There’s a reason why Coco Chanel decided to call Lausanne, Switzerland’s fourth largest city, her final resting place. Less than an hour’s drive from Geneva, this once part-time home to the famous designer offers laid-back luxury on the shores of Lake Geneva, surrounded by mountains, forests, and UNESCO-listed vineyards.
“Lausanne offers a relatively mild climate and beautiful landscape,” says Ekaterina Gianina of SPG Finest Properties, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in the region. “The Geneva lakeshore with its Bellerive beach and the quays of the Ouchy make Lausanne feel like a seaside city.” Offering the best of both worlds, the “Olympic Capital” is not just a pretty face with a distinctive Mediterranean feel, it is also a unique urban destination with a rich cultural offering and, of course, plenty of sports.
Arts, Culture, and Architecture
Along with more than 20 museums, Lausanne offers impressive theaters, opera, concert halls, art galleries, and architecture. The city is home to the world-renowned Béjart Ballet Lausanne, the Collection de l’Art Brut, and three internationally respected museums—the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts (MCBA), the Musée de l’Elysée, and the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (mudac)—that are being relocated to an exciting new arts district. Lausanne also hosts numerous cultural events including the annual Festival de la Cité. And along with its lovely Belle Époque dwellings, the city boasts stunning contemporary architecture, including the Rolex Learning Center at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, designed by acclaimed Japanese architectural firm SANAA.
The city’s innovative spirit has led to the development of new hubs of activity. Beginning at Place de l’Europe, the centrally located Flon district has transformed the area’s historic warehouses into boutiques, art galleries, and eateries, with new architectural gems that pay respect to the past. Look out for the open-air art gallery Les Cubes, and stop by Galerie Port Franc, which specializes in 20th-century vintage furniture.
Beginning with the opening of the MCBA in its new home in October, Platform 10 is an arts district set to put Lausanne on the map as a world-class arts and urban destination. Designed by Barcelona-based architectural firm Barozzi/Veiga, the MCBA building will be joined by a combined home for mudac and the Musée de l’Elysée designed by Portuguese architects Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus. Located next to Lausanne’s train station, Platform 10 will have public space for cultural events, as well as new restaurants inside 14 existing arcades.
Home to the International Olympic Committee since 1915, Lausanne is naturally a capital of sport. Biking, hiking, and skiing opportunities are all nearby, while ice skating rinks, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and watersports on the lake can be found right in the city. Along with Lausanne’s annual marathon and triathlon, the city plays host to numerous major sporting events including the Youth Olympic Games and, in 2020, the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, to be held at the city’s brand-new arena. More than 40 international sports organizations call Lausanne home, as does the Olympic Museum, located just steps from the lake.
Shop and Stroll
With its charming, curving streets, Lausanne is an excellent city for strolling and shopping. Head to Rue de Bourg and Place Saint-François in Lausanne’s luxury shopping area, which features the likes of Louis Vuitton and prestigious Swiss watch brands. Every Wednesday and Saturday, the city’s center and its surrounding streets become home to markets where local butchers, bakers, and cheesemakers offer their goods alongside florists and vendors selling organic products.
In 2018, Lausanne became a member of the Great Wine Capitals global network. The city is at the start of the famous Lavaux wine region, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its terraced vineyards. Stretching across 2,000 acres (over 800 ha) on sloped terrain overlooking Lake Geneva, the vineyard terraces were built by Cistercian monks in the 12th century.
The region’s white wine, Chasselas, is an excellent accompaniment to Lausanne’s local and international cuisine, creatively crafted by star chefs in award-winning restaurants throughout the city. You can also try some at the annual Lausanne à Table summer food festival, running through October. Also recognized by UNESCO, Fête des Vignerons takes place roughly every 20 years in Vevey, 12 miles (19 km) from Lausanne. In 2019, the celebrations continue until August 11 and offer insight into the region’s unique viticulture.
Horticulturists will also love Lausanne for its many public parks and botanical gardens. As part of the 2019 Lausanne Jardins festival—running until October 12—special gardens have been created along a walkable stretch of urban space, embedded in streets, squares, neglected plots, and building façades and roofs.
Whether sailing, strolling the Ouchy waterfront, swimming at the Bellerive-Plage swimming pool, or simply taking in the view from a waterfront café, life in Lausanne revolves around Lake Geneva. With the Alps as its backdrop, it’s a spectacular city to visit any time of year.