Lausanne, the Olympic capital of the world, is located on a steep hillside on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport are both here, as well as a new world-class Olympic museum if you want to pull the strings of sport. The Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals are a reference point in Lausanne, and despite the turmoil of the Reformation, are still full of medieval decorations.
Given the city’s almost dizzying layout, there are dozens of places to stop and admire Lake Geneva and its mountains. On the shore is Ouchy, a stylish setting for easy walks, bathing in the lake, and a place to catch a ferry or cruise on one of Europe’s largest lakes.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Lausanne:
1. Lausanne Cathedral
The city’s stately cathedral was built in the 13th century and consecrated in 1275. The sound made late at night is the lookout, which is loud, 365 days a year, between 22:00 and 02:00, the kind that he was in Europe on the last day.
One of the people to thank for the cathedral’s current appearance is Viollet-le-Duc, the master of French restoration.
He led restoration work in the 1870s, his last major project before his death.
Look for sandstone images of the Virgin and Child at Narthex, as well as 13th-century sculptural figures on the South Portal, where traces of medieval paint are still present.
The 13th century rose window on the south façade was also ahead of its time and was painted even before the famous rose window in Chartres.
2. Collection de l’Art Brut
On the slopes, in the annexes of the 18th-century Beaulieu Castle, is one of Art Brut’s definitive collections.
Most of these works were collected by Jean Dubuffet, the founder of the movement.
The works come from a variety of backgrounds: there are children’s paintings, folk art pieces, and paintings of psychiatric patients, but a common feature is that all the artists shown here are on the fringes of the art world.
For this reason, and because they do not create art for concern or financial gain, their art is considered more authentic.
Each piece is accompanied by a fascinating biography of the artist.
Perhaps the most acclaimed is Aloïse Corbaz, a Lausanne-born woman with schizophrenia.
3. Olympic Museum
As the seat of the International Olympic Committee, Lausanne is essentially the Olympic capital.
So you can easily get the inside scoop on one of the greatest sporting events in the world.
The museum is located south of the Ouchy Center, overlooking Lake Geneva from the top of the Olympic Park.
The permanent exhibition is divided into three floors, each of which discusses the Olympics from a different perspective: The Olympic World on the ground floor documents the ancient history of the Games and their modern revival at the end of the 19th century.
The Olympic Games records all sporting events held at each Olympic Games.
In the interactive Olympic Spirit exhibit on the top floor, you can find the skills you need to become an Olympian and test your physical and mental abilities.
4. Uchi Promenade
When the sun is out, the kilometer-long walkway next to Lake Geneva is a piece of paradise.
On weekends, the promenade goes out for a walk with families and couples, stopping to admire the view of the lake and the Chabray Alps.
There’s a lot going on at Place de la Navigation, whether it’s a market or a public concert.
If you’re alone, you can take a book to read for an hour or so and watch the CGN ferries come and go in the busiest port on the lake.
This quarter is as luxurious as any in Lausanne, with stately hotels like the Château d’Ouchy and Beau-Rivage occupying a privileged position on the lakefront.
From the centre of Lausanne down an almost impossible gradient on the M2 line to get here.
5. Elysee Museum
One of Europe’s greatest photography museums is housed in another elegant 18th-century mansion overlooking the lake.
There are over 100,000 photographs in these galleries, many of them made using the earliest techniques: you can study daguerreotypes, albumen and ambrotype prints, and follow the evolution of photography all the way to digital printing.
Acclaimed Swiss photographers such as Ella Maillart and Nicolas Bouvier have bequeathed their lifelong collections to the museum.
In 2011, the museum purchased Charlie Chaplin’s personal photo album, which contained 10,000 photographs documenting his entire career.
A new, state-of-the-art museum building is under construction and everything will move in 2020.
6. Palude Square
Place de la Palud is a wedge-shaped pedestrian square in the center of Lausanne, dominated by the 17th century town hall and old apartment buildings.
On the ground floor, the arcades of the building lead you to a passage to the Place du Louvre.
On the east side of the square is the Fontaine de la Justice, built in the 1500s.
From here you can clearly see the tower of the town hall, and the Horloge de la Palud assembled for the 1964 Swiss National Exhibition: when the bell rings, figures representing important historical figures in Lausanne walk around to return to the previous clock inside .
7. Montbeignon Esplanade
So we know Lausanne has an inspiring panorama.
But the one at the Esplanade de Montbenon rivals the best in town.
In this manicured, verdant space, you’ll tend to just sit back and gaze at the view.
But there are some interesting monuments to look for in Montbenon.
At the top of the Esplanade is the Palais de Justice de Montbenon, a magnificent Beaux-Arts building built in the 1880s.
