Switzerland Travel Weekend Mail feature
Switzerland’s Vaud region explored.
Switzerland has bustling cities, Alpine towns, lakeside resorts, and many heritage sites, and thanks to the cost of living crisis, it's not as expensive as we once thought!
Not everyone wants a sun, sea, and sand holiday, so if sublime scenery and snowcapped mountains are more your thing, Switzerland can certainly provide. A small country with such diversity is rare. Along with having its own currency (the Swiss Franc), there are four major regions: German-speaking, French-speaking, Italian-speaking and a smaller region in the east, where a Roman dialect is spoken. They all have their own style of ‘Swiss’! The whole country prides itself on its punctual, efficient train service, so everywhere is easily accessible, whatever airport you choose to fly into. Swiss International Air Lines or SWISS(formally SwissAir) flies direct from Dublin to Geneva daily, and it's a great airport to start from. Geneva is home to the United Nations headquarters and the scientific highlight of CERN, which makes it a great city for those interested in politics and science. Another easy flight option is Zürich, Switzerland’s largest city and financial capital.
But if a bustling major city isn’t what you’re looking for and a slower pace suits your needs, try French-speaking Lausanne, in the Vaud region. This small city is in the mountainous district of western Switzerland, bordered by Lake Geneva to the south and France to the west. Direct trains between Geneva Airport and Lausanne take about 45 minutes and run every fifteen minutes. (Three day unlimited train and metro travel approx E190)
Lausanne faces the French town of Évian-Les-Bains on the southern slopes of the Swiss plateau and showcases amazing views of the lake and the Swiss Alps. It’s home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, so there’s an extensive Olympic museum, lots of lakeside activities, and plenty of wine tasting tours. Vaud is the second-largest wine-producing area in Switzerland, so there are plenty of impressive local wines to try, rarely available outside of Switzerland.
Where to stay
If you want complete luxury and want to splurge to have panoramic lake views, choose Beau-Rivage Palace. Its breathtaking old glamour, with incredible views, a glorious infinity pool, and several outdoor bar areas. Along with the opulence, there’s a practical reason for being close to the water’s edge. The city is built on slopes, so if you are not prepared to do a mini hike every time you leave your hotel, choose wisely! Beau-Rivage is quite pricey, but living in Dublin or London through the cost of living crisis dispels the myth that Switzerland is much more expensive. Eating out in nice restaurants might cost a bit more than in Dublin, but the Swiss have something we don’t: incredible scenic views in almost every direction.
Another more affordable hotel option is the four-star Hôtel de la Paix, just behind Beau-Rivage. You would have to walk up a couple of very steep hills to reach it by foot, but of course there is access by road, and the Hotel de La Paix is closer to the shopping streets and central restaurants. The metro is a very simple affair and essential to anyone who might find the slopes a challenge; just be prepared that some of the stations are on a slope too, so the trains come in at an angle!
What to see
Plateforme 10 is the developing museum area currently consisting of three museums: the Vaud Museum of Fine Arts, MUDAC, and Photo Elysee. More than a nod to the Tate Modern in London, these ultra-modern concrete giants emerging from the old, derelict Platform 10 train station are the new face of Lausanne's museum district. Nearing completion, it’s a creative and immersive hub for visitors and locals alike. (www.plateforme10.ch)
The Olympic Museum exhibits the difficult start of the games, highlights the countries and athletes involved, and shows how it's shaping its future. There’s a huge display of medals and memorabilia, and some immersive games for all the family. (www.olympics.com)
Choco Tour Naturally, there are lots of chocolatiers in Lausanne, and there are tours available that take in some of the producers along with some of the historic highlights like the 13th-century cathedral from www.Lausanne-tourisme.ch(priced around E30).
Where to eat
Besides delicious Swiss cheese and chocolate, there are lots of places to eat out in Lausanne. We tried Brasserie de Montbenon and weren’t disappointed. The location is perfect—a venerable old theatre space next to the Palace de Justice. The food was delicious, and they had a great selection of Swiss wines. brasseriedemontbenon.ch If you want a more lively, modern option with pumping music, Saturday night vibes and shared plates, Eat Me eat-me.chwould suit perfectly. It's a fusion of Asian and South American small plates. Cocktails are expensive at E20 but wine is more affordable starting around E40 per bottle.
Switzerland produces a considerable amount of wine, but not enough to export on a grand scale. This is exciting for wine lovers because wherever you go, you’ll have the option to try new wines you may not have experienced before. Pinot Noir is the main variety grown, but some of the blends are unique to the Swiss. Chasselas is the most common indigenous grape, with Petite Arvine, Humagne Rouge, and Cornalin being the other main ones, enjoyed by wine connoisseurs worldwide. The vineyards are just a short train ride in any direction from Lausanne.
Travelling outside Lausanne
There are lots of small towns within easy access, and if you enjoy train journeys, consider buying a train pass and using it daily to visit neighbouring towns like Morges, known for its annual tulip festival, or Vevey, where you can visit the Swiss Camera Museum (www.cameramuseum.ch) or the intriguing Chaplin’s World. Charlie Chaplin’s lavish Vevey estate, including house and grounds, is open to the public and offers a packed programme of events throughout the year at www.chaplinsworld.com. Just ten minutes outside of Lausanne, the wine region of Grandvaux is worth a visit as long as you are fit enough to walk down the steep hills through the Lavaux vineyards, to experience the excellent wine tasting at Domaine de la Crausaz, accompanied by a great tapas lunch. Offering even more incentive to tackle the downhill slopes after lunch, you can return to Lausanne via the La Suisse Belle Epoch steamboat. Just walk about fifteen minutes (downhill) to Cully’s Port and enjoy a glorious 40-minute trip back to Lausanne meandering along Lake Geneva. La Suisse is one of a fleet of restored Belle Epoch steamboats used daily on the lake. Thoughtfully, the restorers added glass panels to show the mechanics of the pistons driving the steam engine at full pelt. If you’d rather stay away from the engineering side of things and sip tea in a stylish tearoom, there’s a fully restored dining hall serving snacks all day. www.cgn.ch
There is a museum dedicated to one of Switzerland’s coolest artists, Hans Ruedi Giger responsible for many horror movie sets and characters, but most famously the Alien movies.The HR Giger Museum is over a 90-minute train ride from Lausanne to Gruyères, but if you are an avid fan, then use your train pass to revel in the only dedicated museum in the world. Needless to say, not everything on show is suitable for young children, so consider this before setting off.
And remember…. if you plan on doing anything by foot, just don’t wear heels!
Fact box document for more info:
- Switzerland Tourism: myswitzerland.com or regional myvaud.ch
- Swiss Travel System: mystsnet.com
- SWISS (formally Swiss Air) flies direct from Dublin: swiss.com