St. Moritz: Visitor Information and Pictures

 

These free pictures for visitors to St. Moritz and others to use were taken in Summer, which is a time for walking and sailing on Lake St Moritz, and generally enjoying the glorious alpine scenery of this world famous luxury resort. Winter visitors can not only enjoy skiing or snow-boarding on 350km of immaculate pistes, or hiking on some of the 150km of winter walking trails, but also, in February, horse racing on the “white turf” of the frozen lake!
Read on for visitor information and more things to do in Winter and Summer in this number one Swiss spa resort, which styles itself “Top of the World”.

The village
St. Moritz, altitude 1,856 metres (6,089 feet), is situated in the Upper Engadine valley in the Swiss Alps, and has staged the Winter Olympics twice, in 1928 and 1948; but long before winter sports took off, it was famous for its mineral springs, which have been known for 3,000 years. It was these that first attracted visitors from all over the world to travel in Summer to this village beside its own lake in the glaciated valley of Engadine, below the mountain peak of Piz Nair. Now St. Moritz is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world, with a large number of 5-star hotels and designer shops for the international jet set to spend some of their money. Naturally this makes it hard for the village’s 5,000 inhabitants to compete, and local people find it increasingly difficult to afford any accommodation: they can and do enjoy the beautiful scenery and fine mountain views, but they also need affordable apartments to live in. As you will see in the pictures, this is a neat and tidy village (really a small town) and some of the apartment blocks have four or more storeys, and a few could be called ‘high rise’. The combination of high mountains, forest and lake makes this an attractive village. Winters are cold (it can go down to -17˚C in January) and Summers cool and wet, especially in June; and even in July and August you’ll be lucky to see 18˚C.

Getting there
This being Switzerland, public transport is extremely good, and should be the preferred way to arrive in St. Moritz. It takes between three and four hours, with one change, by rail from Zürich Haupt Bahnhof to St. Moritz, and 25 trains a day bring people who started their journeys in Paris, Milan, Munich or London. The Bernina Express through the Bernina Pass is particularly scenic. However, those who can afford it may prefer to fly in to Geneva International or Zürich International, and book a transfer by limousine to their hotel. There are cheaper options such as shared transport, which still takes you door-to-door, but if you are on such a tight budget you may need to question whether this is the best resort for you to choose. If money is no object and you like a challenge, it is possible to fly to within 5km of St. Moritz by landing at Engadine Airport at Samaden. This is the highest airliner airport in Europe (1,707 metres / 5,600 feet) and offers a potentially awkward landing and take-off, being at the bottom of a valley with often difficult winds. However plenty of corporate jets and private planes fly in and out, just no scheduled services. Finally, if you must have a car, you have to go over one of six high passes, which are mostly closed in Winter. From Zurich you can use Albula Pass or Julier Pass in Summer, but there are no highways to St. Moritz, and you might be better arriving by train and hiring a car in St. Moritz, where, in addition to the normal European rental cars, you can also choose an old style, vintage car. There is one other Winter option, which is to put your car on the train, but again that is expensive.

Where to stay
OK, let’s face it, staying in St. Moritz ain’t going to be cheap, although there is a Youth Hostel, of which more later. There are more than thirty 5-star hotels to choose from in the area, and I can only mention a few: a traditional large hotel (184 spacious rooms, many with a balcony) is the Kempinski Grand Hotel Des Bains, with a spa, indoor pool and fitness centre. There are three restaurants: Les Saisons, specialising in steak and sushi, the award-winning Enoteca serving regional cuisine, and the gourmet Ca d’Oro with its Michelin star. For elegance and chic, Suvretta House, with stunning views, may take some beating. Its 181 beautifully appointed rooms are furnished in style. There is an indoor pool and three restaurants, one of which is for children. If you don’t mind being 5km out of the village, the Giardino Mountain luxury hotel has an indoor pool, a spa area and a gourmet restaurant; it has 78 rooms, welcomes pets and children, and claims to treat everybody like a celebrity!
All the above hotels are 5-star, but by dropping down to 4-star or 3-star you may find something just as good but more to your budget, such as the Hotel Monopol art boutique, right in the centre of the village and only 300m from the funicular to Corviglia Mountain. This 4-star hotel still has a spa, gym and sauna, just no pool. There is a restaurant and lobby bar, and another bar on the roof with views of the mountains and lake. Still in the village, in the pedestrian zone, is the 3-star Unique Hotel Eden Superior, which offers a free ticket for the mountain railway and cable cars in Summer, and discount ski passes in Winter. There is no restaurant in this 33 room hotel, but a buffet breakfast is served, and in the afternoon you can have ‘coffee and cakes’.
For those visitors who prefer an apartment, the Chesa Viletta (3-star), just a 10 minute drive from town and from the Celerina Ski Area, has a peaceful, rural location surrounded by mountains, in the small village of la Punt Chamues. The two one-bedroom self-catering units have kitchen, dining area, living room and bathroom.
Finally to the St. Moritz Youth Hostel – not actually in St. Moritz, but with excellent views over the village, this modern style hostel has single and communal rooms, double and twin rooms with shower or shared bathroom, and rooms for four. The WiFi is free, but parking is not. A buffet breakfast is served to the guests in its 91 rooms.