Until 1921, it was the seat of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.
Casino Montbenon is another former site of the International Olympic Committee, which was the seat of the Committee from 1915 to 1922, and is now the Swiss Film Archive.
Check the schedule, as the “Cinématographe” hosts some big events, such as the Lausanne Underground Film and Music Festival in October.
8. Tour de France in Sovaberan
In the Sowabelin Forest, the highest point of the city, there is an observation tower made of only wood.
This was proposed in 2003 and is unusual for its double spiral staircase; one set leads you to the observation deck, the other takes you down.
It has 151 steps to the top, and once you get there, you can bask in the fantastic cityscape of Lake Geneva, the Alps, the Vaud Alps, the French Alps and Lausanne.
The wood for the 35-meter-tall building is sourced from the forest outside the city and consists mainly of Douglas fir, spruce and some larch.
9. Hermitage Foundation
On the slopes of the centre of Lausanne, in the Vaudois neighbourhood, is a handsome “l’Hermitage” estate built in the 1850s.
The house sits in its own park with another fantastic lake, mountains and cathedral tower.
The great landscape painter Camille Corot famously documented this view.
In the 70s, l’Hermitage was bequeathed to the city, while an art foundation was established, and the collection has now expanded to hundreds of works.
These are never on permanent display, but are displayed in superb temporary exhibitions.
Since 1984, Giacometti, Hopper, Magritte and Monet have all held exhibitions, and as recently as 2016, there was an exhibition of works by luminaries such as Signac and Soulages.
10. Parc de Mon Repos
This sprawling English-style park filled with exotic trees like giant sequoias has everything you need to unwind.
The layout that greets us today dates from the first decades of the 19th century, when French architect Louis-Emmanuel-Aimé Damesme reconfigured the park and its 18th century villa.
From 1922 to 1967, the building was the seat of the International Olympic Committee.
There are small attractions around the park, such as the outdoor theater where Voltaire once produced plays and the Orangery, which is now the studio of sculptor Yves Dana.
From the time the park was created in the 1820s, what looked like a medieval tower in the ruins was actually a romantic folly.
11. Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Art (MUDAC)
MUDAC is known for its temporary exhibitions, with about six exhibitions held each year.
Some were designed by an artist alone who even created their own sets, while others were traveling exhibitions organized by museums around the world.
There are also some permanent displays: one on the second floor showcases a modern glass design.
In the basement you can see the personal collection of the historian Jacques-Edouard Berger.
During the second half of the 20th century, he collected a wide variety of handicrafts from the Far East and ancient Egypt.
The stately building that contains this museum is actually a complex of medieval houses, all of which have a 17th century appearance.
12. Lumina Palace
After the death of the Russian nobleman Gabriel Drumine, he left a fortune to the city for the construction of public spaces.
The result was the Palais de Rumine, built at the turn of the century, whose architecture borrowed from Florentine Renaissance architecture.
You can find the palace at Place de la Riponne, which houses no less than five museums.
Among the choices is the State Museum of Fine Arts, which has a fund of approximately 10,000 works.
Here is a large collection of illustrations by the beloved Art Nouveau printmaker Théophile Steinlen (from Lausanne), as well as other Swiss-French artists such as Félix Vallotton and Charles Gleyre.
13. Escaliers du Marché
Perhaps the most charming walk in the old town is the covered wooden staircase that connects the Place de la Palud and the Esplanade de la Cathédrale.
The first mention of these steps dates back to the 14th century, while the current design is from the 1710s.
Next to it is a cobblestone street that has terraces to make the slopes less unstable.
There is no doubt about the challenges of building a city on such steep ground, and the ingenuity of making this terrain navigable.
14. Rolex Learning Center
Not far west of the center is an ultra-modern hybrid space designed as the campus of EPFL.
Beneath the wavy canopy are the library, food court, café, meeting spaces, work areas, function rooms and various other student resources.
The roof is lined with courtyard openings, all of which make for an exciting building envisioned by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese duo SANAA. They got the job before big names like Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid, and the campus finally opened in 2010. Tourists are free to look around and you can grab a bite to eat at the cafe.
15. Lake excursions
If you don’t take a boat trip from Ouchy’s port, you’re missing out.
You can quickly travel across places like Geneva or Thonon-les-Bains on the French side of the lake on a modern boat.
But you might prefer a more leisurely pace, for the ferry operator CGN, which built a fleet of small traditional boats in Winterthur in the early 1900s.
There are five “Belle Époque paddle steamers” that sail to many places around the lake: Savoie and Simplon, for example, travel to and from Geneva on slow sightseeing cruises, while Montreaux travels to and from the picturesque Château de Chillon support on the eastern islands.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Lausanne, Switzerland
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