WHAT TO DO IN LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND
- 1 WHAT TO DO IN LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND
- 2 LAUSANNE TRAVEL TIPS
- 3 TOP THINGS TO DO IN LAUSANNE
- 4 DAY TRIPS FROM LAUSANNE
- 5 FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST ACTIVITIES IN LAUSANNE
Are you planning a trip to Lausanne and are wondering about the best things to do in Lausanne? Then this post is for you.
Lausanne is the lively capital of the canton Vaud. This French-speaking city is not the most popular place in Switzerland amongst international visitors, though it is a fun and pretty city that offers quite a number of attractions.
Located on the northern shores of stunning Lake Geneva, you’ll find a variety of activities in Lausanne. Find out what to do, plus more travel tips for your Lausanne itinerary (whether you visit for one day or longer).
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LAUSANNE TRAVEL TIPS
Before talking about the best things to do in Lausanne, here are some quick travel tips to smooth your trip!
How to Get to Lausanne
- BY BOAT: The most scenic way to arrive in Lausanne is via boat. If you come from Geneva or Montreux, a boat cruise on Lake Geneva (367 meters above sea level) is the perfect way to get to Lausanne.
- BY TRAIN: Lausanne is well connected to many cities and towns in Switzerland. The train station is located in the city center, which sits 447 meters above sea level. From there, you can reach many attractions on foot and can get to Lake Geneva and some other sights, like the Olympic Museum, by bus or on foot, too.
- BY CAR: In general, I am not a fan of driving in Switzerland’s towns and cities. Parking spaces are rare and quite expensive. If you can avoid getting to Lausanne this way, do so and instead pick public transportation or the boat as your means of transport.
How to Get Around
- WALKING: You can walk to most attractions in Lausanne. Many of them are located in the city center, which makes them easy to walk to. However, you will need comfy shoes because the streets are cobblestone. Also, there is an uphill/downhill walk to Lake Geneva and some other sights.
- PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Though many attractions are within walking distance, you might want to catch a bus or the metro once or twice. I only hopped on a bus from Lake Geneva to the town center, to avoid some uphill walking. And I recommend taking the bus one more time if you head from the city center to Sauvabelin Tower. Apart from that, I do not really think that you will need public transportation a lot. However, Lausanne has an extensive public transportation system, so you can almost always get on a bus for a stop or two if your legs cannot carry you anymore.
Where to Stay in Lausanne
While I did not stay overnight in Lausanne myself, I think it is a good idea to explore the city. Also, you can use Lausanne as a base to experience the beautiful, beautiful places around Lake Geneva, like Montreux or Geneva.
Budget Hotel / Mid-Range Hotel in Lausanne
- This hotel might be a good choice if you are looking for a budget hotel. It is located quite close to most main attractions. However, keep in mind that the area of Lake Geneva is one of the most expensive in the world and you can not expect much more value for your money.
- Another hotel you could check out is this 3-star hotel in Lausanne. A bus stop is close by so you can easily get to the city center by bus. Check out rates here.
Luxury Hotel in Lausanne
- If you want to splurge, then the Lausanne Palace might be your best choice. It is located in the city center – close to the train station – and has also all the spa facilities you can ask for after some busy days of exploring Lausanne. Check out rates here.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN LAUSANNE
Let´s talk about the top activities for your Lausanne itinerary.
Lake Geneva Cruise
Cruising Lake Geneva is probably one of the best things to do in Lausanne. Lake Geneva is one of the largest lakes in Europe, and on a sunny day, its watercolor is striking! It is also a nice way to relax and sit back – and just enjoy the water and lake.
Given its size, you could spend many, many hours on a boat. But since you probably have a limited amount of time in Lausanne, I suggest taking a boat from Lausanne to Montreux.
This way, you have the stunning Lauvaux vineyards, but also the mountains, villages, and lakes. More about the vineyards down below – seeing them from a boat is a fantastic perspective.
- Free cruise with a Swiss Travel Pass
Check out more fantastic lakes in Switzerland.
Lake Geneva Ouchy
Stroll along Lake Geneva Ouchy – it is pretty. Like really pretty. As mentioned, Lake Geneva is a beauty, so how could it be any different when strolling this area? It is one of the 40 ports on the shores of Lake Geneva. So, you will embark/disembark here if you come by boat.
Built in 1901, this quay is popular amongst locals and visitors at any time of the year. So, even if you do not go on a boat cruise, make sure to stop by here. Dip your feet into the lake and enjoy the flowers, scenery, and people – this is a must-see in Lausanne.
Along the shores of Lake Geneva, you will also find one of the best museums in Switzerland – the Olympic Museum. There are permanent, as well as temporary, exhibitions related to sports at the Olympics. It is an interactive and fun museum that is perfect for people of all ages!
You might be wondering why it is located in Lausanne?! Well, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had its headquarters in Lausanne since 1914. No, I do not care about the Olympics. I do not watch them and I also did not really care about visiting the museum, but I must admit it was interesting and actually fun. So, if you are interested in sports, this will be even better.
I rushed through it because of my dog – do not ask! Dogs are not allowed, by the way. I think that you should plan in 2-3 hours for this experience.
- Free with a Swiss Travel Pass
Then, it is time to visit the city center of Lausanne. It actually has a French – Parisian – flair. At least to me. But that’s not surprising given its history. The town center is not the most spectacular place, but it is beautiful and interesting, so you should not miss it!
Let´s start with the Cathedral. At the heart of the old town, you have the stunning Lausanne Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne overlooking the city. It was consecrated in the 13th century and had been a Catholic Church before it became a Protestant church in the 16th century.
It is considered to be one of the most beautiful gothic art monuments in Switzerland, if not Europe, and attracts more than 400,000 visitors annually. So, of course, I recommend visiting it.
