Contrary to popular belief, Lausanne is not an alternate spelling to Lucerne – it’s a lovely city on Lake Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Vaud. It’s home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, and has a hilly old city with medieval, shop-lined streets and a 12th-century Gothic cathedral. It’s worth 1-2 days, lots to see and eat, and would make a good base camp for a longer trip, with very easy access to Geneva, Lavaux, Montreux, and other points around the lake. We have yet to have a visitor who isn’t surprised by how pretty the town is, and wonder why it’s not more on the tourist radar.

The town is distinctly divided between the lakeside (Ouchy) and the Centre Ville on the hill, and I’ve organised my notes accordingly.

Centre Ville (Upper Lausanne) Sites

The Escaliers du Marché, a wooden covered pathway, link the city’s oldest area, Cité, to two the central pedestrian shopping district. Towering at the top you’ll find the 13th century **Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne, considered the finest Gothic building in the entire country (it’s really impressive).

  • ***Art Brut: Outsider art museum. This is occasionally deeply weird but always great – arguably the best in the world in this genre. Not child friendly.
  • **Hermitage Museum: Excellent impressionist collection. Lovely building, very much worth visiting if impressionist is your thing. Plan for about an hour stay.
  • **History of Lausanne Museum: This is lovely and informative, especially the huge model of the town. Not for your first day (mostly in French, requires some understanding of the layout to contextualize), but would be entertaining on the second. ***For French speakers.
  • **Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts: in a very modern building to the west of the train station. The art is variable and changes a lot, nothing particularly standout on my last visit. That said, it’s an easy, pleasant, rarely crowded space.
  • **Musée de l’Elysée: just next to the Beaux-Arts Museum, the Museum of Photography is a nice 1-hr stop. Content changes regularly, on a theme (my visit was trains), check ahead to make sure you care about the focus area. The upper floor typically has installations, photography and art on the lower floor.
  • ***Palais de Rumine (aka the Stuffed Animal Museum). Home of the world’s largest stuffed great white shark! Charming in its own way – if you can stuff it, preserve it, or dig it out of the ground, it’s probably here. Birds and stuffed animals were my favorites. Also, free.
***Au Canard PekinoisExcellent, very fresh Chinese food. Hideous building, but the interior works, in a 1970s San Francisco chinatown sort of way.
**Au Chat NoirGalen’s favorite winter restaurant. It’s cozy and French, historic location, lovely service.
*Bleu LezardVery popular with the expat set. A little dirty for my taste and food isn’t great.
**Brasserie du MontbenonAn excellent date night or take friends/family to dinner place. On the edge of the Flon, with great views and a historic setting. Late night spot – open till midnight, 1 am on weekends.  
**Brasserie Grand-ChêneIn the Lausanne Palace, a classic bistro with a wide menu and wonderful selection of Oysters. Service is impeccable, setting elegant. A perfect place to wear fur and take your mother to lunch. Lunch will run you 150-250 CHF for two.
**Cafe de GrancyA for environment, B- for food. Kind of average brunch stuff. The burgers looked very good and American-style.
****Café Romand Described to us as “where the politicians eat” – an institution in the center of town. It offers traditional Swiss cuisine in a classic French bistro setting (proudly announcing it dates back to 1951). It’s definitely a little tired, but I liked it – the service is formal, the menu is predictable but well executed, and there’s always a bustling mid-day crowd. 
*Eat Me Nice concept, not very interesting execution. Very hipster/urban setting. A nice break from the traditional Swiss food, but not great.) The concept behind Eat Me derives from a love of international cuisine born out of the insatiable desire to travel held by founders Serena Shamash and Mark Brownwell. The dinner menu promises ‘the world on small plates’. 
**Inglewood GrancyA casual burger place near the train station. The staff is cheerful and if you want a burger, it’s a good option (very little else on the menu).
**Le Petit BoeufAs the name explains, all about beef! Very high end (expect your meal to run $100-150/person), good service, really excellent meat prepared different ways. They’re famous for their steak tartar.
**La Pomme de PinVery cute. Open till midnight, by the cathedral, closed Sundays. Bring your translator – they serve a lot of interesting meats and the menu is a bit of work to understand. Not for vegetarians.
**L’EvecheAll fondue, all the time. Cute and old-fashioned, reasonably priced. Near the Cathedral.
**Le GrutliCute and old and very Swiss. A nice alternative to Le Vieux if you want Swiss without the wait.
**Le PerroquetExtremely cute and slightly hidden coffee shop/cocktail destination. Has a good weekend brunch.
*Quintino Quite expensive Italian in a formal setting. Good service, long wine list.
**Le Vieux Lausanne (+Giraf Bar)Historic Swiss setting, with a seasonal and meaty focus: think boar, venison, beef, stews. Food is excellent and service is good but it’s INCREDIBLY slow. Go with someone you like talking to, you’ll be there awhile. The Giraf Bar upstairs is cute and lively, obviously giraffe decorated. Big student hangout.
**MyoThis isn’t the best sushi, but it’s a wonderful spot to sit and take in the view. Good for lunch on a sunny day.
**Pinte BessonThe oldest pub in Lausanne. Low ceilings and narrow space. Food is excellent. Haven’t had the fondue yet.
*Restaurant ChinatownIindifferent service and unremarkable food, steep prices. Setting is fine, but this is a skip.
**SardineA rather hidden spot behind castle hill, with a large patio for sunny days and a pretty, well-decorated interior. Pretty good, tasty cocktails, shockingly expensive. It’s good – but perhaps consider lunch, instead of dinner.
**Un Po’ Di Più TrattoriaCheerful and bright Italian restaurant, youthful feel & busy lunch crowd.
  • **Viceversa: local jewelry shop with reasonably priced local made gifts
  • ***Ka/Noa: in the Flon, Galen’s favorite place to shop. Beautiful clothes, men only, all made/sourced in Italy.

