Over the rooftops to Lausanne Notre Dame Cathedral - (c) Christian Mehlführer
For those tourists arriving in Switzerland at the western side of the country, one of the early parts of their itinerary will be to get a quick fix of some of Lake Geneva and it's water-side cities and towns. For some reason these itineraries often overlook Lausanne in favour of Geneva and Montreux, and whilst trips to both of these can be interesting and the setting fabulous, neither can compare to Lake Geneva's real gem - Lausanne.
Much of Lausanne is built on steep hillsides that fall down southwards towards Lake Geneva. This hilly aspect gives the city some fantastic panoramas over Lake Geneva and across to the French Alps. With plenty of trees, parks and general greenery, Lausanne's suburbs have got an extremely pleasant feel, whilst down by the lakeside the promenades are wonderful for summer days or crisp winter mornings. It all has a very nice family-friendly feel to it.
Home to Switzerland's largest university, Lausanne has a vibrant youthful buzz to it that is certainly unmatched in Switzerland. The combination of having all these students knocking around, as well as the lakeside promenades and the decent sunshine records, might help explain why Lausanne has becoming extremely popular for skateboarding, roller-skating, scooting and blading. We've genuinely sat on a train that's stopped at Lausanne station and seen white-collar workers get off with scooters ! Now you don't see that in Manchester. Anyway, Lausanne successfully manages to morph this dynamic, cultural-vibe with an historic, aesthetically pleasing city-centre and a beautiful location, with plenty of nice shops, cafés and bars and lots of impressive pieces of architecture and interesting places to visit, including Lausanne's Cathedral of Notre Dame (Switzerland's most impressive Gothic-style building), the Chateau Saint-Maire, the entire Old Town area and of course, the waterfront down at Ouchy.
Lausanne is certainly well worth a visit and right up there with Switzerland's other beautiful cities - Bern, Zurich and Luzern.
In our mind, all great European cities should have an Old Town, and Lausanne certainly has a classic one.
The main part of Lausanne's Old Town is the Place de la Palud, a lovely cobbled square complete with cafés and decent shops. The square is finished off perfectly by the Fontaine de la Justice (the Fountain of Justice). This area also features an hourly treat for tourists, with mechanical chiming figures built into one of the buildings behind the Fontaine de la Justice. It was renovated in 2006 to provide Lausanne's most popular square with another attraction, and it's certainly done the job. Whilst it's not quite on the same level as the Astronomical Clock in Prague, it's pleasant enough and it's certainly a good excuse to have a drink in the square and wait for the hourly chimes. The square also features Lausanne's Town Hall, the Hotel de Ville.
A link to the tourist information site for Lausanne and any other useful links for the city.