Lausanne Top Attractions! High bridges span the canyons of two rivers that cross the city, combined with the steep rise from the lake shore, makes Lausanne, a dramatic and picturesque terrain with views of the Savoy Alps along the lake.
An old university town and now a bustling commercial city, it is popular for conferences, trade fairs and conventions, with a range of excellent meeting venues. Lausanne is the world headquarters of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
The Romans established a trading colony here in the first century BC, and by the Middle Ages, the Cathedral of Lausanne was already important as a pilgrimage stop on St James’ Way. To experience the old town, wander the winding streets beneath the cathedral and descend to the coast where Belle Epoch hotels surround the lakeside promenade.
In stark contrast to the ornate 18th century and Belle Epoch buildings are the sleek lines of modern buildings such as the new Platform 10 Arts and Culture Centre and the buildings of the Flon neighbourhood. You will be sure that you will find all the best places to visit with this list of the top attractions and things to do in Lausanne.
1. Olympic Museum
Along with the objects and history of the Games, the Olympic Museum overlooking Lake Geneva focuses on the spirit and values of the Olympic Games and the qualities that have made them endure. The renovated exhibitions cover the entire history of the Games, from their origins in ancient Greece to more recent times, and include Olympic torches, historic posters, equipment and clothing worn by the Olympians.
You can relive great moments from the Olympics through film clips and watch the evolution of sports technology and even fashion design. In addition to the exhibits and interactive experiences in the building, the lakeside campus includes manicured spaces where you can view sculptures and other artwork depicting Olympic themes, as well as the Olympic flame.
Address : Quay d’Ouchy 1,Lausanne
2. Take a look of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) by boat
For most of its crescent-shaped length, Lake Geneva separates France and Switzerland, giving Lausanne, on its northern shore, a beautiful view of the French Alps with the lake in the foreground. The shore from Lausanne east to Montreux is known as the Swiss Riviera , a sunny landscape of terraced plantations, falling into a shore of gardens, palm trees and picturesque villages.
The best way to enjoy the lake, and one of the most popular things to do for tourists in Lausanne, is to board one of the lake steamships that stop here and either cruise or use it to go between cities. There are ferry boats between Lausanne and two French towns across the lake. The most popular of these is the spa town of Évian-les-Bains , a 35-minute walk away.
Equally scenic are the walks to Geneva and Montreux, or you can take a cruise for dinner or lunch. The most popular cruises are on the Belle Époque paddle steamer Montreux (1904) and the elegant La Suisse (1910). You can buy day tickets for unlimited CGN boat trips or use a Swiss Railway card, which is valid for CGN boats.
3. Cathedral of Notre-Dame
Medieval pilgrims following the St James’ Way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain entered the cathedral from the 13th-century Apostles’ Gate , adorned with beautifully painted stone sculptures. Inside, at the right, is the chapel of St. James, where they prayed and received their martyrdoms.
Further on, in the south transept, there is a glorious pink window with 105 panels of beautiful 13th-century stained glass. Look under the window to see the originals of the stone sculptures from the Apostles’ Gate, which survive here. The interior of the cathedral is beautifully proportioned, with the highlight being a 6,000-pipe organ. There are carved choir stalls from 1509 in the south end, and in the choir loft there are some early Gothic-era stalls.
In the crypt, there are the ruins of an 8th century basilica with tombs. The early Gothic cathedral, now Protestant, is a landmark, with it’s five towers rising above the city from the hilltop. From the 72-metre-high central tower, a night watchman calls the hours from 10pm to 2am, as everyone has done every night for more than six centuries.
Address : Place de la Cathédrale 4, Lausanne
4. Château d’Ouchy & Promenade
Below the bustling centre of Lausanne is the lakeside neighbourhood of Ouchy, whose elegant Belle Epoch hotels are connected by a flower-filled promenade that stretches between the old and new harbour. At it’s centre is a 12th century castle, the Château d’Ouchy, where the peace treaty between Turkey , Greece and the Allies was signed in 1923. The castle is now a luxury hotel with an excellent restaurant.
