Places to see and things to do in Lausanne

Lausanne can fill the bill of even the most voracious travelers and avid culture vultures. With a myriad of places to see and things to do, the city is a perfect place to suit every taste and budget. Lovely parks, museums and galleries, sports and games, unforgettable sightseeing and tours, and picturesque landscapes will leave you spoilt for choice.

Lausanne is one of the greenest European cities, proudly standing on the shores of Lake Geneva; it faces impressive Savoy Alps on the French lakeshore. The city is built on hills, surrounded by rolling slopes carpeted with vineyards. The city is a combination of modern buildings and old medieval architecture. Talking of buildings, it’s worth mentioning that the list of Swiss heritage site of national significance includes 46 buildings and sites of Lausanne.

Read on to learn about the list of handpicked attractions of Lausanne.

Unveil the best sites in each of Lausanne’s districts!

Finding the best sightseeing route in Lausanne might seem a bit confusing at first. But if you follow our guide, you will see how actually easy it is. Each district or, as they are locally called, neighborhood has its own distinction which makes it unique.

Cité is the main district located on a hill, which is a part of the Old Town. The site attracts a lot of tourists, since there are numerous attractions such as museums, MUDAC, the Cathedral, the Castle, as well as a children’s theatre and an interesting toy store.

Ville Marché is the right place for those who appreciate ancient and medieval architecture. The Old Town is made up of the medieval city of Lausanne with its outdoor markets, arranged around the city entrances, Place de la Palud, Place Riponne, and Place St. François. Fresh fruit and vegetables, and manufactured goods are sold at these local outdoor markets.

If you want to get off at a disco or enjoy a meal at a trendy restaurant, set out to Flon. The rail line into Lausanne, which originally ran up the Flon River into this valley without going through town, was replaced by another one, which connected with the Valais and Italy. Nowadays, the former warehouses of the Flon Valley primarily serve as the premises for restaurants and nightclubs.

If you’re seeking rest and wonderful views, as well as a nice hotel to stay in, go to Ouchy. Ouchy used to be a fishing village. Later, in the 19th century, it was integrated with the city of Lausanne as a port on Lac Léman. The stunning vistas of the lake and the mountains, the cool air in summer, and the peaceful ambiance of nature create a well-liked place for romantic promenades, particularly in the summer time. Moreover, the area around the port is crowded with hotels and restaurants to suit any taste and wallet.

Getting an insight at the way the locals live and enjoying spectacular landscape architecture is possible in Sous Gare. During the 19th century, Lausanne expanded its boundaries to occupy the area from the Main Station to the port of Ouchy. These days, it is just a residential area. Nonetheless, a visit to the Café de Grancy or a leisurely walk in the park on the Crêt de Montriond could be worthwhile.

Admire the main landmark of Lausanne – the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

This beautiful cathedral, located in the Old Town, is seen from any point of the city and from the lake as it dominates the capita. The famous landmarks nearby include Maire Castle, and Town Hall, built in the 17th century. The cathedral was originally attached to the medieval city wall, which consisted of 50 towers. However, the 14th century Ale Tower, and the tower of the12th century bishop’s castle in Ouchy are what has left of the wall.

The beginning of the construction of the Cathedral dates back to 1170. The original mason remains unknown. After twenty years had passed, another master mason took over the construction and worked till 1215. Jean Cotereel, the last engineer, was the one who finished the construction of the major part of today’s cathedral. It also included two towers, one of which is the current belfry. What is interesting is that the other tower was never completed.

There are seven bells in the Cathedral. The oldest bell was built far back in 1493, whereas the newest bells were made in 1898. Regardless of the age, the bells continue to be used today.

Listen to the sounds of the biggest Cathedral’s treasure – a completely unique organ!

The inauguration of the Cathedral of Notre Dame pipe organ in Lausanne took place in December 2003. The design of this one-of-a-kind instrument took about a decade to be completed. It consists of a pedal board, two consoles, 7000 pipes, and five manuals, and is known as the first pipe organ designed by a designer, who incorporated four styles.

