I grew up idolizing Switzerland thanks to Bollywood. In fact, widely regarded film director Yash Raj Chopra set many of his Bollywood blockbusters amongst the picturesque shores of the country. I remember as a child staring at the screen waiting for my own TV moment. I romanticized the stunning landscapes and the crystal waters of Lake Geneva, and I couldn’t wait to visit!
There’s so much to Switzerland beyond its terrain. The country is constantly growing, becoming more inclusive for visitors. Though there are many notable cities that warrant a visit in Switzerland, I embarked on a gastronomic and cultural exploration in Lausanne. As a South Asian woman, here is how I spent 48 hours in a lesser-known part of the country.
Where is Lausanne?
When I first landed in Switzerland, I was struck by the seamless blend of French, German, Italian and English spoken by its inhabitants. Switzerland, a land of multilingualism, invites visitors to embrace its linguistic diversity, and Lausanne epitomizes this cultural tapestry.
Located only 45 minutes from Geneva and two and a half hours from Zurich, Lausanne is a smaller town with a distinct—not to mention underrated—allure. The city is home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, as well as the Olympic Museum and lakeshore Olympic Park. This vibrant city, full of cobblestone streets and ancient cathedrals, is a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be explored.
One notable institution in Lausanne is the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL Hospitality Business School) renowned for its excellence in hospitality education. Founded in 1893, the school has a reputation for being one of the best hospitality management schools in the world, and has prepared leaders and professionals interested in innovating the future of hospitality. As I strolled through the campus, I witnessed a vibrant and diverse community of well-dressed aspiring professionals from around the world. In fact, the school welcomes students from over 125 nationalities and 84% of the students speak at least three languages.
When it comes to indulging in culinary delights, EHL has a unique spot that must be added to your itinerary. In fact, the school is home to Michelin star restaurant Le Berceau des Sens, which is run exclusively by its students. The doors are open to the public, offering a gastronomic experience where students walk you through the menus, discuss which wine and cheese pairings work best, and provide sophisticated and high-level service that matches the sophistication of the food. In fact, Head Chef of the Berceau Des Sens (BDS), Chef Cédric Bourassin even confirmed that the menu changes every two weeks and is often influenced by his students.
“The most rewarding aspect is that we have students from all over the world and there’s always something about their family and life that influences the menu. We are here to train the students and not to focus on popular food trends, but to provide great service and delicious food. It also helps that my students are constantly influencing the food and my cooking,” he says.
If you are looking for a more casual space to dine, EHL also offers 1893, named after the year that the school was opened. The striking balance between the retro elegance and contemporary aesthetic of the restaurant is reason enough to check out the menu. Not to mention my favorite thing on the menu: the verrine forêt noir, or a black forest, chocolate mousse complete with a cherry compote and vanilla cream.
After all that eating, I strongly suggest exploring the city on foot. During my free walking tour, I was accompanied by a local who showed me the old town of Lausanne through her lens. I visited the Cathedral, one of the 10 most beautiful gothic cathedrals in the city that is adorned with its rose windows and painted portals, the St François church, and adjoining square which is at the heart of the city center, and picturesque pedestrians streets and the lively markets where people are haggling over the fruits and vegetables.
While exploring, my guide let me in on the secret about the watchman of Lausanne. Every evening, just as dusk descended upon the city, he would ascend the tower of Lausanne’s cathedral and call out, “C’est le guet!” (which translates to “This is the night watch). This age-old tradition, dating back six centuries, is a reminder of Lausanne’s rich heritage and the watchman’s role in protecting the city throughout history. It was a moment that transported me to a bygone era, immersing me in the timeless charm of this enchanting city.
There are many wonderful places to enjoy a coffee or drink while looking at the beauty of the city. The “Giraf Bar”, which fittingly is decorated with animations of giraffes, is under the steps leading to the cathedral. It has an unforgettable fondue. On a rainy day, locals recommend seeking refuge at Le Barbare, a legendary cafe whose famous hot chocolate is one foodies from all parts of the country travel to taste. I personally love finding local Indian restaurants wherever I travel and was pleased to stumble across the New Delhi Restaurant, featuring some of my favorite vegetarian dishes, including paneer makhani and Bombay aloo.
For the art lovers, a visit would be incomplete without going to the 19th-century Palais de Rumine, which houses fine art and science museums. It’s at the center of the town so it’s unmissable, and the space is used as a library and exhibit space.
Scenic Views and Lakes
A quirky thing I like to do on my travels is to always test out the local subway or transportation options of the city I’m visiting. Thankfully for me, the Lausanne Métro was really easy (and not to mention affordable) to use. I took it to the last stop “Ouchy–Olympique station” and upon departing the platform, I was greeted by the northern side of Lake Geneva with breathtaking views of the surrounding Alps and an ambiance of tranquility. I walked alongside the boardwalk, nursing my warm coffee and enjoying the serenity.
To complete my 48 hours in Lausanne, I sought refuge in the luxurious embrace of Lausanne Palace, an exquisite hotel that exudes elegance. The hotel includes multiple restaurants and bars, a fitness center and an indulgent spa to further relax. Also, depending on the time of your travel, if it coincides with Swiss National Day, then you can enjoy cocktails from your room’s balcony, overlooking the fireworks on Lake Geneva. The impeccable service, coupled with the comfort of the plush beds and in-house amenities, created a sanctuary where I could unwind and reflect on the last 48 hours living out my Bollywood Switzerland dreams.