The Vada Guide to Lausanne, Switzerland

Adam Lowe

Featured image: SofiLayla / Pixabay

A beautiful blend of historic Mediaeval streets and contemporary districts, Lausanne is a French-speaking city on the edge of Lake Geneva, in the Vaud region of Switzerland. Full of charm and class, the city houses the International Olympic Committee and sports an impressive 12th-century Gothic cathedral.

From shopping to sightseeing to clubbing to dining, we’ve got Lausanne covered. Read on for details of where to go and what to do while visiting this beautiful Swiss city.

Lausanne Cathedral
Lausanne Cathedral

The basics

Flights

We flew into Geneva International Airport, where we were able to find a number of fast transfers to Lausanne (each takes about 45-50 mins). We flew from Manchester Airport with EasyJet, although there are flights from other airports and via other airlines. Make sure you compare prices to get the best deal – but don’t forget hidden extras like hold luggage, printing boarding passes at the airport and refreshments.

If you like epic train journeys with sweeping views, then you can also get there via train from the UK and mainland Europe. SNCF, Eurostar and Loco2 all have services that run from London to Lausanne, via Paris, with singles from £67.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Hotel Mirabeau. Hotel Mirabeau is stylish and unassuming. The rooms have been recently renovated, and they have a freshness that’s very appealing, while still retaining period features, such as the luxuriously tiled bathrooms.

Hotel Mirabeau has a restaurant, where you can grab great French dishes like the chateaubriand, bouillabaisse and whole sole. Lovers of a stunning landscape can take a superior lake view room for a fabulous glimpse of Lake Leman. The shaded garden and terrace offers fresh air and secluded moments morning, noon and night.

Located a mere 400-metre walk from the railway station, the hotel is perfectly situated to explore the city.

Room rates start at 170CHF per night.

Hotel Mirabeau ****
mirabeau.ch
Avenue de la Gare 31
1003 Lausanne
Phone: +41 21 341 42 43

lausanne

Getting Around

Public transport

Three words: Lausanne Transport Card. Available from your hotel, the Lausanne Transport Card gives free use of all Lausanne public transport to every visitor staying in a hotel in Lausanne (this includes buses, trains and the subway). You’ll also benefit from substantial discounts on the boat crossing between Lausanne-Ouchy and Evian, on souvenirs and on the admission price to various museums.

Taxis

We took Ubers everywhere. During the cold months, it saves you having to brave the weather – you can just step into your chariot instead. The minimum fare is 6CHF, and most places in the city centre won’t exceed this.

Walking

You can also walk around the city because it’s relatively compact. You’ll have to make sure you visit the old city, though, or you’re missing out on all the best bits. Check out the beautiful 12th-century Gothic cathedral which looms over the city, offering fantastic views of the lake and the town below, and the gorgeous Palace of Justice (see featured image).

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You can also explore the pedestrianised shopping district, which features a typical open air market, the 16th-century city hall and Lausanne’s lakeside promenade in Ouchy.

Food & Drink

There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Lausanne. Here we run through some of the fabulous places we visited on our trip to the city – although there are plenty more to check out if you have the time!

The cuisine, of course, is largely inspired by French and Alpine culture, but like any bustling city, you can find international cuisine relatively easy. The Swiss are famous for their cheese, too, and you’ll get some delicious cheese boards to round off your evening or some hearty fondues if you’re really in the mood for some comfort food.

Cafe des Artisans
Cafe des Artisans

Restaurants

Brasserie de Montbenon is located in a 1908 building graced with vast, high ceiling and a sumptuous view of Lake Geneva. Dedicated to traditional, high-quality cuisine, Brasserie de Montbenon also plays host to local gastronomical and cultural events.

Brasserie de Montbenon
Allée Ernest-Ansermet 3, 1003 Lausanne
T. +41 21 320 40 30
brasseriedemontbenon.ch

If tradition is your thing, the oldest restaurant in Lausanne is La Pinte Besson. Like the Brasserie de Montbenon, the venue itself is key to its charm. La Pinte Besson was founded in 1780, and the quirky pub-restaurant curves like an old underground wine cellar. Come here for fondue and wine, and share it with friends.

