorgeous fairytale Château on an islet on Lake Geneva and one of the most visited historical sites in Switzerland.
Have you been to Lausanne? What are your recommendations for a visit?
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I was hosted by Lausanne Tourisme for this trip