Interestingly, it is also the first organ in Europe to have been built by an American company (Fisk) in a collaboration with an Italian designer Giugiaro. The colossal work is estimated to have cost 6 million Swiss francs and it required about 150,000 man-hours for its construction.

Become a witness of an ancient ritual called “a Lookout” at the Cathedral!

There is an old interesting tradition, which takes its origin from the year1405. Up to the present day a lookout in the bell tower of the Cathedral has had a role of the time announcer by yelling the hour from 10 pm to 2 am, all year round. Although originally the purpose of the lookout was to make an alert in the event of fire, now it carries simply a traditional function.  Renato Häusler has been the official lookout since 2002.

Wander around another city’s distinctive symbol – the Palais de Rumine!

It’s a very beautiful and recognizable building as well. Commissioned by an aristocrat Gabriel de Rumine, the palace was built in 1900. This architectural structure includes several buildings: the University, the cantonal  library and the cantonal museums.

See the Saint-François Church – the second oldest surviving church in Lausanne!

The Church of St. Francis is the sole remnant of the 13th century Franciscan monastery. It is also known as the second medieval church left in Lausanne. However, the church is still operating.

Compare Lausanne’s version of Fountain “Justice” to the original in Bern

Fountain “Justice” is located in the center of Lausanne, in the Pale Square, and along with the Town Hall, it has witnessed the growth of the town throughout the years. In fact, this is a copy of the fountain of the same name in Bern. Almost identical copies of the fountain are also in Solothurn, Neuchatel and other cities.

The figure for the fountain was cut by the author Laurent Perroud in 1545-1547. The fountain is made in the form of an octagonal basin decorated with flowers, in the center of which a pillar stands with an allegorical image of Justice with four figures at the feet, symbolizing various forms of government: the Roman pope, the judge, the emperor and the sultan. After the restoration in the 1990’s, the fountain regained its bright colors, but in 1997 the figure of Justice was replaced by a copy, and the original of the 16th century was sent to the Museum of Art and History.

Take a look at Lausanne’s most beautiful 17th century Baroque building – the Hôtel de Ville!

The Hôtel de Ville (city hall) located just opposite the picturesque Place de la Palud, is undoubtedly Lausanne’s most beautiful 17th century Baroque building with the bell tower, the sculptured portal, the wonderful gargoyles, the half hipped roof and picturesque decorations being worthy of special attention. The elaborate arrangement of the main façade is clearly seen to be influenced by Bernese. The arcades surrounding the square used to be the venue of public debate. These days they house various exhibitions. A walk through a romantic archway will take you to the Place de la Louve.

Take a look at Château Saint-Maire!

Saint-Maire Castle is one of the Swiss heritage sites of national significance. The construction of château took place between 1397 and 1425.  The Bishops of Lausanne were in charge of the castle construction and later it served as their residence. The castle got its name after the first Bishop of Lausanne, Saint Marius. The castle is catchy and very easy to pinpoint thanks to its single massive rectangular architecture and a monument to Abraham Davel – a soldier and patriot of Vaud in front of one of its walls.

Find out why the Flon is the most Avant-Garde district in Switzerland and, probably, whole Europe!

Artistic and architectural creativity of the Flon district amazes and blows your mind with all kinds of unconceivable buildings and structures that each have a distinct face and shape, yet are so skillfully woven into the city’s landscape that they make all the pieces seamlessly come together, turning this part of Lausanne into a bizarre wonderland. So, why not get totally convinced wandering around the Flon and admiring its outstanding architecture?

From the bigger architectural masterpieces like one of Lausanne’s main symbols of the Avant-Garde, the commercial building of the La Miroiterie, located in the center of the Flon platform directly in front of the main square, presenting a building, clad in cushion-like, translucent membrane that is illuminated at night, which makes it appear lighter than air, while allowing the daylight to shine through, in addition to a visible, oblique steel structure that supports the wall-less floors to the smaller ones like a wondrous futuristic tree that has sprung up on the Place Ville-Flon with its stylized branches, roots and a soft-coated floor area, offering a pleasant place to relax and play in the shade of the wooden crown enjoying a quiet atmosphere.

Be sure to linger in the extraordinary “Plate-forme du Flon”, designed as a pedestrian zone, which is set in the heart of Lausanne’s public transport network. Walking through a central alleyway, you will pass a large shopping mall and enter this avant-garde style area through a futuristic, mirrored glass.  You’ll enter a lovely forecourt, landscaped by verdant arcades. Large terrace, cinema and local government center – all this makes up the secluded futuristic mini town of Le Flon.

It is really fascinating how the formerly known site of storage and transshipment facilities has been transformed into a gigantic collection of Avant-Garde-like buildings that are home to shopping malls, offices, canton administration, parking garages, apartments and nightly entertainment venues, while preserving the original style of the 1900’s industrial area with its rectangular building shapes and outlines and its unique character while neighboring with recently built buildings featuring modern design.

Check the direction of the wind with the help of one of the most distinctive structures of Lausanne – the Eole!

The Eole, a large, c-shaped wind vane, was created by Clelia Bettua and is located at the port of Ouchy. To check the direction of the wind, you should combine the semi-circle of the vane with the semi-circles, which are carved into the stone of a quay. It is also one of the places to take photos, which is really popular with tourists.

See another famous characteristic feature of Lausanne nearby – the Ouverture au Monde!

This sophisticated structure consists of 6 semi-hyperboloids. It was build with the help of 36 diamond shaped panels. It was originally located in the “Comptoir Suisse” Gardens in Beaulieu, but later the piece was moved to the Osche pier in Ouchy.

This stainless steel sculpture was a present from Rotary International to the city, which is now well-known throughout Lausanne. The Ouverture au Monde was designed by Ángel Duarte, an internationally-recognized artist.

Trace the history of the Olympic movement at another Ouchy object – the Olympic Museum!

The museum houses thousands of artifacts related to the Olympic Games, and attracts more than 200,000 visitors yearly. It was founded in 1993 by Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was the president of IOC (International Olympic Committee). The Olympic Museum reflects the spirit of the grandiose sports event which unites many nations. The building is home to exhibitions about Olympic Games ancient history, videos of major moments, and a collection of documents, films and objects related to sports and the Olympic Games. In fact, it is the world largest information center on the topic of the Olympic Games.

Enjoy the exhibits at other world-famous museums!

The city of Lausanne is home to a lot of museums. It’s impossible to pay due attention and time that these museums deserve, but if you are into this thing, set aside at least a couple of days to get the insight at so many things, life periods and bright vestiges that they left.

See the life through the photographs and get an insight at how Charlie Chaplin used to live at the Musée de l’Élysée!

If you are interested in photography, head to the Musée de l’Élysée, which is entirely devoted to photography. More than 100,000 photographs make up a collection of works of great photographers starting from the color pioneer Gabriel Lippmann to contemporary photographers such as Jeff Wall. At the museum you may admire both the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.

The museum has been given the entire collections of Nicolas Bouvier and Ella Maillart after their deaths. Also, Charlie Chaplin’s entire collection of around 10,000 photographs, which were taken throughout his career, was acquired by the museum in 2010.

Get an insight into a psycho’s and prisoner’s mind at the Collection de l’Art Brut!

Well, this museum is one of a kind, to say the least.

It houses a numerous works created by social outcasts, whom a self-taught artists Jean Dubuffet met in places like psychiatric hospitals and prisons. Having gathered countless examples of, what he called Art Brut, he donated them to the city in 1971. Nowadays, it is known as the collection of the international focus for artistic communication from another world.

It’s incredibly unusual, fascinating, thought-provoking and sometimes even stupefying, but a MUST to visit, nonetheless.

Enjoy art, fashion, singing and dancing at the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC)!

