Are you passing by and only have 24 hours in Lausanne? In search of some advice about what to do, see, and eat? Here is your list of the things that you just can’t miss; just remember to wear some comfy shoes because Lausanne is an uphill downhill kind of city and have a water bottle handy.
Arriving at the train station start with coffee. You can grab a quick one on the go from Tibits, or sit in one of the two specialty coffee shops sous gare: Sleepy Bear Café or Ça Passe Crème You’ll need the fuel to climb the Rue du Petit-Chêne to kick off your visit of central Lausanne.
1. Place Saint-François
The first stop is Place Saint-Francois. Notice the 52 golden name plaques on the ground. Believe it or not, these are the names of the children born on the full moon in 1998 (not joking here). You also have two water fountains to fill your water bottles (yes all water is drinkable – unless noted). The church that sits in the center dates back to the 12th century and now hosts numerous classical music and organ concerts. Place Saint-Francois is also one of the central hubs for buses, most, if not all, will have a transit stop through here.
2. Place de la Palud
Then head down crossing Rue Centrale and head back up to Place de La Palud; the main square of Lausanne’s Old Town. If you get lost, follow the music and stop at your third fountain (of the 366 public fountains in Lausanne) the musical clock will give you a little animated local history. The music is played every day and every hour on the hour between 9h -19h. The Fountain of Justice, is one of the oldest stands and dates back to 1327 when it was just made out of wood. Fun fact: this is just a copy, the original statue is being conserved in the historical museum.
3. Lausanne Cathedral and the bell tower
On to stop 3. Take the old wooden steps, Escaliers du Marché, to go up to the Lausanne Cathédrale! Trust us; the view will be worth the burn. Once in the esplanades of the cathedral, walk around and fill up your bottles, yet again if need be, and admire the view and visit La Cité. If you still have energy then climb all the way to the top of the cathedral (check timing before going); the view is worth the 224 tiny marble steps to the top of the bell tower. The cherry on top? You might get to see where the watchman/woman sleeps at night. One of the very few cathedrals in Europe that still have a watchman/watchwoman.
4. Lac de Sauvabelin and the Tour
Now it’s time to go « out of town for a bit »; not really since it’s easily accessible by bus and a haven for runners and kids of the area. Take bus no. 16 and head to Lac de Sauvabelin; for a little forest walk and another breathtaking view. Bonus for those that like stairs, climb up the 151 large wooden steps of the Tour de Sauvabelin, to the observation platform 700m above sea level. Google maps says it’s closed – but it’s not. If you are starting to get hungry you can stop and have a little picnic near the lake. Once done, take the 20-minute walk back down, through Parc de l’Hermitage (follow the yellow signs with the hiker and the backpack) grab lunch in town, and taste some local specialty at one of the many “Cafe Historique Lausanne” – think to reserve ahead!
5. Lac Léman
Last stop of the day: walk down to the lake! Yes walk down. It’s another 25-minute walk, and you get to experience it as the locals do. It’s a lovely stroll and be sure to stop by Parc de Milan on the way and head to the top of the Coline de Montriond for another breathtaking view of Lac Léman. Once at the lake start at Tour Haldimand for a little lake walk, then head to Parc du Denantou to see the Vuachère river meandering through. Walk towards the Olympic museum- and go inside if you have time; if not the park outside is just as pretty and with plenty of photo opportunities. Bonus: if the weather permits, take a little dip next to the pédalos where there is a designated area, or better yet grab a pedalo and go deep.
6. Apéro O'Clock
Then it’s apéro time; you have to do it like the Lausannoise do and before dinner comes apéro! Typically it’s between 17h30 and 19h. Head to one or more of several options: in Ouchy you have Lacustre, or at Esplanades de Montbenon you have Brasserie de Montbenon (both sunset options) or a third option, Les Arches for a more lively town vibe – go early to find a spot!
Finally it’s time for dinner – head to the UNESCO World-Heritage area of the steeply terraced vineyards in Lavaux and the many little restaurants there; all with spectacular views. You can try Le Baron Tavernier or Auberge du Vigneron. Better yet, plan ahead and bring a picnic! Grab some local wine from one of the Lausanne wine cellars (or if you’re in Lavaux, from one of the self-service wine fridges scattered throughout the vineyards, and some cheese from one of the local cheese shops and head to a spot on the lake or the vineyards and watch the sunset while enjoying local specialties. Some of our favorite cheese shops are: Macheret Fromage, or Au Paradis du Fromage. They also sell wine.
Looking for an after-party? Head to the Flon; the old warehouse district full of youthful vibrant energy (and after certain hours, drunk people). Famous for the MAD club and the D!Club and lots of trendy bars.
Remember: ALWAYS call and book ahead! Most dinner spots have a first seating or second seating; booking online is also available with some places through Google Maps. Be on time, or you lose your table.
48 hours in Lausanne
Have an extra day in town? Here are some bonus options:
Vevey and Montreux by train (or boat) with a visit to Chillon Castle and a train ride to the top of a mountain. First, stop in Vevey for a lake walk and the famous fork photo and breakfast. Whether you are in the mood for breakfast on the go or to sit down, you have a few options; Boulangerie Bread Store, Brew Society, or Kizuku Cafe. After breakfast grab the train all the way to Chillon Castle, and visit the castle and the little hidden beach next to it for the perfect photo moment. Then head to Montreux for lunch. Arctic Juice & Cafe offers a healthy lunch option, or for something less Swiss you have Rouvenaz for some Italian food. Go for a lakeside walk to digest, and finally grab the train and head up to Rochers de Naye for a spectacular view and a little walk in the jardin alpin. On the way down you can stop in Le Coucou in Haut Caux for a sunset apéro or dinner!
Have a car?
- Check out Gruyères for a medieval castle visit. It’s probably one of the most quintessential Swiss towns but small enough to spend only part of the day there. While there, make sure to eat a fondue or alpine macaroni – you can also check out the cheese factory, or the Cailler Chocolate Factory nearby. Want a little adrenaline rush? Head to Moléson’s Fun Park where you can take a ride on a little “alpine coaster” – fun for the whole family.
- Closer to Lausanne, we have Chalet-à-Gobet which is popular for nature enthusiasts and horseback riders. You’ll find many little forest paths with varying distances and natural landscapes.
Must try food:
- Salée au sucre for breakfast or goûter: Moutarlier , Tea- room Le Romantica
- Fondue for lunch or dinner: Pinte Besson, Café du Grütli, Cafe L’Eveche
- Papet Vaudoise a local specialty of leeks and potatoes cooked and mixed together: Café Romand, La Bavaria Brasserie
- Malakoff: deep-fried cheese goodness. L’Evêché , Brasserie de Montbenon, Brasserie de Paudex
- Filets de perches for something from the lake: Cafe de la Poste (Lutry), Auberge de la Gare, Au Vieux Navire (Buchillon)
- Carac: Noz chocolatier , Maison Buet
- Bouchons Vaudois for a souvenir on the go: Manuel Artisan Chocolatier, Confiserie Nessi
- Chocolate from any local chocolate shop for your friends and family back home: Blondel, Durig