48 Luxurious Hours In Lausanne, Switzerland
Refined and ravishing in equal measure, Switzerland’s prettiest city is perfect city weekender material for travellers craving nature, culture and cuisine.
08 June, 2022
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Lausanne is the sort of elegant and picturesque city that immediately evokes daydreams about moving here, taking a grand Belle Époque apartment on the lakeshore, and spending your days writing novels or painting watercolours. And for centuries, romantic and creative souls have done precisely that: this pretty university city, just 40 minutes from Geneva, cast a lifelong spell over such luminaries as F Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel and David Bowie. Today, Lausanne makes for a big-impact, low-stress city break, where museum-hopping can be combined with vineyard visits, boating on the lake and chilled afternoons spent at a local brewery.
After dropping your bags at your majestic hotel, Château d'Ouchy, wander along the lakeside promenade, pausing to admire the grand Beau-Rivage Palace, where Coco Chanel spent her later years. The French designer is buried in Lausanne's Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery - a worthy pilgrimage for die-hard fashion fans - where her neighbours include Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, and famed French lexicographer Paul Robert.
Walk a few minutes' further along the lakefront to reach Lausanne's glorious Olympic Museum, which charts the surprisingly dramatic and inspiring history of the international games that have been headquartered here since 1915. From retro posters and historic sportswear to fascinating facts about the new games, there's plenty to uplift and inspire here.
Lausanne punches way above her weight when it comes to galleries and museums. Wander through the city, ascending towards the railway station, where you'll find the new creative district Plateforme 10 - home to the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, one of Switzerland's oldest art collections, among other art institutions. If culture makes you thirsty, head for Brasserie du Château, a much-loved local brewery and bar that also serves up perfect pizzas. You're now close to Lausanne's spectacular gothic cathedral - and in such a steeply elevated town, proximity matters - so pop in to admire the 13th-century stained glass South Rose window. Next, head for Place de la Palud and continue your stroll in the old town. The largely car-free district is packed with medieval alleyways lined with independent shops, bars and cafés, all of which gaze across Lake Geneva to the magnificent vista of the Savoy Alps.
Round off your day at one of the city's most exciting restaurants, Brasserie de Montbenon, where innovative young chefs prepare dishes made with locally sourced produce. Perhaps catch an arthouse movie in the adjacent cinema, or just get an early night back at your chateau.
Start your second day in Lausanne with a restorative bike ride through the forest of Sauvabelin, or at lovely Milan Park, where you'll find Lausanne University botanical gardens, along with a panoramic terrace on which to relax over a coffee or hot chocolate. Lausanne has been voted the best small city in the world, but it's also one of Europe's greenest, and natural beauty is easy to access. Love wine? Jump on the train and make the 10-minute journey to Grandvaux to explore the Unesco-stamped wine region of Lavaux. An idyllic afternoon here entails visiting tasting rooms and vineyards, followed by a meal on the spectacular terrace of Auberge de la Gare.
The good life comes easy in Lausanne, where it's dazzlingly easy to combine a morning of nature and bucolic beauty with an afternoon of culture and urbane delights. Having had your fix of the great outdoors, catch the train back to the city centre and make tracks to the Flon district - a regenerated valley now brimming with contemporary design stores, vintage boutiques and destination restaurants and bars. One of the liveliest parts of town, it's populated by students from the university, along with the creative graduates who couldn't bear to leave the city.
When you get hungry, head up towards the cathedral for dinner and drinks at Sardine, a delightful bistro with a vast gin menu. Be sure to sample at least a couple by Turicum, Switzerland's most popular gin, which is distilled in Zurich.
On your way down towards the lake, pop into the charming Café de Grancy, a popular, bohemian hangout where natural wines are served among bookshelves and battered old sofas.
If you're lucky enough to be in Lausanne on a Wednesday or Saturday, make a beeline for the pedestrianised streets of the old town, which are taken over by a charming farmers' market on these days. Browse the many stalls to pick up cheeses, fresh produce, baked goods and other picnic staples. If the previous days' exertions have tired you out, jump on Switzerland's only metro, which will haul you up the mountain to the old town. (Lausanne's hotels issue guests with free travel passes on arrival, so there's no need to worry about buying a ticket.) Take a moment to admire the storied streets - and the spot where long-time Lausanne resident David Bowie married Somali supermodel Iman Abdulmajid in 1992 - then round off your stay with a coffee at the lakefront Hotel Angleterre, where the poet Lord Byron stayed in 1816. If Lausanne charmed Byron, Bowie and Chanel, we're pretty sure it will also charm you.
Start planning your city break to Lausanne at myswitzerland.com