Whether you originate from a far-flung continent or simply hail from le Valais, it can take some time to settle in and feel like a local. From long-standing traditions to hidden gems, here is an essential (non-exhaustive) guide to becoming un(e) vrai(e) lausannois(e) or, how to earn your Lausanne stripes. How many can you tick off?
1. Walk up the rue du Petit-Chêne without stopping
Lausanne is perched on three hills, tumbling down from its medieval cathedral to the lake. There is of course a metro that can zip us very conveniently from the train station to Flon but the real challenge is to walk up the hill without stopping. Bonus points if you can maintain a conversation en route!
2. Identify each metro stop from the jingles
Did you know Lausanne boasts the only metro system in Switzerland? And the M2 line is even more special as it plays sound effects before announcing each stop. If you can recognise each sound and identify the stop before the announcement, you’re well on your way to becoming a local.
3. Cultivate a rivalry with a neighbouring Canton
Far be it from us to encourage inter-cantonal competition, but if you really want to fit in it’s important to develop an unfounded and profoundly unjustified mistrust of or disdain for anything or anyone from a nearby region. Why? We don’t know. But it will create a bond with your fellow city dwellers.
4. Six degrees of separation: Lausanne edition
Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are no more than six social connections away from each other. Have you played tennis with Stan Wawrinka or sung a song with Bastian Baker? If you’re connected, even distantly, to one of Lausanne’s famous faces, that’s a win.
Cassandre Berdoz, guette de Lausanne ©Hayley Hay Photography for TLG
The Lausanne metro, ©Ivan Guerrero
5. Discover art, history, and culture free of charge
Whether you’re exploring one of Lausanne’s museums or taking in the colourful creations on various electrical boxes dotted around town, a true local never has to pay for art in the city. Museum entry is free on the first Saturday of every month. For something new, check out the mural at the Escaliers de Chauderon – a collaboration between local artists Tami Hopf and Dahflo.
6. Enjoy a summer staycation
I once asked a local where she went on holiday. She looked at me with thinly veiled derision and professed the best holiday spot is right here! In 2020, we had no choice but to stay put, and I dare say she was right. We’ve got parks for picnics, lakes for swimming, we’ve got forests, and mountains, and vineyards… there really is no need to go anywhere else.
7. Seek out iconic residents of the past
Many people have found a haven in Lausanne to escape the world or cultivate creativity. The French stylist, Coco Chanel, spent several years enjoying the city. Before buying a property, she stayed in some of the city’s top hotels. The Lausanne Palace has a suite named Coco Chanel, and it is rumoured that one of her dogs is buried in the pet cemetery at the Beau-Rivage.
8. Cheer on your local ice hockey team
Switzerland is well-known for winter sports, one of the most popular being ice hockey. Lausanne Hockey Club is our local team, which competes in the National League – the top tier of Swiss hockey. The team plays its home games in the 10,000-seat Vaudoise Aréna. Join the crowds and cheer for the Lausanne team to experience another slice of local life.
9. Dine with rock royalty
OK not literally. La Grappe d’Or is one of the most charming establishments housed in one of the most Instagrammable buildings in the city – a block of pink, green, and gold at the corner of a cobbled street really is the stuff of fairy tales. Rock legend, David Bowie, lived in Lausanne in the 80s and this was one of his preferred spots. You can dine at his favourite table.
10. Listen out for the night watchman (or woman)
Have you ever heard the cry of the watchman from the cathedral between 10 pm and 2 am? The Guet(te) de Lausanne is one of Lausanne’s oldest, and proudest, traditions. For over 600 years, the guet has watched over the city every night and called out the time on the hour. It is possible to visit the guet one night if you’re interested in learning real local history from one of Lausanne’s celebrated watchmen.