Near the Hôtel de l’Angleterre , opposite the castle, a plaque commemorates Lord Byron, who wrote The Prisoner of Chillon here. Several historic treaties were signed at the famous grand hotels along the coast, including the Lausanne Accord, where European powers agreed to suspend World War I reparations payments, signed at the luxurious Beau-Rivage Palace in 1932.
From the old port of Lausanne to Port d’Ouchy , the lakeside promenade runs one kilometer east to the 1823 Haldimand Tower and the attractive Parc Denantou. There you can see the Thai Pavilion , a gift from Thailand. All along the walkway there are views across the lake to the Savoy Alps. Boats departing regularly from Place de la Navigation stop at points all along the lake between Geneva and Montreux, and along the lake to the French coast.
Address : Place du Port 2, Lausanne
5. Collection de l’Art Brut
One of the world’s leading art museums was founded by French artist Jean Dubuffet’s contribution to his private collection of works by untrained artists. Works by more than 1,000 artists from outside the mainstream creative community make up the collections, which include naïve paintings, sculptures, masks and works in great variety.
The exhibitions changes, following various themes that interpret art and explore the creative process. The collections are housed in the magnificent Château de Beaulieu, an 18th century patrician residence in the city centre.
Adress : 11 av des Bergières, Lausanne
6. Hermitage Foundation
The Fondation de l’Hermitage collection began in 1984 and has grown with the donation of many other important private collections. Now more than 650 works represent outstanding artists, particularly Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters.
Artists who are represented, are Manet, Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Boudin, Van Gogh, Fantin-Latour, Vuillard and Braque. The museum also exhibits an important collection of 20th century artists from the Vaud region, while special exhibitions present retrospectives of other Swiss artists, such as the Lucerne-based painter Hans Emmenegger. The institution is housed in an elegant lakeside house surrounded by gardens.
Address : Route du Signal 2, Lausanne
7. Place de la Palud
Below the cathedral, the winding streets of the old town are reserved for pedestrians and converge at Place de la Palud, where you will see the oldest fountain in Lausanne, with Justice represented on the central pillar. On the steps around the fountain, you’ll often find people sitting as they wait for the clock, which shows animated scenes from local history every minute from 9 am to 7 pm.
On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, market stalls selling local agricultural products fill the square and it’s streets. Overlooking the square is the Hôtel de Ville, the town hall, built in the 15th century with 16th century stained glass and 17th century modifications. It has galleries at ground level and on the facade there are two bronze gargoyles in the shape of a dragon.
8. Platform 10, Art Museums
Three of Lausanne’s outstanding art museums join other cultural institutions in a new purpose-built complex in the heart of the city, near the railway station. PLATFORME 10 is the nucleus for a future arts neighbourhood and it’s galleries are already spaces for changing exhibitions. But by moving the three major museums, it will become a single centre for arts and culture.
The Musee des Beaux Arts, formerly housed in the 1906 Palais de Rumine and already open in the new space, has an art collection that is impressive in terms of the quality of the French artists represented. Here you will find works by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Albert Marquet, Henri Matisse and Maurice Utrillo, along with a good collection of graphic works by Swiss artists.
Dedicated entirely to photography, the Musée de l’Élysée collects the great moments alongside the insignificant moments as captured on film. Created by some of the great names in art and by complete unknowns, the images reflect local and global themes, early and contemporary subjects, all dedicated to showing the many ways in which photographs have represented people, places and events. The museum also tells the story of the medium itself, in examples of early processes, including ambrotypes, paper scrapbooking and Photochrom.
The Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts started as a collection of decorative arts, but has evolved into a forum for the interaction of applied and fine arts, especially in the context of modern design. A programme of five or more exhibitions a year pays particular attention to young and emerging designers and their work.
The last two museums are scheduled to open in June 2022.
