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Lausanne’s gastronomic traditions and wine-producing heritage date back centuries, and today are celebrated in award-winning restaurants and the world-famous Lavaux wine region nearby. But this city on the shore of Lake Geneva also has a youthful energy and international flavour that is generating a wave of funky pop-ups, food festivals and new bars and restaurants.
When Lausanne staged its first ever street food festival a few years ago, the city’s residents came out in full. Place de la Riponne – the large city centre square that hosted the festival – was rammed with locals, all enjoying the buzzy atmosphere and wide range of international dishes on offer. Over the course of a sunny summer weekend, visitors tucked into everything from tacos, noodle bowls and empanadas to stone-baked pizzas, falafel and organic vegan salads served out of the dozens of food trucks dotted around the square.
Lausanne has always served up good food, but usually in its long-established restaurants. There’s the busy brasserie Les Trois Rois, where the steak frites is divine; and the charming Pinte Besson, supposedly Lausanne’s oldest pub, where you can tuck into fondue or local specialities such as papet vaudois (a traditional leek and potato hotpot served with cabbage sausage). Then there are the restaurants of Lausanne’s luxury hotels, including the Beau-Rivage Palace and the Lausanne Palace, where top chefs Anne-Sophie Pic and Edgard Bovier create Michelin-starred masterpieces. These places remain a beloved part of Lausanne’s gastronomic scene, but ever since that first food festival, a new energy has infused the city, inspiring a more dynamic and diverse approach to dining.
As well as a now annual food festival (Miam, held in June), a rotating selection of food trucks now occupies Place de la Riponne every day apart from Wednesday – when you can pick up a freshly baked cheese tart from the market instead. At the other end of the square is summer pop-up La Grenette, a lively outdoor bar with mismatched thrift store chairs, a changing menu of international dishes, craft beers from Lausanne microbrewery La Nébuleuse and Swiss cider by Dr Gab’s. Just off the square in Lausanne’s own ‘flatiron’ building is another gem, Le Pointu. Head there for coffee or an apéro, a lunchtime poké bowl or a Sunday brunch of pancakes, avocado toast or açai smoothie. Like many funky young food businesses in the city, Le Pointu was set up by graduates of Lausanne’s world-renowned hospitality school Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), including local lifestyle blogger Sofia Clara. The six graduates also opened a second restaurant in the city: the contemporary brasserie Loxton.
As Lausanne’s food scene has evolved, so have its international influences. Wandering around the city centre you’ll find Bamee Bistro for fragrant Vietnamese pho or noodle dishes, Tayta for Peruvian empanadas, and the Italian café Non Solo – created by another passionate young EHL graduate – for homemade arancini.
Another way to enjoy the diversity of Lausanne’s food scene is to check out the many events staged by Lausanne à Table. Join locals for a food market and picnic overlooking the lake to celebrate Swiss National Day on 1 August; try local craft beers and wines in open-cellar events; and discover Mexican food with a Swiss twist during La Fête du Chips, organised by Yan Luong – a local food entrepreneur who arranges street food events all over the city with his company La Cantine. This summer, he’s also hosting a Japanese food event at La Jetée de la Compagnie, a must-visit, open-air bar in Lausanne’s lakeside district of Ouchy. It’s the ideal spot for an Aperol spritz or a glass of white wine while watching the sun set over the lake, or even for a dip from the rocks. It’s just one of several great places down here, including Le Lacustre, a popular bar-restaurant with a fantastic view, and Thai au Lac, which boasts arguably the best lakeside terrace in the city.
Looking out over Lake Geneva you’ll spot the vineyards carpeting the slopes between here and Montreux. Switzerland is a proud – but little known – wine-producing nation, and vines have been grown in the Lavaux region (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) for centuries. Sample the result at crowdfunded wine bar Ta Cave, discover more at wine centre Vinorama, or come for one of the region’s fabulous events: the annual caves ouvertes (open cellars) each spring, when wineries throw open their doors for tastings; and the grape harvest festival in Lutry in September, a celebration of the area’s wine heritage. Because, for all Lausanne’s youthful energy and international spirit, its long-held traditions are just as important to this vibrant city.
Inspired to plan a memorable trip to Switzerland? Discover the best of the Lausanne this summer.
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