Lausanne is spread out along the shore of Lake Geneva, surrounded by suburbs. There are two sections in particular that attract the most visitors -- the Upper Town (Haute Ville) and the once-industrial neighborhood of Flon, which collectively comprise the oldest parts of the city, and the Lower Town (Basse Ville), and its lake-fronting district of Ouchy; the two sections are connected by a small subway (metro). The metro features 14 separate stations, incorporating Lausanne with many of its outlying suburbs. This is the only underground (metro) in Switzerland.

Haute Ville

Lausanne's Upper Town still evokes the Middle Ages -- a night watchman calls out the hours from 10pm to 2am from atop the cathedral's belfry. A visit to the Haute Ville takes about 2 hours and is best done on foot. In fact, walking through the old town of Lausanne is one of its major attractions. It's easy to get lost -- and that's part of the fun. This area is north of the railroad station; you can reach it by proceeding uphill along rue du Petit-Chêne. The focal point of the Upper Town, and the shopping and business heart of Lausanne, is place Saint-François. The Church of St. François, from the 13th century, is all that remains of an old Franciscan friary. Today, the square is filled with office blocks and the main post office; regrettably, La Grotte, the villa with the terrace on which Edward Gibbon completed The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1787, was torn down in 1896 to make room for the post office. While vehicles are permitted south of the church, the historic area to the north of the church is a pedestrian-only zone; it has more than 2km (1 1/4 miles) of streets, including rue de Bourg, northeast of the church, the best street for shopping. Rue de Bourg leads to the large, bustling rue Caroline, which winds north to Pont des Bessières, one of the three bridges erected at the turn of the 20th century to connect the three hills on which Lausanne was built. From the bridge, you'll see the Haute Ville on your right, with the 13th-century cathedral of Lausanne, opening onto place de la Cathédrale. From the square, rue du Cité-de-Vant goes north to the 14th-century Château Saint-Maire, on place du Château -- once the home of bishops and now containing the offices of the canton administration.

From here, avenue de l'Université leads to place de la Riponne, the site of Lausanne's biweekly food and produce markets (Wed and Sat May-Oct 8am-1pm), where stalls loaded with the agrarian bounty of the district are set up within the square and the streets around its perimeter. The Palais de Rumine rises from the place de la Riponne's east side. From place de la Riponne, rue Pierre-Viret leads to the Escaliers du Marché, a covered stairway dating back to the Middle Ages. You can also take rue Madeleine from the place de la Riponne, continuing south to place de la Palud. On the side of place de la Palud is the 17th-century Hôtel de Ville (town hall).

South of place de la Palud is rue du Pont, which turns into rue Saint-François (after crossing rue Centrale). Nearby, at place du Flon, you can catch the subway to Ouchy. Place du Flon, with its cafes and bars, is a favorite evening hangout.


Ouchy, once a sleepy fishing hamlet, is now the port and hotel resort area of Lausanne. The lakefront of Lausanne consists of shady quays and tropical plants spread across a lakefront district of about half a mile. Adjoining place de la Navigation is place du Port immediately to the east. Quai de Belgique and quai d'Ouchy are lakefront promenades bursting with greenery and offering the best views of the lake.

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