Bord du Lac / Ouchy

The bord du lac is the southernmost area of Lausanne on Lake Geneva: the Ouchy port. It is dominated by luxury hotels and eateries on the lakefront and gets more residential as you move north. It’s a gorgeous place to have lunch or take a stroll. I’ve included content to the west, still within walking distance.

  • *Musée Romain: Very small, a 15 minute visit, all in French. Of slightly more interest is the actual original Roman town ruins right near by, **Vidy Romaines Ruines.
  • **The Olympic Museum, Quai d’Ouchy 1 — worth it, high production value, entertaining for all.
Food & Lodging:
  • **Café du Vieil Ouchy: A classic – you’ll drown in potatoes and cheese. All fondue and rosti, all the time. Don’t plan on having a light meal.
  • ***Jetee: in the summer, this is a fun drinking spot with swimming.
  • **La Crêperie d’Ouchy: Place du Port 7, 1006 Lausanne. Crepes, obviously. A reasonably affordable place that’s open all day.
  • **Le Thai au Lac: walking distance from Ouchy. Not the most amazing Thai, but there’s a big outdoor seating area on the water. Good for groups.
  • **Restaurant Château d’Ouchy: very expensive, with a lovely lake view. It’s good and fancy for fancy’s sake.
  • *Saveurs d’Ailleurs: Thai take out. Seems so convenient, but it’s truly awful, not edible. Skip.
  • ***The Beau-Rivage: the ‘nicest hotel in the world’ – and really, it is quite nice. Coco Chanel lived there for years. We were fortunate to live there for a month when we first moved to Switzerland. If you get the chance, it’s worth a stay.
    • *Miyako Lausanne at the Beau is not great. Not terrible, but no bargain for the price, quality, and service.
    • *Café Beau-Rivage unfortunately falls into the same category. It’s a lovely space, but the menu is very expensive, very formal, and feels out of place for lunch-time dining.
  • **White Horse: Not high end, but a nice (and clean) approximation of a British pub with a quite wide selection of good food.

Farther Afield in Lausanne

**Restaurant Le Chalet Suisse, Route du Signal 40: A fun day trip in the middle of the park. Very traditional Swiss architecture, food. Best to go by car.