A weekend of Culture and Gastronomy in Lausanne
It’s easy to see why Lausanne in Switzerland was a favourite place of David Bowie (he married Iman here), Audrey Hepburn and Coco Chanel, with it’s chocolate box houses, cobbled streets, stunning views over rooftops and mountains that all merge together to make Lausanne a fairytale city.
And it was this fairytale city that we were visiting for a weekend of culture, culinary delights, cheese and of course chocolate!
Our hotel for the weekend was The Royal Savoy, located between the lake and the city and dating from 1909, this recently renovated hotel has been home to royalty and aristocrats from around the world. For many years, the Spanish royal family made the hotel their home in exile and Thailand’s king also spent his youth in residence here. With its unique silhouette and fascinating heritage, The Royal Savoy is an integral part of Lausanne’s skyline and history.
Bags unpacked and with no time to waste we hop on the metro, (a transport card is given to you for free at every hotel), just a few steps from the front of the hotel and we are on our way to Auberge de la Gare restaurant in Grandvux (8 minutes on the metro) for lunch. Set within the Lavaux wine region, this is listed by UNESCO as a ‘cultural landscape’. As we climb up the steps to the Auberge’s vine covered terrace, breathtaking views of the mountains and Lake Geneva greet us.
Once inside and with a glass of local wine in hand, (well we are a stones throw from a vineyard), we sit back and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere whilst waiting for our food. “Filet de perche”, a classic dish with fish fresh from the lake was mouthwateringly delicious as was the “Foi Gras” and the rest of the freshly prepared dishes. Auberge really is a little gem nestled in the vineyards of Lavaux.
All that delicious food and wine had worn us out, so what better way to spend the afternoon than back at the Royal Savoy with a visit to their spa. With an indoor and outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and relaxation room – we had a perfect afternoon of peace and tranquility.
Suitably relaxed and refreshed, the evening saw us hopping back on the metro to Ouchy (1 stop) to experience another thing that Switzerland does best – CHEESE! Not just any old cheese but an evening cheese fondue cruise, departing from Lausanne-Ouchy port, this two-hour sailing had us seated in a beautiful teak paneled dining room, with it’s atmospheric lighting, whilst we swirled chunks of fresh bread in real Swiss cheese that has your mouth watering with every mouthful. All this as you sail around the lake taking in the sights (we went in winter and it looked gorgeous all lit up – magical). At the end of the night we wrapped up, and sat on deck sipping hot chocolate as we sailed into port.
Beautiful views and gastronomy are not the only fabulous things about Lausanne, as we found out the next day when we explored the cultural side of the city plus a little more culinary experiences thrown in.
Our first port of call was the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame, standing 500ft above the city, topped with towers and spires. This 13th Century cathedral is the biggest in Switzerland and is a marvelous piece of architecture. The interior is Gothic at its most elegant and beautiful. It is mostly bare of decorations because of the Reformation, but there are some notable exceptions of medieval art to admire as well as some beautiful stained glass windows.
Outside the cathedral the panoramic views around the city are awe-inspiring and you just want the moment in time to freeze so you can take it all in.
It’s downhill from now on literally! Just a little further on from the Cathedral is the Escaliers du Marché, (steep steps that lead into the old town) and it is on our way down set amongst crooked houses that La Barbare (the barbarian) the best hot chocolate café is located, and how rude it would be to not stop and enjoy for ourselves!
Further down the steps and you come to Place de la Palud, a square that links together several pedestrianised streets. This is also where the traditional market is held all year round every Wednesday and Saturday. Selling fruits, vegetables, wonderful cheeses, wine and meat, as well as non-food products. A market that attracts locals as well as tourists And then of course there’s chocolate shops including La Chocolatiere, the best in Switzerland, but we musn’t fill up on chocolate as we are visiting the Café des Artisans for lunch. A favourite for yummy mummies, students and tourists. There is a friendly, intimate atmosphere, and in winter when you’re sipping the warm mulled wine, and relaxing in the ambience of the low-lighting it makes you very reluctant to step back outside into the cold. The menu isn’t huge and consists of mainly salads, fish, steak and chips, but the dishes we had were full of flavour and price wise no more than you would pay in a similar café in London.