The mansion Maison Gaudard was built in about 1670, and at the onset of a new millennium the building began to serve as the museum of applied arts (MUDAC ). Located opposite the cathedral of Lausanne, the museum houses artworks of contemporary artists, graphic designers, fashion makers, and illustrators. There are permanent exhibitions and six temporary shows that take place every year. Also, the visitors of MUDAC may enjoy shows of performing arts with musicians and dancers, often invited to create an animated atmosphere in the house with stories, music and spectacular performances.

Deepen your own knowledge and teach your kids a few things in History at the History Museum!

The incredibly popular museum offers its visitors to immerse in the life of the city and its surroundings by showcasing extensive collections of paintings and drawings, photographs and engravings, stained glass and woodwork, a coin collection, pewter pieces, ceramics. Also you’ll find a large collection of arms, furniture and clothing and many play-learning activities aimed at children and teens to get them interested in History and train to remember more important things.

Enjoy art and an artistic brunch at Fondation de l’Hermitage!

Fondation de l’Hermitage is an art museum, which can boast a collection of paintings produced by the artist from the Canton of Vaud as well as foreign painters, including Degas, Plazzotta, Magritte, Oudot and Bocion. Two or three grand exhibitions of international importance are organized annually by the foundation. You will also have a chance to feed your eyes on the wonderful park of the estate on a private tour, and enjoy an exceptional brunch called “Art and Cuisine”.

Regain your spiritual balance while admiring stunning flowers and greenery at the Cantonal Botanical Museum and Gardens and mesmerizing views of Lake Geneva and the Alps at the Esplanade de Montbenon!

Located directly in the heart of the town, the Botanical Gardens is a true marvel amidst the concrete buildings and stone-paved roads. You will be amazed to see such a diversity of plants – tropical, Alpine, carnivorous and medicinal trees, plants and flowers. The place reminds of a magical forest with blossoms of thousands of colors and pleasant aroma.

You can admire the magnificent panoramic view of the Alps and Lake Geneva from the lawns of the Esplanade de Montbenon. In addition, the Casino de Montbenon, located on the western side of the park, houses a social and cultural center.

Go on a cruise along the idyllic vine-yard draped shores of Lake Geneva!

Being around Lac Leman and wasting an opportunity to see the picturesque banks and towns scattered on them is an unforgivable mistake. The lake and the glorious nature around it will impress even the most biased and spoilt travelers.

The setting is just breathtaking, with seemingly endless expanse of crystal blue water, majestic mountains rising both nearby and over the horizon, as well as sunlit and inviting vineyards with terraces stretching down the hills to meet the azure lake. No wonder that this region was (and actually still is) so popular among the elite and monarchs, including the Austrian Empress Sissi. So, don’t pass up the chance to get awed by the stunning nature of this area, graciously adorned with beautiful settlements popping up here and there. Take an Art Nouveau paddle steamer to get there and enjoy a visit to the famous Lavaux vineyards. Don’t miss a great opportunity to taste local wines, after which you can marvel at the splendid vistas over the vineyards and Lake Geneva, and see for yourself why UNESCO made this area a part of World Heritage.

Continue the exciting journey of discovering the UNESCO vine-yards going inland on the Lavaux Express train!

You’ve heard of the Glacier and Bernina Expresses, haven’t you? Those two take their passengers through the most spectacular places in Switzerland. The Lavaux Express doesn’t cover such a huge territory, but it gives a perfect opportunity to closely inspect the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Lavaux vineyards and find out all the fantastic things about this area. It is definitely worth exploring, as this picturesque area with lush terraces vineyards and Mediterranean-like warm air is an idyllic place to relax and savor life.

The ride through the vineyards and winemaking villages takes only one hour, but the impressions can’t be measured. Plus, you get a chance to pick out some of the wine cellars you hear about as you pass by in order to return later on to sample the wonderful wine this region is so proud of.

Enjoy the great architecture, interesting exhibits and fantastic views as well as sample delicious wine and cheese at the Allaman Castle!