La Pinte Besson
Rue de l’Ale 4, 1003 Lausanne
T. +41 21 312 59 69
pinte-besson.ch

Café des Artisans is a swanky restaurant-bar that’s great for lunch or dinner. The cuisine is typical French brasserie fare, and the decor blends contemporary frescoes with an old bistro style. You can pick up plenty of local ales and wines, and can dine on the terrace on sunny days.

Café des Artisans
Rue Centrale 16, 1003 Lausanne
T. +41 21 311 06 00

Bars & Clubs

First, a word of warning: booze doesn’t come cheap in Lausanne. Beer is much more affordable than spirits, but either way, you should expect London prices or more. But don’t let that put you off – there isn’t a boozy culture like there is in the UK, but the friendly crowds and diversity of venues mean you’ll have a good time anyway.

Open until at least midnight every day except Sundays (when it’s closed), Yatus is a hip wine bar where you can taste the very best local and international wines. It’s a bustling bar with a discerning-but-trendy crowd, and makes for a great place to start your night.

Yatus
Rue du Petit-Chêne 11, 1003 Lausanne
T. +41 21 312 45 01
yatus.ch

Born in 1996, D! Club boasts a spacious dancefloor and a range of clubbing events throughout the year. The club regularly attracts the best dance and house DJs, has a student night on Thursdays and programmes concerts from rock to hip-hop. Boy George, Benny Benassi, David Morales and Roger Sanchez are just some of the DJs who’ve headlined at the venue.

D! Club/ABC
Place Centrale, 1001 Lausanne
dclub.ch

Upstairs at D! Club is the trendy club-bar, ABC. Formerly the balcony of an old cinema, it has its own VIP entrance and a system of cool sliding windows.

LGBT-friendly venues

But no party weekend would be complete without visiting some of the LGBT-friendly venues in the city. Lausanne may seem small compared to some European cities, but it isn’t without its fair share of LGBT venues.

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GT’s is a popular bar-lounge formerly known as l’Entree. At weekends, they have parties in their basement Backstage Club. The staff were exceedingly helpful and even helped us plan our evening (with a call to the right people to arrange guestlist details, too). GT’s is right next to the local sauna (The Pink Beach), too, if you find you haven’t picked up in the bar…

GT’s/Backstage Club
Avenue de Tivoli 5, 1007 Lausanne
360.ch

Pin Up Bar is a new lesbian bar in the heart of Lausanne, which is well worth checking out.

Pin Up Bar
Rue Marterey 31, 1005 Lausanne
pinupbar.com

La Couronne Dur (‘The Golden Crown’) is a stylish coffee shop with old wooden furniture, a warming stove and a fabulous terrace. You can get snacks all day and in the evening, with brunches on a Sunday. Come here for loose-leaf tea, beers and handmade food.

Le Bar-Tabac is arty but still retains an old pub atmosphere. Check out the cheese and the cocktail hour.

Le Saxo has its popular Kara-aux-gays (karaoke night) on Saturdays, and is open Wednesday through Saturday every week.

Le Saxo
Rue de la Grotte 3, 1003 Lausanne
lesaxo.com

Gameboy at MAD is a Sunday night party that’s been running for decades. Come here to dance and meet the pretty young things! We rocked up on a straight night, and it still had all the hottest young men in town.

Gameboy/MAD Club
Rue de Genève 23, 1002 Lausanne
madclub.ch

Enjoy the late nightlife at the club Le Romandie for the special LGBT night Kill Your Idols. The night features a novel idea: karaoke for the entire crowd. The DJ picks songs from a variety of genres and pops the lyrics onscreen. Go here if you want to sing Celine Dion at 2am with the other queers.

Le Romandie Rock Club
Place de l’Europe 1a, 1003 Lausanne
leromandie.ch

And the sauna…

The Pink Beach, located near GT’s, is the largest LGBT sauna cluyb in Switzerland. Monday is Twin Day, Thursday and Fridays are for the twinks and chickens, and the first Friday of every month is Grizzly Night. Set over two floors, there’s something for everyone.

Pink Beach
Avenue Tivoli 7-9, 1007 Lausanne
pinkbeach.ch

Shopping

The market runs all-year-round on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on the Place de la Riponne and pedestrian streets in the town centre (Rue de Bourg, Place de la Palud, etc). Pick up fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, meat and non-food products while you’re here, and maybe grab a few gifts for loved ones.

