In the eastern Alps’ Engadin Valley, St. Moritz is a glamorous mountain resort synonymous with privilege and old money. British aristocrats had a hand in St. Moritz’s early success, and their presence lingers in the members clubs, like the men’s only Cresta Skeleton Run.
St. Moritz is the kind of destination where they play polo on a frozen lake, and where apartment blocks are designed by Norman Foster. The resort has real sporting pedigree, hosting the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948, and boasting the oldest bobsleigh run in the world. You have 350 kilometres of pistes a stone’s throw away, and in summer you can catch gondolas and funiculars for unforgettable mountain experiences. You could hike on a glacier or survey the cinematic majesty of the Engadin Valley’s from soaring lookouts.
Let’s explore the best things to do in St. Moritz:
1. Muottas Muragl
A 20-minute funicular brings you to an outlook on the southern side of Blais da Muottas.
At 2,454 metres, Muottas Muragl is like a natural balcony above the Upper Engadin Valley and its lakes.
The word is that this vantage point was discovered by the painter Giovanni Segantini, who we’ll come to later.
The inspiring scenery goes well with a meal, most of all at sunset, so if you’re flush for cash you could book a table at the panoramic restaurant.
While you’re enchanted by the beauty of the lookout, it can be easy to forget that there are lots of activities available from the station at Muottas Muragl.
One is the fastest toboggan run in Switzerland descending 718 metres in 4.2 kilometres, and incorporating some hair-raising turns.
2. Piz Nair
Grab the funicular and then the cable car for this 3,000-metre peak to the west of the resort.
At the upper station you’ll be just 30 metres shy of the summit and can sip a hot chocolate at the panoramic restaurant.
You’ll be treated to a 360° view of the Upper Engadin, and with a map or phone you can identify the lakes and mountains in the Bernina Range, near and far.
The precipitous drop at the Piz Nair Wall creates is a notoriously demanding start to ski runs: The downhill events at the 1948 Olympics were staged here, and it has hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships several times, most recently in 2017.
3. Lake St. Moritz
When it’s warm, one the best free things to do in St. Moritz is to take a restful walk around the shore of the resort’s own lake.
The trail is five kilometres or so, and takes between one and two hours.
It all depends on how often you stop to photograph the greenery, Alpine wildflowers, dark forest and brooding peaks like the 3,000-metre Piz Rosatsch.
Although the water might be a little chilly for swimming, you can still hire a stand-up paddleboard or canoe and take a self-guided trip over the lake.
When the lake freezes in winter, the surface is used for polo, and three weekends of horseracing are scheduled every February.
4. Segantini Museum
The late-19th century landscape painter Giovanni Segantini settled in St. Moritz and passed away here in 1899. In the previous 20 years he produced a massive volume of paintings of rural scenes around the Engadin.
The museum in his honour opened within a decade of his death and holds around 50 of his works from all phases of his career.
The building was designed according to plans that Segantini himself had drawn up, and could almost be a Byzantine church for its rotunda and dome.
Under the dome inside is maybe Segantini’s most valued work, a symbolist triptych representing Life, Nature and Death in Alpine landscapes.
5. Bernina Express
St. Moritz is a mid-way point on a train journey from Chur down to Tirano, considered one of the most scenic in the world.
You can ride in either direction from St. Moritz, and for a few extra Francs there are panoramic carriages offering widescreen views of the Bernina Range.
If you’re staying in St. Moritz in winter, the journey from the resort down to Tirano is dreamlike, taking in the Bernina Pass and with a sumptuous view of Piz Bernina, the highest summit in the Eastern Alps.
Also try making the trip in spring, when there’s a spectacular contrast between snow-capped peaks and green valleys.
A combination of train and gondola will deliver you to another awesome mountain lookout.
Be sure to wrap up warm, as even in summer there may be snow at this elevation as you contemplate the frozen beauty of the Pers and Morteratsch Glaciers.
For a lot of people Diavolezza is the first step on a hike or climb to remember.
You can hike over both glaciers on the way to the Morteratsch station, but you’ll need an experienced guide to help.
Mountaineers could make an ascent of Piz Palü, which is almost 4,000 metres, while casual walkers could simply conquer the smaller Munt Pers and have a picnic the picnic of a lifetime.
7. Lake Staz
East of Lake St. Moritz is a body of water that is better for swimming in summer.
As a shallow moor lake, Staz warms up well in July and August and has a small, but well looked-after beach area with wooden jetties.
