Lausanne is bursting with activities for the weekend. Museums for all tastes, walks in town or in the superb surroundings – whether in the forest, vineyards or by the lake – or sports activities, the town has no shortage of attractions. However, let’s not forget its fun side! Lausanners may seem placid and contemplative, but they love enjoying themselves, chilling out, getting together with friends for drinks and making the most of the entertainment available in the Olympic Capital. To have a good time during a weekend in Lausanne, nothing beats following their footsteps.
If there is one daily ritual that matters to the locals, it’s got to be aperitif time.
You can tell which cafés, bars and terraces are the most popular in town from how busy they are at the end of a working day. You’ll find the greatest concentration of bars between the Flon and the Cité neighbourhoods, with gorgeous summertime terraces by the lake and a few gems slightly off the beaten track. Allow us to guide you with a list of suggestions for afterworks “apéro”.
From the Flon District to the Rue Centrale
The Flon is the heart of the city of Lausanne, pulsing with life in a modern and innovative setting. It’s the town’s architectural success: this district of former warehouses that begins at the Place de l’Europe was rehabilitated as a living area with a wide array of restaurants, bars, clubs, boutiques, cinemas, bowling and exhibition spaces.
- Le Nolf: in a New York style décor of red bricks, the Nolf – Flon written backwards – offers original cocktails and premium gins.
- King Size: the biggest pub in French-speaking Switzerland with an international spirit and the best brands of draught beer in the world.
- Bulldog: in this bar in the heart of the Flon, all sports are broadcast on giant screens. Burgers, nachos, pizzas and various snacks will keep you going while you cheer on your favourite team.
- The Rooftop: a trendy terrace with a fantastic view over the town, where you can savour original cocktails.
- Les Arches: tucked under the arches of the imposing Grand Pont, it’s one of the finest locations in the town centre to bask in the sun while enjoying a drink with friends.
- Eat Me: for drinks with nibbles, Eat Me offers lovely tapas from all over the world.
Saint-François and the town centre
A large paved square at the heart of the town centre, dominated by the church of the same name, Saint-François is a popular meeting place to decide which bar to choose for aperitif according to the day’s mood.
- LP’s Lausanne: the LP’s Bar has become the “place to be”. Designed in a style both modern and colonial, it has made quite a splash in Lausanne. In summertime, enjoy the panoramic terrace overlooking Lake Geneva.
- Brasserie de Montbenon: in summer, this brasserie’s beautiful terrace is packed. It’s a meeting place for families, culture buffs, artists and gourmets.
- Café Saint-Pierre: a trendy and lively café with friendly staff that’s worth a visit for its tapas and talented chef Guillaume Raineix, who formerly worked for Anne-Sophie Pic and at the Éligo.
- L’Etoile Blanche: this relaxed and friendly bar-restaurant is a favourite of students, cool thirty-somethings and a fair few English speakers looking for a pub atmosphere. Over the course of the evening, the terrace overflows with people.
- Le Bleu Lézard: an arty bistro that has become a local institution, it is an eclectic, welcoming, relaxed and atmospheric meeting place.
- Le Perroquet Bar & Kitchen: trendy and flamboyant with an unlikely décor that combines vintage, tropical, Victorian and colonial styles, it’s one of the town’s hot spots, particularly for amateurs of gin.
- L’A-T-E-L-I-E-R: nestled between two buildings of the Avenue de France, this secret spot of Lausanners is in a fringe location, but its lively summer evenings make the trip worthwhile.
The Cité and its surroundings
Stroll in the cobblestoned pedestrian streets of the medieval neighbourhood of the Cité, while admiring its monuments – the Cathedral of Lausanne, the St-Maire Castle and the Old Academy – before taking a break in one of the area’s bars.
- Le XIIIe siècle: located in the heart of the Cité, this clubbing bar is set in authentic 13th-century cellars, where vaults, stone walls and leather seats convey a warm and intimate atmosphere.
- The Great Escape: it’s one of the most popular bars in Lausanne, where students, hipsters, sportspeople and expats meet on the terrace or inside to enjoy beers and spirits.
- La Grenette: this ephemeral terrace on the Place de la Riponne offers local beverages (La Nébuleuse beers among them) and is a popular meeting point for festive evenings.
- Le Pointu: another hot spot of Lausanne afterworks – located a stone throw from the Place de la Riponne – it offers aperitifs served with open sandwiches, boards with nibbles and cheeses.
From the train station to Ouchy
In the south of the town, between the train station and the Ouchy quays, the small streets are packed with cafés. In the summer, Lausanne people love going to the lakeside for drinks, a dip or both!
- Ta Cave: the first crowdfunded wine bar in Switzerland, this bistro below the station has a selection of wines that changes with the seasons, accompanied by properly local snacks served on a board.
- Café de Grancy: also under the train station, this café that seems always busy has this “je-ne-sais-quoi” that makes it a special place, where one feels at home; one of Lausanner’s favourite spots.
- The Lacustre: with its incredible 180° terrace right next to the Ouchy landing pier, it’s the casual and fun meeting place for gourmets, city dwellers and visitors alike.
- CGN cruises: for an original and oh-so-relaxing afterworks, you can’t beat a drink on a panoramic floating terrace.
- La Jetée de la Compagnie: towards Vidy, a temporary terrace for drinks and snacks, a deck to soak up the sun and the lake to bathe in – a magic formula that attracts the crowds!
Lausanne is at the heart of a wine region, as is evidenced by its status as “Great Wine Capital”. And while the traditional glass of white wine often gives way to spritz at aperitif time, it’s best to be aware of the local customs when you’re sharing a drink with Lausanners.
