Lausanne, SwitzerlandBy Zoe Theo
"We don’t export any of our wine in Switzerland… because we drink every drop we produce” was the first thing I was told when I arrived in Lausanne…
“We don’t serve almond milk… we only have cream in our coffee” was the second. As you can imagine… I was instantly impressed. (Albeit a little thirsty)
Either of these on its own would have been enough to impress me but combined… I had fallen a little in love with the Lausanne locals and this was all in the very first 15 minutes.
Lausanne is how my imaginative romanticism of every French speaking person should be… Laissez-faire, wine loving and charming.
Lausanne is a 140,000 strong city full of cream drinking, cheese making, LIFE LOVING citizens. Exactly how I dreamt they would be.
We were met by resident knowledge font and embodiment of Lausanne-relaxed, aka Christine Seuret from Lausanne Tourism. Even after our 2 hour flight delay, she was totally relaxed and opened with, “Ok, some wine?”
So, what can you expect?
Ok, Can we have a little moment of shushies to appreciate this lake? It is not only breathtakingly beautiful but incredibly clear.
As you probably know, it is bordered by Switzerland and France (Including Evian), which is not surprising given how clean the water is.
Also, without sounding like a total geek, it is 45 miles long, 8.7 miles wide with hypnotically clear waters… Which is perfect for hiring an electric boat for the day… (you might say, “that’s an interesting topic segway”)
We rented an electric boat (see how I worked it in) from the dock in Ouchy and as another example of how much I love their attitude, we asked the man; “How far can we sail?” He replied… “Well, how far can you get in 2 hours? If you can get to France… go for it, as long as it is back in your allotted time”.
No worry, no restrictions, no tedious speeches, (come to think of it, not even a question of whether we knew how to drive the boat actually) and like that… we were off (Well not off, it’s a max out at 4 knots) on one of the best afternoons I have had in a long time.
Lausanne has a million things to do but you have to know what you’re looking for. The easiest way is to head to Lausanne Tourism (at most of the big stations) but if you want my recs?
The CGN Boat circuit
Ok. So it’s less a circuit and more transport on a very titanic-looking boat… However (and I can’t stress this enough)… get yourself a 1st class ticket and then go upstairs to the bar and sit outside in the sun, drink an Aperol or glass of wine (or whatever your bag is) and make your way leisurely across the Swiss/French water borders while taking in the scenery and catching some rays. Should you want to use it solely as a bus of the sea then fine but if you want to schprawnse it up a smidge… go for the 1st class pass…. even if it does look a little Jack & Rose up there.
And take in the scenery like this catalogue couple.
A UNESCO world heritage site, the Lavaux vineyard terraces plunge from the hillside into Lake Geneva.
We got the wine train (Love that) called The Lavaux Express from Cully (pronounced Coo-eey. Don’t be that British girl who says it as if she has never done GCSE French) up into the terraces for a small sample of a couple of their wines. Oh, who am I kidding… a couple of glasses. Everyone got involved.
Once up there, you will be greeted by a married couple who cyphon off wine for you to try. Their English is a little broken so for the purpose of this article, lets call them Mr & Mrs Awesome.
Honestly? You can see why they choose not to export it and while some of the whites are a little woody for me, the dryer of the whites is absolutely up my street.
Most importantly… The view of the mountains and the lake (No, I will not stop going on about it) was pretty awe inspiring.
Should you be a little more downward dog than Chenin Blanc, then you should do their sunrise yoga class by the lake. I’ll level with you… Yoga is a tough sell for me that early in the morning… however… My god is it worth it for the views.
Jetée de la Compagnie hosts a free morning yoga session by the lake after a cute little stroll through the marina to wake you up… Ask for Fred.
Listen, I get it… sometimes you don’t want to traipse around a city looking at every nook and cranny (bringing that saying back) that once belonged to a historical carpenter you’ve never heard of. This is why I can’t recommend Lausanne Tourism and Christine more specifically, enough.
She started by saying… “what do you like? What do you not like? What are you interested in?” She literally catered the tour to us and what we wanted. She took us to Lausanne Cathedral, the large historical POIs, her opinion on the best view and some niche one-offs including a secret art instillation that was there for one weekend only.
