Lausanne (French pronunciation: [loˈzan]) is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva (French: Lac Léman). It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west. Lausanne is located 62 km (39 mi) northeast of Geneva.
Lausanne has a population (as of December 2011) of 129,383, making it the fourth largest city of the country, with the entire agglomeration area having 336,400 inhabitants. The Metropolitan Area of Lausanne-Geneva is over 1.2 million inhabitants. The headquarters of the International Olympic Committee are located in Lausanne – the IOC officially recognizes the city as the Capitale Olympique – as are the headquarters of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It lies in the middle of a wine region. The city has a 28-station metro system, making it the smallest city in the world to have a rapid transit system.
The Romans built a military camp, which they called Lousanna, at the site of a Celtic settlement, near the lake where currently Vidy and Ouchy are situated; on the hill above was a fort called ‘Lausodunon’ or ‘Lousodunon’ (The ‘y’ suffix is common to many place names of Roman origin in the region (e.g.) Prilly, Pully, Lutry, etc.). By the 2nd century AD it was known as vikanor[um] Lousonnensium and in 280 as lacu Lausonio. By 400 it was civitas Lausanna and in 990 it was mentioned as Losanna.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, insecurity forced the transfer of Lausanne to its current centre, a hilly, easier to defend site. The city which emerged from the camp was ruled by the Dukes of Savoy and the Bishop of Lausanne. Then it came under Bern from 1536 to 1798 and a number of its cultural treasures, including the hanging tapestries in the Cathedral, were permanently removed. Lausanne has made a number of requests to recover them.
After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Lausanne became (along with Geneva) a place of refuge for French Huguenots. In 1729 a seminary was opened by Antoine Court and Benjamin Duplan. By 1750 ninety pastors had been sent back to France to work clandestinely; this number would rise to four hundred. Official persecution ended in 1787; a faculty of Protestant theology was established at Montauban in 1808, and the Lausanne seminary was finally closed on 18 April 1812. During the Napoleonic Wars, the city’s status changed. In 1803, it became the capital of a newly formed Swiss canton, Vaud under which it joined the Swiss Federation.
In 1964 the city hosted the ‘Swiss National Exhibition’, displaying its newly found confidence to host major international events. From the 1950s to 1970s a large number of Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese immigrated, settling mostly in the industrial district of Renens and transforming the local diet.
The city has been traditionally quiet but in the late 1960s and early 1970s there were a series of mainly youth demonstrations confronted by the police. The next vigorous demonstrations took place to protest against the high cinema prices and since then the city returned to its old very sleepy self, until the protest against the G8 meetings in 2003.