Leaving Geneva, we drove 40 miles around the sparkling lake with miles of lush vineyards stretching up the hillside to our left. Our destination? the lakeside city of Lausanne: a cultural hotspot with a stunning Medieval centre, Alpine views, the fabulous Olympics Museum (up there with our all time favourites), a beautiful waterfront promenade and towering 12th century cathedral.
Lausanne is also a great base for exploring! It's a 40 minute drive to Montreux, a lovely Riviera resort town home to the famous Freddie Mercury statue, or you could visit Charlie Chaplin's home at Chaplin's World in nearby Vevey, or Chateau Chillon.
We were kindly gifted 2 city passes by the Lausanne Tourism Board to help us explore. You can choose a 1 day city pass (35 CHF), which gets you free entry to many of Lausanne's most popular attractions and covers the use of public transport in Mobilis zones 11 and 12, or for only 4 more CHF you can buy a 2-3 day pass. The multi day option includes a few extra free entries, a free chocolate gift from famous chocolatier, Durig, PLUS the means to customise your pass by booking discounted entry to some amazing attractions, like Chaplin's World, AQUATIS Aquarium-Vivarium, Bex salt mines and Chillon Castle.
Here is how to have an amazing 2 days in Lausanne using the city pass:
Day One (click to jump to each attraction)
Lausanne Cathedral and the Old Town
Durig Chocolatier for free chocolate!
Start your visit at the Olympic Museum. This would be our number one top thing to do in Lausanne, and you'll want to spend a good 3 hours here. The vast site is a short metro ride away down on the lakeside in Ouchy, which we discovered is pronounced ooshee, not ouchie like Dr Fauci...
Lausanne is the Olympics capital, home to the International Olympic Commitee and this museum is a celebration of not just the history of the Olympic Games, from Ancient Greece to the modern day, but of the Olympic spirit and what the Games stand for: hope, striving to do your best, and the world coming together.
Spread across three floors, the interactive exhibitions include all of the medals and Olympic torches from across the years, inspirational footage and a whole room of equipment and clothing from some of the greatest Olympic heroes. Particular highlights include Torvill and Dean's Bolero costumes, Chris Hoy's cycling lycra, Roger Federer's tennis racket. Usain Bolt's top and Jesse Owen's running shoe.
Head back into the centre and explore the Old Town!
Magnificent Lausanne Cathedral is said to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Europe! Entry is free, and your city pass will cover the 5 CHF fee to climb the towers. The entrance to the towers is tucked inside the book shop, and the views of snow-capped mountains over the rooftops is well worth the 224 steps up. If you can time your climb with the bells ringing on the hour even better.
Back inside, don't miss the enormous rose window, and the unique Painted Portal - once the original entrance into the cathedral, it is adorned by life size sandstone statues of Jesus and Mary, the Evangelists, the Archangel Gabriel, Peter and Paul, and other famous Biblical figures such as John the Baptist, Moses and David, still showing hints of their colourful 13th century paint.
From the cathedral, make your way down the Escaliers du Marche, a beautiful covered 13th century staircase, past rows of 16th century shops and cafes. At the bottom, turn left onto Rue Mercerie to find Durig chocolatier, home to exceptional hand made chocolate using South American cocoa beans ("the cocoa of the Mayans") and organic Swiss cream. If you show your 2-3 day city pass, you can choose a free sweet treat!
NB this shop is open Tuesday - Saturday, if you are visiting Lausanne on a Monday, there is a 2nd branch on Avenue d'Ouchy close to the main train station that is open every day except Sunday.
Close by is pretty Place de la Palud, a pedestrianised area with a 17th-century Town Hall, Rennaisance fountain and a mechanical animated clock.
For our 2nd day, we pre - booked a visit to Chaplin's World (discounted entry with the multi day city pass), where you can walk around Charlie Chaplin's beautiful home and gardens where he spent the last 25 years of his life, and an amazing interactive museum celebrating his films. Take the train to Vevey, and bus 212 from Vevey train station drops you right at the entrance. Chaplin's World also has a car park. You can read our full blog about our visit here.
After your visit, you can also visit Chaplin's grave at Cimetière de Corsier-sur-Vevey, it's about 20 minutes walk downhill from the museum, and he is buried with his wife Oona. Fellow movie star James Mason is also buried there, just to the left!
Back on the main road at the funicular station, the bus goes back into town, where there is also a Charlie Chaplin statue on the lakeside.
Catch the train back into Lausanne, and right by the station is Plateforme 10, the new home of Vaud Museum of Fine Arts (MCBA) where your pass will get you free entry. The museum features celebrated Vaudois artists Ducros, Gleyre, Steinlen, Vallotton and Soutter, as well as temporary exhibitions.
NB closed on Mondays.
Other options for day two
Alternatively, while not free, you could use your multi day pass to pre book discounted entry to Aquatis, the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe! Its M2 metro stop, Vennes, is in zone 12 so you can use your city pass for free transport.
If you have access to a car, you could also use your multi day pass discount to spend the whole 2nd day (or a 3rd day!) out of town at the Bex salt mines and take a subterranean mine train into 17th century tunnels!
Disclosure: we were gifted two city passes in return for social media content and this blog, but we were not paid to post and, as always, all opinions are ours!