Lausanne – getting in and around: all the needful life-hacks

Let’s go through all the necessary information concerning planning a visit or a vacation in Lausanne. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

How to get to Lausanne?

By plane:

Most European airlines fly to Geneva International Airport, which is the closest airport to Lausanne. Additionally, the airport is served by trans-Atlantic flights which operate every day: one from New York, JFK on Swiss, one from Washington-Dulles on United, one from Newark on Continental and one from Montreal, on Air Canada. Other than that, it is necessary to change planes at your airline hub. On arrival you can just catch a train to Lausanne without even leaving the airport building. The train journey takes about 45 minutes and typically run 4 times every hour, though less frequently early in the morning or very late at night. The Zurich and Bern International Airports provide an alternative, with more frequent trans-Atlantic service mainly via Swiss, and the travel time taking about: 2 hours from Zurich, and an hour and a half from Bern.

The city also has a domestic airport,  Lausanne Airport  “La Blécherette”, which also houses a Boeing 737 Simulator.

By train:

Lausanne has a well-developed railway system which connects with local, national and international railway stations. Lausanne railway station is also a junction of the Réseau Express Vaudois commuter rail system and passenger trains of the Swiss Federal Railways. Trains run roughly each half-hour between 4:45AM and 1:30AM every day to and from Geneva – 30 -45 minutes on the way, Montreux with the trip taking up 17 – 30 minutes, Zurich, Berne, Neuchatel, St. Gallen, Brig and points in between. There are also several trains running daily from and to Paris Gare de Lyon via the TGV Lyria (High Speed Train), from and to Milan, and a train which goes from and to Venice once a day.

By bus:

Travelling by bus is a wonderful option as well, since the network is well-developed and busses run frequently and on time. There are daily buses running from major cities in Europe, and some buses transit Geneva or Basel before stopping in Lausanne.

By car:

The city is connected to two motorways A1 on its west and  A9 on its north and east. The road interchange is located on the north-west side of Lausanne.

By boat:

It’s hard to find a more enjoyable way of travelling to Lausanne, or to and fro. Boats cruise on Lake Geneva connecting both Swiss and French shores. There are also ferryboats that daily depart to many lakeshore towns like Evian, Geneva, Coppet, Nyon, Montreux, Vevey. If, you are interested in this way of getting to Lausanne, check out the boat company website for timetables and prices.

But be sure to get all the info or better yet book the seats or tickets beforehand, since lunch and dinner cruises are also popular with tourists. Ferries are not the fastest way to get around as most of them are meant for leisurely scenic trips on the lake. It is definitely worth taking a lake trip whole visiting the place.

How to get around?

Getting around on foot is a great way to get to know Lausanne. The neighborhoods of the Cité, the Ville Marché, and the port of Ouchy are the main touristic attractions. There you will find the famous Le Flon, a district full of modern entertainment venues, which preserved its sense of industrial past. On the other hand, there is the sleepy Sous Gare where one can visit one of the best cafés in town. Do you fancy going for a hike. The  woods of Sauvabelin, just above and north of the Hermitage, is a place worthwhile visiting. Spending a few hours walking around the forest will give you a pleasant experience.

The area around the Main Station has plenty of interesting sites. There are mostly carfree streets which, like many other streets in Lausanne, are a bit steep. For those who find it a problem, taking the Metro M2 could be a good solution.

Talking of the subway, which is, as mentioned before, the only subway in Switzerland,  Transports publics de la région lausannoise (TL) provode two Métro lines with their hub at the Flon station. The new fully automated subway system M2 connects Ouchy to Epalinges as well as several stops in the Old Town. By M1 you can get to the University of Lausanne (UNIL) and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

TL also provide clean and fast buses which run very frequently. Because the network of bus stops is so dens, it is hard to find yourself further than a hundred meters from a bus stop. A local railway line, stops several times in the Lausanne agglomeration, and continues further to the countryside towards Echallens and Bercher. It also connects with two metro lines at Flon.

A bike is yet another popular means of transport to get around the city. It is possible to borrow a bike from a the self-service stations with Publibike network or from Rent a Bike and Aloc Bike, which are both located at the Main Station.

Bear in mind that the most part of the city is quite steep, however the lakefront is breathtaking. A great advantage of using a bike is that the city’s network of paths, bicycle lanes, and bypass tunnels will get you through the busiest junctions.

Where to stay and grab a bite?

A huge number of various hotels (more than 45), inns, apartments for rent, hostels, in various price ranges await you in Lausanne, but it’s better to book in advance, because the city is very popular with tourists, as well as lots of scientists, businessmen and sportsmen keep on coming to Lausanne every month, plus many people, interested in the excellent medical services, regardless of the season, and might end up wasting time on looking for a place to stay upon your arrival.

If you can allow it, stay at the Beau-Rivage Palace – a historical luxury hotel in Ouchy, on the shores of Lake Léman, that was opened in 1861 and the current main building was constructed in Art Déco and neo-baroque style in 1908. It is registered in the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance.

There is a countless number of cool places to eat out and have a drink in this city, so you won’t have to worry about that. The cuisines presented are very diverse, as well as the price range. If you are stocked up on some money, head to “Les Arches”, housed under the towering arches of the Grand Pont, which is one of the city’s most fashionable bars. And it marks the beginning of the buzzing Flon quarter, renovated only recently. The old warehouses of this former industrial area have been given a new lease of life. By day, the Flon is a chic shopping heaven; by night, it’s the focus of Lausanne’s nightlife, with cinemas, restaurants, bars and clubs.