In addition, after my request for something I “couldn’t get anywhere else”… she took us to Switzerlands smallest museum The Shoe Museum …which was a tiny archaeological space that reconstructs ancient footwear from Prehistoric times to the pre-industrial era.
Ps. Look out for little gold squares with kids names on in the centre of the city… then ask Christine to remind you what they are.
If you are into photography… this is for you. However, if you aren’t but you are into pretty gardens and park land.. it is also for you.
Also, as a little Geek Moment. *pushes non existent thick rim glasses up nose* Did you know that unless stated, every single water fountain dotted around the city is absolutely pure spring water and more pure than bottled water? Also… It is a perfectly refreshing 8degrees to be exact *mends non existent glasses with extra nerd tape* which means their plastic bottle use is less necessary and almost everyone I saw was carrying a reusable water bottle.
While you may think this sounds a little “Save the turtles”, it is an incredibly important part of their contribution to sustainability. Bravah Lausanne.
The Market Square
It’s like a British Farmers market… If British Farmers markets were 1000% bigger with a million different cheeses, breads, meats and chutneys.
Did you know that the idea to bring back the Olympics (since its last in Olympia) came from a Harrow educated Swiss man from Lausanne? No. Neither did I. I mean, I may have dropped a huge spoiler there and ruined at least the first 3 corridors of the museum but it’s still worth reading up on.
They are fiercely proud of the Olympics (despite never actually hosting one) and their being responsible for its return.
Even if (like me) you are not a huge sports fan, there is something quite incredible about seeing all of the national accomplishments and sporting history memorabilia… Even if you do make a consistent bee-line for anything from your home country.
In addition, their restaurant Tom Cafe (which we went to for brunch) has an incredible view of the landscape (as well as a bottomless brunch). BUT be warned… it is booked outside 2 months in advance (believe me… THAT is where you want to sit).
Much like any city, there are great places if you know where to go.
For me, the best venue went to was the Brasserie de Montbenon. While I am very easily swayed by E’scargot, the real winner of awards goes to “Best sunset dining view point”
… Yes, yes I know that someone will be reading this saying… “Erm… no, it’s in Ouchy or the rooftop of the Lausanne Palace” but I have news for you… This is perfect because of its situation in the park, its proximity to the water, its perfect sunset location and its old Swiss architecture.
If any of your better dining views come complete with groups of people playing Petonque on the gravel below or a couple drinking a bottle of champagne on deckchairs while watching the sun set over the lake… You let me know huns.
Also, their Salted Caramel Apple Gallette/Tart Tatain was incredibly rich and moreish.
We looked in on both and it is EXACTLY where I would head on my return trip.
We had brunch and pre-lunch (yes, I know that’s not a real thing) by the docks I am also going to say that I had one of the best Pizzas Ive had this year at the Le Lacustre. Also a pretty crowd pleasing Croque Monsieur and Poached Eggs, Avocado and Corn Fritters. Yes, that is 3/4 dishes between two but I had to sample it… for you guys, y’know?
We also had dinner at Nomade. It’s a favourite amongst tourists and in the centre of town. They have a broad cocktail selection, though I would say that this was quite a touristy haunt given its location.
One of the real memorable moments for me was having a couple of Aperol Spritz at Château d’Ouchy by the edge of the water. If you like outdoor people watching from an old castle with a refreshing Aperol (because who doesn’t?) Then this is your jam.
As incredible luck would have it, we were there for their first city silent disco. Everyone in the city could go and rent headphones and head to the square for a huge street party. Two DJs (for differing music tastes of course) and a whole square of singing… though truthfully not one legible word from a crowd of 500+ given that they couldn’t hear themselves out loud.
There was also MAD club. It’s pretty famous as THE club to go to in Lausanne and opens at around midnight and closes when the sun is up.
So, if relaxing long weekends in beautiful hillside greenery, afternoons boating on the lake, quaffing exclusive wines and dancing in silent discos are for you… Check out Lausanne. If not.. We should probably talk.
Visit Lausanne – www.lausanne-tourisme.ch