Unless you’re a true-blue globetrotter , its likely that you’d never heard of Lausanne before, or had it mixed up with nearby Lucerne (that’s in the German-speaking part of Switzerland!) Yes, Lausanne is pretty much underrated, often overshadowed by its more well-known Swiss brothers like Zurich, Bern and Geneva. However, having now lived here for more than half a year, I realised that there’s actually so much that this city has so much to offer that others don’t know about! It might not be all glitz and glamour with high rise buildings, bright neon lights and 24/7 shopping malls, but as you will soon find out, Lausanne will still enchant you in its own humble manner 🙂
In this post, I’ve compiled a list of 10 places to explore in Lausanne, in hope that this would serve as a useful itinerary for friends and loved ones coming for future visits! There is no ranking to it, it’s simply a guide so that you can choose your own adventure. I have personally visited every place, either with Vince or with visitors: so I can say with confidence that each offers its own unique Swiss experience.
With that, grab a glass of red wine, nibble on some cheese and enjoy reading about all the things you can see and do in Lausanne!
1. Visit the Olympic Museum
I was never much of a sports buff and knew close to nothing about the Olympics. It was only after coming here did I find out that Lausanne is in fact, the official Olympic capital city and home to the Olympic Museum! The museum is currently helmed by a new director, Angelita Teo, who also happens to be Singaporean! #sgpride
The Olympic Museum is split into 3 levels, each unravelling the history of the original Greek Olympics, its modern day resumption, and the journey undertaken till its present form. The permanent exhibition is extraordinarily rich and highly informative, with a collection of all the Olympic torches dating back to the first Games, memorabilia, medals, costumes and equipments worn by actual Olympic athletes. I particularly enjoyed watching the well crafted, emotive videos of the torch lightings and the various opening ceremonies.
What made the museum stood out the most was its interactive games zone, where young and old alike can enjoy! My parents and sister had so much fun testing out their fitness level and trying their hands out on virtual winter Olympic sports.
We spent about two hours at the museum, and would have lingered longer had time allowed! The Olympic Museum is inspiring, and does full justice to the dedication and pursuit of sports. Even if you don’t usually enjoy exploring museums, trust me when I say this one would leave you feeling otherwise.
PROTIP: After the tour, don’t leave just yet! Head outside for a stroll around the museum gardens and enjoy the expansive view of Lake Léman. Or if you are feeling slightly peckish: check out the TOM cafe, which serves amazing brunch on weekends.
The Olympic Museum
Le Musée Olympique
Quai d’Ouchy 1, 1006 Lausanne, Suisse
2. Chill along the Ouchy lakeshore
Ouchy (pronounced as Oo-shee, not Ouch-y!) is where I consider the most beautiful area in Lausanne. Walking along the waterfront, you have the vast Lake Léman right before your eyes, with neatly-lined white boats, cute swans/ducks swimming by the lakeshore, and the French Alps glistening in the distance. Vince and I like coming here for morning jogs: It feels so invigorating to run alongside the steely blue waters and enjoy the crisp morning air. Other times, it’s nice to simply just sit on the grass with some friends, laze around and just watch the world go by.
During the warmer seasons, the place gets even more action-packed, with barbecues, locals doing water-sports like paddle-boarding and rowdy kids thronging through carnivals. When we came down during the first summer weekend, it felt as though the whole city had emptied itself and flocked to Ouchy!
While there are plenty of restaurants and bars around the area, the one we frequent the most is Jetée de la Compagnie. It’s this very hipster-looking container bar where locals like to hang out here for drinks after sunset. To sit with a beer on hand, feel the calming breeze and hear the waves hitting on the nearby rocks… It’s nothing fancy, but such an incredible and relaxing experience every single time!
3. Head up the Escaliers du Marché
This historic 13th century wooden staircase connects the Old Town and market to the glorious Cathedral at the top. What makes it so picturesque and (incredibly insta-worthy) are the strikingly colourful façades of shophouses along the side!
No thanks to Lausanne’s hilly topography…climbing up these steep stairs can be quite a challenge. For those who prefer to skip the strenuous climb, you can choose take the metro instead to Riponne Maurice-Bejart station. Then walk up just the last short flight of steps to reach the Cathedral!
4. Visit the majestic Lausanne Cathedral
This magnificent 12-century Gothic cathedral is the main feature of any postcards of Lausanne, and rightfully so! Fact: It is literally the highest point of the city, and also the largest cathedral in the whole of Switzerland.
Every hour, the bells breaks out into a glorious cacophony for about 15 minutes: You can hear them chiming from anywhere in the city!
Like many other cathedrals in Europe, the Lausanne cathedral was stripped away of many saint statues and decorations during the Reformation period. Still, even in simplicity, the cathedral stands beautiful today with its stained glass windows, high ceilings and vaulted arches.
For an extra 5 CHF, you can climb up the 500-year old staircase to the top of the bell-tower for a breathtaking view of the whole of Lausanne. Otherwise, the courtyard outside the cathedral is equally great for sunset-watching.
5. Climb up the Sauvabellin Tower
Get away from everyday stresses and find a piece of tranquility inside Le Parc de Sauvabellin, the city’s forest. Hop on the bus 16 from the city centre, and alight at the stop “Signal”. Then take a short walk cutting through the forest. Within minutes, you will find yourself looking up at a strange-looking tower, built purely from local wood.
