Lausanne, Switzerland | Expat city guide

Lausanne, Switzerland | Expat city guide

Are you visiting, studying or moving to Lausanne? Or perhaps you live in the city and are looking for something new to do. Whatever the case, check out our guide for information and things to do in the city.

Guide to Lausanne

Lausanne is the capital city of the French-speaking Canton of Vaud. It is situated on the shore of Lake Geneva, the largest of the lakes in Switzerland. The city has long been a centre for international sport, even being recognised as the “Olympic Capital” by the International Olympic Committee, which is based in the city. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is also located in the city, as well as the VAR facility for FIFA and UEFA football competitions, located in the nearby centre of Nyon.

Lausanne is also home to numerous and varied heritage sites and boasts some of the most beautiful architecture you can find in Europe. From museums to grand monuments to fabulous gardens, there really is no shortage of things to do in the city.

A short history of Lausanne

The story of Lausanne begins with the Romans, who built a military camp called Lousanna on the edge of Lake Geneva. On the hill above the camp, a fort, known as Lausodunon looked out across the lake. The camp eventually grew into a new town known as Losanna.

Conflict with Bern and the Helvetic Republic

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, and the subsequent invasion of Alemanni tribes, the inhabitants of the town moved the town from the banks of the lake to its current centre, the La Cité district, due to its hilly surroundings being easier to defend. The settlement merged with other nearby settlements, which came under the power of the Bishop of Lausanne, a prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

The bishops ruled over the town until Lausanne was invaded by the forces of the city of Bern. The Bernese instigated the Protestant Reformation, and the bishop was forced to flee. The Bernese occupied the city until 1798, when France invaded Switzerland after the French Revolution. Under Napoleon, the Old Swiss Confederacy was dismantled and the Helvetic Republic was introduced in its place.

Napoleon also endorsed the Lemanic Republic, a French-speaking canton to replace the control of the German-speaking Canton of Bern. Following the fall of the Helvetic Republic in 1803, Vaud was restored as a newly sovereign canton. It was at this time that Lausanne was established as the capital of Vaud.

Modern History

In the 21st century, the city hosted the signing of two international treaties, one of which was the Treaty of Lausanne, which formally ended the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and Allied forces after World War I.

Lausanne has since developed into an important cultural capital, becoming particularly frequented by European artists. The great T.S. Eliot composed his famous poem, "The Waste Land", while being treated in Lausanne. Voltaire, Charles Dickens and Lord Byron are just some of the famous names to have resided in the city.

The city also developed into an important centre for sport, hosting the International Olympic Committee, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the European Athletic Association and around 50 other international sports associations.

What to do in Lausanne: Sightseeing and Activities

If you’re visiting Lausanne, or even if you live in the city, check out our guide to some of the best things to see and do around the capital of Vaud for you and your family.

Check out the Olympic Museum

If you’re in Lausanne, you must take the time to visit the Olympic Museum. Situated at the top of the Olympic Park, the museum commands a beautiful view over Lake Geneva. It houses over 10.000 artefacts from the Games, making it the largest archive for Olympic sports in the world. The museum also houses interactive exhibits, making it a great place for a family outing.

The sprawling Olympic Park is also a great place to spend an afternoon. Boasting beautiful gardens and numerous artworks reflecting the theme of sport and competition. Here you can find beautiful sculptures by notable artists such as Auguste Rodin and Fernando Botero.

Take in the city

You can easily spend a day getting lost in Lausanne, simply taking in the marvels of the city. On your travels around the city you can find the grandiose Lausanne Cathedral, with its famed rose window. The city is home to plenty of magnificent buildings, like the city hall located in the Place de la Palud, just a stones a throw away from the majestic Fontaine de la Justice.

From here you can also find the Escaliers du Marché, a set of charming wooden stairs that not only allows you to navigate Lausanne’s steep terrain, but also provides some of the most picturesque views of the city.

If you haven’t had your fill of Lausanne’s beautiful cityscape, you can take a trip to the nearby Sauvabelin Forest and climb the Tour de Sauvabelin. Visitors can climb the double helix staircase to the top of the wooden viewing platform, which offers spectacular views of the Alps, Lake Geneva and Lausanne.

Frolic in the local parks

Who doesn’t love a nice park? If you fancy spending a day enjoying the fruits of nature, or taking the family for a picnic then you can find plenty of picturesque parks around the city. The Parc de Mon Repos is a sprawling English landscape garden, filled with exotic trees like giant sequoias and an 18th century villa, which used to be the home of the IOC. You can also find an outdoor theatre, where Voltaire once produced a play, and an orangery that is now used as a studio by the sculptor Yves Dana.

Another park makes up the grounds of the Fondation de l’Hermitage, a manor house that hosts amazing temporary exhibitions, showcasing the works of Swiss and international artists. The park boasts views of Lake Geneva, the mountains and the city’s cathedral towers.

Lausanne, Le Petit Francais

When walking around Lausanne, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were in one of the great cities of France. French culture has greatly impacted Lausanne, with French customs being adopted in the city. After becoming a hub for artists and writers, it has developed a strong coffeehouse culture of intellectualism and free expression. Stay in one of the many coffee houses, have a chat and see where the conversation takes you.

Lake Geneva

Finally, one thing you must do while in Lausanne is spend a day on Lake Geneva. There are so many activities for the whole family to engage in, in and around the lake. From adventure parks and ziplining, to hiking trails, sandy beaches and boating, there is so much to choose from! There is scope for shopping, visiting museums, playing sports and even horseback riding! Seriously, visiting the lake is not to be missed!

Public transport in Lausanne

Lausanne boasts a well-connected public transport network, both locally and internationally. The city’s main station, the Gare de Lausanne, is the city’s main transport hub, and the centre of the RER Vaud S-Bahn network. The city also boasts its own metro, famous for scaling the high hills of Lausanne in their journey too and from the lake and city.

Annual events in Lausanne

Check out these regular events in Lausanne!

Lausanne Marathon

Whether you’re there to participate or just to watch, the Lausanne marathon is not to be missed. Held every year from 1993, the event includes walking races and a “mini-marathon”.

International Longines Horse-Show of Lausanne

Who doesn’t love horses? Lausanne hosts the International Longines Horse-Show of Lausanne and tournament in a beautiful location right next to Lake Geneva.

Luna Park 

If you’re in Lausanne in May or June, make sure you get yourself down to the Luna Park, a huge fairground attraction that promises fun for all the family.

Lausanne Bike Day

What better way to spend the day cycling? Especially in a city like Lausanne. Lausanne Bike Day is organised by the city’s sports department with various cycling clubs, with the aim of getting people out on their bikes.

Jobs in Lausanne

Lausanne is famous for being the headquarters of some of the world’s biggest international companies, like Nespresso and Logitech. As a centre for business and economics, there are loads of job opportunities for expats in Lausanne.

Housing in Lausanne

Housing in Lausanne may not be the cheapest in Switzerland, but the standard of living is high in the country’s fourth-largest city.

Video footage of Lausanne

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