Resting on high hills overlooking Lake Geneva, the city of Lausanne combines dramatic scenery and a proud sense of culture to create a great destination for tourists. The city is Switzerland’s fourth largest and yet is much less well-known internationally than places like Bern or Geneva. But visit Lausanne in the French-speaking region of Vaud for even a short time and you’ll see what makes it so special.
Even with just a couple of days there, you can confidently cover the best things to do in Lausanne and the surrounding parts along Lake Geneva. To help make sure you don’t miss anything though, you’ll need a plan for your visit. That’s where this Lausanne itinerary comes into play, as it’s the key to feeling confident regarding what to do in Lausanne in 2 days to get the most of your visit.
Best Time to Visit Lausanne
There’s really no great secret to understanding the seasons in Switzerland and what it’s like to travel to destinations like Lausanne at different times of the year. Summers bring warm and sunny weather, while winters offer short and cold days with a decent chance of snow.
Lausanne is known for being particularly rainy, even in summer, which is the city’s high season for tourism. Despite that, it’s generally agreed that from June through September is the best time to visit Lausanne. However, if you wait until late September or October, you should see prices for accommodation begin to fall a little and find that the rain eases off a bit as well.
One thing to note is that Lausanne isn’t much of a winter destination. Winters there are cold and don’t see much in the way of snow. That said, nowhere in Switzerland is really that far from mountains if you’re willing to take the time to get there. From Lausanne, you can reach the slopes of Leysin in under 1 ½ hours by car or train.
How to Get Around Lausanne
To make the most of your time visiting Lausanne and Lake Geneva, it’s important you know the best way to get around. Following this itinerary will have you covering plenty of ground. And even just in and around Lausanne, walking isn’t really the best option. At the least you’ll need to know how to get from one area to the next, like from the Old Town down to Ouchy.
Lausanne public transport is made up of a metro, a trolleybus, and bus services, as well as regional trains connecting the city to places like Montreux and Chillon Castle. Perhaps the most important option for tourists is the m2 line, a metro line that climbs the steep hill from Ouchy to the city center. This will save you having to walk up this huge, steep hill.
The good news is that the city of Lausanne has a great promotion for tourists using public transport. Those who stay at a hotel in the city can ask for a complimentary Lausanne Transport Card which provides free travel on public transport for the duration of their stay. Otherwise, tickets start at €3.00 for a one hour ticket for travel within the city. Regional trains are of course, more expensive.
Where to Stay in Lausanne
Choosing the right accommodation can have a big impact on the quality of your trip, making the decision of where to stay in Lausanne is a pretty important one. The city of Lausanne isn’t very large and visitors will spend most of their time either in the Old Town area or down near Ouchy. That means those are the best places to stay in Lausanne, although anywhere else with good access to public transport may also do.
If you’re looking to surround yourself in luxury and refinement, the Lausanne Palace is the place to be. This grand, five-star hotel is perfectly positioned in the city center with spacious rooms offering views of the Old Town and Lake Geneva, not to mention four restaurants and spa facilities.
For a nice mix of comfort, style, and affordability, Agora Swiss Night by Fassbind is a nice place to base yourself. Extremely central and featuring a sleek design, this four-star hotel has everything you need for a pleasant stay.
You won’t find anywhere cheap in Lausanne to stay, with the most affordable option being the Lausanne Youth Hostel Jeunotel. A short walk from the lake and public transport to the west of the city center, this hostel provides clean dorms and private rooms, and serves up a great free breakfast.
For more accommodation options in Lausanne check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 2-Day Lausanne Itinerary
Even if Lausanne isn’t a huge tourist destination in Switzerland, it has more than enough going on to keep you happily busy for two or more days. Lausanne offers a nice variety of attractions for tourists, meaning most visitors should find something that interests them. However, to experience the best of Lausanne you’re going to be moving around the city. Not only will this Lausanne travel itinerary show you what to see in the city center, but also other towns and attractions along the shores of Lake Geneva.
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With that important note covered, it’s time to jump into all the best places to visit in Lausanne. Using this city guide you won’t have any trouble keeping busy during your 2 days in Lausanne.
Day 1 in Lausanne
Since you’re here to see Lausanne, it only makes sense that you begin by seeing the main attractions around the city. To do that, you’ll need to explore both the Old Town and the waterfront neighborhood of Ouchy.
The best place to start in Lausanne is in the city’s Old Town, the central part of the city that still retains some historical character. Lausanne’s historical center is not as completely preserved as others in Europe.
However, one preserved landmark is Place de la Palud, a small square among the Old Town’s cobblestone streets. On the square you’ll find the Fontaine de la Justice fountain, some old apartments, and the distinguished Town Hall. This attractive landmark was built in the 15th century and features two detailed bronze dragon figures emerging from its roof.
Another major sight not to miss in the Old Town is the beautiful Escaliers du Marché. This historic covered wooden stairway starts just near the Place de la Palud and takes you past pretty storefronts and small terraces all the way up to your next stop, the Lausanne Cathedral.
Having climbed all the way up the Escaliers du Marché, the Lausanne Cathedral is a fair reward for your efforts. Completed in the 13th century, the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne has a striking Gothic look to it. Visit inside the now Protestant church and you’ll find an equally striking interior, as well as some beautiful stained-glass windows that were reintroduced during the restoration works of the 19th and 20th century. During the night, listen and you might hear the church’s night watchman calling out the hours from 72 meters up, atop the church’s tower.