If you stay overnight in Lausanne, you might want to enjoy the night watchman. Between 10 pm and 2 am, the night watchman stands at the top of the Cathedral’s bell tower and shouts out each hour to the residents. He was historically meant to watch over the city but now remains to perpetuate a 600-year-old tradition.
- Free to visit
Cathedral’s Bell Tower
My top tip is to get to the Cathedral’s bell tower for the best views of the city.
It is a narrow staircase, and you “only“ have to climb 224 steps (compared to many other European bell towers, this is not that much) to enjoy a great panorama.
- There is an entrance fee of CHF 5 for the tower (you can pay by credit card)
The Bishop’s Palace was built between the 11th and 15th centuries for one of the most important dioceses of the region. Now, it houses the Lausanne Historical Museum.
It is closed at the moment, but I still suggest heading there for a quick stop because there is an open-air cafe that is beautifully decorated and inviting!
Escaliers du Marche
At some point, you will pass Escaliers du Marche, which is a direct staircase that runs between Place de la Palud and the Cathedral.
This interesting stairway – mentioned for the first time in the 13th century – has existed in its present form since the 18th century. On one side of the stairway, you have some boutiques and cafes.
Place de la Palud
Then you are at the Place de la Palud – one of the most charming areas in Lausanne. It is a junction of several pedestrian streets and one of the liveliest places.
Apart from the 17th-century Town Hall, you also have many shops and cafes/restaurants here. At the upper part of the Place de la Palud, you have the striking Fontaine de la Justice, which dates back to the 16th century (the original statue has been replaced by a copy).
It features a blindfolded young woman bearing a sword and scales. The Pope, the Emperor, the Grand Turk, and a magistrate are bowing in submission at her feet. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, you will also find a market here, and every first Friday of the month it hosts a craft market.
You also find the pretty town hall of Lausanne at the Place de la Palud, which dates back to the 17th century. It has a typical Vaudois roof and arcades, and the Renaissance façade is decorated with two copper gargoyles in the form of dragons.
It is still used today for municipal offices. The Lausanne architect Abraham de Crousaz built it between 1673 and 1675 on the site of previous town halls.
Tour de l’Ale
Though this tower is temporarily closed, you might want to do a quick walk towards the Tour de l’Ale.
The tower, standing at 20 meters high, dates back to the 14th century and is the last vestige of Lausanne’s old city walls, which were mostly destroyed during the 18th century. It is located in a more alternative street/neighborhood of Lausanne and I enjoyed seeing that side of the city with some street art. Thus, even if the tower is closed, it is great to check out quickly.
Palais de Rumine
The Palais de Rumine is a late 19th-century building in the beautiful Florentine Renaissance style. Until 1970, it served as the main building of Lausanne University, and now it houses the cantonal museums of geology, zoology, archaeology, and history, the Cantonal Money Museum, and the cantonal and university library.
What is interesting about the creation is that in 1871, Gabriel de Rumine (1841-1871), an aristocrat of Russian origin with a Lausannian mother, left 1.5 million francs to the City of Lausanne for the construction of a building for public use.
You can see all the above-mentioned places in one day in Lausanne – if you have more time or are a quick traveler, then here are a few more suggestions for your itinerary!
A bit outside the city center, you will find an interesting tower made of wood – the Sauvabelin Tower. From the top of the 35-meter-high tower, you have 360° views of the Lausanne conurbation, Lake Geneva, and the three geographic regions of Switzerland – the Alps, the Jura, and the Plateau. It is quite new and was just built in 2003. If there is bad weather and there are safety concerns (strong wind, snow, or ice), the tower is closed.
- There is no entrance fee for the tower.
One of my favorite activities around Lausanne was the hike in the Lavaux region. It consists of 830 hectares of terraced vineyards that stretch for about 30 km along the south-facing northern shores of Lake Geneva.
It is the largest contiguous vineyard region in Switzerland with some of the most beautiful vineyards in all of Europe. Its hillside terraces have been protected by UNESCO since 2007.
It starts just a few kilometers east of Lausanne in Lutry and goes all the way to Chexbres/St. Saphorin, a few kilometers west of Montreux.
In the summer and fall months, in particular, it looks absolutely beautiful, and hiking in the area gives you fantastic views of the vineyards and Lake Geneva. You can combine it with some wine tasting!
You do not have to do the full hike; you can do just some parts of it. My tip: start in Lutry and hike to Cully, Rivaz, or St. Saphorin. You will surely not regret it. Plan in a couple of hours for this impressive hike!
DAY TRIPS FROM LAUSANNE
Lausanne also makes an amazing base – from here, you can explore more of stunning Switzerland. Here are a few easy suggestions for day trips from Lausanne.
Day Trip to Montreux
Montreux is one of the easiest and yet most beautiful day trips you can take from Lausanne.
Get to this small town on the shores of Lake Geneva either by boat, train, or car. It is just 30km east of Lausanne and you can explore the town with its pretty promenade, visit the impressive Chateau du Chillon, find out more about Freddie Mercury´s and Charlie Chaplin’s life in Montreux or or or…
Day Trip to Geneva
From Lausanne, you could also do a day trip to Geneva. The second biggest city in Switzerland is about 60km southwest of Lausanne. Within one hour you are in Geneva (by car or train).
This city is about international politics and organizations, Lake Geneva, and watches. It probably is not the number 1 travel destination I recommend in Switzerland but well worth a trip.
- Check out my more detailed guide on Geneva and the best activities for a day.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST ACTIVITIES IN LAUSANNE
Lausanne is a beautiful city – full of history and gorgeous architecture. However, it gets, even more, special because of Lake Geneva and the vineyards! You cannot go wrong with visiting Lausanne – whether you stay one day or longer, it is one of the best cities to visit in Switzerland. Enjoy!