This beautiful white small castle with cone-shaped tiled roofs is located in the small town of Allaman just 20 kilometers south-west of Lausanne. But covering the distance is worth, as it’s one of the most attractive historical sites on Lake Geneva. The ancient castle is very close to the city’s railway station, which makes it very accessible.

Bern’s army, in punishment to the owner for cooperation with the enemy of Geneva, the Duke of Savoy in 1530, burnt the original buildings of the castle. Though, two centuries later, the medieval castle was fully restored by Marquis de Langalleri, who owned it at that time. The Allaman Castle was used by the Marquis for luxurious holidays. What influenced the appearance and decoration of the castle – the elegance and comfort in it exist to this day.

Today, the Allaman Castle, surrounded by beautiful parks and small old forests, is privately owned. At the initiative of the owner, restoration work was carried out. The castle park is beautiful and well maintained. Here the largest exhibitions of fine arts, antiques and antiques are held.

Visiting these places these days you can admire the ancient buildings (including wine cellars), imbued with the medieval spirit, taste cheeses and fine wines of local producers, and watch an interesting collection of weapons and furniture. From the South tower you can see a beautiful view of the Mont Blanc Mountain and the vineyards. Since 1975, the castle was declared a national treasure of the country in architectural and historical terms, as well as a monument of the first category of national importance. Check it out for yourself, but be sure to set aside at least a full day, you’ll be so thankful afterwards.

Find out what has the chocoholics from all over the world losing their mind in Lausanne!

As inseparable as the notions of Switzerland and chocolate are, there are few places in this incredible country that are so well-known and loved among the lovers of chocolate treats as Lausanne. And there’s a very nice reason for that. The city is abundant in various cafes and chocolate boutiques that sell without exaggeration some of the best chocolate in the world. The variety of forms and ideas is really impressive: everything from hot liquid to hard sweets with all kinds of flavors and ingredients.

It’s hard to list the best places to have a chocofest while you’re in this city, because all of them are more than worth of one’s attention, but keep in mind a couple of these ones. Pay a visit to Le Barbare, a café right by the cathedral in the Old Town. Thanks to its original 1950s décor and its heavenly hot chocolate, beyond any exaggeration, the place has acquired cult status. Indulge in the café’s specialty, which is called Marta, a blend that leaves you swooning with pleasure.

Burn the calories while going in for sports!

Being in the world’s Olympic capital and not participating in some sports event or just going active at your favourite kind of sports is a crime. Sport is part and parcel of the life of the citizens in Lausanne. Actually, it seems the love for sports and everything active and thrilling is running in the locals’ veins. No wonder, the city is home to the IOC and numerous sports organizations in the city and its suburbs, water sports, including among others sailing, wind surfing, boating (in turn including water skiing and wakeboarding), rowing, scuba diving, which are extremely popular activities here, and yacht racing being on the top favourites with special high-performance catamarans developed specifically for this lake, are available on the nearby lake and mountaineering in the nearby mountains. Cycling is one of the other popular sporting activity, with challenging routes through vineyards and splendid views on the surrounding hills. Among other sports events, the city organizes an annual track and field meeting, called Athletissima; a cycling race, the Tour de Romandie; triathlon competition, and Marathon of Lausanne. Ice hockey and football are the most important sports. Lausanne will also host the 2020 IIHF World Championship.

So, be it just golf or some bone-chilling and head-spinning activities, or just plain swimming (do that at the end of the summer, if you don’t consider yourself a polar bear) – Lausanne offers uncountable opportunities for a thorough workout.

Discover the most stunning places in and around Lausanne while hiking and biking!

This is the best way to truly grab the sheer magnificence and beauty of this city and its neighborhood. If you have limited time, go on the panoramic stroll around Lausanne. It is approximately 6 km in length, and lasts 1h 45mins. The trip offers a visit to the Sauvabelin Tower, the St. Maire Castle esplanade, the Signal de Sauvabelin lookout post, the cathedral esplanade, the Flon footbridge, a walk in the countryside around the Hermitage, the Montriond hillcrest and the Languedoc hillside, providing you the chance to explore Lausanne from a variety of angles. On the tour you will also walk through the city center. Of course, it can be adjusted or split into sections, if you wish. Rent an audio-guide or take a real one and you will get lost in the unique setting that is Lausanne.

