Ouchy – our final stop on the walk – was once a fishing village and is still the main port for boats to Evian and tours around Lake Geneva. In the late afternoon and the early evening, it’s a hive of activity: families, singles, students, tourists all enjoying the gorgeous Lake Geneva views, the restaurants and warm and welcoming atmosphere. You can hire a SUP (stand-up paddleboard), go swimming at the Bellerive Plage open-air pool or even jump on a boat to Evian or visit some of Lake Geneva’s castles including Chillon, Rolle and Yvoire.
It’s this sense of calm in the centre of Lausanne that I found most refreshing. People actually stop and chat; one local even asked me directions! Maybe it’s the mountain air, the coolness of the lake and the sheer beauty around me that calms the emotions. Either way, I am in love with Lausanne within the first hour of arrival.
Having booked my boat trip for the following day – the ticket office is by the quayside and easy to find – I head back to the Royal Savoy for an apéro on their stunning terrace before catching the metro from Delices up the hill to Riponne and a meal at Pinte Besson (pinte-besson.com).
A Lausanne institution, this quirky restaurant has been serving its fabulous steaks, fish and fondues since 1780. The wine list is superb with many local Lavaux varieties to sample.
The following morning I head back up to the streets around Place de la Riponne and pedestrian areas in the centre (Rue de Bourg, Place de la Palud) to explore the markets. You’ll find fruits, veggies, charcuterie, cheese and wines – and the odd souvenir too.
You’re more likely to find gifts in the many independent shops in the area, such as the ‘traiteur’ La Ferme Vaudoise (lafermevaudoise.ch) with its local provenance and grocers Chez Ernest (chez-ernest.ch). Two interesting design shops worth a visit are Aegon + Aegon (aegonaegon.com) with its sophisticated homewares and Chic cham (chiccham.com) each perfect for browsing and gift ideas. In the Place de la Palud the Café de l’Hôtel de Ville does great coffee, while Rue de Bourg is Lausanne’s chicest street with high-end fashion labels and superb chocolatiers, including Blondel (chocolatsblondel.ch). Choose from pastilles to pralines and delicious chocolate tastings.
Boats trip on Lake Geneva
No trip to Lausanne is complete without a boat trip on Lake Geneva. Departing from Ouchy, down at the lakeside, I board a vintage paddle steamer for a wonderful 30-minute sail to Cully, my lunch stop and departure point for exploring the outstanding Lavaux vineyards. Now UNESCO Heritage protected, these Roman vineyards literally tumble down into the lake from their majestic heights. Le Bistrot (le-bistrot-cully.ch) in Cully is a perfect place to have lunch before exploring the vineyards. It has a great terrace and quality food – my goat’s cheese salad was delicious with beautiful colours. Another lunch/brunch option is the Auberge du Raisin (aubergeduraisin.ch) opposite, which is also a hotel.
Vineyards and Wine Tasting
The best way to explore the Lavaux vineyards if you’re short on time is by the fabulous Lavaux Express (lavauxexpress.ch/en). This magical yellow toy train takes visitors on a 1-hour 15-minute drive among the vines, affording stupendous views of the vineyards, Lake Geneva and the French and Swiss Alps. This was the highlight of my visit to Lausanne and is a must. Hardy souls with more time can do the 2-hour (at least) Lavaux walk starting at the village of Grandvaux and ending at Lutry. Get the train to Grandvaux from Lausanne station. It’s free with your Lausanne Transport Card).
Seeing those ripe succulent grapes made me want the real McCoy, so back in Cully I made for Les Frères Dubois : Cave du Petit Versailles at 1, Chemin De Versailles, a short walk from the lakeside. They have a vast selection of Swiss wines and local Lavaux varieties. Less than 2% of Swiss wine production is exported, so it was a treat to sample Lavaux varieties such as the delightful Château de Glérolles Rosé, a superb Vin Doux Quentus Liquoreux, a refreshing white Grand Crus Calamin and a bold red Grand Crus Dézaley. You can buy online at their website (lfd.ch).