When you think of Switzerland, the first images that come to mind are those of the Alps, delicious Toblerone chocolate, and probably banking secrecy! However, a commonplace often overlooked by tourists is the city of Lausanne, a beautiful destination overlooking Lake Geneva known as the Olympic City! Having visited this charming city twice in the past year, I wanted to share with you what makes it so special and to talk about the top things to do in Lausanne that you can’t really do anywhere else.
So, what is Lausanne famous for?
Renowned as the Olympic Capital, this antique and mountainous city combines the history and cultural heritage of Switzerland with the stark values of Olympian sports. It is here that you will find the Olympic Museum can learn all about the history of the olympics and the committee that governs them.
You’ll also find dozens of fun attractions within the city and on the nearby lake and many gorgeous photo spots to explore and enjoy in the exciting city that is Lausanne. The city is also famous for its wine and chocolate, with one of the world’s most famous chocolate (Nestle, anyone?!) makers hailing from a few KMS outside the city.
Below we’ll showcase the best things to do in the city, so you can mark it as a great option for your next trip and maybe even a starting point for your epic Grand Train Tour of Switzerland.
Be prepared for a history, culture and food overload…
Unique Things To Do in Lausanne
Visit the Olympic Museum
Lausanne is the home of the International Olympic Committee and houses the Olympic Museum, a large facility overviewing Lake Geneva. Its three floors depict the story and sports of the Olympic games, reliving the most inspiring moments of history.
There’s an interactive display on the third floor of the museum, where you can challenge your friends and other people over several games.
Whether you’re a sports enthusiast or not, the amazing displays of the Olympic exhibition is an attraction you can’t miss and by far one of the top things to do in Lausanne and probably even one of the top attractions in Switzerland.
Enjoy the Ouchy Promenade
One of the best places to hang out and relax in the city is the long district that surrounds Lake Geneva, a sunny park filled with people strolling around, eating ice cream, and having picnics.
A great choice for couples and families is renting a paddleboard or pedalo to course throughout the lake.
There are also dozens of bars and cafes where you can enjoy the view while indulging in excellent local cuisine. For example, the Crêperie d’Ouchy where you can enjoy some of the best crepes in the city, and the MGM Café, a great tourist cafe with a lovely view of the lake.
Do a celebrity walking tour
One of the things I loved most about visiting Lausanne was learning about the fascinating history of the city, how many luxury hotels call it home and how many big-name celebrities have visited for either business or pleasure.
It’s fun to do a self-guided walking tour from the city down to the lake, passing Lausanne’s most famous hotels, including suites that housed Coco Chanel, Victor Huge and Charlie Chaplin in the past, and heads of state like Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela more recently.
Locals will tell you stories of where they went for their morning runs, where they drank and where they ate. You can easily close your eyes and imagine what Lausanne was like during the belle epoque and how much of the architecture and character of the city has been retained thanks to Lausanne’s long-standing status as a totally neutral city in times of conflict.
Endless festival fun
Every year during the month of July, Lausanne hosts the Paléo Festival, one of the best music experiences, where over the course of six days and six nights, dozens of popular artists perform for over 200.000 persons.
Although this year’s festival just ended, 2018 artists included Depeche Mode, The Killers, Gorillaz, Lenny Kravitz, and over 250 other artists, holding one of the best parties of the year. So, you can expect 2019 lineup to be an even more exciting experience. Attending the main summer festival is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Lausanne, and a great excuse to visit during the summer.
Party in a warehouse
There’s a lot to do for those seeking nocturnal events in Lausanne, the modern and innovative district of Flon is a place packed with clubs, bars, shops, and modern restaurants, open all night long.
The old and forgotten warehouses of the 20th century that blemished the city are now restored and modernized, making way to new shops and scenes that breath new life to the long lost district.
Now you can find excellent places to dance your night away, meet exciting new people, or enjoy a couple drinks with your partner.
Get cultured at Lausanne’s museums
The Collection de l’Art Brut is a different and innovative museum that displays artworks of artists of diverse and vibrant backgrounds, from child drawings to complex and avantgarde sculptures, you’ll see exquisite pieces you won’t find anywhere else.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a traditional museum experience, the Palais de Rumine, is a beautiful palace that houses five different museums in one building. The opulence of this Renaissance palace couple with the assorted pieces of art found throughout the museum is an authentic cultural experience you can’t miss if you’re an art aficionado.
Finally, the Musée de l’Élysée, established in a mansion that’s overlooking Lake Geneva. You can find over 100.000 photographs in the galleries, and you’ll be able to explore hundreds of different styles, varying from the origins of photography to modern pictures.
Go wine tasting in Montreux
Switzerland’s production of wine is destined to self-consumption, and after you visit the myriad of local vineyards you’ll know the reason why – every single vineyard has a different set of wines of exquisite tastes.
The terraced vineyards located throughout the steep hillsides between Lausanne and Montreux hold several family-owned vineyards where you can experience a tour through the wineries and dine some local cheese and wine.
You can either take the train to Montreux and enjoy the gorgeous views of the lake and vineyard along the way or do what my friend Ian and I did and do a wine tasting tour as part of your steam boat trip on Lake Geneva. By far the most unique method of transport to get to the wineries!
Explore beautiful Sauvabelin Forest
This amazing forest is a brilliant place to take strolls, enjoy nature, picture local fauna, and have a picnic with your family and loved ones. You’ll feel surrounded by tranquility and peace around in this lush woodland.
In the heart of the Sauvabelin forest you’ll find a 35 meters tower made of timber, a fascinating structure made from local wood, and said to be part of the work of Leonardo Da Vinci; from the top you’ll be able to watch over the city, Lake Geneva, and the French Alps.
Cheese and chocolate tasting
As we said at the beginning, the first images that come to mind when talking about Switzerland are chocolate and cheese, and that’s because all over the country you can find local products of amazing quality highly renowned as the best of the world.
Lausanne is no exception; you’ll find some of the best chocolate at Blondel, a local artisan chocolatier that displays dozens of shelves with varieties of chocolate products you can enjoy. For more chocolatey goodness, do a self-guided tour to all the best chocolate shops!
If you’re a cheese lover, the historical pub La Pinte Besson, the oldest restaurant in Lausanne, is possibly the best place to have fondue in Switzerland. They serve a delicious blend of flavors that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world and it really is fondue heaven!
Historical and Religious Experiences in Lausanne
One of the most important cathedrals in Switzerland lies in the city of Lausanne. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, just a few blocks from Lake Geneva, is a gothic monument dating from the 13th century and a marvelous example of architecture and cultural heritage that has been perfectly preserved throughout the years.
There are also several other smaller churches and temples throughout the city, and you can both enjoy them as tourist exhibition or attend during set hours to experience an orthodox Catholic service inside historical masterpieces.
Shopping in Lausanne
Place de la Palud is the main square of the city and a living museum where you’ll see the combination between antique architecture and modern buildings. You’ll find the town hall, hundreds of shops, and several historical landmarks.
With a large variety of shops available you’ll find almost anything can possibly buy, from small souvenirs for your friends back home to stylish clothing of the latest season.
Lausanne, an unforgettable experience
From the Olympic relate attractions to the exquisite cuisine and wineries, this city is a remarkable destination to visit in Switzerland, either as a quick visit or as a place to stay for a full vacation.
Hopefully, this list of the best things to do in Lausanne sways your interest in deciding to visit the city in your next trip, for you won’t be disappointed by the variety of extraordinary experiences available.