Photograph by Royal Oak Creative at Etsy
Today’s city guide comes to us from Erin Eby, a founding partner and creative director of the Geneva-based ad agency, Cocktail. Born and raised in Texas, she worked in Austin until 2008, when her husband got a job offer in Switzerland, and both of them jumped at the opportunity to live and work abroad. When she’s not at Cocktail, she spends her time on design side-projects for her Etsy store or writing in her idea blog, The Rift Brain. She also loves to travel and draws inspiration from all the sights, sounds and colors of the places she visits. Today, she paints us a wonderful portrait of her now-home, Lausanne. From local festivals to simply ordering a cup of coffee, Erin gives us a fantastic glimpse into this lake-side city. Thanks Erin! — Stephanie
The full guide starts after the jump . . .
BORD DU LAC
The bord du lac is the southernmost area of Lausanne on Lake Geneva, namely the Ouchy port. It is dominated by luxury hotels and eateries on the lakefront and gets more residential as you move north. Lausanne is a small town, so unless you are willing to pay a very pretty penny for a lake view from your hotel room, it is worth it to stay closer to the center of town and take a nice walk down to the lake, especially since there is more to see closer to the center. But surely the bord du lac is a gorgeous place to have lunch or take a stroll. You can take a boat ride around the lake just for fun on a nice day or take one directly across to Evian (of bottled-water fame).
Beau-Rivage Palace/Hotel Angleterre — Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, facing the Alps and just five minutes from the centre of Lausanne, the Hotel Angleterre & Beau-Rivage Palace are partner hotels offering luxury, elegance and calm. These are gorgeous places to sit and nurse a cocktail or splurge on a beautiful meal in one of their gourmet restaurants.
Place du Port 12, 1006 Lausanne
021 613 33 33
Place du Port 11, 1006 Lausanne
021 613 34 34
Café de Grancy — Perfect brunch locale. Sunny and relaxed, you could spend hours here with friends. Go on Wednesdays for fondue specials.
Avenue du Rond-Point 1, 1006 Lausanne
021 616 86 66
MGM — Average bar with above-average views of the lake. Sit on the upper deck, and watch the sun go down over the mountains.
Rue du Lac 14, 1007 Lausanne
021 616 38 81
Crêperie d’Ouchy — One of many great crêpe restaurants in Lausanne, this one offers a spectacular panorama of Lake Geneva from their terasse. You pay a little more for the view.
Place du Port 7, 1006 Lausanne
021 616 26 07
Olympic Museum — Take a walk east along the lake shore until you come to the Olympic Museum grounds. The pathway up to the museum is arguably more interesting than the museum itself. The beautifully landscaped promenade lined with Olympic-related sculptures leads up to life-sized displays of the shot-put and high-jump world records. Just try to pick up the shot put, and you will have a new appreciation for the sport!
Quai d’Ouchy 1, 1001 Lausanne
021 621 65 11
Musée Elysée — Offering a nice view both inside and outside the museum, the Elysée is a photography museum that is just a pleasant stroll from the Olympic Museum, so why not do both in the same day?
18, Avenue de l’Elysée, 1014 Lausanne
021 316 99 11
Jardin Botanique — The botanical jardin is a calm and lovely place to walk around on a nice sunny day.
Avenue de Cour 14, 1007 Lausanne
021 616 24 09
Centre ville is downtown Lausanne, where most of the action is. It can get a little confusing to navigate, since the city is built on two tiers, but you will definitely never be bored walking around, even if you do get a little lost. Don’t be afraid to venture off on small side-streets, as you’ll never be too far from the center of town.
Hotel de l’Ours — Italian-owned and operated hotel just south of the hospital within easy downhill walking distance of centre ville, and right next to a metro stop that will take you to the lake. Not a luxurious place, but simple and clean, with a great pizzeria on the ground floor.
Rue du Bugnon 2, 1005 Lausanne
021 320 49 71
Lausanne Guest House — This bright, clean hostel has rooms for everyone, and if you’re lucky, you might land a 5th-floor room with views of Lake Geneva out your window. If you’re unlucky, you’ll overlook the tracks from the main train station less than 10 minutes’ walk away.
