During our few weeks’ stay in France in Thonon-Les-Bains we just couldn’t miss going to the other side of the lake to visit Switzerland. This is how one day we ended up in Lausanne. It’s the fourth largest city in Switzerland and the capital city of the French-speaking region, the canton of Vaud. After Geneva, it’s the second-largest city on Lake Geneva. It’s a truly astonishing city that has a lot to offer. Let’s go and discover what to do in Lausanne in one day.
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Lausanne, Switzerland FAQ
Lausanne is located in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland. The city lies on the northern shore of Lake Geneva (fr. Lac Leman), about halfway between the Alps and Jura Mountains. Lausanne lies directly opposite the French town of Evian-Les-Bains.
Before our stay near Lake Geneva, we’d never heard about Lausanne. The city surprised us with its beauty and with one of the most stunning views over the Alps we’ve seen so far. Those spectacular views aren’t the only thing that Lausanne has to offer. There’s Old Town full of charming streets with old buildings and many cozy restaurants. There are museums perfect for art lovers, and also an Olympic Museum which is a real treat for sports fans. So yes, Lausanne definitely is worth visiting and should be added to your list of must-visit places in Switzerland.
Besides spectacular views over Lake Geneva and the Alps, Lausanne is best known for being an “Olympic Capital”. In 1915 the city was chosen to establish the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and in 1994 it was given the title of Olympic Capital. The city is also known for its official Olympic Museum.
Lausanne isn’t really big and it’s possible to see most of the main attractions in one day. If you want to get to know it really well and also have time for visiting surrounding places like Vevey, Montreux, Chillon Castle or Lavaux vineyards, we recommend staying longer, probably 3 days would be great for slow sightseeing.
To be honest – hard to say! Depends on your preferences. Both places are very popular destinations on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, both are well known for many tourist attractions and great things to do. We had a nice time in both places but in the end liked Lausanne better, mostly due to the spectacular views over French Alps but also because it’s smaller than Geneva. Visit both cities and form your own opinion.
Yes, for those who are fit and have no problems with walking uphills and on the stairs. Those who might have problems with that should stay closer to the lowers parts of the city in the Ouchy neighborhood on Lake Geneva shores. Reaching places in the old town like Lausanne Cathedral or Palud Square takes more uphills to walk.
Uff, all questions answered so now it’s time to finally show you this pretty city. Let’s discover places you shouldn’t miss during your one day in Lausanne, Switzerland.
What to do in one day in Lausanne, Switzerland?
Lake Geneva shore
We’ll start our one-day in Lausanne tour from our number one place – Lake Geneva shore. The shore stretching from Lausanne to Montreux is called the Swiss Riviera and is full of pretty towns and one of the best mountain views over the Alps. We spent quite a long time just sitting on the bench, simply enjoying the views and breathing in a calm atmosphere. Take a closer look at things to do on the shore of Lake Geneva below.
If you want to chill, have a picnic, read a book, do some sports, or simply go on a walk with lovely mountain views head to the Ouchy neighborhood. Ouchy is located below the busy Lausanne city center, right by the lakeside. There you’ll find a lovely promenade, park, Lausanne port, many Belle Epoque hotels, restaurants, and what’s most important: perfect views of the other side of the lake at every step. Ouchy neighborhood is definitely a place that can’t be missed during one day in Lausanne!
Castle of Ouchy
Along the Ouchy promenade, you’ll find many historical buildings and Belle Epoque hotels, but the Castle of Ouchy (fr. Chateau d’Ouchy) deserves a few more words. It was built in the 12th century as a castle but at the end of the 19th century (1889-1893) was rebuilt and turned into a hotel. Now it still serves as a hotel and fine-dining restaurant. If you want to stay in this area, Château d’Ouchy might be a nice choice.
