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One of the most popular day trips from Geneva is Lausanne. This beautiful small city is located along Lake Geneva, with a rich history that predates the Romans. It’s surrounded by breathtaking countryside, including the very picturesque UNESCO world heritage site of the Lavaux Vineyards. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time in our schedule to venture outside of the city, but that gives us all the more reason to return because the vineyards are a definite must-see near Lausanne.
The fifth largest city in Switzerland is home to many international sport federations, and is famous for being the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, so no trip to Lausanne is complete without visiting the Olympic Museum. This museum is among one of the top places to visit in Lausanne, and when you combine attractions such as this with the incredible food scene in Lausanne and the views of Lake Geneva, it’s not hard to see why it’s a popular city break destination in Switzerland.
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Top Places To Visit in Lausanne
If you only have a short time to spend in Lausanne, you’ll want to make sure you visit the main attractions first and foremost. This small city has a lot going for it though, and is worth spending at least 48 hours exploring, if not more. From unique museums to picturesque streets to incredible lake and mountain views, there are a lot of great places to visit in Lausanne.
Lausanne Cathedral, also referred to as Notre Dame, is known as the spiritual capital of French-speaking Switzerland. It was completed in the 13th century and in 1536 it became a Protestant cathedral. Today visitors can explore the interior of the cathedral (don’t forget to look at the Rose Window) for free, and climb the Belfry Tower for CHF 5 for incredible city and lake views.
There’s also a 600 year old tradition in the evening where the watchman calls out the time every hour from the top of the tower between 10pm and 2am, which is an incredibly unique thing to witness in Lausanne. If you happen to have the Lausanne City Pass, tower entry is included.
Lausanne is positioned along Lake Geneva, so a walk along the Ouchy Promenade is a must for any visitor. In the autumn time the tree-lined paths are stunning to walk along, and there are a lot of restaurants and points of interest in this part of the city as well. Ouchy is one of the top places to visit in Lausanne for a reason, and there are various public transportation links that will bring you down to it directly from the old town.
One of the best things to do in Lausanne is to visit the Olympic Museum. The museum is spread out across several floors which teach visitors about the history of the Olympics, feature past champions, display signed memorabilia, and let you get up close to the medals and torches that have been used in both the summer and winter Olympics. If you only have one day in Lausanne, make sure this is on your list. Entry costs CHF 20 for an adult, but if you have the Lausanne City Pass with you then you’re covered.
Visiting the Thai Pavilion is quite a unique free thing to do in Lausanne, and is located only a short walk from the Olympic Museum, across from the Ouchy Promenade. The pavilion was gifted to the city in 2005 by the King of Thailand to mark the 75th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries. On a sunny day the sunshine reflects brilliantly off of the gold and glass decorations, and since this isn’t an overly popular tourist attraction in Lausanne, chances are you’ll be able to enjoy the Thai Pavilion all to yourself.
Palais de Rumine
If you’re a big fan of museums, then you’ll want to add the Palais de Rumine to your Lausanne itinerary. Located in Lausanne’s old town, this 19th century building was constructed for public use using money left in a nobleman’s son’s will. If you think the outside looks impressive, the inside is just as elaborate with large pillars, a small pond, and overlapping ramps that give it a Renaissance look. There are a lot of things to visit inside the Palais de Rumine, including the Archaeological Museum and the History Museum.
Escaliers du Marché
One of the top places to visit in Lausanne has to be the old town and the Escaliers du Marché. The current form of these steps date back to the early 18th century, but they’ve been in existence as early as the 13th century. The covered steps act as a direct link to the cathedral from La Palud, and sit next to a variety of local shops and cafes. This is also one of the best spots in Lausanne for photos and a personal favourite of mine.
St. François Church
It may not be quite as big or popular as Lausanne Cathedral, but the St. François Church is still a beautiful piece of 13th century architecture to admire. It’s located in one of the most central squares in the city, and gets its name from a Franciscan convent it once stood next to. It’s definitely one of the best historical things to see in Lausanne, and isn’t far from other attractions.
