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The city is the host to the International Olympic Committee and two major universities. It is also the public transport hub of Vaud, and a gateway to the alpine Canton of the Valais, home to some of the best known ski slopes in the world.
As you might expect the large student population makes for a lively nightlife and arts community, revolving around the Flon district. You'll also find a number of quality restaurants and two dozen museums of note, including the Olympic Museum and the offbeat Collection de l'Art Brut.
Architecture buffs will find the best preserved Gothic cathedral in Switzerland at the top of the town. English is not as commonly spoken as in Geneva and you will probably have trouble communicating with an average person on the street. Most service-sector employees speak a little English however, and the level of English amongst young Swiss tends to be high amongst the older generation it is German that tends to be far stronger.
A visitor will have little trouble getting around with just English. There has been a settlement on the hill of Lausanne since at least the stone age, but most histories of the city trace its origin to the Roman camp Lausanna which occupied a position just down the hill toward the lake in what is now the village of Vidy.
Relocated to a more defensible hilltop in the Middle Ages, Lausanne's increasing wealth and importance were largely derived from its placement on the primary north-south routes between Italy and the north sea.