Last Month I ventured out to the French speaking city of Switzerland, Lausanne courtesy of the Swiss Tourist Board. During my two day stint, I explored the city, got to meet the locals and drank plenty (but sensibly) of Swiss wine. Read all about it below.
Having been to Lucerne last year, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Lausanne being that they’re very different. All I knew is that it felt great to be back in Switzerland.
I stayed at the L’Hotel which is less 50 meters from the Lausanne-Flon metro station. Flon is the cities more vibrant district with loads of bars, restaurants, shops etc so it tends to attract the younger crowd. But anyway if you’re looking for something clean, cheap-er and cheerful and convenient then I’d recommended this hotel. It’s quite small but it does the trick, it has a nice bar in the reception too which was pretty lively while I was there over the weekend. As for prices, well you’re in Switzerland so loosening the purse strings in a given.
Once I dumped my stuff I went straight to lunch across the road at Nomade which is again about 50 meters from L’Hotel. Right in the middle of the Flon area, it’s quite a popular restaurant; it was rammed when I arrived. They’ve a great selection of locally sourced wines, the food was amazing (behold life changing duck) and the staff were real friendly.
After dining I did a tour of the city with the Swiss tourist board. For me city tours can drag on a bit sometimes – when you’re in a new city you just want to get out there and explore the unknown. But given how small Lausanne is, that wasn’t going to be a problem! My guide Veronique took me around the main parts of the city starting off with Flon where I mentioned is the cities liveliest district. We headed up to the Lausanne Cathedral which dates back to 13th Century. Before heading in, I had to admire the view – the Cathedral is at one of the highest points in the city so you get a pretty nice view of it and the lake.
Cathedral’s I’ve been to in the past were very intricately styled, this one was far more minimal even the stained windows were kept to a minimum. (The stained windows also date back to the 13th century). I was taken by its organ though, impeccable design and with 7,000 pipes… that’s a beast. Shame I didn’t get to hear it being played.
We continued to explore the old town which has a very local feel to it even though there are countless tourists about. We’re talking cobble stone paths, wooden staircases and buildings dating back to the 16th century. When it comes to history, Lausanne is rich in it. Parts of the old town date back to Roman Empire times.
Anywho, before leaving the old town we passed the statue of Justice. The statue held a sword in one hand and a scale in the other – well actually the scale was missing as someone stole it… So we took the metro down to Ouchy which is by the lake.
Lausanne is built on 3 hills so you’ll notice there are more or less three levels to the city. It’s a small city but it’s easy to get lost when you’re new t it. I walked into Fnac to buy a memory card reader, I came out of a different exit thinking I’ll take a right and end up back at the hotel… I ended up somewhere staring down it at! Mental.
Having been built about 5 years ago, Lausanne’s metro is fairly new. It’s pretty easy to navigate and the entire length of that line is about 20 minutes long. It’s also worth mentioning that as a guest in the city, you ca get a travel card that will entitle you to free travel on all public transport for the duration of your stay. You can get this done for you at your hotel and it’s free if you’re paying the overnight city tax. Pretty neat!
So we headed down to Ouchy which is less lively but equally touristy as you can catch boats to neighboring towns/cities etc. There are plenty of bars/restaurants around and Ouchy is also home to the Olympic Museum.
When we reached Cully it was time to board the Lavaux Express to head up to the vineyards. Now when I saw Lavaux Express on the ticket I had, I was expecting one of those old fashioned steam trains. This wasn’t the case. This is taking us up into the mountains, I asked in disbelief? Oui monsieur the driver chuckled…. Oh. So I hopped on and clung to the sides. Other tourists didn’t seem phased.
The train took us up to the mountains where hundreds of workers spend their days nurturing the famous vineyards which provides the rare Swiss wines I spent the weekend drinking.
With over 800 hectares of land to its name, these vineyards are the largest in Switzerland and its hillside terrace style structure makes it the most unique too. It’s not all vineyards though, the medieval area features houses which were built between 13th and 16th century – homes to many winegrowers. The streets are very narrow and again cobble stoned like you would expect, there are a few traditional pubs all serving up local delicacies and of course wines from the area. Unfortunately, if you take the train you don’t get to experience this, I’d recommend walking.
The train stopped at the top where we enjoyed amazing views of the lake and of course more vineyard before heading back down to earth. I noticed (too late) that you can actually walk up through the vineyards, you just have to watch out for trains and trucks… Also watch your step. It’s quite a narrow path but it would have been worth the photo opps.
We hopped back on the boat and headed back to Ouchy, stopping over at the Hotel de Port just by the lake for food. I was told that this restaurant serves the best fish in the city so I wanted to try for myself - I went for the Perch Filets Meunière, which came with tartar sauce, salad and chips.
The following day I headed back down to Ouchy so I could visit the Olympic Museum. I wasn’t sure why there is an Olympic museum in Lausanne to be honest, but I was eager to check it out. The visual journey begins before you enter the building; the grounds are nicely decorated with Olympic statues and fixtures.
At the museum you’ll find plenty of historical memorabilia including medals from previous Olympic Games and the different Olympic torches – which come with a wealth of history. Other displays include Olympic apparatus from javelins to shot-puts as well as clothing and shoes worn by past Olympians. It’s quite surreal seeing these things up close and personal; and as the largest archive of Olympic Games in the world, you can easily kill an afternoon there!
I then headed back to Riponne on the metro for lunch at Cafe de Grutli. The famous restaurant is a family owned business and is one of the few fully authentic restaurants in the city. The restaurant started out in 1849 in this very same spot, and it’s remained a family initiative over the decades.
Across two floors, the first floor is more bistro style, the tables and chairs are over 100 years old and the walls are neatly decorates with paintings and photographs from thec1600s. The second floor boasts a very traditional decor with antique furniture.
The staff are very warm and welcoming and the food is brilliant. Everything on the menu is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients, I got the Beef Stroganoff – I’d recommend it.
With a big student population, numerous bars and restaurants dotted around the city, I see why Lausanne is known as one of the more vibrant cities in Switzerland. But I think the historical elements, the generally relaxed nature of the city and the beautiful scenery are what would put it on the cards for a nice weekend break.
Big thanks to the Swiss tourist board for putting together such a great itinerary for the weekend, I had a great stay. Although Swiss Airlines don’t seem to like me very much, each time I’ve flown with them there are issues. This time they managed to lose my luggage.