Lake Geneva Cruise
From Lausanne-Ouchy Port you can go on a cruise on one of the famous steamboats to places like Geneva, Yvoire, Vevey, or Evian-Les-Bains. During the cruise, you’ll be able to enjoy the lake, views of the mountains, and the towns. For more information, routes, timetables, and prices visit CGN official website.
Also in the Ouchy neighborhood, you’ll find the Olympic Museum, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lausanne and an absolute must for sports lovers. The Olympic Museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of the Olympic Games and many exhibitions show items related to games like sports equipment, clothing, or medals from different Olympic years. There are also many interactive multimedia stations available. Outside the building, there is a beautiful garden with great views over Lake Geneva and the Alps as well as unique sculptures related to the Olympics.
Entrance to Olympic Museum is paid. Adults 16+ have to pay 20CHF, and children to 15 years old can enter for free. The museum is open from Tuesday-Sunday from 9AM to 6PM (July 2023). To check current prices and opening hours visit olympics.com website.
Lausanne Old Town
There’s no better way of discovering Lausanne than strolling around its charming, winding streets full of historical sites, colorful picturesque old buildings, restaurants, cafes, and shops. Old Town is located in the upper part of town and because of that, it offers spectacular views over Lake Geneva at almost every corner.
In Lausannes’ Old Town, you’ll find places like Escaliers du Marché, Lausanne Cathedral, Place de la Palud, Palais de Rumine, or Esplanade de Montbenon. Let’s take a closer look at those.
One of the most popular city landmarks, the magnificent Lausanne Cathedral (or Notre-Dame Cathedral) is located in the heart of the city, overlooking it from a hilltop. It was built during the 12-13th centuries, consecrated in 1275 in the presence of Pope Gregory X, and later in 1536, it became a protestant cathedral. Lausanne Cathedral is one of the most magnificent Gothic monuments in Europe and visiting it shouldn’t be missed during one day in Lausanne.
Inside, in the south transept, you’ll find a rose window, which is amongst the masterpieces of European artistic heritage. There is also a Great Pipe Organ, composed of 7000 pieces, which is the first organ in the world designed by a designer.
Lausanne Cathedral opening hours & prices
Depending on the season, the Cathedral is open from 9AM to 5.30PM (October-March) or to 7PM (April-September). Entrance to the Cathedral is free. For an additional price, you can visit the bell tower – 5CHF adults, and 2CHF children (July 2023).
Every day between 10PM and 2AM a man stands at the top of the Cathedral’s bell tower and shouts out each hour, in each cardinal direction. He shouts in French “C’est le guet, il a sonné [X]” which means “It’s the lookout, it rang [X]”). This tradition started in 1405 when a watchman was supposed to look out over the city and provide warnings. Now it’s beautiful over 600 years old tradition. This YouTube video shows what it looks like.
Escaliers du Marche
Escaliers du Marche is a winding covered stairway going up to Lausanne Cathedral from Place de la Palud. The first mention of the steps dates back to the 13th century, and its present look goes back to the 1710s. Take a walk through this peculiar Lausanne site, and enjoy views of the city and buildings from which some parts date back even to the 16th century.
Palud Square (fr. Place de la Palud) is located just below the Cathedral, in the heart of the Lausanne Old Town. On the square you can find Lausanne’s oldest fountain dating back to 1585 – Fountain of Justice, a clock that shows the history of the canton of Vaud in animated scenes every hour from 9AM to 7PM, and Hôtel de Ville which is a 17th-century building housing Town Hall. Palud Square is also full of many shops, restaurants, and cafes. On Saturday and Wednesday mornings the market takes place here.
Palais de Rumine
Palais de Rumine is a late 19th-century building in Florentine Renaissance architecture style, located on Place de la Riponne. There is an interesting story behind its construction. Well, when Gabriel de Rumine passed away he left Lausanne 1.5 million Swiss Francs to erect a building for the use of the public. Over the years it was home to the library of the University of Lausanne, and also various collections belonging to the Canton of Vaud. In the 1980s Palais de Rumine was reconstructed and now houses a few museums dedicated to geology, zoology, fine arts, money, architecture, and history.
