Home Favourite Places LAUSANNE – A WEEK IN WINTER


One of the top cities to visit in 2023, come sunshine or snow

by capetowndiva

Lausanne, listed by the New York Times as one of the top places to visit in 2023, is the uncontested jewel of the Swiss Riviera. Perfectly positioned between lake, mountains, vineyards and forests, the Olympic capital comes with all the attributes of a humming metropolis sans the overwhelming size.  Come sunshine or snow, this is one for the bucket list.


BALLET ~ From late January into early February, Lausanne belongs to ballerinas when the annual Prix de Lausanne takes centre stage and brigades of talented dancers congregate to compete for contracts, scholarships, and the attention of the world’s top scouts. If you’re a balletomane, it’s a heady, inspiring week featuring superb emerging talent from around the globe under one roof at the lavish Théâtre Beaulieu.

ART ~ Lausanne’s developing art scene in general is dynamic and the city is home to several prominent galleries, museums and exhibition spaces housing all manner of magnificent treasures. Take in non-conformist fringe work at Collection L’Art Brut and then, for a more unusual art experience right next door, do apéros and dinner with design on the side at L’Auberge de Beaulieu.

Eclectic decor by Lausanner Julia Christ, described as a conflation of ‘Brazilian modernism and a beach holiday’, pulls a diverse crowd into an atmospheric interior. Expect a contemporary menu, an excellent wine list and attentive service.


Finish off your art meander at Plateforme10 (above), a dramatic building next to Lausanne’s main train station that anchors the vibrant arts district and incorporates three museums dedicated to design, photography and contemporary applied arts. Outstanding exhibitions are coming up this year so keep tabs on what’s hot and happening in 2023 here.

Fun fact: entry to all Lausanne museums and art galleries is free on the first Saturday of the month.

Wall mural at the Lausanne train station


Coffee at Madeleine

COFFEE ~ The Old Town is where it’s at when it comes to cool bars, delis & eateries. Coffee snobs should hotfoot it to Madeleine, a stylish bookshop-come-café in medieval midtown that’s famous for flat whites, warm welcomes and various iterations of those more-ish French butter cakes.


Find it down from Place Riponne, the square in front of the Palais Rumine that is a destination unto itself and where, come Wednesdays and Saturdays, you’ll find fresh produce, flowers, cheese for days and a flea market.

The Palais, right beneath the Lausanne Cathédral, houses a clutch of buildings including the the University, the library and the Fine Arts and Science museums.

The flea market happens in front of Palaia Rumine

COCKTAILS & BEER ~ For cocktails, shots and ‘beer colder than your ex’, Bar Girafe in the Cathédral precinct rocks with legendary old school playlists and live music on Thursdays. Around the corner from Girafe is The Great Escape sports bar, a go-to for locals, students and tourists in the know. The buzz begins at happy hour (usually 17h30) when beer on tap is half price, best enjoyed over burgers and pub grub on the terrace.

HOT CHOC ~ Hot chocolate is another unmissable Swiss staple and done right, it should be thick enough to eat. Served with whipped cream on top, Le Barbare is the frontrunner, plus they serve great regional wine and antipasti.

La Barbare ended up being one of our faves. We loved the friendly staff and the stunning heritage location right next to Les Escaliers du Marché, the famed wooden staircase that was built in 1717. Today it still connects various parts of Old Town, weaving through the neighbourhood’s cobbled streets all the way down to Place de la Palud, the bustling centre where you’ll find all sorts of artisanal shops and the Renaissance-era Fountain of Justice.


On the underperforming ZAR, shopping is a tad underwhelming but good news for shopaholics, there are options. As is typical of Europe, seasonal sales offer great deals but why not go thrifting instead? Closing the loop and buying with benevolence is a priority in this era of accumulation and Lausanne has top notch second hand shops (called ‘second main’). Try Station24 on the way up to the Sauvabelin Tower, and Les Galetas a few doors down from Le Barbare where you  can pick up high quality pre-loved books, clothing and accessories, and where the proceeds from your purchases go towards various community causes.


For those who love a lakeside stroll, look no further than the waterfront promenade at the Port d’Ouchy. Think wild swans, a park, art installations, the Olympic Museum, posh hotels, cycle paths and the Eole Wind Vane, all the assets that make it a year-round attraction. This is where the ferry departs to various ports such as the jazz capital Montreux and other stops that include a few on the French shore opposite. There are regular crossings from Quai Jean-Pascal-Delamuraz and gourmet boat cruises depart from here as well, but before you consider dinner on the lake, book dinner on terra firma at the vibey La Lucustre, the lakeside bar above the ticket office that’s uber popular with Lausanners and great for local beer, pizzas and cheese and charcuterie platters. (Thanks to SAffer Fabio from @fabiomarcodesign for the recommendation!)


