Escaliers du Marché (Market stairs)
The steps of the Escaliers du Marché, a direct but steep route from Place de la Palud up to the Cathedral, are one of the most picturesque sites in Lausanne. Their existence was first recorded back in the 13th century and its present-day appearance – a winding wooden stairway with a roof and a very steep cobbled street running alongside it – dates back to the years 1717-1719.
The upper part of the stairway was interrupted in 1911 with the construction of Rue Pierre-Viret, the continuation of the Pont Bessières bridge, but it was then artificially restored with the addition of an underground walkway in 1975. Until the 14th century, the city market was held on a square built to the right of the staircase, hence the name. Traces of it can still be seen in the shade of the trees at the bottom of Rue Pierre-Viret.
The row of houses that lines the east side of the stairs, home to boutiques and cafés, is an extraordinary sight, towering above us as it rises uninterrupted from Place de la Palud to Rue Pierre-Viret. Some parts of the buildings date back to the 16th century, such as the street-level ogee bays of No 17. At the top, the Cathedral bell tower provides a dramatic climax to the ascent.