Lausanne has Medieval architecture and The Olympic Museum. Discover what else you must see in our Guide to 2 Days in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Lausanne, Switzerland sits on the northern edge of Lake Geneva across from Évian-les-Bains, France. And although you can take a boat across the lake to the source of Evian Natural Spring Water, I didn’t have time. There’s simply too much to see and do in Lausanne and Switzerland’s Vaud region. From the city’s historic old town to The Olympic Museum and beyond, you’ll find more than enough to fill your itinerary on a visit to Lausanne and the Vaud region. Our ultimate guide to 2 days in Lausanne, Switzerland shows you the best the area offers and what you don’t want to miss.
Cultural Sights to See During Your 2 Days in Lausanne
Lausanne overflows with culture. Its old town offers examples of great Medieval architecture, while its art museums display iconic works of Swiss art. If you want to sample Swiss food or drink, you’ll also find an opportunity to do that.
Old town is the heart of Lausanne. Plan to spend the better part of a day wandering its cobblestone streets, exploring its shops, and touring Lausanne Cathedral. Other highlights include the Tour de L’Ale, the remains of the city’s original walls, and the town hall where David Bowie signed his marriage license. Nearby a talking clock tells the city’s history on the hour.
I spent a lot of time in the old town over several days. My top stops included Durig Chocolatier and Marcheret Fromage. I recommend dinner at Pinte Besson, the oldest traditional Swiss restaurant in Lausanne; it’s a fabulous place to enjoy fondue.
Tip: Most shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays, so not much will be happening in old town or anywhere else in Lausanne. Plan to spend Sundays picnicking, hiking, or enjoying your hotel’s amenities.
Lausanne’s historic cathedral, completed in 1275, served Catholic worshipers until 1536, when it was converted to Protestant use. I loved the stained-glass windows and how the pews can be adjusted to face either forward for church or backward for a concert. Today you can take a self-guided tour through the sanctuary when there are no services. As you tour the cathedral, note the damage to some of the statues; it is said that Protestants defaced the statues they felt represented Catholicism.
After visiting during the day, come back at night. From 10 pm to 2 am, the night watch calls out that all’s well from the bell tower. A 600-year-old tradition started when a previous watch alerted the city about a fire from his bell tower perch. Beginning August 2021, the first female night watch began making the hourly cry. One night during my visit, I went to hear her. My advice is to be ready as soon as the bell sounds the hour as the night watch called out only once (at least on the night I was there), and she was silent until the next hour.
The new arts district in Lausanne is a fusion of three art museums—the Cantonal Fine Arts Museum (MCBA), Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, and Museum of Photography—and two foundations. The first foundation honors artist Felix Vallotton. The other oversees the cantonal collection of ancient tapestries and 20th-century textile art. Additionally, Platforme 10 has three restaurants, terraces, and gift shops.
I visited the MCBA showcasing the talents of local and international artists. It’s a good mix of works ranging from realism to contemporary. If you love art, this is a must-see museum. Budget three hours to tour the MCBA and have a leisurely lunch. Add time to visit any of the other museums and foundations.
Tip: Lausanne has some incredible hotels, like Beau Rivage. Even if you don’t stay at one of these grand historic hotels stop by to soak in the culture and architecture.
Historical Sights to See During Your 2 Days in Lausanne
Although Neolithic and Celtic communities lived in the area, Lausanne dates back to the first century when Romans built a fort on Lake Geneva. When the Roman Empire began to crumble, locals moved to an elevated easier-to-defend spot where the old town is today. More recently, Pierre de Coubertin, who revived the Olympics, established the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne.
The Olympic Museum
I’m a fair-weather Olympics fan, and some years I get more excited about the Games than others. Those who don’t watch sports will also find this museum fascinating. It showcases more than 1500 pieces related to the Games: torches carried around the globe, medals from each year, and outfits worn during the entrance to the stadium. More than 150 screens relive the Games’ greatest moments, and you can try your hand at simulated Olympic events like pushing off from the running blocks.
The Olympic Museum surprised me with how well it was thought out and put together. I enjoyed my time there. If you have the time to visit just one museum in Lausanne, make it this museum.
Roman Museum of Lausanne-Vidy
This small museum on the outskirts of Lausanne houses artifacts found at the Roman Fort Lousonna. Look for coins, pottery, and small metal tools. In addition to these permanent exhibits, the Roman Museum of Lausanne-Vidy has temporary exhibitions on various topics, some unrelated to Rome or local history. You can walk along the remains of the city’s forum a few steps from the museum.
I didn’t make it to this museum. Whether you should include it on your itinerary depends on how much you love Roman history. If you decide you want to see Lousonna’s forum but have limited time in the city, skip the museum and take the archaeological walk.
