Lausanne, Switzerland

The Gothic cathedral on the highest hill of Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

Lausanne (pronounced "lo-ZANN") is a medium-sized city perched on a steep hill on the north side of Lake Geneva in southwest Switzerland. It is the capital of Canton Vaud and French-speaking. Thanks to Switzerland's excellent rail system, Lausanne makes an easy day trip from Geneva (45 min), Fribourg (1 hr), or Bern (1.5 hrs).

Dubbed "Switzerland's San Francisco," Lausanne is characterized by steep cobbled streets, high-end shopping, numerous museums, galleries, cafés, clubs, parks, and two major universities. At the top of the old town is Lausanne Cathedral, the best-preserved Gothic cathedral in Switzerland, from which there is a magnificent view over the city to Lake Geneva.

There has been a settlement on the hill of Lausanne since the Stone Age, and the Roman camp Lausanna occupied a position just down the hill toward the lake. Relocated to more defensible hilltop in the Dark Ages, Lausanne's wealth and importance increased due to its location on the primary trading routes between Italy and the North Sea. In 1538, the Bernese took the city from the Dukes of Savoy as part of their drive to secure their southwestern frontier. Lausanne finally gained its independence from Bern after the invasion of Napoléon Bonaparte's army in 1798, and was admitted to Switzerland as the capital of Vaud in 1803.

Lausanne Cathedral
This unique Gothic cathedral is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland, with carved portals on the outside and soaring heights inside. It was once home to a revered golden statue of the Virgin Mary.
Dating from 1272, this church was once the center of a Franciscan monastery set against the southern city walls. It is now a Protestant parish church.