Lausanne may not be a city you instantly fall in love with, but it has the power to grow on you, and one day you suddenly wake up and realize there are so many reasons to love living here. That's what happened me at least. So here's why I think Lausanne is a great place to be.
It's easy to live in
Chilling out at Ouchy. Photo: The Local
With a compact town center – which nevertheless has some ruthless uphill roads, as the whole city is built on three hills – and an amazing lake promenade stretching all the way from Pully and Ouchy port to the residential area of Saint Sulpice and beyond, there are countless possibilities for walks.
Around the city, green parks abound, offering some stunning views of the Alps and Lake Geneva: my favorite panoramic spots are Lac Sauvabelin, Esplanade de Montbenon, Parc de Milan and the botanical gardens, plus Le Denantou Parc near the Olympic Museum, right next to the lake. In summer every single park is packed and having a picnic next to the lake with friends and family becomes an all-day ritual.
Festivals such as Festival de la Cité and Lausanne Estivale, during which the city becomes a big open-air music and theatre show, help make the city an enticing place to be in summer.
Its architecture is a pleasing mix of old and modern
Lausanne's pretty Place de la Palud includes the city hall. Photo: Christof Schuerpf/Swiss Tourism
Lausanne has some stunning buildings spread around the city. In fact, there are 46 buildings and sites listed as Swiss Heritage sites of national significance, such as the Casino de Montbenon and the city hall. Naturally, there are also a few modern, blunt buildings but for the moment they are in the minority.
La Cité, the Old Town below the cathedral as well as the neighborhoods spreading from the train station down to the lake are particularly charming. I often find myself walking around avenues Grancy and Frédéric-César de La Harpe admiring Lausanne's fine architecture.
But I love the modern face of the city as well, such as Le Flon with its restaurants, cafés and shops including my favorite, vintage furniture shop La Malle au Trésor.
Modern architecture is represented by such gems as the Rolex Learning Center, a university study centre located on the campus of science and technology university École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), which is open not only to students but also to the public. I often like to take my guests there for a tour.
Ouchy is a great place for families. Photo: Rania Margari
Having recently acquired a baby boy joining me on my adventures around Lausanne, I have started to notice how kid-friendly the city is. Going for walks is such a pleasure since access is easy with elevators and ramps almost everywhere. The challenge of going uphill is solved by taking public transport, which is free for kids up to six years old. There are also plenty of kids' corners in various shops and cafes. My favorite so far is Culture Café inside FNAC.
“I appreciate the ludotheques here where you can rent quality toys, bikes, instruments, costumes, games (for kids and adults) for as little as one franc for a month,” says Karin Ling, an expat mother of two.
“We also love the toy markets that pop up twice a year in different neighborhoods where children and their families sell their used toys super cheap. Because of how expensive things can be in Switzerland, my husband and I get as excited about the second hand toys as our kids do.”
It has a thriving gastro scene
Lausanne's food truck festival in Riponne was a big success in 2016 and returns in June this year. Photo: Rania Margari
It's hardly Lyon or San Sebastian but the gastronomy in Lausanne is quite diverse.
Its celebrated each summer in the Lausanne à Table festival, which includes a vast array of foodie events. From May to September, there are visits to the city's chocolate artisans, guided gourmet walks, farm visits, workshops for kids, unusual dining experiences, a lively food truck festival, and a massive picnic, all of which turns the city into a gourmet oasis.
Street food is also gaining in popularity, as is the case across the country. Over the last few years Riponne has become a centerpiece for street food vendors and on a sunny day there is nothing better than eating your Lebanese lunch or sweet crepe amidst the buzz here. That's where you'll also find coffee trucks including Rush and Sydney, which serve killer espressos, flat whites and hot chocolates.
Microbreweries are booming as well. Two local ones, La Nébuleuse and Docteur Gab's, have experienced big demand for their craft beers which can now be found in numerous bars and restaurants around Lausanne. Sample those and many other craft beers at Pi Bar.
It's young, creative and dynamic
EPFL helps create a young, dynamic vibe in the city. Photo: Lausanne Tourism
The presence of EPFL, the University of Lausanne and the hotel school École Hôtelier de Lausanne (EHL) means there are tons of students in the city. These institutions play a pivotal role in the city's vibrant energy, attracting people who are curious, international-minded and have a willingness to learn, grow and embrace the new. You can feel that by a simple visit to EPFL's premises.
This youthful creativity has helped fuel a recent boom in crowd-funded spaces such as Ta Cave wine bar, Mood Café and Crazy Wolf burger restaurant.
“In the last few years many entrepreneurial initiatives have been launched across Lausanne, from design studios to cafés and co-working spaces,” says Géraldine Morand, founder of the design blog withatouchofseasalt.com.
“All these projects, led with talent and passion, keep inspiring and enabling more and more people to reinvent the city they live in. As Lausanne isn't too big, global ideas meet local insights and this unique combination gives the city its own creative vibe.”
Alex Barakat from Crazy Wolf thinks Lausanne's diverse, international population makes creating a trendy restaurant, bar or theatre show easier. “As crowdfunding requires engagement from the local inhabitants, Lausanne is a good city in which to launch a crowdfunded project, as long as it is well-designed, attractive and that locals can identify with the project and the team behind it,” he says.
The great outdoors is on your doorstep
The beautiful vineyards of Lavaux are on the doorstep. Photo: Marcus Gyger/Swiss Tourism
Lausanne's location is a winner: firstly, it's a grape's throw from the Lavaux, the Unesco World Heritage vineyards next to Lake Geneva. That's a great place to escape city life, walking or biking among the vineyards and the quaint, medieval villages with their spectacular views and wine cellars.
There are also numerous ski resorts nearby for skiing in winter or hiking in summer. Portes du Soleil, Villars and Chamonix, to name just a few, are all easily reachable for a day excursion or a weekend recharge.
Lastly, being in the centre of Europe means you can drive to various European destinations like Italy, France, Germany and Austria, while Lausanne's proximity to Geneva airport means it's easy to discover further-flung destinations. Weekend in Iceland anyone?