An aerial view of Lake Geneva and Lausanne.
Photo: Regis Colombo

48 hours in Lake Geneva: discover Lausanne this summer

Here’s why Lausanne makes the perfect base for a packed weekend of lakeside bliss

Written by Time Out. Paid for in partnership with Lausanne Tourisme.
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There are plenty of lakes in Switzerland, but none quite so grand, glamorous and straight-up famous as Lake Geneva. And at 580km², this beautiful blue crescent also happens to be the country’s biggest lake. So, where best to experience this mighty, watery wonder and all the great stuff around it? Our recommendation is to head to Lausanne, a gorgeous area on the north shore of the lake that’s overflowing with some of Switzerland’s finest activities, sights and events.

Needless to say, summer is absolutely the best time to experience both Lausanne and Lake Geneva in all their glory. A summer visit gives you the chance to make the most of Lausanne’s stunningly handsome scenery and ample waterfront hotspots that open out across the lake. Plus, you’ll be perfectly placed to explore the city’s reputation for history, culture, art, green spaces and gastronomy.

Below, we’ve picked our top tips for soaking up all that lakeside goodness in just one weekend, giving you the opportunity to discover the very best of Lausanne this summer, from rolling vineyards to gothic monuments to boat trips. And that’s just to get you started – for more ideas on crafting the perfect summer weekend by Lake Geneva, simply click here and start getting inspired by Lausanne’s magic.

Before you start delving in to everything that’s going on around Lake Geneva, make sure you dedicate some time to simply admiring the lake itself, and perhaps the snow-tipped Alpine mountains that can be seen towering over one side. And summer brings with it the chance to take advantage of the 50-ish lakeside beaches scattered around Lausanne. Just remember to bring the sunscreen.

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You know that a vineyard is doing something right when it’s UNESCO-listed, just as Lavaux’s beautiful wine-growing terraces are. Part of the appeal lies in the incredible views they provide across the lake, making the location even more special. But don’t get so caught up in the views that you forget to investigate that marvellous wine, which can be sampled on vineyard tours and tastings.

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Get into the sporting spirit by visiting The Olympic Museum and find out why Lausanne is officially titled the Olympic Capital. Across three floors and over 1,500 artefacts, you’ll learn about key events in Olympic history and delve into the mindset of legendary athletes. You’ll also be able to visit the fascinating ‘Sport X Manga’ exhibition to get a cultural taste of Japan ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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If there’s one place to make the most of summer, it’s on a terrace. Luckily, Lausanne is blessed with an array of fantastic terraces from which to admire the scenery and soak up the sunshine. A few of our favourite terraces include the majestic offering at La Brasserie de Montbenon (boasting a romantic view over Montbenon Park and the lake), Café de l’Hôtel-de-Ville (a brilliantly bohemian coffee stop that’s perfect for people-watching) and La Grenette (a buzzy pop-up terrace with a cosmopolitan feel and a reputation as a summer sun-trap).

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See Lake Geneva in style by hopping on to one of the ships in the General Navigation Company’s fleet and cruising across the deep blue waters. There are all kinds of cruises to choose from, journeying out to great spots like Montreux, Vevey, Nyon and even the French shores. Multiple ships leave Lausanne every day during summer, from sleek modern boats to classic steam-driven vehicles, depending on what nautical mood takes you. Foodies can indulge in a gourmet cruise full of local flavours and there are also great family cruise offers for those looking to take a trip with the kids. Embark at the Place de la Navigation in Ouchy (pictured above) and get ready to set sail.

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Maybe it’s the winding paths, maybe it’s the gorgeous architecture, maybe it’s the lakeside setting, but Lausanne feels like it was built for leisurely wandering, and never is this more evident than when you start your stroll at the Sauvebelin Tower. This city landmark offers magnificent 360-degree views from 35-metres-high, acting as the starting point for a gentle downhill route that takes-in some of Lausanne’s highlights, including Hermitage Park, St-Maire Castle and Le Crêt de Montriond.

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For anyone who’s spent even the briefest time in the city, it’ll come as no surprise to hear that Lausanne is a seriously green place. In fact, it’s almost impossible not to stumble across some of the city’s 350 hectares of parks and gardens when you’re exploring, and it almost goes without saying that these green spaces look their finest in summer. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to have a picnic, sunbathe, go for a run or simply relax, there’s a park for you. Try Elysée Park for tiered terraces and a great photography museum, Mon-Repos for historical architecture and a waterfall or Parc de la Légende for an alfresco sculpture trail, to name but a few.

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No trip to Lausanne is complete without visiting the cathedral. This city landmark dates back to the 12th century and is a striking example of gothic architecture, known across Switzerland and far beyond. Alongside its significant historical credentials, the cathedral also contains more recent – but equally impressive – features, such as the stained glass ‘rose window’, full of colourful, intricate depictions of Medieval scenes. An absolute must-see on any Lausanne itinerary.

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Celebrate Swiss National Day – August 1 – with a picnic in Esplanade de Montbenon, one of Lausanne’s most enticing parks. Taking place at the height of summer, the atmosphere at this annual event is always friendly, fun and lively, and if you don’t have time to pack a picnic yourself, don’t worry, as there’ll be an artisan market where you can pick up all kinds of delectable local treats. Deckchairs, parasols and grills are all available for free to make your picnicking as comfortable and easy as possible, and to complete the picture there’ll be a bar serving locally sourced tipples. There are also plenty of activities for younger visitors, including a Chinese lantern workshop.

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