2019/11/11

Short trip to Lausanne in the western part of Switzerland

Location

Checking in to Hotel Royal Savoy in Lausanne-Ouchy

As my husband attended an executive education event in Lausanne, I had the chance to spend some time in Lausanne too, the second largest city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland after Geneva. Like the latter it is located on Lake Geneva and it is a great place to spend a weekend in style in the most beautiful vineyard region in Switzerland, the Lavaux. The choice as to lodging was made by the organizer of the event mentioned (special rate), but I could not have made a better one myself as Hotel Royal Savoy proved to be a true gem.


About Lausanne

Lausanne is the fourth largest city in Switzerland. It is built on three hills, amidst the Lavaux wine-growing region and located on the shores of Lake Geneva. On the opposite side of the lake is the French town of Evian-les-Bains, against the backdrop of the Savoy Alps. Briefly, an utterly picturesque setting indeed!

Lausanne is a city of sport; the International Olympic Committee has had its base here since 1914. It was even appointed as “Olympic Capital” by this institution. There is also the Court of Arbitration for Sport and many international sport associations settled here. The city is also home of the Olympic Museum, a large information center about the Olympic games, which is worth visiting for those interested in this subject.

The old medieval town with its maze of winding alleys and the impressive Gothic cathedral is good for a stroll. Ouchy, the port and a lovely neighborhood just by the lake, is a must-visit, too. The scenic view of the lake and the Alps make it a popular gathering place, especially in summertime. And on the lake shore, there are several grand palace hotels just as the Beau-Rivage Palace Ouchy, the Angleterre or Château d’Ouchy.

After going into the Hotel Royal Savoy, where my husband stayed, I will make suggestions where to go for a walk in Lausanne-Ouchy and its surroundings, the marvelous Lavaux vineyards.

Hotel Royal Savoy, part of The Buergenstock Selection

Before coming to this hotel in Lausanne, a few words to the hotel group, where Royal Savoy belongs to, the Buergenstock Selection. There are three establishments under this banner, the Buergenstock Resort Lake Lucerne
– the most known and at the same time one of the largest luxury retreats in Europe, see here my blogpost about staying here –, the Hotel Schweizerhof Bern and the mentioned Hotel Royal Savoy Lausanne. A special package is offered when booking more than one hotel of this selection during a minimum length of nights. The investor and owner of Buergenstock Selection is Katara Hospitality, a subsidiary of the Emirate of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

After all this background information – it might be interesting to know who is behind all these magnificent hotels –, now to the Royal Savoy itself.

Location

Set in Ouchy, not far from the city center with the main railway station, Hotel Royal Savoy benefits from a perfect setting. The lake can be reached in less than ten minutes by foot and a station of the metro (connecting Ouchy with the main railway station and further) is just outside the hotel. And of course, an outstanding view of Lake Geneva from its elevated location is matter of course!

If flying into Switzerland, the main railway station of Lausanne can be reached in about 45 minutes from Geneva airport or in less than two and half hours from Zurich airport by train.

Facilities

The hotel, dating from 1909, used to be a refuge for royalty and aristocrats from all over the world. Before it was bought by the Katara Hospitality, Royal Savoy had led an existence as a (downgraded) three-star hotel, which of course had not done justice to the splendid Art Nouveau building influenced also by the architecture of medieval castles. After a costly four-year renovation (100 million SFR) of the historic building complete with the construction of a new wing – dedicated mainly to a spa and seminar facilities – the five-star hotel reopened in 2015.

The made-over Royal Savoy has 196 rooms, three restaurants – the main restaurant Brasserie du Royal, a lounge bar, both with terraces, and the Sky Lounge, a roof top bar – and all the other facilities typical for an hotel of this class (spa with indoor and outdoor pool, 24/7 fitness center, hair salon etc.).

Rooms/Pricing

As my husband stayed at the Royal Savoy on the occasion of an executive education event at a local business school, he had booked a standard room via the organizing company coming along with a special rate. The regular rate for this room category (Deluxe Room City View) would have been around 400 SFR. The room he had was located in the new wing, quite spacious (30 sqm/323 sqft), modernly decorated, with a comfortable bed, a separate seating area and a balcony.
The bathroom with marble finishing was adequately sized, coming with a tub, a sperate shower and a likewise toilet.
As mentioned above, there are three restaurants on site, out of which I had dinner at the main restaurant Brasserie du Royal, awarded 15 points by the prestigious food guide Gault Millau, and I had also tea and cake at the lounge bar. In addition, my husband had drinks and tapas dishes at the Sky Lounge
at one occasion.While he liked the atmosphere in this gorgeous roof top bar (stylish and vibrant), he found the food good (inventive and light) yet on the more expensive side, at least if intended to be a full dinner. As to the food experience in the other two outlets, here are my verdicts.

