Lausanne : Ouchy and the lakefront
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As if Lausanne weren’t relaxed enough already, it has Ouchy as a lakeside terrace on which to stroll, chill out, and enjoy the mountain views and fresh breezes. Officially – and proudly – a separate commune from Lausanne, Ouchy for years survived as a fishing port, but these days, although some fishing continues, it’s become one of the more chic of the Swiss lakeside resorts, with waterfront cafés abounding.

Some 500m west of Ouchy’s neo-Gothic château, now a hotel, and beyond the majestically opulent Hôtel Beau-Rivage set in its own grounds, you’ll come to the Parc Olympique, home of Lausanne’s much-touted flagship Musée Olympique (May–Sept daily 9am–6pm; Oct–April Tues–Sun 9am–6pm; Fr.14, audioguide Fr.3; SMP; www.olympic.org closed on 25th december and 1st january). Opened in 1994, it’s a very grand affair, with formal gardens and fountains preluding the sweeping pomp of the interior design, but it’s rather unsatisfying nonetheless. Displays on the Olympics of ancient Greece and the restoration of the games in modern times are moderately engaging, but the main focus of the museum – banks of video screens replaying events from past summer and winter games, to the accompaniment of suitably stirring music – is handy for recalling the triumphs of Daley Thompson or Florence Griffith but ends up, unfortunately, as little more than glorified TV. Rows and rows of medals, sheets of Olympic postage-stamps, and cases of objects from athletes past (discuses, speed bikes, and Carl Lewis’s old running shoes) do nothing to help tell any special stories. The computerized video library, which lets you select and view any of several hundred past events from the Olympics, the soccer World Cup, European championships, the NBA, Wimbledon or the Tour de France, would make the museum unmissable but for the fact that you’re only allowed to choose two events, and they tend to comprise, for instance, three or four minutes of goal action, or one single track event. Even for sports fans, it’s a washout.

In the same park, set slightly back from the Olympic Museum, you’ll find the much more worthwhile Musée de l’Elysée (Tues–Sun 10am–6pm, Thurs until 9pm; Fr.5; SMP), dedicated to photography from the earliest daguerrotypes up to contemporary photojournalism. Its continuous cycle of temporary exhibitions are generally outstanding, and the museum has a range of shows on different subject matter running concurrently, so even if Czech avant-garde photography from the 1920s isn’t your thing, a retrospective of David Hockney’s photos might be.

The shady and flowered lakeside promenades (and bus #8) continue east for a couple of kilometres to the old fishing port of PULLY (pronounced pwee), now an extremely ordered and monied suburb of gentility and discretion – but no less beautiful for that.

A kilometre or so west of Ouchy is VIDY, and one of the first indications that you’re approaching the place is a boxy building on stilts in a lakeside park: this is the Théâtre de Vidy, Switzerland’s leading contemporary drama venue. The parkland just beyond the theatre was the location of the first settlements in the Lausanne area, in Neolithic times, and then later under the Romans. Approaching through the park, you’ll stumble onto remnants and ruins of the Roman town of Lousonna, an assembly of low walls and tumbled stones with an explanatory board nearby. A short distance beyond, at 24 Chemin du Bois-de-Vaux, is the modern and well laid out Musée Romain (Tues–Sun 11am–6pm, Thurs until 8pm; Fr.6; SMP). Finds are displayed with explanatory boards mostly in French (although they do have a leaflet in English), with particularly impressive glassware, some mosaic work and interesting displays of artefacts and other bits and bobs.

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