- Serving wine: hold the bottle from above, with the label facing upwards. Begin by asking someone to taste it and pour a sip in their glass. If they declare it to be good, fill the glasses of all the people at the table up to a third of the glass, remembering to fill the taster’s glass last.
- Toasting: wait until everyone around the table is served to raise your glass before drinking; if it’s a long time coming, you can get things going by calling out a cheery “santé” (cheers). To avoid coming across as uncivilised, look every other person in the eye and if you’re clinking glasses, hold yours by the stem and don’t cross arms.
- Proper tasting: smell the wine a first time (it’s the “first nose”), then swirl it in the glass to aerate it and release the aromas before smelling it a second time (that’s the “second nose”). Then taste it, focusing on flavours, acidity and the intensity of the taste.
- Finally: traditionally, aperitif-time wine is the Chasselas variety, a subtle white wine that is fruity and floral. Try it!
Wine by the glass is usually served in one, two, three or five decilitres.
Themed evenings: romance, merriment and music
You’ll be spoilt for choice in the area of original dinners and themed evenings in Lausanne and its surroundings. Olympism at the Olympic Museum, top gastronomy in town or delicious regional cuisine, the luxury of castle life and a candlelight dinner for lovers, a cruise on Lake Geneva, a typically Swiss evening with music or a typically French one at the Evian Casino, café theatre with a live show, fireworks on the lake, a fun fair, a medieval dinner, an evening in a mountain chalet, an organ concert at Lausanne Cathedral or in the Romanesque abbey of Romainmôtier…
A compact and attractive shopping town
With more than 1,500 boutiques and department stores, shopping becomes part of the enjoyment in Lausanne and every variety of shop is represented within easy walking distance in the city centre. You’ll be able to stroll in the many pedestrian streets to choose among the luxury watchmakers, the boutiques with designer clothes and accessories, enticing chocolatiers, shops selling gifts and other typically Swiss souvenirs such as army knives, cuckoo clocks or bells.
The town also abounds in small gems: international or local designers, trendy boutiques, design or fun objects, and premises staged by their owner. There is for instance Viva Frida, that takes inspiration from the legendary Mexican artist to offer a wonderful choice of clothing by French and Nordic creators, decorative items and accessories; KéTaLa boutique, that sells original, poetic and unique women clothing and accessories by 65 designers; below the train station, the menswear shop Monsieur Alain, that believes in timelessness thanks to basic items in outstanding quality.
On the hunt for treasures in furnishing and design? The Kissthedesign showroom has become a reference in the area of 20th-century vintage design, from Charles & Ray Eames to Le Corbusier. In the western part of town, nearby Valency Park, the furnishing and accessories shop Chic Cham presents among others its own collections in a 300-square-metres former smithy.
For gourmets, Helvetimart at Saint-François is a must to discover culinary specialities from all over Switzerland. And no list of Swiss shops would be complete without mentioning one of the town’s many artisanal chocolatiers: it will be Durig, who makes gourmet chocolates from certified organic and fair-trade cacao. You’ll discover these and many others in the streets of the Vaud capital.
While the shopping streets are mainly to be found within a 500-metre radius around the Place Centrale, each neighbourhood has its own atmosphere.
- The paved Rue du Bourg, like Place Saint-François, is lined with chic boutiques: high-flying fashion, but also daring contemporary jewellery, tableware and, of course, high-class watches, chocolates and tobacco, not to mention several prestigious art galleries.
- For a more bohemian atmosphere, head to the picturesque Rôtillon quarter, one of the oldest in Lausanne, where you will see brightly coloured houses and buildings, half-human, half-animal sculptures, little shops and artsy boutiques.
- Explore the surroundings of the Place de la Palud via a maze of pedestrian streets, not forgetting to admire on the way the statue representing justice and the animated clock. You’ll find several department stores and all kinds of boutiques in that area.
- From there, you’ll reach the rue Pichard – place St-Laurent – rue de l’Ale axis, that is a window shopper’s dream, what with department stores, boutiques and typical, popular bistros.
- In a lower part of the town, with old warehouses converted into spaces of art and life by various designers and architects, the Flon has become the avant-garde district of the city. Go and take a look at the recently refurbished garages transformed among others into boutiques, art galleries and workshops of the Rue des Côtes-de-Montbenon.
When you’ve shopped until you drop and are ready to head back to your hotel, use Lausanne public transports freely thanks to the Lausanne Transport Card that your hotel will have given you on arrival.
The friendly atmosphere of the markets
The proximity of the countryside, vineyards and lake has encouraged the development of open-air markets. Every Wednesday and Saturday, colourful stands displaying fruit and vegetables, cheese and other fresh, local products fill the pedestrian streets of the town centre with a relaxed, Mediterranean atmosphere.
Bô Noël is a unique and original concept enlivening Lausanne during the four weeks of Advent. Activities for children and adults, as well as stalls of designers, winegrowers and terroir producers are spread around town to give each venue in the city centre a festive air.
Good food and drinks, guided by locals
The Taste my Swiss City food tour invites you on a journey of culinary discovery. The starter, main course and dessert are served in three different locations in the heart of the city, all recommended by local experts. Choose your culinary experience and indulge your senses!
In Lausanne, you could start with tapas at the Brasserie de Montbenon, head straight to the Bleu Lézard for your main course, then round off the meal with mini cupcakes at the boutique Royaume MELAZIC. To slow down the experience, however, why not have your main course at the Bleu Lézard, then in the afternoon – as a shopping break – reward yourself with mini cupcakes at Royaume MELAZIC and finish your culinary tour with a few tapas in the early evening on the Brasserie de Montbenon’s magnificent terrace?