Esplanade de Montbenon
Esplanade de Montbenon is a beautiful green space in Lausanne, only a 10min walk away from Place de la Palud. In our opinion, after Lake Geneva shores, that’s the next best place to enjoy breathtaking views over the lake and the mountains. It’s also an amazing place for a leisurely walk or having a picnic. In the area, you’ll find buildings such as Casino de Montbenon (from 1915 to 1922 home of the IOC, now a restaurant) and Palace of Justice (until 1921 housed the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, now houses the District Court).
Short trips from Lausanne, Switzerland
Our time in Lausanne was limited as we really wanted to see two more places: Vevey & Chillon Castle. It’s doable to see it all in one day, but unfortunately, we were about 30min late to visit the interiors of Chillon Castle. That was only because we had problems leaving Vevey due to its amazing vibe and views, and we extended our time there as much as possible. 🙂
Vevey is a charming little town sitting on Lake Geneva shores, located only 20km from Lausanne. Along the waterfront, there is a long promenade perfect for relaxing strolls, doing sports, or just sitting on a bench. All of these with unearthly views of the Alps. Along the promenade, you’ll find a very interesting sculpture depicting a giant fork. There is also a monument of Charlie Chaplin, who lived in town from 1952 until his death in 1977. Besides that, Vevey can offer a charming old town filled with colorful buildings and streets full of small shops, art galleries, restaurants, and hotels.
We won’t lie at all that Vevey totally stole our hearts and left us speechless. Town crushed the competition and now takes the honorable first place in our ranking of best-visited places during our first year of living as digital nomads.
Chillon Castle (fr. Chateau de Chillon) is a medieval castle built on an island, located 40km from Lausanne and 10km from Vevey. Thanks to its strategic position, the place has been used as a military site since the Roman period. The current form of the castle is the result of several centuries of construction and various reconstructions. The history of the castle is marked by three ruling eras: the Savoy family, the Bernese bailiffs, and the Canton of Vaud.
Entrance ticket to Chateau de Chillon: 13.5CHF adults, 7CHF children 6-15 (July 2023). To check opening hours and current prices visit chillon.ch website.
Other things to do in and near Lausanne, Switzerland
Platform 10 is Lausanne’s art district. It brings together 3 museums: the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC), the Museum of Fine Arts (MCBA), and the Museum for Photography. Current prices and opening hours are available on plateforme10.ch website.
Sauvabelin Tower (fr. Tour de Sauvabelin) is located in the Sauvabelin forest, about 3km from Lausanne Old Town. It’s a wooden 35m tall viewing tower, constructed in 2003. It’s famous for its unique architecture with a helix staircase. From the top, there are amazing views over the city of Lausanne, Lake Geneva French coast, and the Alps. Entrance to Sauvabelin Tower is free.
Montreux is a charming small resort town located on the northeastern shore of Lake Geneva, about 30km from Lausanne. It became a popular tourist spot mostly due to the fact that Freddie Mercury lived and recorded six albums with the Queen band there. Montreux is also home to a lovely lakeside promenade with amazing views, beautiful grand Belle Epoque buildings, Montreux Jazz Festival, a few museums and art galleries, as well as some spa facilities.
Gruyeres is located about 55km inland from Lausanne. This medieval town is best known for the production of the world-famous cheese of the same name. There you’ll find a fairytale-like 13th-century hilltop castle, a charming old town, HR Giger Museum featuring surreal sculptures and paintings created by the artist known for the “Alien” movies, and many stunning views over the Gruyeres region.
Terraced Lavaux vineyards occupy an area of about 800 hectares. Thanks to their location near Lake Geneva offer amazing views over the other side of the lake. Lavaux has been elevated to the status of a world heritage site by UNESCO and often is considered as World’s Most Beautiful Wine Region. There you can enjoy a pleasant stroll among grapevines and visit one (or two, or 10) of the vinegrower’s cellars for wine tasting.
