Lausanne : Arrival, orientation and information
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Lausanne’s topography looks confusing on a map, but isn’t actually too hard to grasp. At the top is the Old Town, in the middle are the train station and commercial districts, and at the bottom is the one-time fishing village of Ouchy, now prime territory for waterfront strolling and café-lounging. But the gradients between them all are no joke: the peak of Mont Jorat, only 10km northeast of the city, rises to 927m; just north of the Old Town is a viewpoint at 643m; the central districts are ranged around 475m; while residential neighbourhoods slide on down for another kilometre to the lakeshore at 372m.

Focus of the city centre is the grand Place St-François, hub of bus routes and heart of the shopping district. Gilt-edged Rue de Bourg entices shoppers uphill from St-François, while beside it Rue St-François drops down north into the valley and up the other side to the cobbled Place de la Palud, an ancient, fountained square plum in the heart of the Old Town and flanked by the arcades of the Renaissance town hall. The elegant Gothic turrets of the Cathedral rise loftily above, while the foursquare Château stands even further up, at the highest and most northerly tip of the Old Town. Beyond rise the Jorat forests and open parkland, alongside the peaceful village of Cugy.

Northwest of St-Francois, the giant Grand Pont soars over the warehouse district of Le Flon, hotbed of Lausanne’s burgeoning club culture, to Place Bel-Air and on to Place Chauderon at the head of the Pont Chauderon, which also rises above Le Flon. The steep slope south of St-François ends at the main train station, south of which a succession of opulent and elegant residential districts around the Montriond and Jordils metro stations trickle down to Place de la Navigation on the Ouchy waterfront. Lakeside promenades lead in both directions from Ouchy, east to the gentle villages of Pully and Lutry, west to the parkland of Vidy and the lakeside campuses of the University of Lausanne and adjacent Federal Institute of Technology at Dorigny.

The imposing train station is served by regular main-line services from Paris and from all corners of Switzerland. Boats dock at the CGN jetty in Ouchy. There’s a metro station more or less opposite the dock, with regular shuttles climbing the steep hill to the train station (Gare CFF), and further up to Flon. Alternatively, bus #2 from the Ouchy waterfront (direction Désert) snakes up to Place St-François, then heads northwest over the Grand-Pont to Bel-Air, and on to Rue Neuve beside Place de la Riponne.

By car, negotiating the approaches to the city centre without finding yourself inadvertently bypassing Lausanne altogether is difficult enough, but then once you do arrive, you’re left to cope with objectionably expensive or awkward city-centre parking. Street parking in the centre is a dead loss, but it’s worth cruising around south of the train station in search of a blue-zone space. The largest city car park is under Place du Riponne, but it’s more expensive than the one on the lakefront road in Ouchy.

Lausanne has two tourist offices (021/613 73 73, www.lausanne-tourisme.ch), one in the train station (daily 9am–7pm), and the other beside Ouchy metro station (daily: April–Sept 9am–9pm, Oct–March 9am–6pm). Both have the usual stacks of information, including various free maps of the city and the public transport network, a very handy Bienvenue/Welcome booklet crammed with useful background material on the city and its surroundings, a guide to the city’s museums, timetables for the boats, and so on. Their Lausanne Promenade brochure series, all of which include maps and notes on subjects such as “Gracious Houses”, “Parks and Gardens” and “Family Activities” are especially good. If you’re looking for more focused infomation on cultural happenings and the life of the city, or if you want to buy tickets for local shows, it’s worth dropping into the municipality’s information office, in the Old Town at 2 Escaliers du Marché (Mon–Fri 8am–noon & 1.15–5pm; 021/315 25 55, www.lausanne.ch). They have a booklet, Allons-y! (“Let’s go!”), outlining the city’s budget restaurants, museums and excursions that are either free or cost less than Fr.15.

“Tempo”, the Saturday supplement of Geneva’s Le Temps newspaper, is the best source of listings and reviews of film openings, performances and cultural events throughout Romandie (although all in French). Lausanne’s own 24 Heures tabloid has cinema reviews but only a handful of other events listed. The tourist office puts out its own bimonthly offering.

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