St Moritz has just about everything: at 5624 feet above sea level, it’s a winter paradise of frozen lakes, wooded countryside, and 322 days of sunshine per year. No wonder it’s the playground of Hollywood stars, royal families and the super-wealthy. An endless soap opera for the upper classes, St Moritz has its own cosmopolitan culture – but most of all, it’s known for its winter sports.
There are few places in the world which can offer such outstanding conditions for skiing and hiking, tobogganing, bobsleighing, curling, ski-jumping and skating. There’s also polo on snow, hang-gliding and cricket on ice. But when you’re tired of the sporting life and long for a spot of relaxation and pampering, there’s no shortage of top-quality health spas and beauty salons – plus cinemas, exhibitions, restaurants and nightlife. No wonder St. Moritz has grown from a small village into one of the world’s most renowned winter tourist destinations.
Where To Stay...
Badrutt's Palace Hotel
Since it opened in 1896, this famous landmark in the heart of St. Moritz has welcomed celebrities and royals within its 5-star walls. Altogether, it houses 159 bedrooms and 38 suites, with panoramic views of the Swiss Alps or the Lake St. Moritz. Of its many restaurants, the newest and most vibrant is Nobu@Badrutt’s Palace, where renowned chef ‘Nobu’ combines traditional Japanese and Peruvian ingredients and cooking styles.
The ultra-glamorous 5-star Kulm looks back on a 150-year history, and is a favourite with the fearless Cresta riders, who gather in the hotel’s Sunny Bar to celebrate their tobogganing exploits. A culinary high-point is a visit to the cosy and intimate restaurant ‘the K’, which offers French cuisine and modern décor.
Traditional and child-friendly, Suvretta House is a 5-star oasis for parents – particularly since there’s a separate children’s restaurant, the Teddy Club, if you need a night of adult company. The hotel is a shopping destination in itself, with four exclusive boutiques, and a sports and pleasure club which offers a 25-metre swimming pool with underwater jets and open-air whirlpool, solarium and sauna, plus bodybuilding and cardiovascular workouts under professional supervision. www.suvrettahouse.ch
A short walk from the funicular and the lake, the four-star Steffani is a third-generation, family-run hotel promising traditional architecture and service. The 56 bedrooms and five suites are individually designed, many of them with antique furniture. There’s an indoor pool and sauna, and a range of restaurants and bars frequented by après-skiers and Cresta riders.
The Chesa Viglia restaurant – owned by the Palace Hotel – offers three distinct culinary styles under its 17th Century, typically Engadine roof. The Pizzeria serves original Italian pizzas and pasta, the Chadafö grill room specialises in classic French cuisine, while Swiss and International specialities can be found in the Patrizier Stuben (or Patrizier Room). The latter and the Pizzeria are open all year round, the grill room only during the winter season.
A familiar lunchtime meeting place for guests at the nearby Suvretta House hotel (which owns the hillside restaurant), Chasellas is the perfect place for hikers and skiers to replenish their strength with a Bündner Teller (Graubünden’s famous ‘Bündnerfleisch', or air-dried meat finely sliced and served cold on a plate), a simple crisp salad or a bowl of spaghetti. In the evening, resident chef Robert Jagisch prepares refined dishes that mix rustic Swiss recipes with Italian classical cooking. At night, Chasellas is both a secret destination for gourmets, and a relaxed restaurant for diners wanting to have fun.
Now in the hands of the third generation of the Walther family, the famous Murtaröl fish restaurant is 15 minutes away from St. Moritz by car. Looking at its position on the map, one would expect a selection of fresh-water fish from the Silser lake. How wrong you’d be, as Antonio Walther, the latest generation Walther to run the restaurant, prides himself on offering the best selection of seafood anywhere in the St. Moritz region. For many years a secret, the Murtaröl is now one of the most celebrated venues in the Engadin.
The legendary Sunny Bar in the Kulm Hotel has been the meeting place for members of the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club for decades. It also serves as the ‘local’ for high-flying St. Moritz visitors enjoying the winter season. The Restaurant NITO at the Sunny Bar is a Japanese restaurant that enjoys a high rating (13) in the GaultMillau guide. It is open for lunch and dinner from mid-December to mid-March. In fine weather, the sun terrace is open for lunch – the perfect way to enjoy a superb view of the frozen lake.
The Dracula Club, founded by Gunter Sachs in 1974, is a St. Moritz institution. As one of the hot spots in the town, it’s often the venue for the wildest parties in the Engadin. As a private club, though, entry is purely for members and their guests.
The El Paradiso is the most chic ‘Alpine hut’ on the southern slopes of the mountains. Owned by Hans Jörg Zingg, the El Paradiso is a convenient stop for skiers in the Corviglia region and makes a perfect location for a break before one last run. In a warm and cosy atmosphere, visitors can dine on Sternen-Bratwurst or air-cured meats. At the La Ventana restaurant, true ‘High Dining’ can be experienced with the finest fish and meat on offer. A reservation is essential.
The Alpina Hütte (Alpine Hut) is the home of the famous Skiclub Alpina St. Moritz. The onsite restaurant offers solid Swiss cooking mixed with elements of Italian and Chinese cuisine. In winter time (it’s open from November to April), a ‘Snow bar’ is one of the highlights, while during summer months (June to September), visitors can enjoy breathtaking views and good food – without the snow.
A visit to the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club is a must-do for any first-time visitor to the Swiss town. Now in its 125th year, the Club’s members ride toboggans down a course built every year especially for the SMTC. Visitors can, for a fee of 600 Swiss Francs, try the course as Supplementary List (SL) temporary members. They will receive instruction, the loan of specialised equipment and be allowed five runs from Junction where the Clubhouse is located.
Over three Sundays every February, the icy surface of a frozen St. Moritz lake is transformed into the flattest horse-racing course in the world. First run in 1907, the famous White Turf meeting is one of Europe's most exclusive events. The Gübelin Grand Prix of St. Moritz is the race with the highest prize money in Switzerland. Skikjöring – a racing sled drawn by one horse, with speeds of up to 50km/h – is joined by traditional Flat Racing and Trotting. In addition to the racing, the event has many other activities including art and culinary exhibitions.
The St. Moritz Polo World Cup on Snow is an annual tournament almost unique in the world. Held at a height of 1800 metres, four teams (in 2010 from Cartier, Maserati, Julius Baer and Brioni) keep over 15,000 spectators entertained over five days.
For lovers of the Engadin and classic cars, the British Classic Car Meeting is the perfect way to combine a visit to one of the world-class hotels in the region with a relaxed (yet competitive) timed tour plus fine food and wine in the evenings. The event starts on the Friday evening and concludes with a concours in the streets of St. Moritz and a final lunch on the Sunday. This year’s event runs from 9 – 11 July.
In addition to the summer’s British Classic Car Meeting, other ‘non-snow’ events include the late-August/early-September St. Moritz Art Masters. As well as the many exhibitions, the festival also includes symposiums and gives art lovers the opportunity to discuss modern art.