At the beginning of my career I was offered a four month assignment training a team in Switzerland on the fine art of sales operations and contracts management (yeah – a real yawnfest, but it was something I was good at). At 25 I’d only been on a plan a couple of times in my life, and I’d never been outside of North America. The idea of moving to Europe was in equal parts exciting and pants-shittingly scary. In the end my sense of adventure won out because I knew I’d always regret it if I didn’t go. So as soon as my visa was approved I sub-letted out my own bedroom apartment downtown and I flew to Lausanne, Switzerland.
I’d never heard of Lausanne before, but after landing in Geneva I found it was a medium sized city in the french-speaking Canton of Vaud right on the banks of Lake Geneva.
Stores here close early (around 7PM on weeknights), and most stay closed on Sundays. Despite this, Lausanne is perfectly situated in the midst of the the Lake, mountains and wineries so there’s always plenty to do. If you ever found yourself in Lausanne for a weekend here are some of the things I’d suggest you do.
Walk around the Old Town
Lausanne was initially settled as a Roman military camp and the place is old. A walk around the city will give you a sense of just how old the city is and how it’s changed as it’s grown. Away from Lake Geneva the city feels downright medieval with it’s shop-lined streets and an ancient Gothic cathedral, but the more modern buildings have a classic French architecture and perfectly manicured lawns and gardens.
Visit the Waterfront – Ouchy
Ouchy is a fishing village that was amalgamated into the city of Lausanne. Walk down the steep slope to the waterfront and you’ll be rewarded with coffee shops and restaurants along the tourist centric boardwalk. The views of Lake Geneva and the neighbouring French mountains is truly out of this world. Here you’ll be perfectly situated to sip some coffee by the Old Port, walk the boardwalk, or take a ship across the water to the French town of Evian-Les-Bains. If you have time you can stop at the Mövenpick Hotel Lausanne for some amazing ice cream.
Visiting the Ouchy waterfront is a great time to to visit the The Olympic Museum and the grounds of the IOC headquarters. Scattered throughout the perfectly manicured lawns you’ll find beautiful statues and ridiculously gorgeous view of the Alps.
Have a Chocolat Chaud near les Escaliers du Marché.
For over Sixty years Le Barbare has been serving up hot chocolate, or chocolate chaud, as the franco-swiss would call it, at the top of the Escaliers du Marché. The steep steps date back to the 1700’s and look today much as they did back then. After making the climb we rewarded ourselves with a hot chocolate from Le Barbare. It’s the best hot chocolate in Lausanne, and the best I’ve ever had anywhere! So good. Chantilly (whipped cream) is a necessary addition here – Thick enough that you’ll need to eat it with a spoon.
Climb the Tower of The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne
At the top of the stairs is perched the cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne – a beautiful gothic building completed in 1275. InCanada we just don’t have buildings that old so the church felt especially ancient and mysterious to me. For a few swiss franks you can climb the tower and look out over Lausanne and the surrounding mountains.