Outdoor Activities in the Vaud Region
Switzerland’s beauty surprised me more than anything. Take time to enjoy the natural settings in and around Lausanne.
Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Leman, is Switzerland’s largest lake. You can walk along its shores or rent a paddle boat. Or better yet, take a cruise on one of the General Navigation Company’s (CGN) modern ships or eight steam-driven ones. In addition to ferry services to cities on the lake, the company offers lunch, tapas, and wine tasting tours.
I sipped wine aboard a steamship to Montreux, but you can also visit Vevey, Nyon, Morges, and Evian, France. CGN’s ships can also transport you to Chillon Castle, a 13th-century fortress on the lake, or cruise past the hillside Lavaux vineyards.
The steep, terraced vineyards between Lausanne and Montreux date back to the 11th century when monks planted them. Today they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can explore. If you want to appreciate their beauty from a distance, you can take a CGN ship from Lausanne to Montreux, as mentioned above, or ride the Swiss Railways between the two cities.
I recommend taking the train to Grandvaux and walking the winding trails down towards Lake Geneva. At Cully, you can take a train back to Lausanne without trudging back up. For a less taxing way to explore the vineyards, reserve a spot on the Lavaux Express. This vineyard train offers several routes through the vineyards, including wine tastings.
Lausanne is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever visited. You can hike to mountain huts for fondue, lakes for a picnic, or overlooks with Instagrammable views. While I didn’t get a chance to hike here it tops my must-do list when I return. (Check out these 27 epic hikes for inspiration.)
Jura Vaudois Nature Park features 325 miles of trails. The Gruyère-Pays-d’Enhaut Regional Nature Park has two trails that lead hikers through the cheesemaking region in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. Each path is broken into 21 stages that should take one to four hours each to complete.
Other Places to Check Out in the Vaud Region
Lausanne makes a great base to explore the canton of Vaud. Take advantage of Switzerland’s excellent public transportation to visit one or all of these great attractions.
Freddie Mercury Statue
Not only did Queen record six albums in Montreux and perform at the city’s infamous jazz festival, but frontman Freddie Mercury called Montreux home. After he died in 1991, sculptor Irena Sedlecka honored Mercury by creating a 10-foot bronze statue of him. You’ll find it on the Montreux promenade in front of the Place du Marché.
You must visit Glacier 3000 during your 2 days in Lausanne. Cable cars take you from the mountain pass of Col du Pillon to an elevation of over 13,000 feet. From there, you can take in views of the valley below, walk on a glacier, or ride the highest alpine coaster in the world. Glacier 3000 is also home to the Peak Walk by Tissot, the world’s first suspension footbridge spanning two summits.
Located on the rocky bank of Lake Geneva, Chillon Castle has been occupied since the Bronze Age. Take a guided or self-guided tour of the castle’s 36 rooms, including the weapon’s room and crypts.
Note: You must arrange a guided tour of Chillon Castle at least two days in advance.
You don’t need to be a Charlie Chaplin fan to have a great time at Chaplin’s World in Corsier-sur-Vevey. Visits start in his manor house with information about the famous actor and continue outside in the gardens he enjoyed with his family. You’ll watch a 10-minute film in the exhibition hall before the screen lifts to reveal sets and other surprises.
How to Explore Lausanne and the Vaud Region
Geneve Aeroport (GVA) is the closest airport to Lausanne. You can fly here and take the train, which has a station at the airport, to Lausanne, or you can fly to Zurich and board the train at the airport (ZRH). The train ride from Lausanne is about 45 minutes long, and the one from Zurich to Lausanne is roughly two hours and 20 minutes.
You do not need to rent a car if you plan to explore beyond Lausanne. Public transportation in Switzerland is excellent and reliable. Some hotels in cities will give you a pass so you can ride the local transportation for free. Lausanne’s light rail system conveniently transports you up the incline from the lake to the old town and beyond. Swiss Railways can get you to and from the airport and to nearby cities and attractions.
Typically July and August are the best times to visit Lausanne, but anytime between May and September will be pleasant. The vineyards will look their best during the summer, but if you love cold weather, you can ski, snowshoe, and ice skate in the winter. The city’s Christmas market runs from mid-November through the end of December.
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Whenever you go, this ultimate guide to two days in Lausanne, Switzerland, will help you make the most of your time. If you want to see more, add a few extra days to visit Montreux, the Lavaux vineyards, and other area attractions. Check out Wander for more to do while you’re exploring Switzerland or elsewhere in Europe. If you’re looking for more short escapes, check out our entire series of Ultimate Guides to 2 Days in destinations Around the World or Across the Street™ on Wander.