Chemin des Epinettes 4, 1007 Lausanne
021 601 80 00
Hotel de Voyageurs — Mid-priced hotel in a great location on Place du St. Francois.
Rue Grand St Jean 19, 1003 Lausanne
021 319 91 11
Café du Simplon — This is a great café right next to the train station that serves up a small menu of delicious dishes in a friendly, minimalist atmosphere. It attracts 20- and 30-somethings and a bit of an artistic crowd. Try their tajines, and don’t forget to make a reservation on weekends.
Rue du Simplon 17, 1006 Lausanne
021 616 31 04
Chez Xu — A surprising flavor haven in the land of bread and cheese, Chez Xu packs a spicy Chinese punch in a cozy atmosphere. You may be sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers, but the food is worth it, especially with their very appetizing prices. If you can stand the heat, try the beuf picante. The canard pekinois is nice for milder palates. Call for reservations on Fridays or Saturdays!
rue du Tunnel 10, 1005 Lausanne
021 312 40 87
Café Red Sea — Don’t overlook this great authentic Ethiopian restaurant tucked into a side alley. The Red Sea Special gives you a small sample of several great dishes on their menu.
Rue de la Tour 17, 1004 Lausanne
021 311 03 87
Café de l’Evêché — If you want a taste of Switzerland, this is the place to get it. They’re famous for their fondue (from classic “motie motie” to tomato, mushroom or even spicy pepper), but you can find other classic Swiss dishes and a variety of local wines on their menu. Recently renovated with a very nice terrace in the back of the restaurant and perfectly located at the foot of the cathedral.
Rue Louis-Curtat 4, 1005 Lausanne
021 323 93 23
Mauro Traiteur — A great lunch spot, Mauro has heavenly made-to-order focaccia sandwiches as well as Italian pastas and pizzas to go. The only down side: No seating! So go when you want to walk and munch or grab a sandwich and picnic in a park.
Rue de l’Ancienne-Douane 4, 1003 Lausanne
021 323 16 67
Bourg Plage — This bar and theater/music venue is literally in the shadow of the cathedral. When the weather is nice and you want a cold beer to go with the warm summer sun, and possibly catch some live music, this is the place to be.
Rue de Bourg 51, 1003 Lausanne
021 625 07 07
(This place is really tucked away since it is built in between the two “tiers” of the city and uses a huge stone arch of Pont Bessières as its ceiling and walls. To get there, go to the cathedral-side of Pont Bessières on the south side of the street and take the stairs down under the bridge.)
Java — A cozy coffee and crêpe hangout outfitted with plush sofas. Go there for the relaxed vibe and space to sit with groups of friends (and their dogs).
Rue Marterey 36, 1005 Lausanne
021 321 38 37
Ladurée — The renowned Parisian brand Ladurée offers irresistible macarons and has a beautiful boutique in the center of Lausanne. Perfect bite-sized sweet-tooth satisfier.
Rue de Bourg 3, 1003 Lausanne
021 312 79 00
Blondel — This closet-sized shop is possibly the most well-known chocolatier in Lausanne. They have everything from classic sheets of dark chocolate to chocolate-covered fruits and nuts and filled truffles. Even if you don’t like chocolate, it is worth peeking in to see the beautiful old boutique.
Rue de Bourg 5, 1003 Lausanne
021 323 44 74
Le p’tit bar — Right next to the cathedral, le p’tit bar is what you would expect from its name — very small! They serve great, healthy salads, refreshing homemade lemonade and other artisanal drinks. During the spring and summer, it’s a nice place to sit outside, admire the cathedral and people watch.
Rue Louis-Curtat 6, 1005 Lausanne
Zoo Burger — As close to an American burger as you’ll find in Lausanne, this small funky locale near the hospital is run by Swiss people with American taste. Don’t worry; they have options for vegetarians, as well.
