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Best places to visit from Lausanne on a 5 day trip with family- Italy or France or both?

We will be in Geneva and Lausanne for work and will spend a few days sight seeing in both areas as well as going to see Chateau de Chillon. After spending a week in Switzerland on Lake Geneva, we'd like to go to either France or Italy for a week, but we need to be back in Geneva to fly back to the states. We can't decide on whether to travel to Annecy, Vevey, and other areas in France or if we should go down into Northern Italy and either visit the Italian lakes; either Maggiore or Como or Turin or go as far as Bergamo? We only have 5 days and do not want to be too rushed. We could travel by train or car. My children are good travelers; ages 11/14 and speak French. We have spent a good deal of time in Provence and French Riviera and Paris but have not been to Annecy or areas near Switzerland border. We have never been to Italy. I am trying to plan out an itinerary for us leaving from Lausanne in mid-July for 5 days. Where should we go and how; by car or by train or airplane?

Posted by mike
shingle springs, CA, USA
597 posts

I just stayed in Annecy in May and enjoyed the town with its canals and riding the boat around the lake and we also drove around the lake and stopped in some of the towns to get a snack and walk around.Good food and the place is busy on the week ends.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
14454 posts

I would rent a car and focus on France. You could pick up a French car on the French side of the Geneva airport and return it to the same spot. Or if you pick up the car in Lausanne, then return it to the Swiss side of the airport. Specify when reserving.

  • FYI, trains that run from Lausanne via Martigny to Chamonix are covered by a Swiss Travel Pass.
  • The easiest train to Italy would be direct from Lausanne to Stresa in 2.5 hours (not fully covered by a Swiss Travel Pass).
  • Or you could drive in a loop via Annecy, Chamonix, the Mont Blanc Tunnel, and Stresa.
Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
2719 posts

I would suggest renting a car and driving to Martigny, then driving over the pass to Chamonix and spending a couple of days there, then continuing to Annency, and then back to Geneva.
Another fun alternative would be to drive towards Martigny and then head northeast up into Valais. There are quite a few ruined castles to explore along the way including my favorite in the town of Sion. You can also go up to Mont Fort, the highest peak in the area with views to the Italian and French Alps. Zermatt is also up that way if you can hit it on a clear day to see the Matterhorn! If you choose this route, and you'll be in Valais during July 21 - 23, you can go to the Alphorn Festival in's truly an amazing, very local event, high up in the mountains above the valley. Several hundred alphorn players gather. PM me if you want more info...your kids would really enjoy this!

Posted by dakoske OP
3 posts

Traveling to Geneva/ Lausanne for one week, husband need to work. Then we have one week to go wherever, just need to fly home to LA, CA via Geneva. My kids and I will spend the time that my husband is working sightseeing in Geneva and Lausanne. After that we are not sure where to go; we thought about Annecy, Lyon, Italian Lakes district or Turin. Some have suggested we stay in Switzerland and travel to Martigny and to Valais. We are not really hikers or outdoor type people. We are city-slickers... We like great museums, beautiful towns and cities but not tourist traps. Can anyone suggest a nice itinerary for us after my husband finishes work in Lausanne? We can take a car and drive- just don't want to spend the entire time in the car. I have heard the 'red train' is a good idea but also have heard that kids are bored on the train. Someone suggested Annecy, Vevey and others have suggested going down into the Piedmont area or to Lyon. I have been to Paris many times and we love it but have never been to Lyon.

If you can help with possible itineraries that would last about 7-8 days, leaving from Lausanne, I would be very grateful. My children are 11, 14 and are good travelers but not very outdoorsy. We love history, art, music and food!

Please advise and thank you!