Situated on the northern shore of gorgeous, glittering Lake Geneva, Lausanne has always been a city worth visiting. Easily reached from Geneva Airport in about 40–50 minutes (if you’re lucky, you’ll get to ride one of the Swiss double-decker trains), it’s best known for its lovely architecture and its Olympic Museum. The latter – great with older kids – is surrounded by wonderful parkland with sports-themed artworks including Rodin's The American Athlete and Niki de Saint Phalle's Les Footballeurs, against a stunning backdrop of lake and mountains. In the waterfront Ouchy district, it’s also just a couple of minutes’ walk from Lausanne’s marina with its extensive kids’ play areas.
But Lausanne has just become more of a place to visit with kids with the long-awaited opening of Aquatis, Europe's largest freshwater aquarium-vivarium. Situated in the north of the city, easily accessible by Métro, this a fantastic venue designed to immerse visitors in aquatic settings local and global in a variety of clever ways.
The first is the building itself, clad in silver ‘scales’ that move in the breeze. Inside, meanwhile, it’s all about a series of sets inspired by the movies, many of them using mirrors. You can walk through glaciers, cross jungle bridges, watch a boat sail across Lake Geneva, see the life of rice paddies in action and watch shadow-animals gallop across the ceiling for instance, for instance. An enormous amount has been put into the tiniest detail, and there are regular family activities to help all ages engaged with the displays, which focus on education and conservation as the best animal attractions do in this day and age.
The animal life is spectacular, too: fish from around the world, of course, but also Nile crocodiles and a Komodo dragon. And the restaurant has been set up so you can watch the action in the piranha tanks while you lunch.
And you can even stay on-site: the adjoining Aquatis Hotel offers good-value, fairly simple rooms and funky modern decor with many aquatically themed touches. By night you can dine in its own very good restaurant accompanied by views over fountains towards the aquarium in all its shimmering, silvery glory. ‘Petits Poissons’ get their own great menu, and there’s also a play area and a games room.