A place that stole my heart: St. Moritz

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

Small, cozy, and and 322 Sunny Days a Year. Saint Moritz is a jewel amidst the Upper Engadin lakes district in the southern side of the Alps.

I have been a big city dweller for 27 years (I was born in Milan) and even though my hometown is the most beautiful place in the world I perfectly know what it means looking forward to escaping from stand-still traffic, air pollution, crowded streets and endless grey sidewalks. Even if my big city had so much to offer to me in terms of leisure activities, amazing clubs, wellness and new spots to be discovered I felt the need of regenerating myself after the tough week and since my family lived in an apartment near the city centre (15 minutes from the Milan Cathedral) I did not have a backyard to transform into an oasis… However, I never imagined that one day I would move to one of those quiet places to which people normally goes to escape from the daily routine and even if sometimes I miss the crowded city chaos, I enjoy this landscape and look at them with the same amazement of the first time.

I have never been a mountain person. If you asked me 2 weeks ago which is my ideal situation to achieve the highest grade of relax possible, I would reply: lying back on a sunny beach without hesitation. It is said that your personality decides what kind of landscapes you like: if you are a mountain person you are an introvert and you appreciate your own presence over other people’s and can get some valuable time alone. If you are a beach lover instead and prefer to sip a drink with your mates on the hot sand it means you are rather outgoing. With regards to this assumption, I think that also personal tastes must be called into question here and not just personality, because you can meet as many people at the beach as well as at the mountain and lying on a beach does not necessary imply you are going to socialize with tons of people if you want to be by yourself.

If you ask me where I want to be right now to blow off the steam I would answer Saint Moritz!

Small, cozy, and and 322 Sunny Days a Year. Saint Moritz is a jewel amidst the Upper Engadin lakes district in the southern side of the Alps. It belongs to Canton Grisons, one of the 26 Cantons of Switzerland. At 1,856 metres above sea level it offers picturesque landscape both during winter and summer season. It is probably the most famous winter holidays destinations in the world and its name is acknowledged worldwide for high-level services, high quality of lifestyle with its top hotels and restaurant, elegance and class. Everything one expects to receive from a classy holiday destination like that.

Attracting visitors from all over the world, thanks to its top sport facilities and services, Saint Moritz hosts events on the world stage. And even if it is a pretty small town the atmosphere gets distinctly cosmopolitan during the many events taking place all over the year, so sometimes you have the impression of being in a big town. Because this village combines the typical lifestyle of a winter sport location with the high-end services that only a big city can deliver: first class hotels, award-winning restaurant, clubs and upscale boutiques (like Louis Vuitton and Hermes, to name a few), can be unexpectedly found in the city vibrant center. It is no surprise that this is the preferred location of upper classes and international jet set to spend vacations.

The 5 stars Kempinski Hotel

The Cartier boutique in the centre of the city

The 5 stars Badrutt's Palace Hotel

Inside fine Asian cuisine restaurant Hato

The main shopping street with luxury boutiques

Inside the 5 stars Suvretta House restaurant

The "Chesa Veglia" Restaurant, the oldest farmhouse in St. Moritz built in 1658, with three restaurants and two bars. The historic house was purchased in 1935/36 by Badrutt's family and converted into a classy and award-winning restaurant.

However, besides the sparkling lights of its city centre, the pearl of the Engadin hosted the Winter Olympics games two times, in 1928 and 1948 and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in February 2017. For that occasion, the exhibition entitled “St. Moritz – The origin of winter sports” was arranged at the Saint Moritz Design Gallery inside the Parking Serletta. 31 pictures from various different epochs grouped in sequence to give the viewer an insight into the winter sports history of this place.

St. Moritz - THE ORIGIN OF WINTER SPORTS The St. Moritz Design Gallery February - June 2017

Downhill Racer René Beckert, 1934

Start downhill race, 1934

Kilometer - Lancé, Speed skiling, ca. 1935

Horse racing on the frozen lake, ca. 1930

Bobsleigh in St. Moritz, ca. 1925

Cresta rider on start, ca. 1930

Henri Oreiller, downhill and combined, 1948

Start slalom at the World Championship, 1934

Finish area slalom, 1934

Time keeping, 1934

Transport sound system, 1934

Kulm Park with "Eispavillon", 1928

Olympia Stadion, 1948

Sonja Henie, Legend in figure skating, 1928

Hockey competition, Olympic winter games, 1948

David Zogg, Ski racer, 1934

I just posted some pictures from 1920s to 1940s here, though the exhibition showed many images from other various decades.