Rue Marterey 29, 1005 Lausanne
021 312 50 20
Etoile Blanche — English bars are common around town, and this is one of the best. Slightly more upscale than others and serving great food, the “White Star” is a place to meet friends and enjoy a pint for happy hour (which is really a half hour), from 6:00 to 6:30. Always packed with locals and ex-pats alike.
Place Benjamin-Constant, 1005 Lausanne
021 351 24 60
The Great Escape — Overlooking Place du Riponne is this English bar popular with 20-somethings. Convenient to the Riponne metro stop, it’s crowded, it’s hopping and it has a wide selection of beers.
Rue Madeleine 18, 1003 Lausanne
021 312 31 94
Nespresso Boutique — Good spot for a quick coffee and snack, whether you fancy an exotically flavored luxury coffee drink or a simple espresso.
Place St-François 1, 1000 Lausanne
080 055 52 53
Bleu Lézard — The Blue Lizard is a great hangout for lunch or coffee but is also well known for live music in the evenings.
Rue Enning 10, 1003 Lausanne
021 321 38 30
Crêperie la Chandeleur — Arguably the best crêpes in Lausanne, no matter your preference (sweet or savoury). Located on a nice street close to Place de la Palud for walking and browsing.
Rue Mercerie 9, 1003 Lausanne
021 312 84 19
Place de la Palud — Located in the city centre, Place de la Palud is much appreciated by pedestrians and is a popular tourist attraction. A huge mechanical cuckoo clock presents historical vignettes every hour, so be timely to catch the show. Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days.
Place de la Palud, 1003 Lausanne
Rue de Bourg — If you are a into fashion, this is the street for you. With tons of high-end, well-known brands like Louis Vuitton and Hermes represented, as well as some lesser-known boutique shops, this street is fun for big spenders and window shoppers alike.
Rue de Bourg, 1003 Lausanne
Viva Frida — This funky independent clothing shop stands out from the rest in Lausanne. The Swiss-Argentinian créatrice, Barbara Waldesbühl, opened this urban bohemian shop in April 2010, combining her love of travel and multicultural values.
Rue Sainte-Beuve 1, 1005 Lausanne
021 311 10 80
Cotélac — This clean, airy boutique is a little bit bohemian, a little bit contemporary, all gorgeous.
Rue Marterey 28, 1005 Lausanne
021 311 31 51
Le XIIIème (Treizième) Siècle — This club is most interesting for its location and architecture. Situated behind the cathedral, it is built into the ground, “arcade-style.” To enter, you go down some steps until you are below street level and surrounded floor to ceiling with stone and wooden rafters. A bit claustrophobic but really an interesting place to grab a drink or dance.
Rue Cité-Devant 10, 1003 Lausanne
021 312 40 64
mudac — Always on the lookout for new trends, the mudac — Musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains — is a place to experience all kinds of art, from design and dance to music and beyond. Located in an unassuming house next to the cathedral, the mudac is a convenient must-see.
Pl. Cathédrale 6, 1005 Lausanne
021 315 25 30
La couleur du vin — This large wine shop accommodates customers with any budget. Wines range from 12 CHF to “you don’t want to know,” and they have frequent free tastings. Check out their website to find the tasting schedule.
Rue Marterey 34, 1005 Lausanne
021 312 01 01
Café des Artistes — Karaoke here in the evening, and impress the Francophones with your English singing skills.
Galerie St.François A, 1002 Lausanne
021 320 00 55
Lausanne Cathedral — The 840-year-old cathedral is impossible to miss and marks the center of the Lausanne. As a spiritual stronghold of French-speaking Switzerland, Lausanne Cathedral enjoys international importance and is generally considered Switzerland’s finest Gothic building, on par with French Gothic architecture.
Lausanne Opéra — Check out the Lausanne opéra schedule to catch a show in the beautiful 140-year-old theatre.
