About a 45-minute drive from Geneva, the city of Lausanne is smaller in size, but also a bustling hub for global business. It’s famous as the “Olympic Capital” of the world, for it houses the International Olympic Committee, and it’s projected to host the Winter Youth Olympics in 2020. That said, there’s a considerable amount of prestige within the city itself.
My plan for the five-day jaunt in Switzerland was to traverse from west to east, starting from Geneva and ending in Zurich. Lausanne was, therefore, one of the stops in-between. At first, I didn’t know much about the city aside from the general information I’d researched beforehand online (e.g. location, size, places of interest), but I decided that it was a good place to explore, as well as to stay a night or two before continuing on.
After passing through Geneva for the day, I took a BlaBlaCar over to Lausanne in the late afternoon. The one-hour journey cost six euros, which wasn’t bad at all since Switzerland is expensive in just about every aspect, including public transportation. Aside from taking the train once while in the country, I mostly relied on BlaBlaCar to get from city to city, which definitely cut costs. The ride went by quickly and, besides getting into a traffic jam in the city center (as it was during after-work hours), I had a pleasant experience with it.
Besides saving money on public transportation, I also saved on accommodation via Couchsurfing. Of the five cities I visited in Switzerland, I stayed with three hosts, all of whom were lovely. My first host was in Lausanne, and I met her after taking the metro to her flat. She was a local in her early thirties whose bubbly personality made me feel right at home. Upon arriving at her flat and getting settled, I sat down to chat with her over tea– we had a lengthy discussion about Swiss culture, politics, and food, and I learned a lot from her. I also got to speak a bit of French, since I was still in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
We had dinner afterwards, and my Couchsurfing host made an excellent vegetarian meal. It was simple, but delicious (curry with rice), and I even went back for seconds! Afterwards, we talked about what there was to do in Lausanne, and she provided plenty of places that I could check out. She also introduced me to offline maps on Google Maps (which back then I didn’t know about), and that greatly changed how I’ve traveled since. Soon after, I got ready for bed; perhaps it was the insufficient sleep I’d gotten on the bus ride to Geneva, or the fact that I explored the city all day (maybe both), but I slept like a rock on my host’s sofa bed, which in itself was also comfortable.
Feeling recharged, I woke up the next morning to start my day exploring Lausanne. My host had a job interview and would otherwise be busy the entire day, so I was left to sight-see on my own. I started the day by heading over to the Cathedral of Notre Dame (also simply called “Lausanne Cathedral”). Despite visiting in January, it was surprisingly warmer than I’d imagined. Clear skies and warm sunshine dominated my time in Lausanne, as well as in Geneva and Bern (with the exceptions of Lucerne and Zurich).
Next up, I headed to the parc de l’Hermitage, which was situated on a hill overlooking the city. My host had told me that I could get good views of the city from there, so I decided to go. The park was massive, all covered in green as I wandered along the dirt paths, with tall pines towering overhead as respite from the bright sun. I did get panoramic views of Lausanne from above, although they were somewhat obstructed– I actually enjoyed more of the nature in the park than the views themselves, for it was a peaceful break from the city hustle.
I headed back to the center, where I passed by two plazas– place de la Palud and place Saint-François— on my way through the city. Lausanne was hillier than I’d expected, for the pedestrian streets downtown were filled with inclines. I definitely got a workout in while traversing the shopping district of town, where many people were out and about buying clothes, groceries, and just about anything else that one could possibly imagine.
It was nearing noontime, so I decided to get lunch. My host had recommended café de Grancy, which I later realized was one of the most popular restaurants in town. I learned that the hard way when I entered the restaurant, where I found the place absolutely packed. Apparently, I needed reservations in advance, but fortunately, I was able to get a seat at a coffee table, shared with half a dozen others who were having apéritifs. I opted for a duck dish, which came out to 29 CHF (about 28 euros). I’d clearly underestimated just how expensive Switzerland could be, and ordering a single dish for 29 CHF certainly showed me! Not just that, but the dish itself was also very mediocre– although it was a mistake to eat out, I learned not to spend on eating out for the rest of the trip.
Following lunch, I went over to the Olympic Museum. Since Lausanne is world-renown for being the home of the International Olympic Committee, I wanted to check out that aspect of it. The museum is situated near the shores of Lake Geneva, and I got some beautiful photos of it, albeit rather overcast that afternoon.
At the Olympic Museum, I paid the 12 CHF admission fee and spent the time visiting the various galleries inside. There was a section that explained the history of the Olympic Games, which date back to ancient Greece, and there was another which held past medals and trophies, along with former athletes’ uniforms (even saw a full-bodied scuba suits!). Along with viewing the iconic Olympic Flame outside, visiting the Olympic Museum was a pretty-cool experience of seeing just how the world can unite in a sporting event every four years.
I hiked the pedestrian hills once more as I returned to the city center. I passed by place de la Riponne, as well as the Palais de Rumine, which contains the University Library of Lausanne. After passing the Lausanne Cathedral again, I headed back to my host’s flat in the late afternoon, as I was tired from sightseeing all day. I would be leaving the following morning for my next destination in Switzerland, and I wanted to rest until then.
Overall, it’d been a short, but plentiful two nights in Lausanne. I found that I was able to see the main sights within a day, so two nights was enough. What really made my stay really great was my Couchsurfing host, who’s probably one of my favorites to this day! We had hit it off from the very start, and I immediately felt at home with her, like a long-lost friend. I have to thank her for the lovely stay, as it made Lausanne a great experience and gave me energy for the rest of my time in Switzerland.
Moving on to the German-speaking side of Switzerland in the next post! Next up: Bern, Switzerland!