66km (41 miles) NE of Geneva; 214km (133 miles) SW of Zurich
Lausanne, whose 140,000 inhabitants make it the second-largest city on Lake Geneva and the fifth largest in Switzerland, is built on three hills overlooking the lake. The upper and lower towns are connected by a small metro (subway).
Lausanne has been inhabited since the Stone Age (it was the ancient Roman town of Lousanna). In 1803, the canton of Vaud, of which Lausanne is the capital, became the 19th to join the Swiss Confederation.
For centuries, Lausanne has been a favorite spot for exiles and expatriates, attracting, among others, deposed monarchs. Lausanne flourished particularly in the Age of Enlightenment, when it was associated with Rousseau and Voltaire, two of the leading writers in the 18th century. Even today the city is cited by many French-speaking Swiss as the place they would most like to live because of its low-key elegance and sense of grace. Regrettably, it's no longer a center of the intellectual or artistic elite. Voltaire and the likes have given way to water-skiers, swimmers, and "Sunday sailors," most of whom have never heard of Rousseau, much less read him. Even so, Lausanne retains an aesthetic charm and a cultural tradition -- today it's the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee.