Chur or St. Moritz: Which is Better?

You might wonder if it’s better to stay in Chur or St. Moritz if you’re visiting Graubünden (Grisons in English), one of Switzerland’s most touristy areas. Chur and St. Moritz are two of the most popular choices to stay in Graubünden. Each place has its advantages and characteristics, so it’d be good to know which one’s right for you. If you’re not sure which one to get between the two, then this guide is for you. 

Overview: Chur and St. Moritz

You can’t go wrong with Chur or St. Moritz.  There’s plenty to do, shops, and restaurants in both Chur and St. Moritz.

It’ll be the hotels that make the biggest difference. There are five grand hotels in St. Moritz, but none in Chur. In Chur, you can find a variety of 3- and 4-star hotels. Hotels in St. Moritz range from affordable to luxury.

Chur and St. Moritz are also very different geographically.

At 1,822 meters above sea level, St. Moritz is one of Switzerland’s highest mountain resorts. 

  • Chur, located along the Rhine River, is a great base for exploring Grisons. A 592-meter elevation makes it comparable to the altitude of the federal city of Bern.
  • St. Moritz is an alpine resort town nestled in the middle of the Engadine Valley, surrounded by mountains and lakes. At 1,822 meters above sea level, St. Moritz is one of Switzerland’s highest mountain resorts. 

Key Differences: Chur vs. St. Moritz

The key differences between Chur and St. Moritz are as follows:

ChurSt. Moritz
Population: approx.  35,000Population: approx. 5,200 
Total Area: 28.09 km²Total Area: 28.69 km²
Elevation: 592 meters Elevation: 1,822 meters
Main transport gateway to the Grisons (Graubünden) regionLuxury alpine resort town in Engadine Valley
Highlights: Old Town, Church of St. Martin, BrambrüeschHighlights: Diavolezza, Morteratsch Glacier, Piz Corvatsch, Bobsled Run, Segantini Museum
Lakes: NoneLake: Lake St. Moritz, Lake Staz
River: RhineRiver: Inn

Which is better: Chur or St. Moritz?

Chur is a better choice if you’re looking for an alpine city with restaurants, shops, indoor activities, and easy access to other mountain resorts like Flims Laax, Arosa, and Lenzerheide. Visit St. Moritz for alpine experiences, water sports, high-end shopping, and discovering Engadine Valley.  

So it’s just a matter of preference. Both of them are awesome, so it won’t be easy to pick one. In this article, you’ll learn about all the places we can visit nearby as well as the advantages of staying at each of them.

My personal suggestion: You should go to St. Moritz if you love high-altitude experiences, mountains, skiing, and hiking. Chur is perfect if you want to see more than just Engadine Valley and aren’t always up for hiking and skiing. 

Chur

Image of St.Martin’s Church by TouringSwitzerland.com

Located in the eastern part of Switzerland, Chur is the capital of Graubünden. It’s also the gateway to the Graubünden Mountains. 

Chur is approximately 1.5 hours away from Zurich Airport, so it’s really convenient. It’s also the starting point for the Bernina Express, one of Switzerland’s most scenic trains. 

The old town is a must-see. You’ll find churches like St. Martin’s Church and St. Maria Himmelfahrt Cathedral. You can do lots of other things in this picturesque city.

You’ll find plenty to do in Chur if you spend a day or two there. This alpine city has about 500 shops, 130 restaurants, and a bunch of museums. You can visit the following in Chur:

  • Old Town of Chur – The Old Town of Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland with over 5,000 years of history. It’s a car-free part of the city with tons of cultural activities, shopping, and restaurants.
  • St. Mariae Himmelfahrt Cathedral – It’s the cathedral of the diocese of Chur. It’s a historic cathedral built between 1154 and 1270. 
  • St. Martin Church – This Romanesque church was built in the late Gothic style. Three Augusto Giacometti glass windows grace this largest late-Gothic building in Graubünden.
  • Brambrüesch – Brambrüesch’s high plateau is a popular hiking, biking, or tobogganing spot. You can hike from Brambrüesch to  Dreibündstein, Feldis, and Pradaschier.
  • Raetian Museum – The Raetian Museum (Rätisches Museum) has a lot of history, especially about Rhaetia, the Roman province that was the predecessor to Chur.
  • Giger Bar – A bar themed by the Swiss artist H. R. Giger.
  • Bernina Express – There’s a scenic train called Bernina Express that runs from Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy. There are some Bernina Express routes that also stop in St. Moritz, but it’s not guaranteed. 

