Ah, St Moritz. The name brings to mind a gorgeous summer holiday in Torquay. I was 16 and he was tall, blond, a little shy and had the most beautiful smile. I’ll call him Hanspeter, because that was his name. When business took me to St Moritz one September day a few years ago, well, for a brief second, I considered looking him up. Then I realized I didn’t know his surname – I’d never bothered to ask. What can I say… it was summer, we were kids…
My first view of St. Moritz and the Engadin Valley was jagged, alpine peaks kissing the clear sky, larches in golden autumn colours, the sun sparkling off the water in the deep-blue St. Moritzsee. Here and there, a house clung precariously to a cliff. Only Swiss and Norwegians would choose to live in such splendid isolation.
On the other hand, St Moritz is marketed as ‘prestigious, world famous, chic, elegant and exclusive’. It’s a ‘playground for movie stars and royalty’, it has a ‘pronounced cosmopolitan ambience’ and – my favourite – ‘a champagne climate more tonic than anywhere else’. Even the name St Moritz is copyrighted.
The town is divided in two. Up in the hills is St Moritz-Dorf – everyone’s image of this swanky resort – full of chalets, hotels, boutiques and the odd souvenir shop. Down by the lakeshore, St Moritz-Bad is another story – full of concrete blocks of flats and sports halls. One wonders what those architects have been thinking. Surrounded by nature at its most stunning, one would expect, … well, something a bit different, perhaps.
I like you, St Moritz. I do. As towns go, you’re perhaps not that remarkable, but your setting more than makes up for it.
Quirky fact: Dorf and Bad are connected by a series of escalators through St Moritz Design Gallery. I suppose this Alpine town must get its share of tourists, here for Prada and Patek Philippe rather than the skiing.
Passing through the gallery and looking at posters showing scenes from St Moritz at the turn of the century, I yearn to visit St Moritz of the early 1900s. Where, oh where is that time machine? (Perhaps a brief detour to that lovely English summer and exchange surnames…)
What to do in St Moritz in September:
- Stroll around the über-gorgeous St Moritzsee.
- Have a look at the rambling old-world Hotel Waldhaus am See and imagine the place say, 100 years ago – people in Edwardian costume strolling lazily around, picknicing by the lake, happily chatting, resting and taking the baths. Very belle époque.
- Try a Nusstorte (local nut cake – delicious).
- Take the Bergbahn up to Corviglia and the cable car on up to Piz Nair. Walk the last bit up to the very top (3057 m), and breathe as deeply as you can! Go back down to the Panorama restaurant, get a cup of tea and enjoy the view. Walk back down and look for adorable marmots along the mountainside.
- OK then – give those escalators a go. They end at a terrace overlooking the lake. And just in case the two short stairs down from the terrace are too much, there is a lift down to the pavement.
This is off-season. Many resorts and shops are closed – but everything will be back in business in early December, including the flashy Badrutt’s Palace Hotel from 1896. Now you know.
Badrutt’s Palace hotel. Somehow gaudy 19th century is more appealing than gaudy 20th century.
Summing up, here’s my quick take on St Moritz:
- The town – fair enough
- The setting – out of this world
- Worth it? Oh yes!
I’ve always thought of St. Moritz as a ski resort. Nice with some inspiration for an ‘out of that season’ visit.
Hrm, somehow Badrutt’s Palace hotel in the photo looks very Chinese style to me….I think it is because of the colors (green roof, red and white house body).
Hotel Waldhaus am See looks very nice though, I would love to have a chance to stay there and get a lake side view room ~ (Better start making $$ >.<)
Yes, very Belle Epoque – such a romantic location!
That is just so romantic! The Waldhaus am See, the lake, your story… love it!
I like the photos of St Moritz. Seems like it has gotten a bit spoiled and lost a bit of its charm. Seems like its beauty gave rise to too much commercialism.
@Jeremy – Yes, I suppose it may have gone to their head. Beautiful area, over-the-top marketing.
The view from Piz Nair is beautiful.
St. Moritz certainly looks stunning! I love your opening paragraph 🙂
Haha. Thanks, Michael.
I’ll call him Hanspeter, because that was his name.” HA! Love it. That is a gorgeous view of the mountains.
St. Moritz is very beautiful but not one of my favorite Swiss towns. It is a nice place to spend a night waiting for the Glacier Express, though.
@Debbie – I agree. And at the end of the Glacier Express is uber-gorgeous Zermatt, which I adore. Bit unfair comparison, I suppose – Zermatt has the Matterhorn after all.
Incredible scenery Sophie! Too bad the buildings are a little overdone, but glad you still recommend it as an amazing place to visit. I hope to visit someday in the future!
Off season does sound appealing. Beautiful.
I agree. St. Moritz in the 1900 must really have been something. Today…. not so much. The glitz is fading fast.
The town doesn’t look terribly lovely… but the views sure do!
What a breathtaking photo of Piz Nair! Wonder if that’s a house on the left.
St. Moritz is one of those places that conjure up luxury, disappointed to hear there’s a bad side. Thanks for the recommendations as well.
Wonderful photos 🙂
There are plenty of spots around Switzerland with as much (if not more) beauty and less sticks up their a****. I just find it ridiculous how some corners of the world get the ‘exclusive’ mark. Great shots
Loved this post Sophie and judging by your photos, I reckon I agree with your quick summing up at the end. Yes, just what were those architects thinking when they built the concrete blocks?!
Very nicely written.
I always think of movie stars, glamour and sky high prices when I think of St.Moritz and not the ugly buildings you’ve shown us. I can’t believe they’ve got their name under copyright – all about preserving the identity I guess.
And I’m with you on those Swiss nut cakes – a little taste of heaven.
Soooo lovely. I want to go there right now!!
I’d like to stay in the hotel by the lake. Looks very pretty!
Your shots are stunning. I would love to stroll around there in the off season.
Love it! This is my favorite submission to TPThursday this week! Funny and informative with great pics. Thanks!
@Average Traveller – thanks 🙂
Interesting the St Moritz is a town divided – still I suppose that normal people need to have somewhere to live, we can all afford Prada
What an entertaining and informative read. Love this article. Would really like to visit St Moritz now. Looks like it’s a little out of the way, though. (Also loving the map feature, btw.) What’s the easiest way to get there?
@Robert – It’s perhaps a little out of the way, but worth it, of course. We took the train from Zürich to Chur, then the lovely narrow-gauge Bernina Express onwards to St Moritz. Swiss rail journeys are beautiful!
And yes, I like the map feature as well. Useful. Also, I adore maps.
Like Leigh, I love the way this is written. And the setting is stunning!
@Jenna – Thank you 🙂
The holiday region of Engadin St. Moritz is located on the southern slopes of the Swiss Alps at 1800 meters: the “roof of Europe”.
Great job. It was helpful.