The capital of the Canton Vaud, Lausannne (loh-ZAHN) is the second largest city on Lake Geneva and is also known as the “Olympic Capital” of Switzerland. Home to several universities, museums, fine dining, and lovely lake vistas, this city is absolutely worth a visit. As host to the International Olympic Committee and home to the Olympic Museum on the shores of breathtaking Lake Geneva, hundreds of visitors flock to this international archive of the Olympic Games.
The town itself is divided into roughly two main parts. The lakefront Ouchy (oo-she), with the relaxing shoreline and the well-known Olympic Museum, and the old town district, which is also divided into two sections. The true old town (or vieille ville) near the Cathedral, and the city center (or centre-vieille) with its many hotels and restaurants.
Being relatively car-free, old town is the place to walk and browse the various shops but be aware, the steep inclines necessitate a good pair of walking shoes. For those opting for public transportation, Switzerland’s only metro easily connects the various parts of Lausanne. Another option for exploring the lovely vineyards and sweeping vistas surrounding Lausanne is the quaint train ride on the Lavaux Express. For those who prefer a leisurely cruise along the shoreline, a boat ride on picturesque Lake Geneva may be just the thing to do. By foot, boat, or train, there are plenty of options for exploring the city.
For Lodging, The Royal Savoy, with its 196 rooms, 37 suites and junior suites, and even a private floor, provides an excellent place to stay. With its brand new infrastructure and an investment of more than 100 million Swiss francs, this 5-star hotel has recently reopened its doors with great style and charm. The lovely resort also features ample conference room space, a world class spa, and fine dining. The Savoy is also within walking distance of the lovely lakeside promenade, the Olympic Museum, and the Museum de l’Elysee (the only Swiss museum entirely devoted to photography).
Towering above the masses, the Lausanne Cathedral, the largest Evangelical Reform Church in Switzerland, is a notable reminder of the struggle between heaven and earth, and is must-stop on the tourist agenda. Upon entering, your eyes are drawn to the ornate pipe organ designed to look like large angelic wings. It was installed in 2003 after an American firm, Fisk, won the commission on the $4 million project.
In 1894, Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee. He believed that learning to respect other nations through athletic competition, as represented in ancient Athens, was a way to promote world peace and good will. The Olympic Museum and Park (Le Musée et Parc Olympique) pays tribute to the vision of Coubertin and the men and women who have lived their lives in pursuit of Olympic gold. Athletic costumes and equipment, historic photographs, and video capture the iconic moments of Olympic history.
For a quick snack or a leisurely lunch or dinner, the TOM café located on the third floor provides healthy dining choices and libations for museum goers. Adjacent to the café is “Destination Rio: The Games,” for everything you need to know about this summer’s games in Rio. This exhibition will evolve over time depending on Olympic news and happenings. From ancient Greece to the present day, the museum is a wonderful salute to the athletes, trainers, and organizers of the Olympic Games.
Walking around this iconic city can make you both hungry and thirsty. To satisfy your cravings, pull up a seat at Vinothèque Nomade. This hip new area is located in city center near the Rue du Grand-Pont, a former industrial zone that now houses trendy local bars, theaters, and casual eateries. With 40 wines available by the glass and an impressive tapas menu, this is a local favorite as well as a solid tourist choice. If you wish, you can choose your bottle at the bar and move to a table for the remainder of your dining experience. The cuisine is decidedly Mediterranean, featuring seasonal local ingredients. The restaurant’s large sun terrace is a popular spot for sipping wine and people-watching in this busy and interesting city corridor.
Another favorite regional dining establishment is Café Romand, a great place to indulge in authentic Swiss cuisine and wines by the glass and carafe. Moderately priced, this indoor venue is a quaint and affordable establishment providing a quick bite before you hike up the hill to old town for more shopping and sightseeing.
Although a bit under the radar, Lausanne is worth a look on any trip to Switzerland. With the spectacular backdrop of Lake Geneva and the Alps, “The Olympic Capital” offers plenty of outdoor activities and festivals along with cultural outlets and noteworthy dining.