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Weekend Escape: Lausanne
July 5, 2017
You might know the picturesque city of Lausanne on the edge of Lake Geneva in Switzerland as the home of to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, but it is a multifaceted city that has commerce and leisure in equal measures – a multicultural university city steeped in history. We went on a recent visit to see what this captivating place has to offer.
With the sheer number of sporting federations and international company headquarters in Lausanne, finding luxury five-star hotels is not a monumental hurdle. The top choice to consider is the Art Nouveau-style masterpiece that is The Royal Savoy, built in 1909 and painstakingly restored in 2015 to its full glory. Highlights are plentiful in this world-renowned hotel including the 1,500 sqm spa that has every treatment imaginable; Brasserie du Royal with signature dishes created by Michelin-starred chef, Marc Haeberlin and the recently opened sky lounge with sweeping panoramic views over Lausanne. The rooms themselves have state-of-the-art facilities including an in-room iPad to control the various functions in the room and an impressive rain shower with Hermès amenities. If you get a chance, try to book or arrange a visit to the Katara Suite; it occupies the top floor of the new wing. The suite contains its own gym, sauna and steam room as well as a 360-degree balcony.
Lausanne is a city with something for all tastes whether you prefer food truck festivals to Michelin-starred restaurants. We visited the relaxed Café de Grancy close to the hotel, where they offer a fine selection of traditional Swiss dishes. I sampled a mountain-fresh-tasting veal tartare paired with Calamin Grand Cru. For cheese fondue fans, they should head for Café du Grütli, which has been established since 1849.
One of the best-kept secrets is Swiss wine because only about five per cent is exported abroad every year. A few train stops away from the town centre are The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, which was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007. It is hardly surprising so many well-known people such as Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel and David Bowie have called this area home when you see the breathtaking views of the vineyards and the Alps in the background. There are hundreds of small, artisanal vineyards in this region and there are exciting differences in the terroir, which makes a wine-focused holiday to Lausanne particularly attractive.
Another wonderful way of viewing the jaw-dropping scenery is a gourmet dinner boat cruise in the lake. CGN cruises run a Belle Epoque boat from Lausanne to Montreux, which is famous for their unforgettable jazz festival. You might spend more time staring at the snow-capped mountains and the sunset rather than tending to your hunger pangs.
There are a plethora of sights to visit in the old town and in the true spirit of the Olympics, there is something for everyone to marvel at. For gothic art lovers, the Cathedral of Lausanne is a highly recommended pilgrimage; the rose window is one of the finest you will see in the world and their great pipe organ took ten years to design and contains seven thousand pipes.
For nightlife, head to the former industrial area of Flon. You can enjoy rooftop cocktails at Xoxo or dance the night away at an underground club like No Name.
No visit to Lausanne is complete without visiting their brilliant museums. You can experience the triumph of the human spirit over adversity at Collection de l’Art Brut. It is a unique collection of ‘outsider art’ where self-taught social outcasts have created staggering pieces of artwork. Many were living in psychiatric wards, prisoners in jail or even escaping from genocide.
Your final stop should be at the deeply moving temple of sporting triumph at the Olympic museum. You can relive the greatest moments of sporting success at their temporary exhibition, The Art of Sports Photography or see the comprehensive collection of Olympic medals and torches from the very first modern Olympics to the latest. It also has an immersive experience, where you can try to outrun Usain Bolt over a hundred-metre track.
Lausanne is very much a city that embraces its rich history as well as being a forward-thinking centre. Book a visit today to experience one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.