Address : Place de la Gare 16, Lausanne, Switzerland
9. Climb the Sauvabelin Tower for the view
Built to mark the turn of the millennium, the 35-metre-high Sauvabelin Tower stands in the middle of a forest on a hill above Lausanne. This unusual round structure, made of locally logged wood, mostly Douglas fir, is filled with a wide spiral staircase of 302 steps leading to an observation deck high above the treetops.
From this point, the 360-degree view includes the city of Lausanne, Lake Geneva, the Swiss Alps and the Jura region. The tower is built in a park with a small lake where you can ride a boat, and there is a playground and a small animal park for children. The park and the tower are free of charge and from March to October the tower is open until 21:00. It is a favorite place to watch the sunset.
10. Escaliers du Marche
One of the most picturesque sights of Lausanne is the covered steps leading directly above the Place de la Palud to the terrace in front of the main door of the cathedral. Built in the 13th century, it is connected to the marketplace on the Place de la Palud.
Next to the steps and rising with them in layers, stands a series of buildings dating back to the 16th century. If you climb up, you can take a break in a café on one of the terraces for a coffee or hot chocolate.
11. Day trip to Château de Chillon
The Chateau de Chillon, rising just outside the lake outside Montreux , dates back to the 9th century and is the setting for Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon, based on a true story. The fortress of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy commanded the road from Burgundy over the Alps to Italy and took its present form in the 13th century.
The oldest places, which you will see on the well-organized route through the more than 20 buildings of the castle, are the outpost and the Duke’s Tower, connected by an inner wall, the living quarters and the square above the entrance.
Only the crypt remains of the 10th century chapel of Saint Pantaleon, which contains one of the first Christian altars in the area. In the underground vaults, huge pillars and Gothic ribs are carved into the rock, and here you’ll see the iron ring that held François de Bonivar, the famous prisoner of the Duke of Savoy.
The whole complex is interesting and particularly noteworthy are the large kitchen, the banquet hall, the adjacent Bernese Hall decorated with floral motifs and the magnificent Heraldic Hall. In the old tower are the Duke’s apartments, where you can see traces of the rich 13th and 14th century decoration with birds and flowers.
The domed chapel of St. George is fully decorated with figures and spirals. The Great Hall of the Earl has a 15th century framed ceiling and four windows above two 13th century Gothic arches.
Address : Avenue de Chillon 21, Veytaux
12. Gallery Hop in the Flon Quarter
In Lausanne’s ultra-modern art and leisure zone, designer-architects have created buildings that are not only of 21st century, but border on the futuristic. The former 19th century warehouse district is now a vibrant district with dramatic and colorful buildings filled with shops, restaurants, business offices, designer galleries and artist studio space. It’s main avenue opens out into squares where locals gather when the weather is nice for coffee and on benches under a giant abstract tree. The whole area seems constantly alive: in winter, an open space becomes an ice rink and at night the buildings are spectacularly lit up.
Laussane, Switzerland…! The city of the lake…!
13. A day in Vevey
Located on the shore of Lake Geneva below Mont Pèlerin and the 1,364-metre-long Pleiades, Vevey became an important destination for wealthy tourists in the 1800s. Its buildings are a harmonious blend of medieval, 19th century and Belle Epoch, while the waterfront is still surrounded by elegant hotels. Chief among these is the beautiful Hotel du Lac , which is the setting for the Booker Prize-winning novel of that name, which was written there.
The Grand Place , an unusually large market square, is the setting for a market of local produce, flowers and crafts on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. The surrounding streets are full of small shops, boutiques and art galleries and works by local artisans, a good place for shopping.
Near the Charlie Chaplin Memorial is the excellent Alimentarium , a fascinating interactive museum of food history. Its lively exhibits explore the history of cooking, examine the sources and production of food, look at flavours and what makes food appealing and showcase some quirky food-related collections. A huge metal fork stands out from the pond in front of the museum.
