When you picture Switzerland what do you imagine?
Somebody sitting up in the Alps cutting up their chocolate and cheese with a Swiss army knife?
Ok that's a little far fetched but these are the usual associations we make with this mountainous farming country. And I am also guilty as charged as this is how I pictured it before I took the time to visit some locals in Switzerland's fourth largest city, Lausanne.
The Swiss love their tourists
One of the most annoying things about travelling overseas is being without the internet, it's so easy to submit to sky high roaming fee's just to have a quick look at Google Maps. With this in mind I picked up a Wifi Swisscom Pocket Connect device for the price of £26.50 (31.50 EUR) for 5 days at Geneva Airport. It's a small pocket-sized hub that enabled me unlimited portable Wifi for my entire stay. I literally fell in love with it, I was tweeting all over the city from terrace bars to metro carriages.
I then discovered that ANY hotel you book in Lausanne will give you a free transport card which allows you unlimited access on all public transport. This was endlessly valuable during my stay and I felt more than a little smug not paying for my travel.
Shred that paperback City Guide
I downloaded a free app created by Swiss Tourism called 'Make My Switzerland' which is an absolute must if you are planning a trip there. It was created by locals who know their cities inside out, the idea is that they recommend things that aren't so touristy…A little like what I do! Allowing us to track down that uber cool hidden cafe or experience activities that even other sites may have missed.
I could tell the app whether I was feeling Cultural, Social, Stylish (hah!) or Active then it would show me recommendations on a map. The app combined with the portable wifi gave me so much to do that I needed more time! I really feel like Switzerland is leading the way in terms of how tourists explore their country, after all we are a generation of techies and this is what we want!
Party hard in Lausanne
On the train from Geneva Airport to Lausanne I was dazzled by the passing scenery, I couldn't stop taking photographs of the lush green fields backed by Lake Geneva and the Alps. I am a lover of nature and attractive settings, living in London I'm only familiar with tall buildings and flat ground so it was great to escape to somewhere so beautiful.
My hotel was located in Flon, the glamorous heart of the city. As soon as I checked in I made a beeline for 'Les Arches' a bar set under four giant illuminated railway arches. I quickly noticed just how many people had flocked to the bar, still in their work suits, enjoying a beer in the sun and socialising with friends, everybody seemed so carefree and relaxed.
Is this what life is like here? I wondered.
A local told me that although Lausanne is considered as a historical, chilled out city and isn't as large as Geneva or Zurich it actually has a reputation for being the party capital of Switzerland. This was a bold statement to make and I needed proof so he took me on a crawl around 6 of Lausannes most diverse bars.
Let me tell you that these guys seriously know how to party, which suited me just fine! We did most of our drinking outdoors on beautiful rooftop terraces such as 'Epicurious', giving me a fantastic panoramic view of my hilly surroundings.
My favourite bar was 'The Great Escape' where I could have spent most of the afternoon. It had a large terrace area with a young crowd enjoying the sunshine, we were serenaded by a guitarist and for a moment I felt like I was in Brazil, it was heavenly. Later most of the vibrant crowd head inside to dance to a soundtrack of Oasis and Vampire weekend -- The Swiss have great taste in music.
There are plenty of outdoor bars that pop-up for the summer months including 'Bourg Plage' and 'Flon Plage' -- A beach style bar where I relaxed on a deck chair and pushed my feet into the sand. I sipped on a Caipirinha and for a moment it felt like I was in a beach resort.
Lausanne is home to one of Switzerland's biggest clubs, quite simply named 'MAD'. A huge club split on 5 different levels, the top floor being an elegant VIP area. It took me back to my Ibiza party days, the room was lit with lasers and lead by a resident DJ. I went crazy to some hard electro. I wasn't surprised to hear that David Guetta and Tiesto have played here before.
Beyond the nightlife
I don't know if it's the fresh mountain air that prevented my usual crippling hangover but I had enough energy and vigour to explore all Lausanne had to offer by day. It needs to be said that this city is so beautiful and dynamic with the modern shopping area of Flon beside the Medieval Old City.
Flon - Get your Carrie Bradshaw on in Lausanne's most fashionable shopping district, followed up by some fine dining for brunch in one of the many restaurants.
Medieval Old Town - Walk the cobbled streets and take the wooden staircase up to the focal point of Lausanne -- the Gothic Notre Damn Cathedral which houses the most impressive organ you've ever seen. Most of the buildings here remind me of the cute town houses of Amsterdam. Lausanne is steeped in history dating back to Roman times and even now has a watchman calling the time from the top of the Cathedral.
Port Ouchy - This is where I spent most of my time lying in the park gazing across Lake Geneva at France and the Alps. The scenery is really something, the lake is backed by mountains and the vineyards of Montreux. My Swiss friend and I took a pedal boat out onto the lake and swam in the clear waters. One of the best experiences you can have is to take a cruise on the old steam boat to the various ports around the lake and catch a train back to Lausanne. The view from the train is truly breath taking.
Park Bois de Sauvabelin - That lush green space you picture when you think of Switzerland is right here, a short bus ride away from Lausanne centre. We took a walk through the pine forest and watched the huge fishes in the crystal clear lake. If you aren't afraid of heights climb the the wooden Sauvabelin Tower for a panoramic view overlooking the city and lake Geneva.
Segway Tours - Such a shame I missed out on doing this but I can't think of a better way to get around this hilly city. An assortment of tours are available.
Water Skiing & Wakeboarding - I was quite tame with my pedal boat but the lake offers loads of water sport opportunities.
Overall it seems like Lausanne has something for everybody whether you are a young party go-er or slightly older and wish to indulge in the history and sights of the city.
I highly recommend downloading the 'Make My Switzerland' app to have a true local experience and reap the rewards offered only to app owners. My next stop in Switzerland will be Bern in September.
Visit the My Switzerland website for some expert tips.
Travel tip shared by Kate
The Lost Londoner.com