I love cheese. No, I’m not talking about a night out at G-A-Y. I’m on about a bit of brie. Or maybe a chunk of cheddar. I’ve also always wanted to try a fondue. Hot melted Swiss cheese, laced with kirsh and wine, making for a tempting drippy treat.
But where to go for an authentic slice of this cheeseorama? Sure, when thinking of a city break in Switzerland the obvious suspects spring to mind – Geneva, Zurich or even the capital Bern. But why not escape these tourist magnets and discover what might possibly be the country’s gay capital? Pass through Geneva and take advantage of the world’s most efficient rail system and just 50 minutes later, you’ll find yourself in the city of Lausanne.
With great nightlife, stunning scenery, loads of culture, outstanding shopping opportunities and fabulous restaurants and bars, this city has it all for those looking for an LGBT city break.
First things first and it’s time to check-in. Based in the city centre, for location it’s hard to beat the Hotel de la Paix. Comfortable and contemporary, it’s conveniently a stone’s throw from all the major attractions. And despite being located in the city centre it still offers stunning views of Lake Geneva, the Alps and even neighbouring France. The hotel has its own restaurant and bar but I decide to head out to see what else the city has to offer.
I find myself at Brasserie de Montbenon for dinner, and a burlesque cabaret night. It turns out that the restaurant is a bit of a hub for Lausanne’s artistic set and is a popular meeting place for stylists, writers, photographers, musicians and the like. It has a busy events programme and on any day you can expect anything from a petanque tournament, gardening advice, craft beer tasting, chocolate and tea tasting, or an art show.
The menu is first rate and provides the usual bistro favourites along with some more adventurous dishes such as beef cheeks, a sweetbreads casserole and bone marrow on toast. But no fondue. The menu kindly informs me at all the meats are all from Switzerland, except the duck, which is French.
As for the show, naturally it’s in French, but I still kind of get the jist of it. The BM! singing tour, involves some Charleston, a little naughty tease here, a few taps there, as well as, ahem, ‘glamour dancing’ from the delightful Emma Mylan. It’s too much for a boy and I call it a day.
The next morning and it’s time to get to grips with Lausanne. The old city centre itself has been designated a Swiss heritage site while 46 individual buildings and sites are listed as being of national significance. The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Lausanne towers above them all and (consecrated in 1275) is worth a visit in itself – but not for too long. There are officially 19 museums and eight contemporary art galleries and centres should you decide to visit them all.
One of the most popular attractions and a must see for more than 250,000 visitors each year is the Olympic Museum. Lausanne hasn’t actually ever hosted the Olympic Games but the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee are in the vicinity. Inside the museum visitors can explore permanent and temporary exhibits relating to sport and the Olympic movement. With more than 10,000 pieces, the museum is the largest archive of Olympic Games in the world.
Slightly cultured out and in need of a sugar lift I seek out what has been a stalwart on Lausanne’s gastronomic scene for more than 40 years. La Chocolatiere on Avenue Mon-Repos is a chocolate lover’s heaven with its handmade, deliciously crunchy and soft pralines, made on the premises by hand and using the finest ingredients. Its trademark box is the ‘Mystery’ which includes such specialities as old style truffles, passion fruit and caramel pralines, together with crunchy hazelnut, almond and nougatine pralines. Yum! This shop holds the accolade of being one of the finest in the city, winning first prize in the ‘Coup de Coeur’ in the Prix de Commerce.
Come the evening it’s time to check out LGBT Lausanne. Avenue de Tivoli is the equivalent of London’s Old Compton Street and GT’s Bar & Lounge is a good place to kick the night off. Alternatively, Le Punk on Place de l’Europe is popular and buzzy. Sunday is the big night and MAD is the place to be. With its five floors housing four dance areas, it’s one of Europe’s largest and most popular clubs, making for an unmissable night out. And don’t miss the cult favourite Jungle Parties, regularly held at the D! Club and attracting visitors from all over the world.
So how gay is Lausanne? Well, pay a visit to Pink Beach on Avenue Tivoli. It’s the biggest sanua club in Switzerland, and I guess that says it all.
SWISS operates up to 64 weekly flights from London Heathrow, London City and London Gatwick to Geneva. Fares start from £65 one-way and £99 return (Economy Flex fare), including all airport taxes, complimentary food and drinks plus – as standard – one piece of 23kg checked baggage in Economy Class. For reservations call 0845 6010956 or visit swiss.com
Hotel de la Paix: Singles from CHF 190 (£130) and doubles from CHF 200 (£136) per night inc breakfast. hoteldelapaix.net
For more information on Switzerland visit MySwitzerland.com