Wednesday , November 30 2022

A local’s guide to Lausanne, Switzerland: cafes and beaches on Lake Geneva

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Lausanne’s restaurant scene has changed enormously in the decade I’ve lived here and there’s now plenty of variety, but Café de l’Eveché near the cathedral is an old favourite for classic Swiss dishes including fondue, rösti and filets de perche. The draw in summer is its shaded garden, a cool outdoor spot on a hot day.

Down the road, I love Le Barbare, a little cafe at the top of the old market steps, which opened in 1952. After closing down a few years ago, it was recently renovated and reopened, and its little terrace is as popular as ever. The menu is small, focusing on seasonal ingredients, local artisanal beers and superb Marta hot chocolate named after the woman who ran the place for years.

For a quick lunch head to Place de la Riponne, where food trucks serve up international flavours each day (except Wednesday and Saturday, when the market takes over the square). My favourite is Koko’s Bistro (Tuesday), which serves Latin American plantain dishes.


tour de france spot on page

As the seat of the International Olympic Committee, Lausanne is known as a sporting city and hosts many events for both amateurs and professionals – the Tour de France passes through on 9 July this year. The flashy Olympic Museum in the lakeshore district of Ouchy is a fun, interactive experience for sports fans and couch potatoes alike. However, it’s Lausanne’s location that really inspires its residents to get active. In summer, Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) becomes a giant outdoor playground for swimming, sailing and paddleboarding. From Ouchy, you can walk (or run) alongside the lake in both directions – towards Pully, where there’s an outdoor swimming pool complex right on the lakeshore, or towards Vidy for its sandy beaches, which heave with people on hot days.

The beaches of Lac Léman.
The beaches of Lac Léman are brilliant for cooling down on a hot summer’s day. Photograph: Laurent Gilliéron/EPA


I live near Rue Marterey, a street to the north of the town centre which, for me, shows how Lausanne has changed in recent years. It’s now dotted with creative businesses like concept store Viva Frida and cafe-boutique Les Filles du 19, great for unique pieces of jewellery, homeware and clothing. There are also some good spots for a takeaway lunch including Italian deli Mauro Traiteur and gluten-free patisserie El Gato. The top half of the street is pedestrianised, and in summer, tables from its bars and restaurants fill the cobbles. Order a pisco sour from Lucha Libre and soak up the atmosphere.

Green space

I like to grab an ice-cream from Loom Gelateria and go for a stroll around Parc de Milan, below the railway station. Its botanical gardens are peaceful, and there’s a beautiful view of the mountains from the top of the hill. Former public toilet-turned-cafe Le Montriond serves cocktails and local wines in a parkside setting, perfect for an apéro.


Lausanne’s rather muddled layout creates many unusual spaces that locals have turned into outdoor bars. I love Les Jardins du Vieux Lausanne, a garden bar hidden below the cathedral, and La Terrasse des Grandes Roches, tucked under the arches of Bessières bridge. But my favourite is probably La Jetée de la Compagnie, a strip of lakeshore in Vidy where drinks are served out of an old shipping container. It started as a pop-up bar a few years ago, but is now a permanent part of Lausanne’s summer, with a sunbathing deck, lake access and morning yoga classes, and is open from 10am until midnight.


Right in the centre of town, the Hotel des Voyageurs (doubles from £123, breakfast extra) is an affordable option in a city better known for luxury hotels. Its contemporary decor complements the art deco features of the original building.

Journalist and author Caroline Bishop has been based in Lausanne for nearly 10 years. She has written about Lausanne for guidebooks and is the author of the novel The Other Daughter (available at Guardian Bookshop for £7.43), which is partly set in the city

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