St. Moritz hotel pioneer Johannes Badrutt. He first introduced the sport of curling in the region on December of 1880 to promote the winter sport among his guests. Fascinated by technical innovations, he bought a lighting system in 1878 at World Exposition in Paris. He built a small power station near his hotel and the first electric arc lamps in Switzerland were burned in the dining room of its hotel, the Kulm hotel St. Moritz in 1879. He introduced further technical innovations in his hotel like telephone, water closets, hydraulic lifts and warm air heating.

St. Moritz in the 19th century was known as a summer Mineral spa town where the rich took mineral cures during the months from May to September. The history of winter resort took place 152 years ago, in September 1864 when St. Moritz hotel pioneer Johannes Badrutt made a bet with his English summer guest in his hotel, the Kulm Hotel: before the check-out he invited them to come back also in winter and, in the event they would have not liked the place during the cold season, Mr Badrutt would reimburse the travel cost. If the snowy village was to their liking they would have been his guest as long as they wished. Guess what? They came back that winter and during the same year the first Tourism Office settled in Saint Moritz. The dry Engadin climate proved to be very appealing to city dwellers who were suffering from lung diseases caused by polluted air. Thanks to this wager, winter tourism in St. Moritz and the entire region of Engadin had officially started.

Johannes Badrutt with his family, ca. 1865

Johannes Badrutt's The Kulm Hotel in 1860

The dining room of the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz, The first room in Switzerland to be lit by electric light in 1879

Reading room at Kulm Hotel, ca. 1890

Ladies riding "Cresta Run", a natural ice skeleton racing toboggan track in eastern Switzerland ca. 1880

Sledge run below the Kulm Hotel, ca. 1880

The entrance of Kulm Hotel today

The entrance of 5 stars Badrutt's Palace Hotel

Thanks to the investments made by the tourism sector, the popularity of Saint Moritz grew rapidly: 1882 the town hosted the first European Ice-Skating Championships and in 1889 the first golf tournament in the Alps were held. And again, the first bob run and bob race took place in Saint Moritz in 1890. In 1896, St. Moritz became the first village in the Alps to install electric trams and, during the same year, the Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, built by Johannes Badrutt’s son Caspar, was built. A horse race was held on snow in 1906, and on the frozen lake the following year. In 1929 the first ski school in Switzerland was established in St. Moritz.

Exterior of the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains by night

At the center of Saint Moritz Bad, the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains was built in 1864.

It underwent important and extensive renovation throughout the years giving to the building the neo-gothic characteristic and it prestigious heritagewe can appreciate today.

The Carlton Hotel in Saint Moritz

Originally planned as summer residence for the czar Nicolaj II – according to the legend - in 1913 the Carlton Hotel St. Moritz opened its doors for the first time.

In the 30s the hotel experienced real glorious years. According to the newspapers of the time, afternoon tea times were regularly spent in the hotel by celebrity guests from London, Amsterdam and Paris.

After having been closed in 1939 because of the second world war and because of financial matterst 1948, it took 7 years before the hotel accommodated guests again. It was successful for a while though this was followed by a series of ownership changes.

Finally, in 1987 the Carlton finally found a new owner, who did invest a lot of money to re-instate the hotel as a top property. Since then the Carlton Hotel has gained its place among the most attractive hotels in Switzerland.

The Suvretta House during the summer season

The Suvretta House, a grand hotel with a view of Champfèr and Lake Silvaplana, was opened on 16 December 1912. Its inauguration took place during the winter snowy days which had transformed Suvretta House into a storybook castle in the midst of spellbinding winter landscape. Guest were enchanted by the elegance and the luxury of its interiors where they could also find rooms for bridge and billiards, a library, a music salon and generously designed banquet and dining rooms. The hotel was very exclusive and hosted many celebrities from the arts, the movie industry, politics, and business, such as the Shah of Persia, Gregory Peck and Evita Perón to name a few. As it always happens for the hotels, the Suvretta House changed ownership several times through the years and underwent renewal phases.

If you think that Saint Moritz is just winter sport, top level hotels and boutiques and award winning restaurants you would be gladly surprised by the number of cultural monuments, churches and rummy spots you would find out roaming around the small village. It is plenty of attractions that surely worth a visit.

The Leaning Tower. Built in 1570 with its 33-metre-high, the tower has a 5.5 degree tilt, thereby exceeding even the incline of the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa!

“La Bellezza liberata della materia”. A sculpture of Leonardo Bistolfi. A memorial to Giovanni Segantini.

The White Turf St. Moritz, a unique race of its kind. From 1907 this international horse races takes place over the frozen lake of Saint Moritz and attracts thousands of spectators from all over the world to witness the excitement and entertainment of the races against the magnificent backdrop of the mountains of the Engadine.

Cresta Run is a natural ice skeleton racing toboggan track built in 1884 and 1.2125 km long. It is one of the few in the world dedicated entirely to skeleton.