Lausanne is an exciting and picturesque city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. It sits on the shores of Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. The city is known for its rich history, cultural landmarks, and stunning views. But is Lausanne worth visiting?
Lausanne is worth visiting if you appreciate history, architecture, and breathtaking views. The Old Town has a well-preserved medieval center with historic buildings and narrow streets. Lausanne Cathedral features stunning rose windows and a beautifully painted portal. The city is surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens, as well as breathtaking views of the French Alps across the lake.
Even if you are based in Geneva, Montreux, or Bern, Lausanne is worth coming to. It’s actually one of my favorite cities in Switzerland.
Overview: Lausanne, Switzerland
Lausanne has an attractive old town and cathedral, the Olympic Museum, and some nightlife. It also has a rich history. Back in the olden days, the Celts and Romans ruled it. They estimate the population to be between 1,500 and 2,000 during the Roman period. Nowadays, the city is the fifth-largest city in Switzerland. Not only does it have impressive, historic buildings. It also has an aquarium and access to the lake.
Lausanne is home to numerous universities and a large student population, including prestigious institutions like École hôtelière de Lausanne, EPFL, and the University of Lausanne, creating a vibrant and youthful city atmosphere.
Listed below are 10 reasons why you should visit Lausanne, Switzerland:
1. Lausanne Cathedral is one of Europe’s Most Magnificent Gothic Cathedrals
Lausanne Cathedral is one of Europe’s most magnificent Gothic Cathedrals. The Cathedral of Notre Dame is located right in the city center. It can easily be accessed on foot if you are walking around the city.
The Church, constructed between 1170 and 1215, was consecrated by Pope Gregory X and Rudolf of Habsburg. It features a lovely rose window in the south transept, elegant interiors, an impressive pipe organ, two towers, and seven bells.
You can enjoy a splendid view of the city and the lake from the tower, and the belfry houses a total of seven bells. It serves as a Protestant cathedral.
TIP: For a more unforgettable experience, try to visit during nighttime whenever the watchman calls out the time.
To learn more about Lausanne Cathedral, check out our article: Lausanne Cathedral: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell.
2. Lausanne’s Old Town Dates Back to Roman Times
Walking in the old town of Lausanne is another fun way to discover the city. It is a medieval city that was even used by the Romans themselves. The Flon and Louve rivers flow through the old town. In the city, you can visit other beautiful structures such as the cathedral, the Evêché, Saint-Maire Castle, and the Grand Hôpital.
Evêché is a former bishopric hanging on the Cité hill. It overlooks the town. The bishops of Lausanne resided here before they built the castle of Saint-Maire. The tower itself was used as defense as well. Now it hosts the Historical Museum of Lausanne. You can learn, not only about the political history, but also about the surrounding countryside, vineyards, and fields.
The Saint-Maire Castle was built with the help of the Bishops of Lausanne. It served as their residence after they vacated Evêché. It was completed by 1425 under Guillaume of Challant. After Bern captured Lausanne, the Bernese installed a bailiff (an overseer) in the castle. It has been since used as the seat of the cantonal government of Vaud.
Among other places to see in the Old Town are Tour De L’ale, the Town Hall, and Ancienne Académie. The Ancienne Académie is now used for educational courses.
You can also visit the old town for a bit of shopping. Go to Rue de Bourg, St-François, Flon, and Place de la Palud and find some big fashion brands as well as small boutiques.
If you would like to discover Lausanne with a local guide, you can book a walking tour with a guide via GetYourGuide.
3. Ouchy’s Promenade is the Finest on Lake Geneva
Ouchy is located right by Lake Geneva. It is a relaxing destination for walks, dining in restaurants, and rollerskating. Ouchy also provides perfect views of the other side of the lake (France). In summer can be combined with a swim in Bellerive. It is also a port where you can begin one of the cruises along the lake.
Beau-Rivage Palace is another well-known luxury hotel that has been included in the Leading Hotels of the World. Pompous events have been celebrated in its halls and its restaurant has been awarded 2 Michelin stars.
If you would like to read more about Ouchy, you can check out our article Ouchy, Lausanne: A Haven for Everyone.
4. Everyone Can Enjoy Bellerive Plage
Bellerive Plage the swimming pool near the lake. Bellerive has an Olympic pool and a family pool (50 x 70 meters). For children, it has fun paddling pools. One is a circus pool, the other a pirate pool. They have diving boards, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, ping-pong tables, and water games on the lake. A restaurant for refreshments and snacks is also available.
The address of Bellerive Plage is Avenue de Rhodanie 23 1007 Lausanne.
