One of Switzerland’s prettiest cities, Lausanne, located on the shores of glimmering Lake Geneva, can easily be covered in a day though it's better to take it slow and spend the night.
The steep hills and cobblestones may appear daunting (good walking shoes are handy) but all hotels provide guests with the Lausanne Transport Card free of charge, giving unlimited access to the city’s public transport – perfect for when your legs start to get weary. And if you find 24 hours is not nearly enough and you're reluctant to leave, well, you’re not alone: Coco Chanel loved Lausanne so much, she spent her twilight years here and is buried in Cimetière du Bois-de-Vaux.
Get active in/around Lake Geneva
Start your day early, with a run, cycle, rollerblade (or just a civilised stroll) around Lausanne’s lakeside promenade at Ouchy towards the popular Vidy Beach. Swim at the Piscine de Bellerive (lausanne.ch/bellerive) or head in the opposite direction towards Plage de Pully; a 15-minute walk from Ouchy. Watching the sun come up over the Alps while bathing in Lake Geneva is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Breakfast with a view
Return for a scenic breakfast by Lake Geneva. If the weather calls for a cosier refuge, then head just south of the Gare Lausanne train station for the popular weekend brunch at Café de Grancy. For those seeking an authentic coffee, Blackbird (http://blackbirdcafe.ch/en/) in Centre-Ville (the town centre) will save the day.
Explore the medieval Old Town and markets
Head up to the Vieille Ville (Old Town) for a pleasant wander around the medieval lanes and the Gothic beauty of the Cathédrale de Notre Dame, built between 1150 and 1275.
If you’re fortunate enough to be here on a Saturday or Wednesday morning, the local market really brings the area alive. It spans the pedestrianised Rue du Bourg, Rue Saint Francois, Rue du Pont, Place de la Palud, Place de la Riponne, Rue Madeleine and Rue Saint-Laurent. On weekdays (apart from Wednesday market day), foodies can explore Lausanne’s emerging street-food scene in Place de la Riponne.
Sample the cheese
Hey, this is Switzerland: you can’t leave Lausanne without trying the cheese. The Wednesday/Saturday market is ideal for local produce, in particular seek out the cheese sellers on Place de la Riponne (Duttweiler is one of the best). An authentic fondue should also be on your bucket list. Try it at the traditional Café du Grütli (www.cafedugruetli.ch) or at Café de Grancy on Wednesdays.
Chat to a chocolatier
For organic and fair trade chocolate, head to Durig (durig.ch), which also offers chocolate tours, and chocolate-making workshops. Its basil-flavoured chocolate is surprisingly enticing. La Chocolatiere (lachocolatiere.ch), trading since 1970, makes everything painstakingly by hand on the premises and also offers chocolate-making workshops.
Work it all off at the Olympic Museum
The incredible technology on display at the highly interactive Musée Olympique makes it an unforgettable immersive experience. You could easily spend several hours here, either pretending to be an Olympic athlete or indulging in an excellent weekend brunch at the rooftop Tom Café, which sports gold-medal-worthy views.
Cruise out to the wineries of Lavaux
Ahoy wine lovers (and scenery lovers!), a little detour east of Lausanne to the beautiful terraced vineyards of Lavaux wine region, a Unesco World Heritage site since 2007, is a must. Arrive in style via an afternoon cruise with CGN, and alight at either Lutry or Cully ports. The best way to scale the 14km of steep slopes is with the Lavaux Express, a cute little train that loops around and around the unique landscape, offering breathtaking views of the lake framed by the Swiss and French Alps. Of course, taste-testing the distinctive Lavaux wines is recommended, especially as the Swiss export few of their local wines. Try Les Frères Dubois (lfd.ch/fr/) for a friendly tour of its ‘Petite Versailles’ building and cellar.
Bar-hop around Flon and Centre Ville
The Flon district (flon.ch) is the place to go for cool cafes, eclectic bars and nightlife. Les Arches has plenty of atmosphere and is perfect for a bit of people-watching over an apéritif. Bourg Plage in Centre Ville is definitely worth seeking out in summer (generally open from April to September—October). With its pretty fairy lights and multi-coloured decor, the outdoorsy tropical beer garden vibe is hard to beat. And if you fancy a fine brew, seek out Blackbird Social Club (blackbirdsocialclub.ch), for craft beer, as well as cocktails and wine.
Where to stay
The four-star Chateau d’Ouchy, still sporting a dungeon tower from the original 12th-century castle, is ideally situated on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Fly to Geneva Airport then transfer by train (a 40 to 50-minute journey) to Lausanne. There are also direct trains from Paris, Milan, Frankfurt and Munich.
Karyn travelled to Lausanne with support from Lausanne Tourisme & Convention Bureau (lausanne-tourisme.ch) and Swiss Air (swiss.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.