Lausanne Museums: the Olympic Museum

A ferry boat on the lake at Ouchy in Lausanne.  It has the Swiss flag flying from the front.

By Emma Marshall

Lausanne is probably not the number one destination of choice for tourists visiting Switzerland.  It’s often overshadowed by the three main cities, Zurich, Geneva and Bern.

However, as I found out recently, a short trip to this picturesque lakeside city is definitely worth the effort.

Lausanne sits on the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).  It is split between the old town situated on the hill and the lakeside resort of Ouchy-Olympique.

A Lausanne-Ouchy sign on the rocks by the lake in Ouchy

With my love of lakes and mountains, it is the waterfront area that we chose to stay in.

After a few city breaks packed full of sightseeing, we’d decided that this would be a great antidote, an ideal way to slow down a bit and unwind, whilst still experiencing a new destination.

Ouchy on the lake.  The buildings of this part of Lausanne are at the back of the water.

An added bonus was the fact that we knew that of all the Lausanne Museums, Le Musee Olympique (the Olympic Museum) was located on the lakeshore. After a summer of avidly watching the Rio Olympics, it was a place that we were really keen to explore.

Read on information that will be useful when planning out a trip to this Lausanne museum.

And if you enjoy trips to Switzerland, you might also be interested in other posts I have written: on ways to experience the beautiful Zurich without leaving home and a spa trip to Zurich’s Thermalbad.

I also recently visited the delightful Rapperswil for the day and have taken the panoramic Bernina Express through the mountains. In fact I love Switzerland so much that I’ve also written about why I think its a perfect place for a short break.

Lausanne Museums: The Olympic Museum

The location of Lausanne’s Olympic Museum

A view of the lake from the Olympic Museum.  There is a statue of a runner on the grass and some balls trees alongside the water.  The Swiss flag is flying.

The Lausanne Olympic Museum is set in a stunning location overlooking the lake.

This is just a short walk from Ouchy train station which is on the M2 metro line from the main part of Lausanne. Lausanne to Ouchy by Metro is around 10 minutes. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, you can obtain a city pass which provides free rides on public transport.

You can also catch a bus here (three buses stop nearby: the No.2, No.8 and No.25).

In terms of actually getting to Lausanne, the closest airport is Geneva. You can then reach Lausanne by either train or car in less than an hour.

Other possibilities, if you have more time, is to go into either Zurich and Lyon airport (or Lyon Eurostar terminal), which are 2 to 3 hours away by car or train.

You might also be visiting by boat. Boats disembark at the Ouchy stop, again a short walk from the museum.

The outside of the Olympic Museum, one of the Lausanne Museums you can visit in the city.  It is a modern building with white pillars and shallow steps leading to the entrance.

What you can see and do in Lausanne’s Olympic Museum

The Olympic Museum is a reminder of the role Lausanne plays in housing the headquarters of the Official Olympic Committee.  

One of the displays in the Olympic Museum - ski outfits and skis

When choosing the Lausanne Museums to visit, it’s a must, even if you don’t regard yourself as a fan of the Games or having any sporting prowess (i.e. me!).

Laid out over three floors, the museum traces the history of the ancient Games up to the modern day in painstaking detail.

This includes a fascinating account of how the modern Games were resurrected in 1896 by its founding father, Pierre de Coubertin, and how his vision created the foundations for the Games we know today.

A display of the podium for the medal ceremonies at the Olypmics.  It has a quotation from Pierre De Coubertin above it.

Packed full of little known facts about the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, and Paralympics, we also read about some of the less publicised stories behind the Games and the political intrigue associated with them.  

For example, the first time women were permitted to take part in 1900, the boycotting of various Games throughout the 20th century, and the entry of a united German team in 1956.

The level of detail is mind boggling (the museum’s website says there are over 1,500 objects here).

We read about the history and design of the Olympic villages and stadiums, as well as the importance of volunteers in staging the Games.

This was something that I knew had been indispensable to the success of London 2012.  But I hadn’t realised that volunteering had always been such an integral part of staging the games.

The exhibits in the Olympic Museum are impressive. I was struck by the display that showed how the look and feel of the Olympic torch had changed over the years and the varied designs for the medals awarded in successive Games.  

A display of the some of the Olympic torches over the years
Some of the Olympic torches used over the years

The medals have progressively got bigger over time. I had – incorrectly – assumed they would retain the same design from Olympic Games to Olympic Games.

A display showing two of the media from the 1896 Athens Olympics
The Athens 1896 Olympic medals
A display showing 3 of the medals from the London 2012 Olympics
The London 2012 Olympic medals

The museum has been designed to appeal to both adults and children. There is a wealth of archive video footage that you can delve into which covers opening ceremonies and reflections from famous Olympians, organised into past decades.

A display in the Olympic Museum showing the events associated with the various events over the years of the Games.

It is also an extremely interactive and educational museum. On one floor, you can test your hand-eye co-ordination by smashing lights that the appear across a body length board with your hand against a countdown clock.

I managed 34 successful hits in 2 minutes; the highest score ever recorded is 172 hits in 1 minute!

My partner trying out the interactive activity for hand-eye co-ordination.

You can also assess how effective your balance is in scoring a goal in a football match (mine wasn’t great….). And you can get feedback on how good your diet is.

Facilities at Lausanne’s Olympic Museum

The cafe: You could easily spend at least a couple of hours in Lausanne’s Olympic Museum. Then when you want to rest your feet and have a refreshment, there’s an excellent café on the top floor.

This has jaw-dropping panoramic views of the lake and mountains where you can sit and ponder the inspirational stories and feats you’ve just read about.

You can also look down on some of the exhibits surrounding the outside of the museum. This includes a great sculpture of three Olympic cyclists.

A sculpture on the grass outside the Olympic Museum.  It is a sculpture of 3 cyclists.

Audio guides: Audio guides are available to hire for 5 CHF (just over £4 and just under 5 euros). The guides cover 9 different languages.

The shop: There is a gift shop in the museum that is located on the ground floor.

Opening times for Lausanne’s Olympic Museum

Between May and October, the museum is open between the hours of 9am and 6pm.

From 21st October to 30th April, the museum opens one hour later in the morning, at 10am and is closed on a Sunday and public holidays.

Entry fees for Lausanne’s Olympic Museum

The cost for adults is 18 CHF (around £15 or 17 euros). Entry for children from 6 to 16 years is 10 CHF (those under 6 can enter for free).

Senior citizens, students and disabled people are also entitled to reduced entry (at 16, 12 and 12 CHF, respectively).

Where to stay in Ouchy-Olympique

There are several exclusive hotels in Ouchy. But for more reasonable rates and a comfortable stay, we stayed at the Hotel du Port. It has a downstairs bar and restaurant.

Next door, the small restaurant Le Vieil Ouchy serves traditional Swiss food. It has seating outside for summer days, but its lovely cosy interior make it perfect for cold winter evenings.

In summary, we were only in Lausanne for one night. However, it was a perfect weekend break for us, allowing us to combine some chill out time with the opportunity to lap up some inspiration.

It might not beat Zurich or Bern for sheer chocolate-box character. But in the words of the founder of the modern-day Olympics:

“The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well”  (Pierre de Coubertin).

A display of the podium for the medal ceremonies at the Olypmics.  It has a quotation from Pierre De Coubertin above it.

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