You can also go on a hike through the vineyards of Lavaux. Tourism Office of Switzerland recommends “Terrasses de Lavaux” hiking trail, which goes from Saint-Saphorin to Lutry.
How to get to Lausanne, Switzerland?
Lausanne is located about 65km from Geneva, 110km from Bern, 200km from Basel, 65km from Evian-Les-Bains, and 100km from Annecy. The most convenient way to get to Lausanne is by car, train, or ferry if coming from France.
Where to park in Lausanne?
We always try to find free parking lots, but we failed at this in Lausanne. Finally, we left our car in this parking lot in Ouchy, 2km from both Ouchy Promenade and Lausanne City Centre. We paid 8CHF for the whole day.
Airports near Lausanne
The closest airports to Lausanne are in Geneva (60km away), Bern (110km away) and Lyon in France (205km away). All airports offer train and bus connections with Lausanne. To learn more about airport connections with the city that might interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Lausanne by train
Switzerland has really great train connections so it’s very easy to reach Lausanne by train. For example, the journey from Geneva to Lausanne lasts about 50min (€20-30), from Vevey 20min (€13-45), from Zurich 2h (€70-130), and from Annecy in France it’s 2.5 (€38-77). To learn more about train connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Lausanne by bus
You can also get to Lausanne by bus. For example, the journey from Geneva will take about 55min (€2-10), from Bern 2h (€4-10) and 2h15min from Annecy (€8-11). To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Lausanne by ferry
Campings in Lausanne, Switzerland
If you’re traveling by camper you’ll probably be glad to know that there are a few camping sites near Lausanne. Here are some of them: Camping de Vidy, TCS Camping Morges, Camping de Moratel, and Camping de la Pichette.
What to do in one day in Lausanne, Switzerland – Summing up
We hope that our post has brought you closer to the decision of what things you’d like to do during your trip to Lausanne. And as you can see now, the choice is quite wide! Wherever you prefer strolling among charming streets, relaxing in green spaces with breathtaking views, or spending some time in museums – you’ll find that all in Lausanne and its surroundings. We hope that we convinced you to visit Lausanne by now. Enjoy your time!
Our opinion about Lausanne, France
For us, a visit to Lausanne was a day trip from nearby Thonon-Les-Bains in France where we lived for a few weeks. We visited the city in May and during that time there weren’t too many tourists, mostly locals going on with their lives. Thanks to that, our trip was very pleasant. What can we say… We really liked Lausanne and its surroundings! Especially the views over the Alps stole our hearts. Truly amazing! We also really enjoyed strolling among colorful old town streets. Lausanne is a very pleasant Swiss city and we’ll remember it very fondly.
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Lausanne?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Lausanne:
Where to sleep in Lausanne?
Hôtel des Patients
Hôtel des Patients is a unique boutique hotel located in the heart of Lausanne, Switzerland. The hotel was originally a hospital, but has been transformed into a modern and stylish accommodation with a focus on wellness and relaxation. The rooms are elegantly decorated, and the hotel features a lovely garden terrace, a library, and a restaurant serving delicious Swiss cuisine.
Moxy Lausanne City
Moxy Lausanne City is a trendy and fun hotel in Lausanne, with modern and playful design elements throughout the property. The hotel offers comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi, a 24-hour fitness center, and a lively bar and lounge, all conveniently located in the heart of the city.
Hôtel du Marché
Hôtel du Marché is a cozy and welcoming hotel in Lausanne, offering comfortable rooms with modern amenities and a delicious breakfast buffet. Its central location in the lively Flon neighborhood, close to the train station and many shops and restaurants, make it an ideal base for exploring the city.
Château d'Ouchy is a beautiful castle hotel located on the shores of Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland. Guests can enjoy stunning views of the lake and mountains, elegant rooms with luxurious amenities, and a range of dining options including a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com