While in town, it’s worth taking the time to check out some of the great shops Lausanne has to offer. The shopping districts are split between the old town and new, and while you may have a few uphill climbs in the old town, a shopping spree offers a very pleasant and scenic way to discover the town. You’ll take in cobbled streets, narrow alleys and contemporary avenues brightened up with public art.

Pop into La Malle au Trésor, where you can pick up restored old trunks in a variety of quirky and unique styles. If you accumulate lots of fancy swag on your trip, then you’ll probably need one of these trunks to transport your goodies home.

La Malle au Trésor
Rue de Genève 21, 1002 Lausanne
la-malle-au-tresor.ch

Chez Ernest is great for trendy local items. You should also try Chic Cham, where you can pick up ‘hip accessories for hip living’ – including boutique brands, vintage and plenty of charm. It’s co-owned by Pauline Martinet, creator of the guide Places We Love and also organiser of the night Kill Your Idols.

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Chez Ernest
Rue Cheneau-de-Bourg 17, 1003 Lausanne
chez-ernest.ch

For the best hot chocolate in town, pop into Le Barbare and warm your cockles.

Le Barbare
Escaliers du Marché 27, 1003 Lausanne
T. +41 21 312 21 32

If you want to take home typical local food, then march on over to La Ferme Vaudoise and stock up.

La Ferme Vaudoise
Place de la Palud 5, 1003 Lausanne
T. +41 21 351 35 35
lafermevaudoise.ch

Those with a taste for style should head to Aegon + Aegon is for fashion, design, art.

Aegon + Aegon
Place du Tunnel 8, 1005 Lausanne
aegonaegon.com

Art & Culture

The city of Lausanne has 22 museums and 40 art galleries, making it an exciting place for lovers of arts and culture. From Vidy to Vallon and on to Flon and Malley, there’s plenty to discover.

lausanne - tom

Museums

Musée de l’Elysée is rare in that is one of the few museums in the world devoted entirely to photography. The Elysée exhibits work conveying the expansive range of photography and its history as an artform that has become part of everyday life.

Musée de l’Elysée
Avenue de l’Elysée 18, 1014 Lausanne
elysee.ch

As the only museum in French-speaking Switzerland devoted to contemporary applied art, mu.dac includes national and international exhibitions focussing on all elements of design and the professional arts.

mudac
Place de la cathédrale 6, 1005 Lausanne
mudac.ch

The Olympic Museum, one of the crowning glories of Lausanne, is the world’s largest source of information on the Olympics and the ideals behind. Visitors will get a chance to vicariously relive key moments in the history of the games and can explore the permanent and temporary expositions, auditorium, video library, restaurant and shop with fantastic views of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

While visiting The Olympic Museum, you can also dine at the TOM café, which has a fantastic Sunday brunch buffet. Enjoy the calming expanses of water beyond the vast windows as you eat.

The Olympic Museum
Quai d’Ouchy 1, 1006 Lausanne
olympic.org
Tel. +41 21 621 65 11

Galleries & Exhibitions

Art lovers should check out the Collection de l’Art Brut. The collection was established on the basis of a donation from Jean Dubuffet, and includes unusual works which were, by and large, created outside normal culture. This includes art created by individuals in prisons, psychiatric institutions or secret places. The artists featured in the museum include Wölfi, Aloïse, Lesage, Carlo and Hauser.

Collection de l’Art Brut
Avenue des Bergières 11, 1004 Lausanne
artbrut.ch

Until May, visitors can also visit the Fondation de l’Hermitage to see ‘Signac – Une vie au fil de l’eau’. This collection exhibits paintings, watercolors, large drawing studies, sketchbooks and photographs exploring the career of Paul Signac (1863-1935), from Impressionism to Pointillism.

Fondation de l’Hermitage
2 route du Signal
Case postale 42, CH – 1000 Lausanne 8
fondation-hermitage.ch

Libraries

Librairie Humus is an erotic library which opened in December 2010. Its books include 10,000 titles in subject areas ranging from Japan, curiosa, comics, graphic Subversive, eroticism and sexuality, the arts, and other oddities.

Librairie Humus
Rue des Terreaux 18bis, 1003 Lausanne
humus-art.com

More information

Share your holiday moments and take part in the conversation at @mylausanne # lausanne.

For more information, visit Lausanne Tourisme.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the Swiss Travel System and Lausanne Tourisme for their assistance.

Images

Headline image: MySwiterland.com

Article images: Daniel Tyler