If you have come for a longer visit, by all means, take your time lingering in various fantastic corners of this region during various prolonged hikes. One of such walks is the Heart Route from Lausanne to Romont. You can choose to go by bike or on foot, and follow the route from Lausanne to Lavaux, where you can admire an amazing view of Lake Geneva. After arriving at the little village of Oron, the route will take across the cantonal border to Freiburg. Stop by the castle in Rue, an interesting site to explore. Soon after the panoramic ridges, you will reach the town of Romont.

As an alternative, you may choose the Geneva or Monreux direction, with the famous Chillon Castle.

Visit the world-known Château de Chillonone of the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe!

You should never miss a chance to go there and see it with your own eyes! A magnificent castle called Château de Chillon that overlooks the waters of Lake Geneva is not only a stunning example of medieval architecture; it was the inspiration for quite a number of works of art. For example, in June 1816 one of the greatest British poets Lord George Gordon Byron was sailing on the lake with a friend of his – one of the major English Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley with an intention to visit the above mentioned castle. Byron was so was inspired by the lake, the medieval castle and the story of a Genevois monk, François Bonivard, who was imprisoned there from 1532 to 1536, that he wrote a narrative poem The Prisoner of Chillon and a couple of sonnets.

Besides, this site was the set for The Little Mermaid movie (1989), on whose creators Chillon created a less daunting impression. No doubt, you will be no less mesmerized!

See the promising ballet premiere by Maurice Béjart before it hits the world’s stage!

Maurice Béjart (1927– 2007), a French dancer and choreographer, is often known as the man to have ‘revitalized’ the ballet. He changed the image of male ballet dancers, who often performed in jeans, which is something completely new in the ballet. In 1987, his world-famous Béjart Ballet was transferred to Lausanne, where premieres of new works are staged twice a year before they go on a world tour. 1992 was the year when Béjart started the “Ecole-Atelier Rudra Béjart”. It is considered one of the most prestigious schools of classical and modern dance on the world scale.

Participate in famous Lausanne’s Summer Festivals and lots of other cultural events!

«Lausanne Estivale» fills the streets of Lausanne’s Old Town with lively atmosphere all throughout the summer. It is a great cultural program with over 400 free activities. «Festival de la Cité» is one of the most popular events during the festival season, which took place for the 46th time in July 2017. The event offers diverse forms of entertainment, including virtuoso folk music, jazz, whirling dance and exotic world performances for all types of audiences. What makes the event even more attractive is that all of this is free of charge.

If you’re planning to go to Lausanne in autumn, don’t feel disheartened, there are lots of interesting and exciting events too, like the Museum’s night, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne in October held at the Théâtre de Jorat, in Mézières, being a part of the celebrations for the year 2017, marking thirty years of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne and ten years since the death of Maurice Béjart. Then, Bô Noëla Christmas market in Lausanne – that will be open at the end of November always creates a festive mood in the city. Lausanne Marathon, 30th JazzOnze+ Festival , Metropop Festival, Les Urbaines, which transforms the city into a place of shows, exhibitions, performances, concerts and fresh discoveries, are also held in autumn.

An annual festival, the Festival de la cite, can be enjoyed in July in the old part of town. As well as that, you can rejoice in lively atmosphere of many other music festivals take place in the city, including the Nuit de musées during the fall season.

Winter is quite packed up too. Christmas Midnight Run on 9th , December,  Lausanne Swim Cup, supported by the International Amateur Swimming Federation, will take place on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st December and it will be the second time that the public will be able to attend swimming competitions of such a level in Lausanne. In January, a famous week long dance competition, the Prix de Lausanne, will be held at the Palais de Beaulieu. Dancers from all around the globe are attracted to this grand event.

Get unforgettable memories and return to Lausanne again and again!