Av. du Théatre 12, CH-1002 Lausanne
The Flon is the newest part of town, and it is obvious the moment you come upon it. In stark contrast to the ancient buildings of the city center, the Flon is an architecturally modern and hip place to hang out. Home to a few tiny art galleries, some interesting eateries and eclectic shops, this former meatpacking district is a place you shouldn’t (and probably won’t be able to) miss when visiting Lausanne.
Lausanne Palace & Spa — A beautiful old building in the center of town is the home of the luxurious Lausanne Palace. Stay here if you want to indulge yourself in the center of the hustle-and-bustle.
Rue du Grand-Chêne 7, 1003 Lausanne
021 331 31 31
Myo Sushi — Locals unanimously agree that this is the best sushi place in town. The chef is incredible, as is the view from inside the mostly glass resto, but you definitely need to make a reservation to taste their creations.
Allée Ernest Ansermet, 1003 Lausanne
021 323 22 88
Les Brasseurs — Their claim to fame is their “biére artisanale,” which you can get in a glass or a serve-your-own-table “beer column,” up to 5 liters (so bring friends!). Also a great place to grab food more common in the North of Switzerland, like flammenkuchen and rösti.
Rue Centrale 4, 1003 Lausanne
021 351 14 24
King Size Pub — As its name suggests, King Size is the largest pub in Lausanne. It offers ample space to get together with groups of friends and sells a variety of beers in a convivial, late-night atmosphere.
Rue du Port-Franc 16, 1003 Lausanne
021 340 69 77
Les Arches — A popular place to enjoy warm weather with a cold beverage, they offer a selection of beers and are centrally located right next to the Flon metro station. The ambiance of this space is great; as its name suggests, it is built inside the arches of the Grand-Pont. It is also located right next to the very popular D! Club, so it gets a little rowdy closer to midnight on weekends.
Place Centrale, 1003 Lausanne
Nomade Restaurant and Wine Bar — Nice year-round location for a seasonal meal or just a glass of wine. In the winter, you can stay cozy in their well-decorated interior, but the summer is especially nice because they open up a large outdoor terrace with oversized umbrellas to sit in the shade and people-watch.
Place de l’Europe, 1003 Lausanne
021 320 13 13
Troisième Main — This second-hand store is an interesting place to see the things the locals might have in a garage sale (if they had more garages around). It’s fun and sometimes surprising.
Rue Côtes-de-Montbenon 14, 1003 Lausanne
021 313 40 74
Vomm Fass — This German chain now has a few locations in the US, but you can find one of their locales right here in Lausanne. “Vomm fass” translates as “from the cask,” and this is the core concept of the store. They offer a selection of cask-borne vinegars, oils, wines, liqueurs and spirits, all available for gift packaging in unique glass bottles. Great souvenir or gift!
Voie du Chariot 5, 1003 Lausanne
021 311 5381
Ice Skating Rink — Every winter, the Flon hosts a free temporary skating rink. You could spend a great winter evening catching a movie at the Pathé nearby and then going for a skate.
Esplanade du Flon, 1000 Lausanne
Maniak — This eclectic bric-a-brac shop is a good place to find Freitag brand bags, one of Switzerland’s most popular accessories.
Rue de Genève 7, 1003 Lausanne
021 312 58 40
Saturday Markets — Place de la Riponne (aka Maurice Bejart plaza) hosts a large food, clothing and oddities market every Saturday morning until around noon. It’s a great place to get breakfast or lunch and shop around.
Lutry — Lutry is a quaint little town by the lake, just 10 minutes by train or bus from the center of Lausanne. It is surrounded by beautiful countryside and is definitely a fantastic place to go for a walk through the vineyards, followed by a nice wine tasting in one of their local caves.
La tour de Sauvabelin — An enormous all-wooden tower in the midst of the woods. If you can find it and conquer the 302 steps to the top, you will be rewarded with an unforgettable view of Lake Geneva, the Alps and the Swiss lakefront.
