Coffee culture is long ingrained in the city and you don’t have to look far for a croissant pitstop or cool cafe – Lausanne has one on practically every corner, cobbled street and pedestrian square. Enjoy people-watching from any one of numerous city centre spots (service isn’t always the best, but it’s worth it for the location and atmosphere), or head to a neighbourhood café to really get the measure of the city and its people. From the best place to stop in for a quick morning croissant, to where to find superior hot chocolate, which café to choose for a decent lunch and where to linger all afternoon with a cuppa and a board game, we run you through Lausanne’s best cafés, coffee shops and tearooms.
Sitting on a street corner in a quiet neighbourhood behind the main train station, this is one of Lausanne’s most popular cafés, so much so that you’d be hard pressed to get a table for lunch or dinner without booking ahead. Stop by in the afternoon and it’s a much more relaxed vibe. With an array of hot drinks – including 15 speciality teas – comfy armchairs, a selection of battered books and board games, plus free wi-fi, it’s easy to while away the day. The food is consistently good (especially the desserts) and there’s always something to draw you back, including fondue night on Wednesdays and brunch on weekend mornings.
A funky newcomer to Lausanne, this two-storey café tucked under Bessières bridge is the latest venture from the Anglo team behind equally funky burger joint Holy Cow! Aimed at those with the time to linger over a leisurely brunch, it has an extensive breakfast menu, from muesli and porridge to pancakes with maple syrup, omelettes and a proper full English. As breakfast segues into lunch you can tuck into sandwiches such as a hearty double-decker BLT with smoked bacon and Blackbird’s tasty chutney. As the name suggests, coffee has revered status, with beans sourced from around the world and roasted on site. The small downstairs room is ideal for a quick coffee, while the calm, muted tones of the larger upstairs café draws punters looking for a laid-break brekkie and groups of new parents (a kids’ menu is available) catching up on a weekday morning. Pleasing touches include free tap water on the tables and quick, friendly service. They are missing one trick though in being closed on Sundays, surely prime brunch day in anyone’s book.
Right in the centre of town, Coccinelle is a good place to have a mid-shop stop for coffee and your choice of pastry (croissants, biscuits, lemon meringue pie). The seasonal lunch menu of salads, ‘tartines’ (open sandwiches) and more substantial fare is satisfying and good value, as testified by the daily hoards arriving at midday, while it’s also open for breakfast and brunch. Set over two floors and with an extensive outdoor area, the café can accommodate a fair number of diners but don’t count on getting a table on the off-chance.
Tucked behind the main train station, this cafe and restaurant is eternally popular with Lausanne’s students and young professionals, whether for a coffee, lunch, or a lively evening meal accompanied by a few cheeky craft beers from increasingly omnipresent local brewer Docteur Gab’s.
It’s easy to miss this cafe if you don’t know where to look, nestled as it is amid the rather messy layout of the area. But once you’ve found it (either walk up the ramp from Flon or down from the Grand Pont, next to Fnac) you’re likely to feel you’ve stumbled across rather a treat. The spacious café has comfy sofas, magazines to read, a book swap and free wi-fi. Its food – home-made sandwiches, soups, salads, organic where possible – is better than the usual sandwich bar fare and there’s always a vegetarian option. But the best thing about this place is its selection of moreish freshly baked cakes.
No visit to Lausanne would be complete without a hot chocolate in Le Barbare. Firstly, it’s arguably the best hot chocolate in town – pure, thick, melted loveliness and little else, unless you fancy it topped with whipped cream. Secondly, it’s a charming old place located on the city’s most scenic street, a string of tall, narrow 16th century houses adorned with coloured shutters and fading painted shop signs. Alongside is the Escaliers du Marché, a covered wooden medieval walkway that once connected the town’s two markets. If you’re foolish enough to forgo the hot chocolate, the café also does chocolate milkshakes, coffee and soft drinks, as well as omlettes and other light meals.
Tucked down a side street in a residential area, this café bar’s raison d’être is its vast array of international bottled beers, of wildly varying alcohol content. Deciding which to choose takes time – and is reason enough to come back again and again, just to get through them all. If beer’s not your thing, don’t worry, this is a multi-purpose place. Stop by for an afternoon coffee, or visit when the after-work crowd descends for an apéro. If you’re peckish, the bar’s plate of local vaudois sausage with crusty bread and gherkins goes down well with the beer.
A pleasingly quirky café in the cobbled Place Saint-François, this tiny, stand-alone building was built in the early 20th century as a waiting room for customers using the city’s tramway. Recently and stylishly renovated, it retains that vintage, Brief Encounter feel, with wooden bench seating, a mosaic floor and the original wrought iron clock outside. Simple soups, sandwiches and salads are on offer at lunch time, with muffins, pastries and hot and cold (non-alcoholic) drinks available all day. It’s perfect for a quick breakfast or lunch on the hoof, and prices are reasonable too.
You won’t stumble across this café, and so much the better for those who know about it. In a rather incongruous setting opposite a multi-story carpark, it’s a pocket of history in a concrete landscape. La Couronne d’Or has been around since the late 19th century, and the owners have tried to preserve as much of its history as possible. The result is a charming, characterful place with mismatched wooden furniture, a trinket-laden piano, low-hanging lights and a restored antique bar. Come for brunch, a coffee over the papers, evening drinks or a simple set lunch menu.
Usually packed with a young, studenty crowd, this place has a friendly, intimate atmosphere, particularly in winter when the low-lighting and house mulled wine make you reluctant to step back out into the cold. While the menu isn’t vast, what they do is done very well: large salads and wraps, steaks, flavoursome local fish dishes and some of the best chips in town. In fair weather the tables spill onto the pavement next to busy Rue Centrale, a good spot for a coffee and some quality people-watching.