Given that Switzerland has four national languages, it’s no surprise that some of its cities have more than one name. But whereas Genf and Ginevra are actually the same place, Lausanne is not a variation on Luzern or Lugano. You may laugh, but I once overheard that being suggested. It couldn’t be further from the truth: Lausanne is very much its own city. And this week is my Lausanne week: on Monday I had an entertaining session with the Pepperdine students, telling them all about life here. Then on Sunday (6 November) I’m speaking at the Léman Expat Fair. Twice – at 12.30 and 15.30, plus signing and selling books, of course. There’s far more going on than listening to me, with 120 stands covering every aspect of life along Lake Geneva. Entry is free, and not just for expats, so come along if you fancy; it’s at the Palais de Beaulieu from 11am to 5pm. In the meantime, here are my other favourite reasons to visit Lausanne:
- The hills. Switzerland isn’t exactly flat, but in Lausanne you notice the lumpy landscape more than in any other Swiss city. Starting down at lakeside Ouchy, the whole city rises up in stages like a wedding cake, with each layer on a higher level than the previous one. Great for the views, hard on the legs.
- The cathedral. Sitting pretty on the highest hill, and so commanding the best views over the rooftops, is Switzerland’s largest cathedral. Consecrated in 1275, it really is a huge Gothic pile with stunning stained glass windows and 224 steps up to the top of the tower.
- The metro. Lausanne is the only city in Switzerland to have a metro, and one of the smallest cities anywhere to have one. Even though it’s a driverless system, with two lines, it can cope with the hills and height difference of 338 metres. Unfortunately it can’t teach people to queue properly, as this previous post showed.
- The Olympics.St Moritz is the only Swiss host of an Olympic Games but Lausanne is the permanent home of the IOC. Its museum is a treasure-trove of sport, where you can see Jesse Owens’ running shoes and relive Steve Redgrave’s winning moments.
- The lake. It might be shared by France and (in English) named after Geneva, but Lac Léman is possibly best enjoyed in Lausanne. From here you truly get a sense of its size and beauty, along with grandstand views over to the French Alps. Hopping on a paddle-steamer to Evian or Montreux is the perfect way to leave the city.
And if all that wasn’t enough, there’s the lovely little English bookshop Books Books Books, run by the ever-present Matt Wake. He has a great selection of everything from fiction to children’s books, plus all you need if you’re learning or teaching English – and his prices aren’t bad either. If you haven’t found the shop yet, it’s on the top floor of Globus department store beside Holmes Place, although this being hilly Lausanne, it’s on the ground floor via the entrance at Rue de Mercerie 12. Tell him I sent you!
Lausanne may not be as pretty as Lucerne or as famous as Geneva, but it a trip here is more than worthwhile – to see the beautiful station if nothing else. And to experience a taste of life in Switzerland’s fourth-largest city (128,000 residents, 40% of them foreigners). Maybe I’ll see you there on Sunday.