Paintings and a sculpture in a gallery at the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts (MCBA).
© MCBA, Etienne Malapert

Five cool cultural highlights to see in Vaud this summer

From secret forts hidden in mountains to hip, modern art galleries, here’s how to find the best of Vaud

Written by Time Out. Paid for in partnership with Vaud Promotion.
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What happens when history, heritage and tradition combine with contemporary culture? Find out in Vaud, a canton in southwestern Switzerland that offers everything from ancient monuments to forward-thinking art spaces, all set within a truly beautiful landscape. Summer is a glorious time to explore Vaud, as its many mountains, lakes and meadows provide the perfect backdrop to historically rich tales that bring the region’s past to life.

To get you started on your Vaud venture, we’ve picked five unmissable highlights to satisfy all your cultural needs this summer. And remember you can find more cultural adventures and begin booking your trip by clicking here.

Get your finger firmly on the pulse this summer by visiting Plateforme 10, a new cultural district adjoining Lausanne railway station that showcases the very best in both cutting-edge and classic arts. Take your pick from the Musée de l’Elysée photography museum, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (MUDAC) or the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts (MCBA) – or embark on a culture crawl and visit all three in a day. Plus, you can take a deeper dive into Vaud’s visual heritage at MCBA, where you’ll learn about the region’s artistic pedigree through 300 works spread across two floors.

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If you’ve ever wanted the keys to the castle, this summer is your chance to grab them. After more than two-and-a-half years of careful renovation, the newly reopened Château de la Sarraz is ready to welcome visitors through its mighty doors once again. There are a staggering 13,000 objects on display, allowing guests to step back through 900 years of history that has shaped the castle and left behind a significant cultural footprint. Among those thousands of objects are some seriously opulent furniture and elaborate paintings from the estate of the de Gingins family, one of the key families of the local Vaud aristocracy. And before you ask – yes, pretending that this immense castle is yours as you walk around it is definitely allowed.

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Can you keep a secret? Don’t worry if not, as this formerly top-secret military site, built into a rockface opposite the famous Chillon Castle, is now open for one and all to snoop around. It was designed to act as the cornerstone of the Swiss National Redoubt, an extensive and highly classified project born in the 1880s to defend against invasion, taking on prime importance during the Second World War. Visitors can now immerse themselves in the underground galleries of this fascinating fort through augmented reality and virtual reality exhibitions, strategy games and films on a cinema screen, building a picture of what life was like inside the mysterious mountain.

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One of rock’s true icons, the inimitable Queen frontman loved the Montreux region dearly and spent a lot of time here, claiming it brought him peace of mind. Follow in the great man’s footsteps on a guided tour of Freddie’s Montreux, beginning at the famous covered market – with the much-loved statue of Freddie nearby – before navigating to the town’s flower-lined quays, the outside of the apartment that the singer purchased, and the site of the former Mountain Studio in Montreux Casino, where Queen recorded six albums. If you want to investigate even further, the Mountain Studio location is now a museum: Queen The Studio Experience. They will, they will rock you, just like Freddie said.

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If there’s a team that knows a thing or two about using time wisely, it’s the people behind this museum, dedicated to exploring two centuries of watchmaking history. Learn the story of the globally renowned Swiss luxury watch brand through 300 timepieces and see artisans at work as they craft those incredible watches in the venue’s fully operating workshops – this is one museum that’s not just for show. Look out for invaluable and rare items in the collection, such as the Universelle, the most complicated watch built by the company, way back in 1899.

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