- French-speaking city on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva
- Located in the heart of Switzerland’s wine country
- Called “The San Francisco of Switzerland” due to its hills
Metro Population: 420,000 (#4 in Switzerland)
When To Visit: March-October
Climate: Warm in summer, cool in spring and fall, cold with some rain and a small amount of snow in winter
Lausanne is a small city that oozes with history and charm. From the upper reaches of the hills above town to the peaceful independent town of Ouchy on the waterfront, there are impressive views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps to be found everywhere – just be prepared for some steep hills. If you have time and love wine, venture outside of the city to nearby small towns in Switzerland’s wine country.
Photo: Lausanne Old City
Where To Go in Lausanne
Lausanne Old City
Place de la Palud: A picturesque town square with a clock and fountain dating back to the 800s (wow!). Free. Place de la Palud 1, 1003 Lausanne. +41 21 613 73 73
Notre Dame Cathedral: The city’s most famous church that was built in the 1100s and is considered Switzerland’s most beautiful Gothic cathedral. The exterior architecture is outstanding – with tons of spires, towers, and windows. Upon walking inside, you’ll find white walls with plenty of columns, wooden seats, a huge organ, and lovely stained glass windows. Free. Place de la Cathédrale, 1005 Lausanne. +41 21 316 71 60
Sauvabelin Tower: Climb 302 stairs to the top of this observation tower perched on a hill above the city that provides sweeping panoramic views of Lausanne and Lake Geneva. Free. 1018 Lausanne. +41 21 315 42 74
Parc de l’Hermitage: The steep walk up to this park rewards you with great views of Lake Geneva. There’s also an interesting roller rink and stage area with a cafe. Avenue Louis-Vulliemin, 1018 Lausanne. +41 21 315 57 15
Beaulieu Palace and Park: A historic palace building turned convention center with nice outdoor fountains and rotating art exhibits. Free. Avenue Bergières 10, 1004 Lausanne.
Esplanade de Montebenon: A popular park with great views of the lake that’s perfect for sunbathing in the summer and frequently hosts festivals. The historic and quite large Palace of Justice building is right next to the park. Free. Allée Ernest-Ansermet 3, 1003 Lausanne.
Ouchy: A small independent city on the waterfront of Lake Geneva with food vendors, docks lined with boats, and a nice grassy area on which to relax. It’s a very popular spot among tourists and locals and a pleasant walk downhill from the Old City. Free.
What To Eat in Lausanne
You’ll find Switzerland’s food to be exorbitantly expensive ($30+ for a meal that would be $10 in the U.S.), but it is possible to nourish yourself without breaking the bank. It may seem strange to eat ethnic food rather than local dishes, but it tends to be significantly cheaper. Here are a few of the most affordable yet still high quality eats in Lausanne.
Chez Xu: An excellent family-owned Chinese restaurant with a huge menu and hearty portions. Rue du Tunnel 10, 1005 Lausanne. +41 21 312 40 87
Bleu Lezard: An iconic Lausanne eatery, Bleu Lezard has a hip vibe, beautiful decor, and an incredible rotating 12 franc lunch special. Rue Enning 10, 1003 Lausanne. +41 21 321 38 30
Holy Cow!: A fast casual burger joint that uses all Swiss ingredients and serves a variety of quite large burgers (including yummy veggie options) at low prices. Rue des Terreaux 10, 1003 Lausanne.
Click here to read my blog from my day climbing Lausanne’s hills in search of cathedrals, lakes, and chocolate.
Nearby Side Trips from Lausanne
Lucerne: This mid-sized city only 1.5 hours away has incredibly well-preserved history, including a 700-year-old wall with several towers, covered bridges with centuries-old murals, and a small but charming Old City. Read more.
Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region: A resort town sandwiched between two large lakes and just below a gorgeous portion of the Swiss Alps, Interlaken (2 hours away) is perfectly positioned to allow exploration of quaint towns and stunning mountain peaks. Read more.
Bern: Switzerland’s capital city 1 hour east is one of the only cities in the world to maintain its central street plan since medieval times and is surrounded on three sides by the River Aare. Read more.
Zurich: Switzerland’s largest city (2.5 hours east of Lausanne) is known as the world’s most expensive, but has tons of free and quite remarkable historical and contemporary landmarks to explore. Read more.