What to see and do in St. Moritz
Winter or Summer, the first thing to do is enjoy the alpine environment and settle in to the local lifestyle, with gourmet meals and comfortable, even luxurious, accommodation. The Via Serlas offers shopping for such local specialities as Engadine nut tart. The Engadine Museum of domestic culture and history is a recently refurbished modern museum, with 21 rooms lovingly set out and furnished as they would have been at different periods in history. The museum is closed on Tuesdays, and opens at 2pm on other days. The other ‘museums’ are really all art galleries: the Segantini Museum, showing the works of the local painter Giovanni Segantini (open May to October and December to April, closed Mondays); the Berry Museum (closed Tuesdays) exhibiting paintings by another local, Dr Berry; the international Gallerie Gmurzynska; and the Gallerie Andrea Caratsch, which specialises in 20th century and contemporary artists. Sights within the village are The Leaning Tower, and Heidi’s grandfather’s cabin, which is a must for any children familiar with Johanna Spyri’s classic story.
Depending on what time of year you visit St. Moritz, you may be able to witness one of the following events: the Polo World Cup on snow (January), the three white turf horse races on the frozen lake (February), the Festival da Jazz (mid-July to mid-August) and the Engadine classical music festival (August).
But most people who come here will be planning to enjoy the great outdoors, so such activities as walking round the lake, or along the River Inn for 5km from St. Moritz Bad to Silvaplana will probably appeal. Then in Winter or Summer, there are the mountain summits to visit:Piz Nair (3,056m / 10,026 feet), overlooking the Upper Engadine Valley and lake; Piz Corvatsch (3,300m / 10,800feet) with its ice cave; and Diavolezza, not the summit but a viewpoint over the Val Bernina. Piz Bernina, the highest mountain in the Eastern Alps at 4,048m/13,283 feet, is only accessible to climbers: the first ascent was made by Johann Coaz in 1850. Visitors can get good views of this, the highest peak around, by taking ski lifts from Diavolezza, Piz Corvatsch or Piz Nair. (‘Piz’ is Romansch for peak or summit, and is the title given to mountains in the south east of Switzerland. Finally, you may want to see the world famous Cresta Run, a toboggan course built in1884 by the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club, who pioneered the head-first style of toboggan racing.

The Abula Pass (see pictures below)
Visitors to this pass (elevation 2383m / 7,818 feet) may not realise that they are on a significant watershed: one way, the water flows down to the Albula Valley, and the other it eventually joins the River Rhine, by way of the River Inn. Look out for the viaducts carrying the Rhaetian Railway across the road at several points. In Winter, when the road is closed above Berguen, you can rent toboggans at the station called Preda and fly down to Berguen Station. Our pictures show how exposed the road over the top is, and yet it is possible to sleep up there from June to November at the Albula Hospiz, which describes itself as offering ‘simple sleeping’ on ‘the idyllic Albupass’ (picture 7). Picture 11 shows the sign informing motorists whether the pass is open or closed.
The final photo in the Albula Pass collection is of the village of La Punt-Chamues. This is down at 1,687m (5,535 feet), and the population numbers only 749 (2015 figure). There is only one hotel in the village, Hotel Gasthaus Krone (3-star), but there are also four B+Bs to choose from. The Chesa Staila Hotel B+B (4-star) has 8 rooms, a bar but no restaurant. Parking is free and breakfast is included. Then there are at least three properties to rent in La Punt. The Chalet in Montagna sleeps nine in four bedrooms with three bathrooms; the Chesa Camuera is even larger, sleeping 14 in six bedrooms, each with its own bathroom.

The Julier Pass (2,284m / 7,493 feet) is a beautiful and popular one (see pictures), offering easy access to mountain walking (the Post Bus comes over here). The Romans had a road over this pass, linking the Engadine Valley with Graubünden, but the present road dates only from the 1820s. As the pictures show, the road is good, but winter tyres AND snow chains are required in Winter. (Don’t miss the heroic cyclist in photos 10 and 11.)
The first two pictures are of Bivio, ‘gateway to the pass’ and close to the watershed of the Rhine and Danube basins. Only 189 people lived here at the last count (2014), the majority of them German speakers, although Bivio was traditionally Italian speaking in the past. The village has an average of 132 days rain a year, the wettest month being August, yet one of its five hotels is encouragingly called Hotel Solaria (3-star). This family-run hotel has 32 rooms, an à la carte restaurant, and offers good walks straight from the hotel in Winter and Summer. The 47 room Hotel Post is a 3-star, certified mountain bike hotel, with a sauna and steam bath, and free WiFi. It has its own restaurant serving Swiss cuisine, and is right in the village, on the road to Julier Pass. Surprisingly, there is a public indoor swimming pool in Bivio.

Visitor Information
For further information about the attractions of the Engadine, there are tourist offices in St. Moritz at the railway station, in the centre at Via San Gian, and on the Via Maistra. These offices usually open at 09.00.

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