Palais de Rumine
A short walk from the cathedral lies Palais de Rumine, an extravagant 19th century building with a Florentine Renaissance architectural design. The palace is a landmark that’s hard to miss, especially given how large this public building is. This scale explains why the Palais de Rumine is now home to multiple museums, as well as the library of the University of Lausanne. Even if you’re not interested in the museums there – which range from Zoology to Geology – it’s worth ducking inside anyways to see the exquisite Main Hall.
Tour de Sauvabelin
Being a city on a steep hillside, Lausanne spoils tourists with viewpoints. But none quite compare to the panorama found at the top of the Tour de Sauvabelin off to the north of the city center. Surrounded by forest in Sauvabelin Park, this wooden tower is a bit of a trek, but that’s what it takes to enjoy the highest viewpoint in Lausanne. Built in 2003 with a distinctive double helix design, you’ll need to climb 151 steps to reach the views of Lausanne, Lake Geneva, and the Alps on both sides of the French/Swiss border.
One of Lausanne’s main claims to fame is that the city is home to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. That relationship has led to one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lausanne, the Olympic Museum. This world-class museum, down in Ouchy, takes visitors through the ancient and modern history of the games, the values of the competition, and its various sporting events.
The museum boasts plenty of memorabilia, including a room solely dedicated to the different Olympic torches over the years. There are also plenty of interactive elements that are perfect for kids, such as testing their hand-eye coordination and physical abilities.
Musée de l’Elysée
July 2022 Update: The Musée de l’Elysée has been relocated to Plateforme 10, Lausanne’s arts district, in a building designed by the Portuguese architect Aires Mateus; the building also houses two other museums: the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts.
Just over from the Olympic Museum, surrounded by carefully manicured gardens, is the Musée de l’Élysée. This is one of many museums in Lausanne that celebrate the arts, with photography the focus of the Musée de l’Élysée. Set inside a stately 18th-century mansion, the collection of photographs here is extraordinary, with more than 100,000 on display. Exhibits range from the early days of color photography to contemporary work, with famous and obscure names, and subjects in equal measure. The museum also takes time to detail the history of the medium and how it has developed over the years.
Following the hill down to its eventual conclusion you reach the lovely waterfront of Ouchy along Lake Geneva. Running by the lake is a pretty promenade lined with parks, gardens, and plenty of Belle Epoque architecture. Whether you go for a stroll along the water’s edge or sit and watch the ferries come and go, there’s no denying the beauty of the view here with the Savoy Alps looming large on the far side of the lake.
Day 2 in Lausanne
Rather than spend the remainder of your 48 hours in Lausanne in the city, instead take to the shores of Lake Geneva. There you can experience an interesting mix of places and make the most of this lake’s stunning scenery. Below are some of the most popular places to visit and things to do around Lake Geneva.
1. Lake Geneva Cruise
During your first day, there were many moments to appreciate the beauty of Lake Geneva from the city. So why not enjoy the lake from a new angle by taking a boat ride? There are many ways to enjoy a boat ride around Lake Geneva, including group and private tours, but the easiest is to simply take a CGN ferry around to Montreux or Vevey. Not only do you get to see more of the lake, but also the Savoy Alps, Lausanne, and the Lavaux Vineyards.
Heading east along the shores of Lake Geneva from Lausanne, the main town here is that of Montreux. Famous for the Montreux Jazz Festival which draws huge international crowds each July, this resort town boasts a clear love of music and a splendid waterfront. These two elements combine perfectly with one of its most popular photo spots – a statue of singer Freddie Mercury on the town’s lakeside promenade. Montreux’s love of Queen runs even deeper though, with the Queen: The Studio Experience museum inside a former recording studio that they favored in town.
3. Chillon Castle
Follow the waterfront out of Montreux and you’ll soon reach one of Switzerland’s most photogenic castles, Chillon Castle. This island castle sits just off the shore of Lake Geneva and dates back to the 10th century, although there was once a Roman outpost there as well. While the best views of Chillon Castle are from the lakeside promenade, visitors can take a tour inside the castle and learn about its medieval history. Once you’ve visited, you’ll have no trouble believing that it’s the most visited historic monument in the country.
Beginning to head back towards Lausanne, another town worth stopping at on the way is Vevey. Exploring this historic resort town, you’ll find a wonderful collection of Belle Epoque hotels like the Grand Hotel du Lac, that hint to the town’s golden age in the late 1800s / early 1900s. Vevey too enjoys pretty views along Lake Geneva’s shores, while the statue of Charlie Chaplin and a giant fork sculpture add a little whimsy to the promenade.
5. Lavaux Vineyards
Finally you come to the incredible terraced vineyards of Lavaux which spread across a large section of the hills overlooking Lake Geneva. The Lavaux Vineyards are a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to their grand heritage of viticulture, which can be traced back to Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries from the 11th century.
There are 32 kilometers of paths through the vineyards for you to explore, with the hills above the stations of Cully and Villette good places for sweeping views of these breathtaking terraces. Finding wine cellars here to actually try the local wines is not difficult either.
That just about sums up everything you need to know to visit Lausanne in 2 days. There’s clearly plenty to see in and around this underrated city, making it a worthwhile inclusion for your Swiss vacation. Make sure to take a look at our other Swiss city guides to round out your itinerary, including Zurich, Lucerne, Geneva, and Bern.