The views from the Cathedral deck

No trip is complete without surveying the lay of the land from a spectacular vantage point. Take the No 16 bus from Place de la Riponne to the Sauvabelin Tower where you can combine the excursion with a mood-boosting walk through the surrounding forest. Up top a circular deck rewards with epic 360-degree views across metropole and mountains.

The Sauvabelin Tower with its circular viewing deck

Back in Old Town, slow the pace inside the Lausanne Cathédral with its fine Gothic architecture, beautiful Rose Window, and paintings, sculptures and artefacts. 224 steps lead up a narrow stairway to a wraparound balcony where spectacular sights await. Interestingly and in keeping with a very longstanding tradition, a Night Watchman calls out from the belfry every night to the four corners of the city to announce the hour, from 10pm and 2am. Make this experience into an event by starting off with a late drink at Girafe Bar close by, before heading up to the church grounds to wait for his cries from above.


All aboard the Golden Express to Gstaad

Exploring Switzerland by train is a must, especially in the magnificent snow season, and beyond Lausanne the sky is the limit. For chocolate and cheese, consider Gruyères, a ninety-minute ride into the Fribourg canton. Rail Europe will take you places!

Perched high above the main village, the miniscule hamlet is the classic Middle Ages throwback.

Taken from the entrance looking down towards the access path

It comes complete with a castle, ramparts, turrets, cobbled streets and wait for it, a fondue academy! On that note, gathering over a fondue is a national pastime in Switzerland throughout the year and it’s one of those traditional foodie experiences you simply must not miss out on. Try one on the sunny stoep at Hotel de Ville and remember, there’s no sharing so it’s costly, at an eye-watering 27CHF (R540)pp!

‘Come up, slow down’ is the tourism strap line for Gstaad, aimed at luring people into dolce vita downtime in what epitomises a winter wonderland. Beyond the chill factor (pardon the pun), Gstaad offers everything from ski slopes, to public art installations and galleries, après ski bars and schnapps on sun terraces, all while surrounded by snow draped peaks and jaw dropping scenery.

The Golden Pass Express, a train like no other

The plush *Golden Pass Express with its exquisite vintage interiors (see above) ferries passengers to this postcard pretty chalet town, rated as among the poshest of Swiss playgrounds that has, among other things, the shortest shopping street in all of Switzerland with a glut of blue chip brands like Graaff, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. For mere mortals on the South African Rand- like moi- it was enough to wander around for an hour, munching on a salted caramel pancake from Bros while admiring monuments like Rosie the Calf at the drinking fountain (created by Liz Taylor’s daughter, Liza Todd),  and The Sitting Duck sculpture, a gift from actress Julie Andrews who is an honorary citizen.

*I booked my Rail Europe tickets through Penny at World Travel in Joburg

Rosie the Calf, in Gstaad


Oenophiles should hop on the train book a ticket to Lutry, the train stop that opens up the world of wine via the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, 45 minutes from Lausanne.

Winemaker Stéphane Chollet next to the barrel pod used for wine tastings and fondues

Stretching for 30 kilometres along the shores and slopes of Lake Geneva this stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site can be traced back as far as the 11th century when it was overseen by Benedictine monks. Hop onto the Lutry Express for a tour and don’t forget to explore the little town Lutry that oozes charm.

The Lavaux terraces looking out towards Montreux

Today around 200 winemakers produce their finest here and Domaine des Vitalis is one that stands out form the crowd for two reasons. One winemakers Stéphane Chollet and Alain coaxes the best out of his fermenting grapes by playing music in the cellar 24/7 and he hosts wine tastings and fondues in a unique way- either in a transparent igloo or in an enchanting barrel-shaped pod that overlooks endless rows of vineyards and the gleaming lake and mountains beyond.



  • All museums are free to the public on the first Saturday of every month
  • Hotel guests paying a city tax benefit from free transport (train, tram, metro in the Vaud canton) & select reduced prices – so ask your concierge about the Lausanne Transport Card
  • The Lausanne Cathedral; access to the viewing deck costs 2CHF or it’s free with the hotel city pass
  • The Sauvabelin Tower

With my BFF Janet Lindup


> Exchange rate: 1CHF -> ZAR19

> Train: Rail Europe Pass tickets via Penny at World Travel in Johannesburg www.worldtravel.co.za | 083 479 2416 | penny@worldtravel.co.za

> Stay: Hotel du Marché, 300m from Place de la Riponne & the Béjart Metro stop, in Old TownUp to date Lausanne info: www.lausanne-tourisme.ch | @thelausanner on Instagram

Near our Hotel du Marché

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