La Course de L’Escalade — Each year on the first Saturday in December, the Escalade Race takes place, which commemorates the victory of the Genevois city-state over the troops of the Duke of Savoy Charles Emmanuel I of France in 1602. According to Genevois legend, Mme. Cheynel, a mother of 14 children, seized a large cauldron of hot soup and poured it over the city wall and onto the attackers when she heard them approaching. This folklore is celebrated with the eating of chocolate cauldrons filled with marzipan vegetables, which you will see sold in all the chocolatiers and patisseries in Suisse Romande. There are race distances for runners of all ages and abilities, and you can reward yourself at the end with a chocolate cauldron!
Montreux Fete de Noel — Every winter, the town of Montreux transforms into a winter wonderland full of vin chaud, crêpes and loads of things to buy for Christmas gifts or to treat yourself. With a lakefront backdrop, Christmas tunes emanating from the stalls and the smell of chestnuts roasting in traditional pots, it screams holiday season!
Cully Jazz Fest — A much-anticipated annual (free!) event, the Cully Jazz Fest is definitely something you don’t want to miss if you are in Lausanne around the end of March. Cully is only 20 minutes away from Lausanne and is a great town full of old caves that host jazz musicians for the festival. The atmosphere is intimate, full of energy and fun for all ages.
Les Caves Ouvertes — Les Caves Ouvertes is an annual springtime event in which all the wine producers in the Suisse Romande region open their doors to patrons wanting to get a taste of the end of last season’s wines and the beginning of this season’s new ones. Often, tastings are free with the purchase of a pass. Each city in Suisse Romande celebrates on a different day or weekend, so check the link below to see details.
Foire du Valais (Cow Fighting) — Cow fighting is a traditional Swiss event that pits cow against cow (in a humane and natural “pushing contest”) for the title of La Reine des Reines or “the queen of queens.” At the end of the year, a grand finale is held in Martigny, where the six best cows from seven districts face off.
Lausanne Fête de la Cité — Annual city festival with performances and food/drink vendors near the cathedral area.
(FYI: Change the date in the URL depending on the year.)
August 1 — August 1st is Swiss National Day and is celebrated across the country with fireworks and festivities. If you are in Lausanne on this day, then climb to a spot close to the cathedral for a view of fireworks in all the small towns in the valley.
Fête de Genève — If you didn’t get enough fireworks on August 1st, you just have to wait a few more days for the Fête de Genève in mid-August. Every American ex-patriot here begrudgingly agrees that the fireworks show for this fête puts the 4th of July to shame. Rockets of all kinds shoot off from boats on Lake Geneva to various musical scores for 1 hour of pure pyromaniacal bliss.
Getting around: Check out www.sbb.ch for travel information. You can get pretty much anywhere in the country for a relatively low price by taking the train. Look into getting a GA (Abonnement Generale) that allows for unlimited travel on public transportation if you plan on a long stay or a tour of the country.
Cost: Brace yourself for sticker shock because it is expensive here! Switzerland is far and away the most expensive country in Europe. On the bright side, it is easy to keep track of your money and put things in perspective because 1 CHF is almost exactly equal to $1. Still, prepare yourself ahead of time and try to loosen the purse strings a bit in order to have a nice time. Food prices will probably be the most expensive part of your visit. Avoid breaking the bank by eating like a local! For lunch, eat simply so you can splurge on a dinner out. For perspective, according to the official website of the city of Lausanne, on average, a coffee costs $3.50, a pint of beer costs $8, a lunch from $25 to $40 and a dinner at a mid-range restaurant is about $100 per person.
Coffee: “How do I order a coffee?” is a question that has a different answer in each European country. In Lausanne (and all of Suisse Romande), you should order:
- A ristretto if you want a very short, bitter sip of espresso.
- An espresso if you want a the traditional Italian shot of strong coffee.
- A “café” if you want an espresso with a bit more water (“long”). It comes with sugar and creme and in a glass that is larger than an espresso cup but smaller than a coffee mug.
- A “café au lait” if you like lattes (equal parts milk and espresso).
- A “café reinversé” if you want more milk than espresso for something that tastes Starbucks-esque and usually comes with whipped cream on top.
- A “café americaine” if you want a big cup of filtered coffee.