Lausanne Offers Steep View of the Arts
Copley News Service

Imagine museum-hopping surrounded by majestic alpine scenery, emerald countryside and glistening, blue water.

Art lovers need not travel to a large metropolis of steel and concrete to enjoy an extensive collection of the world’s finest visual and performing arts. Switzerland’s gem-size city, Lausanne, offers a cultural smorgasbord for the eyes to feast upon.

Olympic Museum - Colorful flags adorn the entrance to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, a city rich in culture and history. Photo by Beverly Mann

Known as the arts capital of the Lake Geneva region (aka La Du Leman), Lausanne presents a colorful palette of culture and history through a Mecca of museums. Dubbed “Little San Francisco?because of its steep hills and artsy nature, Lausanne attracts about 650,000 visitors per year who stroll through its 20 museums. This is quite a bit of traffic, when you realize that the population of Lausanne and its 42 outlying villages is approximately 250,000.

The city has made it easy and economical to visit all the museums with a three-day Museum Pass, which has the added perk of free public transportation to and from each of the museums ?and includes the one-of-a-kind Olympic Museum and Art Brut Collection.

Known as the Olympic capital and seat of the International Olympic Committee, Lausanne takes pride in its Olympic Museum, built in 1993. An architect’s dream, the museum integrates itself within the landscape. You first enter a stretch of greenery through the park, up a series of steep paths or escalators, before discovering the interior.

Olympic Gathering - Memorabilia from the first olympic games to the present is on display at Lausanne's Olympic Museum, which opened in 1993. Photo by Beverly Mann
This classical modern structure of white marble columns is comprised of five levels, with two under ground. The main floor offers a semi-permanent exhibit where the visitor travels through time, starting with the origins of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece. The museum receives as many as 220,000 visitors per year and houses a remarkable collection of memorabilia and medals from the first Olympics to the present. You can view endless hours of video, including the scientific, legal, medical and artistic aspects of the games.  

Past the entrance of the museum is a spiral ramp surrounded by an interactive environment of high-tech equipment and larger-than-life video screens. And don’t leave without getting something to eat. The outdoor-indoor restaurant affords you an exquisite lakeside view and first-rate food.

For a bit of the bizarre, head on to the Art Brut Collection, which celebrates its 25th anniversary. You stroll through four floors of art created by about 300 individuals who have lived on the edge of life: the criminally insane, prisoners, eccentrics and psychiatric patients.

Gathered by artist Jean Dubuffet, the art consists of approximately 20,000 works from the 19th and 20th centuries. You will be amazed by what can be created from jagged pieces of broken plates, spoons, shells and rags.

Examine the city’s prehistoric times to the present with a stroll through the History Museum of Lausanne. The miniature model of the city as it stood in the early 17th century is worth a look.

Lausanne - The city of Lausanne, Switzerland, known
as the olympic capital, is also the arts capital of the
Lake Geneva region, hometo an abundance of museums.
Photo by Beverly Mann

The Museum of Decorative Arts (Musee Des Arts Decoratifs) holds the permanent collection of contemporary glass sculpture by European, American, Canadian and Japanese artists and contemporary ceramics from all over the world. And photography buffs should definitely visit the Musee de l’Elysee.

Whether you are 7 or 70, the Espace des Inventions provides hands-on exploration for the adventurous spirit.

Create a rainbow, play with your shadow or grab a phantom light bulb. Just about anything is possible in this museum filled with scientific games and discoveries.

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