Lausanne, the capital of Canton Vaud, lies on Lake Geneva in the French-speaking area of Switzerland.
It is Switzerland's fifth largest city, and the main economic and administrative centre in the west of the country after Geneva.
Lausanne houses the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). A number of international sport federations are also based in the city: table tennis, volleyball, baseball, fencing, wrestling, swimming, archery, air sports, and rowing.
Lausanne is the home of one of Switzerland's two Federal Institutes of Technology, the EPFL. (The other – the ETHZ – is in Zurich.) It also houses the Federal Supreme Court.
Although Lausanne is overshadowed by Geneva as a centre of international diplomacy, it has hosted a number of international conferences, including the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which settled the borders of Turkey after World War II.
Lausanne is an important railway hub, on the line from Bern to Geneva. It is linked directly with Paris and is also the gateway to the Rhone valley.
The town is characterised by its steep streets. A gorge runs through the centre, which made it necessary to build bridges from one neighbourhood to another. A set of covered stairs leads up to the cathedral; a cogwheel railway (originally a funicular) links the railway station with the lakeside.
The Lausanne area was already settled in the fourth millennium BC. The Romans built a military camp, which they named Lousonna, on the site of a Celtic settlement in what is now the suburb of Vidy.
In the 7th century it became the seat of the bishopric of Lausanne. The town developed as an economic and religious centre in the Middle Ages, ruled by the bishop. It lay on the Via Francigena pilgrim route between Canterbury and Rome. Over the years the citizens, backed by the counts of Savoy, gradually won more freedoms.
The city lost much of its importance when Bern took it over along with the whole of what is now Canton Vaud in 1536, and ruled it until 1798. When Vaud became a separate canton in 1803, Lausanne became the capital.