Bernina Express

Bernina Express and Ospizio Bernina

The Bernina Express Route is one of the most spectacular ways to discover the Swiss Alps comfortably by train. A major tourist route in Switzerland, the Bernina Express route was built to provide its passengers with the best views of the canton Graubünden’s mountains, gorges, and natural landscapes. 

Located along the Bernina Express train route, Ospizio Bernina (Bernina Hospice in English) is known as both a Rhaetian Railway stop and a hotel. Ospizio Bernina is the highest point of the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and is considered one of the highlights of the Bernina Express Train Route. Together with the Albula section, it is one of the most beautiful Alpine crossings and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

St. Moritz

Image of St. Moritz by Pitsch from Pixabay

St. Moritz has always stood for beauty and luxury. The town has five grand hotels and big buildings instead of these small wooden chalets present in Zermatt. It is also renowned for its skiing resorts. St. Moritz is a more upscale vacation destination. It offers modern amenities and architecture. St. Moritz is world-famous and among the first winter sports resorts in the world. It sits above the Lake St. Moritz (St. Moritzersee in German) which turns frozen during winter.

In the village, there are many things you can do. You can visit the following:

St. Moritz has 25 crystal clear mountain lakes adding to the beautiful Alpine scenery. Some of the nearest ones are Lake Staz, Lake St. Moritz, Lake Champfèr, and Lake Silvaplana. There are forests and glaciers to enjoy. Hiking, climbing, sailing, windsurfing, horseback riding, golf, tennis, and skiing are also possible here.

Nearby pretty villages are Celerina/SchlarignaPontresina, Sils, Maloja, Silvaplana, and Zuoz. There is also a beautiful peninsula nearby called Chastè.


Places to Visit: Chur vs. St. Moritz

Places to Visit near Chur

There are many places to visit near Chur. The city of Chur is perfectly located with excellent train and bus connections to many beautiful tourist attractions in Graubünden. Some places to visit near Chur are the following:

  • Tschiertschen – The charming Tschiertschen village lies at 1,350 meters above sea level. Located in the Schanfigg valley of Graubünden, Tschiertschen was named one of the most beautiful villages in Graubünden. It is a Walser village that also serves as an attractive starting point for many hikes.
  • Maienfeld – Home to Heidi, one of the most popular book characters in Switzerland, Maienfeld features a Heidi village, Heidi house, Heidi trail, and a Heidi alp.
  • Churwalden – The holiday village of Churwalden is the gateway to Lenzerheide, a popular region known for its mountains. This village also has the longest toboggan run in Switzerland.
  • Lenzerheide – Lenzerheide is a mountain biking paradise in Graubünden. With the Bike Kingdom, it’s got many flow trails that go over roots, gravels, and jumps. The ski area of Lenzerheide is connected to the one of Arosa.
  • Arosa –  Arosa is a family-friendly alpine resort 1,800 meters above sea level. Located in the Schanfigg Valley, Arosa has gorgeous views, lakes, ski slopes, and trails. It also has a bear sanctuary. The ski area of Arosa is connected to the one of Lenzerheide.
  • Flims Laax Falera – One of the largest mountain resorts in Switzerland, Flims Laax Falera is a mecca for those who love snowboarding. Snow parks, the largest half-pipe in the world make it a popular destination. Its size and variety provide ample room for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiers, snowboarders, and freeskiers.
  • Rhine Gorge – Rhine Gorge is the Swiss equivalent to the Grand Canyon, a 13-kilometer gorge you can explore by foot, bike, car, or train.
  • Caumasee – Caumasee is one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. Known for its turquoise waters, it’s an alpine bathing lake with a 21 to 24 degree Celsius water temperature.

Places to Visit near St. Moritz

There are many places to visit near St. Moritz. There are many beautiful tourist attractions in the Engadine Valley. Some places to visit near St. Moritz are the following:

  • Pontresina – beautiful alpine village with Engadine houses and Belle Epoque hotels
  • Guarda – fairytale village famous for Schellen-Ursli, a children’s book by Selina Chönz
  • Celerina – sunny village next to St. Moritz with excellent tourist infrastructure.
  • Chastè Peninsula – a wooded peninsula surrounded by mountains, nature, and a lake
  • Alp Grüm – offers a fantastic view of the Palü Glacier, the Lagh da Palü lake, and the Bernina mountains surrounding it. From Alp Grüm, you will see Piz Varuna east of Piz Palü, a 3,453-meter-high mountain located on the border between Val Malenco, Italy, and Val Poschiavo, Switzerland.
  • Fuorcla Surlej – amazing views of the following mountain peaks: Piz Boval, Piz Morteratsch, Bernina Massif, Piz Roseg, Dschimels, Piz la Sella, Piz Scerscen, and more.
  • Muottas Muragl – a panoramic mountain in Pontresina with fantastic views of the lakes of Engadin valley
  • Corvatsch – the highest mountain station in the region at 3,303 meters provides an impressive Alpine panorama
  • Diavolezza – fantastic views of the highest peaks of Eastern Alps – Piz Bernina, Piz Palü, and Piz Morteratsch
  • Val Roseg – a beautiful side valley accessible by foot or carriage from Pontresina
  • Val Fex – a protected side valley accessible by foot or carriage from Sils
  • Val Trupchun – the most protected park in the country – Swiss National Park
  • Morteratsch – place to see the third longest glacier in the Eastern Alps – Morteratsch Glacier

Summary: Chur vs. St. Moritz

The recommendation really depends on what you want to do. You’ll find enough restaurants, hotels, and shops in Chur and St. Moritz. You’ll also find a lot of picturesque towns and villages nearby. 

To sum up my thoughts, I’d recommend St. Moritz for outdoor types, sporty ones, and elegant tourists. For those who like both indoor and outdoor activities, want more flexibility in case the weather’s bad, and want to keep their budget in check, Chur is the way to go. 

Here is a summary of the advantages of visiting either Chur or St. Moritz.

Advantages of Visiting Chur

  • Any time of year is a good time to visit Chur, no matter what the weather is like.
  • Chur has more historical places to visit. If you are looking to discover the oldest city in Switzerland, then it’s the one for you.
  • Chur has more fast food restaurants such as Mc Donald’s, Burger King, and KFC. Choose it over St. Moritz if you want to have these options nearby.
  • Chur is nearer Zurich and Zurich Airport. 
  • Chur has normal high street shops like H&M, Manor, and C&A. Choose it if you prefer high street shops over high-end shops.
  • Chur has more indoor options. If you’re coming during the rainy season, Chur might be a better choice. The museums there are interesting, and there are more of them. 
  • The ski resort of Chur, Brambrüesch, has only 20 kilometers of ski slopes. Choose Chur if you prefer a small ski resort. You will need to travel further to get to the bigger ski resorts if you are in Chur. Your options would be either Flims Laax Falera, or Arosa Lenzerheide.
  • Although Chur is not surrounded by lakes, some of the most beautiful ones in Switzerland are located just a bus ride away. Caumasee (34 minutes) and Crestasee (22 minutes) are a short ride away from Chur.

Advantages of Visiting St. Moritz

  • Summer and winter are the best times to visit St. Moritz. If you want to see certain mountains and vistas, make sure you check when the cable cars are operational. It’s common for cable cars to close for maintenance and holidays during shoulder season.
  • St. Moritz has more stunning landscapes. You’ll see more beautiful mountains, glaciers, and lakes here than in Chur.
  • St. Moritz has better hotels. First of all, there are several five-star hotels available. In St. Moritz, you can also find an array of 3- and 4- star hotels.
  • St. Moritz has more gourmet restaurants. You will find Michelin-starred restaurants in St. Moritz such as IGNIV by Andreas Caminada, Dal Mulin, and Ecco St. Moritz. Choose it over Chur if you prefer fine dining.
  • St. Moritz has a lot of high-end shops such as Louis Vuitton, Moncler, Cartier, Gucci and Dior. Choose it over Chur if you prefer high-end shops.
  • St. Moritz has more outdoor experiences such as hiking, biking, sailing, horse racing, fishing, and more.
  • St. Moritz is better for high alpine experiences. It is nearer glaciers and high mountains.
  • For skiing, St. Moritz is better than Chur. St. Moritz has 3 ski areas – Corviglia, Corvatsch-Furtschellas, and Diavolezza. Corviglia and Corvatsch have 163 kilometers and 120 kilometers of ski slopes respectively.
  • St. Moritz is surrounded by many lakes. In addition to St. Moritz’s lake, there are plenty of other bathing lakes nearby. Lake Silvaplana is popular for water sports and Lake Sils is the largest and most scenic in the valley.

Thanks for checking out our comparison between St. Moritz and Chur. No matter where you go, have fun! 


Related Posts: Chur

Related Posts: St. Moritz