Of all the unique things to do in Lausanne, climbing up the Sauvabelin Tower is right at the top of the list. This wooden tower offers the best viewpoint in the city - yes, even better than the Belfry Tower! It’s completely free to enter and is located a short bus ride north of the old town in the Sauvabelin Forest. If you’re heading from Geneva to Lausanne for the day, you may not be able to fit this into your schedule, but there’s a reason why it’s so popular with the locals so I would highly recommend coming here on a clear day if you can.
Where To Eat in Lausanne
While Lausanne may not have as many restaurants as places like Bern or Zurich, the city isn’t short on variety. For a traditional Swiss meal, I would recommend Le Vieil Ouchy who offer a couple of unique twists on fondue. But if you want to dine at more modern restaurants in Lausanne, here are a few unique picks for you.
Green Up Salad Bar
Healthy and delicious food to take on the go? They’ve got everything you could ever want at Green Up Salad Bar. We visited their newer location on Rue Marterey, which offers a few seats for indoor dining, but most people were taking their food to go. As the name suggests, Green Up Salad Bar serves salads, but there’s also fresh juices and burritos to choose from.
They have a small set menu with some tasty options on it, and you can even build your own salad or burrito which is fun to do. We did the latter and took our burrito, salad, and juices down to the lake area to enjoy the gorgeous weather we were having. All of the ingredients are freshly prepared and the homemade sauces are amazing, so if you want something healthy to eat in Lausanne then you’ll love Green Up Salad Bar.
One of the coolest places to eat in Lausanne is Street Cellar. They serve incredible twists on street food, and have an amazing selection of wines from the barrel to choose from. This restaurant is always busy, and is open late too, so it’s a great option for dinner in Lausanne - or a late snack! Street Cellar are known for their unique gourmet hotdog combinations, which are made with only the best quality sausages and toppings, so they’re not your average hotdogs. We tried a couple of those out, but we also dug into some of their top selling menu items too.
For an explosion of flavours I would recommend ordering the sauce plate to kick things off. The crispy chicken and the semi-cooked salmon are also great options that are packed with nice seasoning and sauces. There’s a giant piece of Swiss cheese served in a flakey crust which is incredible and a delicious sharing option if you like cheese but don’t want something too heavy. Make sure you check out the specials board, because they always have a unique mixture of gourmet hotdogs available. Make sure you leave some room for dessert because the chocolate puff daddy will be calling your name. We’d love to come back to Street Cellar the next time we visit Lausanne and see what new creations they’ve come up with.
The Hungry Bear is a very popular brunch spot in Lausanne, but they also have a nice evening menu that’s worth exploring if you want something on the lighter side for dinner. The food here is very nicely presented, and is a modern take on traditional brunch food. We tried two of their main dishes, which were centred around fresh salmon and burrata with mini aubergines.
We also added a side of artisanal bread to our order which was served with salted butter. We thoroughly enjoyed everything we ate and can see why this is a popular spot with the locals. Next door is where you’ll find the Sleepy Bear Coffee Shop, which has great reviews if you like coffee!
The Pancakes Mafia
In the mood for something sweet? Or maybe something more savoury? The Pancakes Mafia have got both options covered. They’re located near Place de la Palud and offer visitors a new way to enjoy crepes and pancakes. You’ll find a lot of classics on the menu, but they also pull ideas from different parts of the world to make more unique combinations.
I ordered an enormous nutella and banana pancake combo that definitely filled me up for the rest of the day - but it was delicious on all levels. We also tried the Chicken BBQ crepe which was very tasty and a nice alternative to the regular ham and cheese crepes that are served everywhere. If you love pancakes and crepes, then The Pancakes Mafia will hit all the right spots.
Lausanne is a beautiful city situated between Geneva and Bern, and is a nice, quieter alternative to the larger cities that many tourists frequent. If you only happen to be stopping here for a day, make sure you add these top places to visit in Lausanne to your itinerary so you really get a feel for the city and its history. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much this small city has to offer, and the food here is just as good as places like Geneva, so you’ll leave with a happy stomach too.
Have you managed to visit Lausanne yet? Or is it still on your list of places to visit in Switzerland? Let me know if you have any questions or recommendations about places to visit or eat in Lausanne in the comments below. You can also reach out via Instagram and follow my travels for more tips.