Who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in one of the most beautiful viticultural regions of the world, where vineyards, lakes, mountains and urban culture meet? Vaud makes for an unforgettable trip, and visitors will want to return to again and again.
Arrive at Geneva Airport. Hiring a car is recommended but not absolutely necessary, as all of the destinations mentioned here can be easily reached via train and some walking. But keep in mind that timings between destinations will generally be slightly longer.
Though vineyards will be visible shortly after leaving the airport, Lavaux will take approximately one hour to reach if there is not much congestion, but traffic can be heavy in this area during peak times. Train travel would also take one hour.
Arrive at Auberge de la Gare in Grandvaux. This charming hotel is next to Grandvaux train station, on the upper tracks that run along the top of Lavaux (most Vaud destinations are accessed via the lower tracks by the lakeside). There is parking, a lovely view and an excellent restaurant, known for its steak tartare and its fresh perch fished directly from the lake.
Take the train from Grandvaux or Cully to Lausanne. Take a walking tour to discover more about this ancient city that is also home to the International Olympic Committee. Lausanne is a ‘layer cake’ city built on steep slopes, meaning there are three levels to it. The metro, a sophisticated funicular system, will help to navigate the city’s steep hills.
In the historic city centre, visit Durig chocolate shop, offering artisan organic chocolates, and La Ferme Vaudoise, which sells local delicacies including meats, cheeses and other farm products. Don’t forget to visit the trendy Flon district, named after the city’s river.
For lunch try the atmospheric Restaurant Vieux-Lausanne or Café du Grütli, both of which are in the historic centre. In game season, Vieux-Lausanne serves a delicious spit-roasted wild boar, while Café du Grütli makes one of the region’s tastiest cheese fondues and steamed omble chevalier (Arctic char) fished from the lake. Both feature well-chosen wine lists with an excellent selection from Switzerland and beyond.
Return to Lutry and take the hour-long Lavaux Express, a tourist ‘train’ that twists through Lavaux’s dramatic vineyard trails. The season runs from 3 April – 3 November. Lutry is a quaint village and worthy of some discovery of its own.
A seven-minute drive from Lutry will take you to Frères Dubois in Cully, one of the region’s best wine producers. Its Dézaley Grand Cru Chasselas are some of the most ageworthy wines in the region. With advance booking, the estate can arrange a tasting of its older vintages, dating back to 1971. But its newer releases are some of the best in the region as well.
Book a table for dinner in St-Saphorin at Auberge de l’Onde, which offers beautifully refined Swiss cuisine. You may be served there by Vaud’s most revered sommelier, Jérôme Aké Béda, GaultMillau’s Swiss Sommelier of the Year 2015. Wine critic Robert Parker famously dined here incognito in May 2011 and was reportedly spellbound by Aké Béda’s talent and his Swiss wine suggestions. The auberge also offers a brasserie for a more relaxed setting.
Start your day at 10.30am with a tasting at Lavaux Vinorama in Rivaz. Switzerland relaxes on Sunday and many establishments are closed, but not Vinorama. It lists 300 different Lavaux wines; an excellent way of discovering the various villages and producers. Do not miss the film Une Année Vigneronne, which charts the work of a grower-vintner over the seasons. If you think it’s too early in the day to taste, Vinorama is also an excellent place to buy bottles to bring back home.
From Rivaz, drive 30 minutes to Aigle (or travel by train – the journey time is the same). Visit the medieval fortress Château d’Aigle, an imposing structure that was once used as one of the country’s worst prisons. Today, it houses an impressive wine museum.
Eat lunch across the cobblestoned street at La Pinte du Paradis. Try a glass of Mon Vin, a delicious and unique Chasselas fermented in amphora from Cave Borloz, a tiny 2.5ha domaine in Aigle.
Returning to Geneva airport from Aigle takes just over an hour by car or around one hour 30 minutes by train.
Your Vaud address book
A quaint yet modern version of a Swiss chalet, located close to both the train and metro stations. Comfortable, calm and good value.
A quaint, traditional Swiss hotel and restaurant located close to the lake in Cully. Lots of wooden panels, a fireplace and a cosy country feel. The restaurant serves refined cuisine.
One of the five wine estates owned by the City of Lausanne. Located within the St-Saphorin vineyards. A perfect place to wake up to a lake view. Good for couples and families with older children. Two suites and one apartment.
A newly renovated, modern hotel in Cully facing the lake. Ideally located for vineyard visits in the Lavaux. Restaurant on site.
An informal wine bar that serves delicious Swiss salumi and smoked meats, cheeses and other nibbles. A great place for a glass and a snack. Wines from Switzerland and further afield.
A quaint hotel/restaurant with glorious views of the Alps and Lake Geneva. The chef Thierry Bréhonnet previously worked at the Auberge de l’Onde before moving here last October. Known for its delicious updated brasserie classics.
Robin Kick MW is a wine consultant, educator and judge based in Switzerland. She formerly worked at Christie’s in Los Angeles and as a buyer at Goedhuis & Co in London.