Again, its another ruthless climb to the top (151 steps in total!). But once you are up there you get a lofty view of Lake Léman, the mighty Alps, the forest and the city. So take it as combining fitness with sightseeing!
After coming down the tower, continue on to Lac Sauvabellin. There’s a small animal farm surrounding the lakes where you’ll find rabbits, wooly sheeps and cows. Perfect for families with children to explore!
6. Tuck into cheese fondue at Le Chalet Suisse
Le Chalet Suisse is just a stone’s throw away from the Sauvabellin Tower. It has also become my go-to place whenever I host visitors. I’d brought my family and 3 other friends here for local Swiss fare, and it has never once disappointed! (To visiting friends, now you know where you will be getting your first taste of cheese fondue…! *winks)
With its traditional cabin log interior, the chalet gives off a really cosy and homely ambience. I already foresee myself coming back here during those teeth-chattering winters enjoying a pot of warm and gooey melted cheese!
I’d always ordered the classic Fondue moitié-moitié, which consists Gruyère with Vacherin Fribourgeois (picture on the left). But if you’re here during the summer season, give the summer cheese fondue a try (picture on the right). Instead of white wine, the fondue is mixed with beer, and you pair it with bread, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms!
7. Wander around the Farmers’ Market
Every Wednesday and Saturday, Lausanne’s pedestrian streets transforms into a sprawling farmers’ market, bringing in local produce from the region, including fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, jams spreads, cakes and flowers. Waking up early and walking to the market was one of my weekly thrills when I’d first arrived in Lausanne. I just loved rifling through the stalls, taking in the colourful sights and noisy banter, and checking out the latest seasonal offerings. It reminds me of the days in Singapore when I go to the wet market with my mom for groceries.
My favourites are the flower stalls. Can never quite tear myself away those potted beauties…and secretly wishing to bring them all back home!
Shopping at the farmers’ market has a much more intimate, community experience than say, buying off the supermarket racks. It’s always lovely to strike up conversations with local artisans and growers, and hear their passion for their creations. While prices are more expensive, ultimately you are paying for the freshness, for wider varieties, and to meaningly support the local economy.
Head uphill towards the Place de la Riponne and you will find the main flea market. Sometimes the stuffs looks quite junky…but be ready to haggle and who knows, you might score yourself some antique jewellery, french books, or vintage clothing at steal prices!
8. Hangout at the Great Escape
This lively English-style pub is THE place where locals jio you for Friday nights drinks! On evenings and weekends, it is PACKED with university students, the working crowd, expats and tourists alike. The music can get really loud (nearly impossible for conversations the last time we were there), so if you can bear with that, then stay in. Otherwise, people prefer hanging outside at the huge garden terrace that overlooks the beautiful Place de la Riponne. There’s a wide selection of beers, all priced between 8-10CHF, which are pretty reasonable for Swiss standards.
Overall, this place lives up to its name…a Great Escape to unwind, socialise and have fun with good company!
9. Take a day-trip out to Montreux
Lausanne is extremely well-connected by trains, which makes it perfect for making daytrips. Montreux happens to be just 30 minutes away from Lausanne. At the height of every summer, this idyllic town turns into a musical frenzy, with thousands flocking in for the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival.
Start your day with a walk along the promenade. Along the way, take a shot at the memorial dedicated to Freddy Mercury (who spent his last surviving decades in Montreux). Continue towards the Château du Chillon, Switzerland’s most visited historic monument. You will need a good two hours to explore this fairytale-like castle!
10. Hike and enjoy magnificant views at the Lavaux Region
Just a grape’s throw away from Lausanne lies the renowned Lavaux vineyards. Sprawled across 800 hectares and rising 1,100 feet above the lake, this prized UNESCO heritage site has among the steepest vineyards in the world. The vineyards are the result of tireless labour by Cistercians monks in the 12th century, who cleared the land and built up stone terraces for cultivation.
We went on a hiking trip with my sister Carol and brother-in-law Paul when they visited in July. It was a magical morning spent slowly walking along the roads, stopping every now and then to appreciate the spectacular sceneries of the lake, the alps and the vineyards!
To get to the Lavaux region, hop on the local S3 train from Lausanne gare, and alight at Lutry Station. From there you can take a good 3 to 4 hour hike (all the way to Montreux if you’re ambitious!)
Did you know? Swiss wine is one of Switzerland’s best-kept secrets. The local wine industry might be huge here, but apparently the Swiss prefer keeping their wines all to themselves! That’s why you hardly find Swiss wines outside of the country: less than 1% of them are actually exported. Noting this, you might consider coupling your hike with a few rounds of wine-tasting to sample the region’s distinctive Chasselas-blanc. Othewise, the opportunity to enjoy the Swiss wines may never come again!
There you have it — my top 10 places to visit in Lausanne!
I hope this post makes you excited about adding Lausanne onto your travel bucket list. I had so much fun over the last several months playing in my own city and falling in love with it over and over again!
If you are a local, or someone that had visited Lausanne before, do share if you have other favourite places around the city. I would love to visit them 🙂