5. Sauvabelin Tower Offers Fantastic Views
Sauvabelin Tower offers fantastic views of the city of Lausanne and the lake. From this viewpoint, you can even enjoy the Alps, the Jura, and the plateau. The wooden tower is located in the forest of Sauvabelin and is open to the public for free. The forest itself is perfect for a relaxing stroll with children and friends. There are animals scattered in this area, as well as a small pond.
Going up the tower can be tiring, but the views above are amazing. There is a circular staircase with lots of steps. To reach Sauvabelin Tower, you will need to take a bus ride from the city center.
The address of Sauvabelin Tower is Tour de Sauvabelin 1018 Lausanne.
6. Explore Palais de Rumine for Free
Lausanne’s Palais de Rumine is a lovely Florentine-style building you’ll find in Place de la Riponne. Built at the end of the 19th century, Palais de Rumine houses a cluster of museums such as the Cantonal Museum of Zoology, the Cantonal Museum of Geology, the Cantonal Museum of Money, and the Cantonal Museum of Archeology and History.
If you would like to learn more about Palais de Rumine, you can check out our article The Spectacular Palais de Rumine in Lausanne.
7. Cruise along Lake Geneva from Lausanne
You can take a boat trip from the port of Lausanne-Ouchy. There are several stops possible: Pully, Lutry, Cully, Vevey-Marché.
The CGN boat company also offers food experiences while cruising Lake Geneva. You can have a breakfast ride, a gourmet cruise, and a fondue cruise.
8. Learn About the Olympics at the Olympic Museum Lausanne
Lausanne is the home of IOC – the International Olympic Committee. IOC is the non-governmental sports authority responsible for organizing the Summer and Winter Olympics. Thus, it only makes sense that the city will also have its own Olympic Museum.
Olympic Museum Lausanne guides visitors through the history of the Olympics, sports equipment of various athletes, interactive multimedia and games, and more. The museum is the largest archive of the Olympics in the world. They have around 10,000 artifacts inside.
Built back in 1993, then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch took the initiative to build it. The museum begins with the history of the Olympics after the entrance. As you walk along, the exhibit gets more modern. Displayed are the various equipment for a variety of sports. There are also multimedia stations that present videos from various Olympic Games.
The TOM café is also perfect for hanging out as it gives a magnificent view of the lake and the Alps from its terrace.
It is located near Ouchy. The address of the Olympic Museum is Quai d’Ouchy 1, 1006 Lausanne.
9. Platforme 10 is One of Switzerland’s Best Creative Spaces
Located on the city’s former train sheds stands the new art district of Lausanne. Called Plateforme 10, it brings together three museums: the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts (MCBA), the Musée de l’Élysée and the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC). This space also has restaurants, a bookshop, a library, and event spaces. The central location aims to make the museums more accessible to tourists and locals.
MCBA Art Museum showcases thousands of works of art. It covers visual arts and works such as those by Félix Vallotton, Alice Bailly, Charles Gleyre, and many more.
Plateforme 10 is quite new. It opened in October 2019. Musée de l’Élysée and the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC) will be inaugurated in 2022.
If you would like to read more about Plateforme10, check out our article Plateforme 10: Lausanne’s New Art District.
10. Enjoy Europe’s Largest Aquarium-Vivarium at Aquatis Vivarium Lausanne
Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium Lausanne is the largest freshwater aquarium-vivarium in Europe. Located around 10 minutes away from the city center, it takes visitors on a journey through various rivers and freshwater ecosystems in the world – Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and Oceania.
Aquatis Lausanne also features a Komodo dragon, a poisonous snake, and other terrestrial animals.
Located 10 minutes away from the city center, the address of Aquatis Vivarium Lausanne is Route de Berne 144, 1010 Lausanne.
If you would like to read more about Aquatis, please check out our article here – Honest Review: Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium, Lausanne.
Final Thoughts: Is Lausanne Worth Visiting?
Lausanne is such a fun city to visit. There is something to do for everyone. You can do something relaxing such as walking on the promenade in Ouchy or swimming in Bellerive Plage. There are also historical monuments – the Lausanne Cathedral, Evêché, and Saint-Maire Castle. For those more into arts, Plateforme 10 is a perfect place to go.
Every Wednesday and Saturday morning from 8:00 AM to 2:30 PM, there is a local farmer’s market around Rue de Bourg to Place de la Riponne. In the market, they sell fresh produce, cheese, spices, charcuterie, and bread. Some second-hand items are also sold in a flea market.
Ultimately, the decision to visit Lausanne depends on your preferences and priorities as a traveler. In my view, if the cost and language barrier are not a concern for you, Lausanne is certainly worth a visit.
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- Honest Review: Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium, Lausanne
- Plateforme 10: Lausanne’s New Art District
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.