Discovering Switzerland: Cultural Gems in Vaud

LAS Journal

Discovering Switzerland: Cultural Gems in Vaud

Switzerland is a country where French, German, and Italian cultures collide, forming a unique Swiss identity. This part of Switzerland is home to vibrant culture, cuisine, and activities, and our students and staff are incredibly lucky to call it home! From museums and galleries to concerts and Châteaus, there is plenty to do in Switzerland for the more culturally conscious traveler. 

Leysin is situated in the beautiful French-speaking region of Vaud in western Switzerland. The region's rich cultural identity is a product of its history, geography, and traditions. As a visitor of the region or new student at LAS, you should pay attention to the following cultural elements and activities that define or add to the culture of Vaud:

There are plenty of festivals over the summer months in Vaud, including the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival, which has been running for over 50 years. This event significantly influences the area’s cultural scene during the month of July and is a fantastic way to experience the amazing lakeside town of Montreux! Big artists like Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Elton John and Stevie Wonder have all performed at this festival over the years!

This area of Switzerland has beautiful architecture, from Châteaus to Chalets. In Leysin, many of the buildings are classical wooden Swiss structures, and this is prevalent throughout much of Switzerland. Our favorite Châteaus to visit include Château de Chillon on Lake Geneva, where students do watersports in the summertime, and Château d’Aigle, where seniors attend their prom at the end of the year! These beautiful buildings reflect the rich history and tradition of this area of Switzerland.  

Local Delicacies and Wine
Vaud cuisine features a variety of traditional Swiss dishes, often with a regional twist. Fondue, raclette, and papet vaudois (a dish made with leeks and potatoes) are popular. The region is also known for its vineyards, and you can see the grape vines when you get the cog up the mountain from Aigle to Leysin! The Lavaux area is particularly notable, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a long-standing tradition of producing world-renowned wine. Swiss wine is generally drunk only in Switzerland, and exports account for only 1% of production! During semester 1, students have the opportunity to visit Les Trois Terres vineyard, taking part in the final harvest of the season by collecting grapes and learning about the chemical reactions that occur when producing wine. Students even have the opportunity to try the non-alcoholic grape juice! 

Swiss Cow Parade
The cow festival in Vaud is known as the "Désalpe" or "Alpine Descent." This traditional festival takes place every autumn and marks the end of the summer grazing period when cows are brought down from the high alpine pastures to the valleys for the winter. During the Désalpe, cows are decorated with flower garlands, ribbons, and large bells. Often dressed in traditional Swiss clothing, the herders lead the cows in a parade through villages. This tradition has been around for centuries, and it’s a really fun event that includes Swiss music, food, and culture!

Switzerland ranks among the countries with the most museums per capita, with more than 1,000 museums to visit! There are some fantastic museums in the Vaud region, and specifically in Leysin, including one in the Fromagerie! This captivating museum is dedicated to the art of cheese-making and the area's rich dairy heritage. Visitors can delve into this ancient craft and even sample some of the local cheeses!

Another fantastic museum is the Musée Olympique in Lausanne. Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Olympic Museum presents the history of the Olympic Games, featuring memorabilia, interactive exhibits, and fantastic displays that teach visitors about the history of the Olympics! 

Swiss culture is a lot more than just skiing and the outdoors! Switzerland boasts a fantastic array of cultural activities, enough to keep visitors entertained and informed during their time in this fascinating country! We can’t wait to welcome new and returning students back to campus in August and teach them about Switzerland's rich and diverse cultural landscape.  


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