Having managed to prise ourselves back outside, a little more culture was called for and we visited the internationally renowned Musée de l’Elysée one of Europe’s leading museums devoted entirely to photography. Situated in a beautiful mansion, within magnificent parklands with stunning views of Lake Geneva.
In the evenings the choices are endless and the city comes alive. Whether it’s drinks, music, food or dancing, there’s something for everyone. One of the places you must visit is ‘Eat Me’, a restaurant that offers an innovative twist on tapas. You indulge in small plates of different dishes inspired from around the world, from humble street food to gastronomic delights. The dishes are well thought out, cooked authentically, full of original flavours and allow you to experience a combination of tastes and textures all in one sitting. All our dishes were delightful but if I had to choose a favourite it would have to be the Yalla, I absolutely loved this, the flavours were divine (a tart of roasted aubergines, red onion marmalade, pomegranate and marinated feta), no contest for hubbies favourite ‘The Saint’ (scallops lightly pan-fried in salted butter, served with celery puree and roasted apples). You can always tell a good restaurant from the amount of people that eat there and there wasn’t a spare seat in Eat Me.
All that exploring and eating, followed by more exploring and eating had certainly worn us out. A couple of stops on the metro later and we were back at The Royal Savoy ready for a blissful night’s sleep.
Next morning we enjoyed breakfast in the hotel’s modern, airy brasserie that overlooked the beautiful gardens, again everything was faultless. We had been advised not to eat too much at breakfast as we were having brunch at the Tom café (believe me the name doesn’t do it justice).
This was our last day in Lausanne, we had until mid afternoon before we took a train back to Geneva airport to catch our flight home – So we had to make the most of it.
No trip to Lausanne would be complete without a visit to the ‘Olympic Museum’. The exact size of an Olympic stadium track, surrounded by an 8,000 meter park complete with a 100 meter track, so you can test your speed against Usain Bolt, he’d better watch out I was a close contender!
Climbing the steps to the entrance (all 97 of them) you’ll notice each one has the dates of all the games with the names of the athletes who had lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremonies since 1936. At the top of the steps directly in front of the museum is an eternal flame where the Olympic anthem is played daily at noon.
Eight white pillars lead to the museum entrance – these have the names of the summer and winter games as well as the presidents of the Olympic committee on them.
Once inside you are able to experience Olympics at close quarters. Set over 3 floors (The Olympic World, The Olympic Games and The Olympic Spirit) – With artifacts from the Games throughout the ages, awe-inspiring videos and interactive displays, it was an uplifting example of how the Olympics have evolved.
A lot has been placed on the interactiveness of the museum so if you want to see how fast you can run, what your balance is like (this is far harder than it seems), your strength and your reaction times (I beat hubby here!!!) it’s all available for you to try.
You can literally spend all day here there is so much to see and do and you do not need to be an Olympic fan to enjoy it, there is something to keep everyone interested and entertained.
A good few hours later we headed to the top floor of the museum where the Tom Café is located.
The café has one of the most sought-after terraces in the whole of Lausanne, offering the most spectacular views over Lake Geneva and the Alps. With a waiting list of a month to book a table for brunch at the weekend you can certainly see why. Not only is the view spectacular, brunch is just as amazing with pastries, pancakes, cheeses, fish, hot and cold meats, vegetables and even a dessert table for you to choose from. Brunch is served buffet style so if you want to sample everything on the menu you certainly can (I’m not sure you won’t go pop though!) – and it seemed only apt to finish the whole experience outside on the terrace with a cup of hot chocolate looking out at some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen.
And then it was over, we were on the train back to Geneva airport – our city break in Lausanne had come to an end (I was already booking my return ticket) – this city was perfect – food, culture, a luxury hotel, hassle free train travel, wine, cheese, chocolate and of course THE views.
Ryan Air, Easy Jet and Swiss Air offer regular flights to Geneva.
Transfer Tickets (Train from Geneva airport to Lausanne) are available from www.swisstravelsystem.com
To book stays at Royal Savoy visit www.royalsavoy.ch
For more information, to arrange excursions and plan your trip visit: www.lausanne-tourisme.ch