In any season and weather, the view from the Lausanne harbor is stunning. In fall and winter the snowy peaks of the Swiss and French Alps provide a dramatic backdrop for Lake Geneva's choppy waters, where breezes shake moored boats like baby rattles. In spring and summer the mountains, including the Mont-Blanc glacier, are mirrored in the lake's clear blue-green waters, a picture of serenity.
Lausanne is a hilly town and the harbor, called Ouchy, lies at its foot. On sunny days locals flock here to stroll along the lake the Swiss know as Lac Léman. From here a 20-minute walk takes you to Vidy, a vast park with a smaller harbor. These shores bear vestiges of Roman presence dating back to 4500 B.C., with well-preserved ruins scattered along lakeside paths.
Lausanne is the home to the International Olympic Committee, and a sporty walk along the waterfront in the other direction brings you to the Olympic Museum, which documents the history of the Games, displays a varied collection of Olympic memorabilia, interactive displays and video of famous moments in sporting history (closed Mondays).
On the way back, stroll along the waterfront past the 17th century house where Lord Byron in 1816 wrote The Prisoner of Chillon, a poem commemorating the imprisonment in 1530 of François de Bonnivard, prior of the Abbey of St. Victor. The 13th century Chillon Castle is at the lake's eastern end, a pleasant 90-minute steamboat trip from Ouchy. The boats leave from the central dock, but the schedule is seasonal so when there call 0848-811-848 for information.
Across from Byron's house is Château d'Ouchy, a restaurant serving one of the most popular local specialties: perch from the lake. Lightly sautéed in butter, the tender fillets are served with parsley potatoes and consumed with chilled white wine from terraced vineyards surrounding Lausanne. No true Lausannois would drink anything with a perch but a local white.
After lunch, cross the street for a 10-minute funicular ride up the hill to the town center. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a lively open-air market along pedestrian streets and squares, with stalls selling everything from homegrown produce and flowers to exotic spices and food. The winding, cobblestone streets lead to the Cité, the Old Town dating to the Middle Ages. Perched on the hilltop is Lausanne's famed cathedral. Built in 1219, it is Switzerland's largest, with intricate stained-glass windows and Gothic artifacts. Every night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., one of Europe's last criers announces the hour, practically the only nighttime noise in this otherwise quiet city. Since this is the highest point in Lausanne, you can look down over the rooftops of the Old Town all the way toward the lake.
The History Museum at the foot of the cathedral documents the city's evolution through the centuries (closed Mondays). An impressive scale model shows the town in the Middle Ages; parts of the ridge and the walls surrounding medieval Lausanne are still visible in the Old Town and testify to the city's defense system. Walking up and down the hilly streets could be tiring, a good reason to replenish your energies with the best ice cream this side of the Alps. Head for the restaurant of the Mövenpick Hotel in Ouchy and order a café glacé: two scoops of espresso ice cream swimming in iced coffee, topped with whipped cream, chopped nuts and warm chocolate syrup. After you taste this, you may never want to leave.
Jogging: Vidy Park. A myriad of paths along the lake and through the vast park are popular with runners. But beware of considerable bicycle and rollerblade traffic.
Internet Café: La Fac, Rue Simplon 27 (behind the railway station). Internet access at $3 per half-hour. Daily 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Best Chocolates: Blondel, Rue du Bourg 5. Scrumptious chocolate made right on the premises. Open 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
Best Buy: The Lausanne card. About $9 for two days gives discounts on public transportation and in some museums, restaurants and shops. At hotels and Tourist Information offices.
Coffee Break: Le Barbare tearoom, Escalier du Marché 27. A charming café on a narrow cobblestone street in the middle of Old Town. Hot or cold chocolate topped with whipped cream are its specialties. Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., weekends 8:30 a.m. to midnight.