A rustic restaurant sits a few metres from the shore, while many of the people who visit the lake in summer bring their own food for a barbecue next to the water.
The walk to get to the lake is also part of the joy, on a gentle trail in the larch and pine Staz forest.
8. Piz Corvatsch
After a couple of swift gondola trips you’ll find yourself at the highest accessible point by transport in the St. Moritz area.
This peak is on the south side of the Engadin Valley, and its north-facing slope is deep in snow during the winter.
From the station you can see right down to the lakes on the valley floor, and will be spellbound by the panorama of Piz Palü, Piz Bernina and Piz Roseg.
But maybe the best reason to make the journey is for the Corvatsch Glacier Walk, which you can do without a guide and allows you to step onto the glacier.
9. Olympic Bobrun
If you’ve ever watched the Winter Olympics and wanted to try bobsleighing for yourself, St Moritz has the world’s oldest track.
The St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bobrun was created in 1904 for British tourists, and hosted the bobsleigh events at the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics.
It is also the only naturally refrigerated run in the world.
The track is just over 1.7 kilometres long, and if you book in advance you can take a high-speed, g-force heavy ride down in a sleigh with two pros.
One will be steering at the front, while the other will be operating the brakes.
And as you go you’ll hear the pair calling to each other as they would in an Olympic run.
10. Engadiner Museum
This museum, founded at the start of the 20th century goes into the history and heritage of the Engadin Valley.
The museum building isn’t quite as old as it looks, and was purpose-built when the attraction was founded, mimicking the architecture of the valley in the 16th and 17th century.
Across 14 rooms you can peruse traditional furniture, decoration and interiors.
In many instances, these rooms have been brought here in their entirety, like the wood-panelled interior of a Late-Gothic inn from Savognin, dating to 1579.
11. Leaning Tower
More than just an oddity, the 33-metre-high Leaning Tower has been the town’s main identifier for centuries and warrants a passing look and photograph.
Standing with a 5.5% tilt, which is more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the tower was originally part of the Church of St Mauritius and dates to the 1570s.
In the 1890s the nave was demolished and in that same decade the bells in the tower were removed to try to rectify the tilt.
The mountains encircling St. Moritz provide more than 350 kilometres of pistes, all served by gondolas, ski lifts and funiculars serving the mountainsides in record time.
There are four areas in touching distance of the resort: Corviglia, Corvatsch, Diavolezza and Zuoz, and the high elevation (topping out at 3,500 metres), means long seasons and good snow cover.
If you’re a seasoned skier, Corviglia is a great starting point for that World Cup run at Piz Nair and a snow park with obstacles to let freestylers express themselves.
On Friday nights the longest illuminated ski run in Switzerland, at Corvatsch stays open until 02:00.
13. Mountain Biking
With a bowl of epic slopes close at hand, it’s hardly surprising that mountain biking is a growing activity in St. Moritz in summer time.
If you’re not up for high-speed descents, Corviglia’s three landscaped flow trails meander down the slope and are like rollercoasters for people on two wheels.
Kids as young as 12 can take part here, while hardened tourers can set a course for the St. Moritz Railway Tour.
This medium-distance route that traces the tracks of the resort’s funiculars for a total descent of almost 6,500 metres.
14. Cresta Run
Those echoes of old money and nobility are especially loud at the world’s oldest skeleton run.
Daring gentlemen have been careering down this natural ice track since 1884. We say “gentlemen”, because women aren’t allowed to compete or even use the track until the last day of the season.
We did say it was old-fashioned.
The Cresta Run is a British-founded members’ club anchored in the 19th century, and for decades the only members were American or British.
Now it’s much more international, although announcements on race days, between December and March are only in English.
Thrill-seekers with money to burn can come to take a lesson from a member, while there are events throughout the winter if you want to see the human missiles from the Olympics in real life.
15. Food and Drink
If you’re the kind of tourist who always has to taste something local, then it doesn’t get much more local or authentic than an Engadine walnut tart.
Made with a shortcrust pastry the recipe has been handed down many generations, and contains caramel, cream and generous heaps of walnuts.
Confiserie Hauser and Conditorei Hanselmann are just a couple of the local establishments that make a mean walnut tart.
And lastly, for a drinking experience to tell your friends about, the Hotel am Waldsee in the valley has a bar known as Devil’s Place, which is stocked with up to 2,500 varieties of whisky.
According to the Guinness Book of Records it’s the most extensive whisky bar in the world.