Five reasons to love Lausanne

November 3, 2011, 8 Comments

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.

8 Comments on "Five reasons to love Lausanne"

  1. corrie Thursday November 3rd, 2011 at 10:48 AM · Reply

    I once studied in lausanne , in 1976, wonderful place !

  2. Caroline Thursday November 3rd, 2011 at 11:06 AM · Reply

    Hi Diccon – interesting to hear your thoughts on Lausanne. I had no idea it was 40% foreigners, though that doesn’t surprise me! I visit regularly as my boyfriend lives there, and have just started my own blog about my experiences –
    Hope you’ll check it out.

    Plus I’ve just started reading your book and am laughing a lot in recognition!

  3. Liz Thursday November 3rd, 2011 at 11:58 AM · Reply

    Hi Diccon, Great – See you on Sunday then 🙂 Best regards, Liz

  4. Jacques Ruch Thursday November 3rd, 2011 at 04:32 PM · Reply

    Having spent my youth in Lausanne I would like to remind you that it is not Lake Geneva but Lac Leman. Lausanne residents would never call it Lake Geneva or Lac de Geneve

  5. Liliane Shepard Friday November 4th, 2011 at 03:56 AM · Reply

    Being from Lausanne originally, I always wondered why they called it Lake Geneva. After all Geneva has little lake front property, compared to other cities> In French Lac Léman has a smoother sound than Lac de Genève. LOL

  6. Cherie Bearie Saturday April 7th, 2012 at 06:58 PM · Reply

    Having lived in french part of Switzerland for 4 years as a foreign student (asian..),
    putting aside the racism and gangsters found during night time in Lausanne,
    it is one of the loveliest cities in the country… Nice to have read your thoughts about Lausanne 🙂

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