Destination Guide: Lausanne, Switzerland

Destination Guide: Lausanne, Switzerland

A travel agent’s guide to Lausanne in Switzerland’s Canton de Vaud

Key Selling Points:

  • Lake Geneva – a playground for water sports, boating and lakeside leisure
  • High-quality food – especially Swiss chocolate and cheese
  • The Olympic Museum – you don’t need to be a sports fan to enjoy it
  • The Grand Tour – one of the world’s best motoring routes
  • Historic hotels – palatial accommodation for classy travellers

Overview: The Swiss Riviera begins in Lausanne, hugging the shores of hypnotic Lake Geneva. Its skyline is defined by its medieval cathedral and Belle Epoch palace-hotels, but there’s more to Lausanne than chocolate-box architecture. An education and business hub, it’s home to universities, hospitality schools and sporting federations, including the International Olympic Committee. Lausanne’s colourful Olympic Museum tells the story of the world-famous games, from their inception in antiquity to the inspiration behind the many mascots. Part of Switzerland’s Grand Tour, Lausanne is also a city for motoring enthusiasts offering scenic self-drive holidays. Read on for more information on the top five selling points of Lausanne.

Lake Geneva
Known locally as Lac Léman, a French name derived from the word for lake (lac) and the Celtic term ‘lem an’ meaning ‘large water’, Lake Geneva is the largest lake in Central Europe. Covering 582 square kilometres, this croissant-shaped lake arches from Geneva to Montreux. Trace the Swiss Riviera shoreline onboard one of CGN’s Belle Époque steamboats, or, for shorter trips, hire a pedal boat from the Ouchy promenade.

Advise clients to pack a swimsuit; it’s common to swim in the lake when it’s warm – and even when it’s not

Chocolate and Cheese
On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, Place de la Riponne is the place to be. Pick up picnic supplies, best enjoyed on the banks of Lake Geneva. Local family cheesemonger Christian Willen offers free samples, so you can try before you buy, and crusty loaves are available just across the square.

For dessert, grab some organic artisan chocolate from Durig, which has just two stores, both in Lausanne, selling Fairtrade, rare cocoa products and tempting almond flans. All confections are made on-site at the boutique workshop on the Avenue d’Ouchy, which also hosts masterclasses.

For dinner, sample classic cured meat and pickle platters followed by bubbling pots of molten cheese fondue at Pinte Besson, an atmospheric wine cellar converted into a restaurant. Brace yourself for the narrowest winding staircase you’re ever likely to ascend should you require a trip to the bathroom.

La Pinte Besson_©LT www.diapo.chPinte Besson

The Olympic Museum
Le Musée Olympique offers a cleverly curated history of the Olympic Games, and you don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate its colourful displays. The Opening Ceremony outfits are spectacular. Look out for the Moschino ball gown shaped like the Swiss Alps, complete with fir trees and mini chalets that light up.

Also, take time to admire the collection of Olympic torches up close.

As visitors to the museum will learn, the visionary who founded the modern Olympics Games, French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin, established the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, so the history of the games is deeply rooted here.

Le Musee Olympique Exposition © Marino TrottaTorches on display at the Olympics Museum 

The Grand Tour
The Grand Tour of Switzerland spans almost 1,000 miles (1,600km) and takes drivers to 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, around 22 lakes, over five Alpine passes and through serveral charming villages. Reaching 6,500 feet above sea level, the scenic route affords views of glaciers, famous mountain roads and palm-lined lakes.

Passing a total of 45 top Swiss attractions in total, the Grand Tour of Switzerland also leads drivers to hidden gems listed in the Federal Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites (ISOS).

Notably, the Grand Tour of Switzerland is the world’s first road trip for electric vehicles, with an ample network of charging stations providing power over the entire route

The Grand Tour

Historic Hotels
Opened in 1909 and restored to Art Nouveau glory by Qatari owners, the Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa overlooks Lac Léman. Catering to Middle East travellers, there’s a ladies-only spa, hair salon and fitness centre in addition to shared facilities, which include swimming pools, saunas, steam baths, cold baths, ice fountains and relaxation areas. The crowning glory is the rooftop terrace; a seat here during sunset is prime Swiss real estate.

Other historic hotels to consider sending clients to include Beau-Rivage Palace and Lausanne Palace. Today, the ‘LP’ is popular with fashionable locals who flock to the Flon District for drinks where the property resides. Born of the Belle Epoch era, opening its door in 1915, its heritage remains evident, but this Grand Dame moves with the times. Oldest of them all, Beau-Rivage Palace has been serving discerning travellers since 1861. This is the place where pioneering treaties are signed and celebrities party behind sunny yellow awnings, fluttering like flirtacious eyelashes at passers-by.

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