Address : Quai Perdonnet 25, Vevey
14. Roman Museum of Lausanne – Vidi
In Roman times, Vidy, west of Ouchy along the lake shore, was the port of Lousonna, an important trading colony at the junction of the routes from the Mediterranean and the Rhine. The town of 1,500 to 2,000 merchants, fishermen and craftsmen flourished from the late first century to the fourth, and their story is told in the Roman Museum.
Here, you will see the ruins of a lavish residence, with painted rooms, a patio and luxuries such as heated floors. Through exhibits based on the objects discovered here – bronze objects, coins, ceramics, glass and household tools – you can get an idea of daily life in a Roman outpost two Millenniums ago. An archaeological walk takes you among the ruins of the ancient forum of Lousonna.
Address : Chemin Bois de Vaux 24, Lausanne
15. Rochers-de-Naye Railway
From Montreux, you can take the Glion-Rochers-de-Naye railway, an electric railway to the top of the Rochers de Naye mountain. The line runs through the village of Glion, on the mountainside above Montreux, where it connects to the Territet-Glion cable car , which starts near Chateau Chillon.
At the top, along with stunning views and skiing in winter, there are steep alpine gardens filled with rare flowers and a marmot house where you can watch and learn about these Alpine mammals.
Above the station in Glion is the luxurious Hotel Victoria with a restaurant on the vineyard terrace high above the lake.
16. Church of Saint François
The traffic hub of Lausanne is Place St.-François, where you will find the former Franciscan church of St.-François. The church dates back to the 13th and 14th century. It’s tower was built in 1523. Don’t miss the beautiful stained glass windows in the choir, dating back to 1907.
The church was once part of a large Franciscan monastery, which was dissolved in the Protestant Reformation, so the interior of the church was stripped of it’s decorations and icons. The Lausanne Christmas market takes place on the street here.
Where to stay in Lausanne for attractions tours
Lausanne’s attractions are split between the Old Town at the top of the hill and Ouchy by the lake, so any place in between is a good choice. The hotel rooms have free public transport cards that include the Metro Europe line, which connects the two neighborhoods. Those traveling with a Swiss Travel Pass can stay in nearby Vevey and “commute” for free on the frequent boats or trains that connect lakeside towns. Here are some highly rated hotels in Lausanne:
Luxury hotels :
- In a perfect setting with lake and mountain views, the Beau-Rivage Palace features a spa, an outdoor pool, a Michelin-starred restaurant and a glamorous Belle Époque interior.
- Equally grand, at the top of the city, with lake and mountain views and an easy walk to the bustling Flon arts district or in the atmospheric old town, the Lausanne Palace & Spa offers large rooms with balconies and one of Europe’s best restaurants.
- Set in a beautifully restored chateau by the lake and close to the Olympic Museum, Le Chateau d’Ouchy has well-designed rooms and an excellent restaurant.
- One of Switzerland’s most luxurious hotels, but without the price of Lausanne, the Grand Hotel du Lac , in Vevey, has a lovely lakeside setting with mountain views, impeccable service, Michelin-starred restaurants and luxurious rooms with balconies.
- Featuring a swimming pool and the understated elegance of a lakeside villa, Angleterre & Residence Hotel in Ouchy is a few steps from the metro and the steamer.
- Right above the train station and within walking distance of the Flon and Place de la Palud, the boutique Hotel Elite offers free parking and a good breakfast.
Economy Budget hotels:
- Just below the train station on the metro line from the lake, the Agora Swiss Night.
- Close to the Musee de l’Art Brut, on the edge of the old town and the shopping district, the ibis Lausanne Centre has easy access by bus to the train station.
- Within walking distance and a short walk from the cathedral and the art museum, Hotel du Marche has free parking.
Conclusion: Lausanne is a great destination in Switzerland and can combine art, culture and entertainment at a very high level! In general, Lausanne is a very expensive city and before your visit you should be prepared to spend a lot of money on even the simplest things… The economic options are few as a result of the high living and economy level of the Swiss.