Lausanne, the second-largest city on Lake Geneva, combines a dynamic commercial town with the locality of a holiday resort. The capital of the canton of Vaud is also a lively university and convention town. Sports and culture are given a high profile in the Olympic capital.
The setting of Lausanne is extremely picturesque: it is hardly surprising that the International Olympic Committee has been based here since 1914. The town is built on three hills, surrounded by vineyard-covered slopes, with Lake Geneva at its feet. Rising impressively from the opposing French lakeshore are the Savoy Alps. The attractive old town is largely car-free. Small alleyways with cafes and boutiques shape the streetscape in the medieval city centre.
The old town is dominated by the cathedral, which is regarded as Switzerland’s most impressive piece of early Gothic architecture. Lausanne was a diocesan town for over a thousand years. Shopping streets can be found surrounding the cathedral as well as in the pretty waterfront area of Ouchy. Switzerland’s only «metro» connects the various parts of the town and eases travel in this incline-based town.
Also worthy of a visit are the parks, containing many Mediterranean plant species, and grand palace hotels like the Beau-Rivage Palace in Ouchy and the Hotel de l'Angleterre, were Lord Byron once stayed. Gourmets will be able to savour many regional specialities in Lausanne such as cabbage-filled sausage with leek gratin called "Papet Vaudois". Mind you, master chef Fredy Girardet who was voted «Cuisinier du siècle» or chef of the century by his colleagues has in the meantime retired and handed over his sceptre in the Hôtel de Ville to his successor.
Even lovers of culture won’t feel short changed in Lausanne: the collection of marginal art (“Art Brut”) in Beaulieu Castle, the Fondation de l'Hermitage, the «Musée de l'Elysée» photo museum, and many others merit a visit. The offering of theatre productions and musical performances too is above average. Finally, Lausanne is home to the world-famous Béjart Ballet.
The «Olympic capital» is home to the Olympic Committee and also the Olympic Museum, the world’s largest information centre about the Olympic games. But sport in general is given a high profile here, examples of which are the «Lausanne Marathon» and «Athletissima», the international meeting for track and field athletics.