Shopping in Lausanne or what things you should never miss out

Lausanne is a shopping paradise, as it has the possibilities and offers of a metropolis, but the size of an average resort city. This makes it a pleasant area to take stroll. The abundance of stores is fascinating. At the Rue de Bourg and the Place de la Palud you can find some glamorous boutiques. If you wish to try some regional specialties, swing by a local shop La Ferme Vaudoise, for example, which offers a range of natural domestic products. There are shops almost everywhere, even around the cathedral as well as along the lakeside of Ouchy. In many places around the town you can find souvenirs and typical Swiss trinkets. Boutiques and department stores are quite prevalent as well.

Apart from the typical souvenirs from Lausanne, watches and knives, the best things to take home would probably be food specialties such as:

  • Saucisson vaudois, the famous pork sausage, and no less popular Saucisse aux choux, made of pork and cabbage are the much-loved Swiss sausages. Only authentic sausages can carry a green seal which signifies the protection by IGP. They are usually eaten with papet vaudois, which is made of potatoes and leek in a white wine sauce.
  • Tarte à la crème – a common Swiss cream pie.
  • Pâté à la viande – a small muffin with a meat filling inside. There is a never-ceasing debate whether pâté à la viande bought from a butcher is better that the one bought from a baker, or vice versa.
  • Taillé aux greubons – one more type of cake baked with tiny pieces of bacon inside.
  • Tarte au vin cuit, also known as Tarte à la raisinée – a sweet pie with pear or apple molasses or sometimes wine.
  • Tomme vaudoise – a soft-rind cheese with a lactic slightly sweet taste. Typically served warm, so that the inside is melted.

You can surely find some of them in Swiss supermarkets, although a colorful farmers’ market in the streets of the Old Town offers a greater choice on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Besides, white wine from regions Lavaux and La Côte, a liquid counterpart of local specialties, and Beer Docteur Gab’s – a really good beer brewed in the Lausanne agglomeration by a company grown from a hobby brewery, are well worth checking out as well. These drinks are available in many bars, restaurants and small shops across the city, as well as at the market, where the companies have a couple of stands located on Rue Madeleine, between Place de la Riponne and Place de la Palud.

What is the weather like in Lausanne?

The climate of Lausanne is continental, experiencing the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The average temperature during the year ranges from +3 ° C in winter to +20 ° C in summer. However, extreme temperatures can reach from -10 ° C to +37 ° C.

The city is prone to strong winds. The northeast wind under the influence of the Asian anticyclone brings cold weather with it. The south-west wind from the Atlantic brings moist air masses and subsecuently generous precipitation. A dry wind of local origin, called fen, has a cooling effect.

The close proximity of Lake Geneva softens the air temperature in winter and cools it in the summer.

Speaking about the seasons and the best time to visit Lausanne, winter is relatively cold. Snow falls from December to March. February receives the least precipitation in the year. The weather is summer is warm, although can be quite changeable. The wettest most rain falls in May and August with an average precipitation of 12.1 days.

The best time for a visit is at the beginning of autumn, as autumn is, as a rule, dry and sunny, and it comes in September or early October, leaving the very beginning of the season to dry and hot summer-like weather.

Useful tips to keep in mind while going to Lausanne

Keep in mind this advice; it’s going to help you to avoid getting into trouble and stressful situations or wasting precious time and money during your vacation.

  • On Sunday all shops are normally closed, save for those in the Main Station and Ouchy.
  • To use the public transport, you have to buy tickets at special vending machines. They can be found at all bus/train/metro stations or stops. All vending machines accept Swiss banknotes and credit/debit cards, but bear in mind that you have to pay in Swiss coins at smaller bus stops. Most of the vending machines have been replaced by modern ones that issue change. However, there are still those that don’t.
  • Note that the price of tickets depends on the zone you are traveling in. For Canton Vaud the name of the zone is Mobilis. Zones 11 and 12 cover a greater large part of Lausanne agglomeration and the tickets for this zone are sold as Grand Lausanne (GL) tickets. Purchasing a single ticket, you can use it for unlimited number of travels within a respective zone for the time indicated on the ticket. Grand Lausanne ticket is valid for 1 hour from the moment of purchasing. You may also buy day tickets (Carte journalière) which are valid until 5 am of the following day. In case you need a pass for a longer term, those are sold at a counter.
  • If you plan to have several trips in Lausanne during one day, it is better to buy a day ticket, because it is cheaper than buying three individual tickets.
  • Choose The Swiss Federal Rail Abonnement General Rail pass, which is the optimal choice for those who want to have an unlimited pass throughout the TL and LEB system.
  • You are advised to ask at the Main Station whether your Swiss Federal Rail pass for non-swiss travelers covers the local transit system, because some passes do and others don’t.
  • You may also ask your hotel manager for a Lausanne Transport Card. The card is issued by the hotel on check-in and allows the hotel guests usethe public transport system in zones 11, 12, 15, 16, 18 and 19 for free. It is valid throughout the whole reservation period.
  • Those who decided to use a bike can easily download a 1:10 000 ‘Carte Velo’ from the city website. The map can be quite handy for the newcomers to find the right bicycling routes in the city.  Because the routes by the lake are especially beautiful, they can become quite crowded with people during the summertime. So, if you aren’t such an experienced rider, don’t temp the fate and better go on foot, even more so on the many of steep and winding roads that are challenging even for pros.