Easy Escapes: Lausanne

Suzy Palmer celebrates the arrival of spring amid the mountains and lakes of Switzerland

Suzy Palmer celebrates the arrival of spring amid the mountains and lakes of Switzerland

Why go? For a sophisticated mini-break in a picture-postcard city set on the shores of Lake Geneva with stunning views to the French Alps.

When? Now… Spring is the perfect time to enjoy the super-clean air and balmy temperatures of this stylish, French-speaking city that combines a historic quarter, modern centre and pretty lakeside setting.

Swiss swish: take a luxury break on the shores of Lake Geneva

You really must: Get a free Lausanne Transport Card from your hotel so you can travel the short but exceptionally steep distance from the lakeside at Ouchy to the city centre and historic La Cité as often as you want – it really is a matter of minutes but saves a huge amount of huffing and puffing! With cobbled streets and roofed stairways that open out onto squares flanked by fabulous châteaux, cathedrals and museums, you can soak up the history of this prosperous city before ambling down to the Flon area for a spot of shopping and lunch at one of the many restaurants, bars and pâtisseries.

Down on the perfectly manicured waterfront, take a stroll past Châteaux d’Ouchy, which dates from the 12th century, to the Olympic Museum (olympic.org/museum). Although closed for refurbishment until the end of 2013, this has a small exhibition in a steamboat moored on the lake that’s well worth a visit – Lausanne has been the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee since 1914. Find time, too, to enjoy the Fondation de l’Hermitage (fondation-hermitage.ch), a magnificent villa overlooking the city that is set in beautiful grounds with snowdrops and blossoming trees. Today it is home to major art exhibitions. Fenêtres, which you can catch until 20 May, features works inspired by windows (who ever knew the importance of the window for artists from the Renaissance to the modern day?), including rarely seen works by Monet, Magritte, Munch, Klee and Mondrian. Next up – from 28 June to 27 October – is an exhibition devoted to the Catalan painter and sculptor Joan Miró.

On the Monet: catch some art at Fondation de l’Hermitage © swissimage.ch/Christoph Schuerpf

Stay at: The legendary five-star Beau-Rivage Palace (brp.ch). Completed in 1861 and overlooking the lake, it has to be one of Europe’s finest hotels. Elegant and grand, but with a successful mix of old and new architecture, it’s not in the least stuffy or overbearing – thanks in part to the friendly staff and very helpful concierge team. Coco Chanel resided here and is buried in the nearby Bois de Vaux cemetery, and other luminary guests through the decades have included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Noël Coward and Nelson Mandela. The 168 rooms include 33 suites that, while not cheap, make an exceptional place to stay if you’re planning a special birthday, anniversary, or even a honeymoon. With three restaurants (including the three-Michelin star Anne-Sophie Pic), the heavenly Cinq Mondes Spa, and superb indoor and outdoor swimming pools, it’s quite a struggle to leave the hotel to see the city sights. Until the end of May, Marie Claire readers can book a superior room including breakfast from £309.

Bath with a view: a suite at the Beau-Rivage Palace

Dine at: The hotel’s Café Beau-Rivage serves top class fish, including a mean blackened cod (£33) and a delicately cooked perch and chips (£31), straight out of the lake. In the old town, La Pomme de Pin (lapommedepin.ch) is famed for its morel cockerel (£36), or for something more affordable (bearing in mind that nothing in Switzerland is that cheap), try the Café de l’Hôtel de Ville (Place de la Palud 10). A bohemian joint with just eight tables (make sure you book), it attracts a young, arty crowd who devour the homemade pizza and unusual salad combinations. Try the goats’ cheese served on honey toast with lentils, cauliflower and beetroot, which is best washed down with a glass of locally brewed Houleuse artisan beer.

Bring home: The three Cs: cuckoo clocks, chocolate and cheese. The first two are questionable – the clocks may seem charming in Lausanne but will they really go with your Farrow & Ball paint scheme back home? Chocolate, although in vast supply, is mainly the familiar Lindt and Suchard, but admittedly in 101 varieties. While the prices are similar to home, it’s a brilliant excuse for a splurge. As for cheese, you can pick up a superb Vacherin from, believe it or not, the Co-Op supermarket. For a sensational array of local produce head to the open air Farmers’ Market that takes over the city centre on Wednesdays and Saturdays (take the Metro to Rippone-M.Béjart station). 

Book now: EasyJet (easyjet.co.uk) has direct flights to Geneva from 14 UK airports, other carriers include British Airways (ba.com) and Jet2 (jet2.com). From here it’s a 35 minute drive to the city (try rentalcars.com if you are exploring the area). Trains run hourly from Geneva airport to Lausanne – the 45 minute trip costs from £40 return, see raileurope.co.uk and swisstravelsystem.com.

Info: Visit lausanne-tourisme.ch, swisspassport.ch and myswitzerland.com.


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