1. Tea and cake at the lounge bar

I have a sweet tooth and I am quite demanding when it comes to delicacies in this field. When entering the elegant premises, a beautiful, high-ceiling room,
I immediately caught side of a trolley where the pastries of the day were showcased. They looked delicious, and after trying a bite from the ones we chose – a difficult choice –, I had to admit that it was probably the most heavenly lemon tart and chocolate éclair I have ever tasted!
Besides from sweets, there is an extensive lounge bar menu including everything from breakfast items, small bites, classics just as smoked salmon, bar evergreens like club sandwich, healthy and vegetarian choices to a range of oriental options (the hotel is Qatari owned).

2. A (small) dinner at Brasserie du Royal

The restaurant is quite large, comprised of several rooms. Before entering the dining room, you pass a hallway lined with wine cabinets and at its end you find yourself looking at a meal vitrine with aged meat.
Later on you will learn – when looking at the varied menu – that all the meat pieces showcased are aged, on the bone, for a minimum of three weeks (veal prime flank, beef tenderloin and beef prime rib, served with a side dish and sauce of your choice). Although, my husband and I were tempted by these meat specialties, we decided against it – we were in a bit of a rush as I had to catch a train after dinner – and opted instead for Monsieur Marc’s Menu (three courses, 85 SFR). If you are wondering about this “Monsieur”, it is about Marc Haeberlin, a famous two-starred (until recently three-starred) Michelin chef from the Alsace (northeastern France), who is on hand with advice here and contributes a few signature dishes to the menu, too.

We were ushered through the elegant, contemporarily designed restaurant – I adored the gorgeous chandeliers –
to the winter garden,
probably the brightest room with a view of the terrace.
What a nice setting on a rainy evening – as we caught one, unfortunately!

Quickly after bringing a bread selection,
the starter, an immaculate foie gras, combined with a strawberry chutney and a freshly baked brioche in the form of a typical Alsatian kougelhopf, was served.
The main course, a roasted pollack, paired with citrus tzatziki and lots of bok choi was convincing, too.
The dessert, la pêche “Haeberlin”, a candied peach in a perfect union with Champagne zabaglione and pistachio ice-cream, is one of Marc Haeberlins’s signature dishes.
It was truly a sweet sin, a feast for the palate and soothing to the soul, but not exactly a light delight. And the cookies which accompanied the check were divine!

If you desire something different, there are plenty of other choices: two more menus (a seasonal one and a weekly one), an ample offer of starters and meat dishes, a few fish options as well as varied desserts to choose from.

Ambiance/Service

You are here in a historic building and you can notice it, which is a good thing. The hotel seems to have been restored to its pristine beauty, yet it feels contemporary luxurious in an elegant style. Royal Savoy is perfect for people with a sense of heritage and at the same time seek modern comfort. I especially liked the bar lounge area with an oversize chandelier hanging from the double-height ceiling.

Every one of the staff we interacted with was attentive, gracious and professional, there is nothing to be criticized in this regard. From the first to the very last minute, service was immaculate.

Overall

When visiting Lausanne, the country’s fourth-largest city on the Lake of Geneva in western Switzerland, and looking for a hotel to stay in style, Royal Savoy is a safe bet. The historic building, a bit elevated above the lake, was extensively renovated to its former splendor. If you are a foodie, you are right here as there is also a Gault Millau awarded restaurant on site. Along with an always friendly and competent staff, there is nothing to fault in this superb historical property.

Walking activities in town and surroundings

As mentioned at the beginning, here are two suggestions how to walk and explore the area, one in town, the other in the absolutely stunning Lavaux vineyard region.

1. Walk along the lake shore

A nice stroll to undertake is along the lake shore in the eastern direction. The starting point is near the Metro station Ouchy-Olympique. Have a look around in the port and lakeside resort and walk as long as you want. You can walk to Pully (Lac) via Sentier des Rives du Lac in about 40 minutes where you can return by foot or you can take the boat back to Lausanne-Ouchy.

If you are an avid walker, you can extend the walk into a substantial hike by walking to Vevey, the next bigger town. This is a distance of about 20 km (12.4 miles), going first along the lake and then through the Lavaux vineyards (see more details about it in the second walk), taking about six hours. Once arrived in Vevey, you can take the boat or train back to Lausanne. If you do not make it to Vevey, no problem, there are many stops underway to return by boat or train to your place of origin.

2. Walk through the Lavaux vineyards

Shortly after Lausanne in the eastern direction, the Lavaux vineyard regions begins (you can see it from afar when you do the above walk along the lake shore).
This is the largest contiguous vineyard region in Switzerland – covering 800 hectares (1,957 acres). The vineyards grow in terraces that were daringly constructed along the hill and have been protected by UNESCO since 2007.

There are lots of walks to do here, one of them is from Saint-Saphorin to Lutry. The former can be reached from Lausanne by train in 15 minutes. From there walk in the western direction in about 3 hours 15 minutes through the vineyards to Lutry where you can take the boat or train back to Lausanne. Details can be found on My Switzerland.

Date of visit: September 2019



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