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 choose, then this guide is for you.
Key Differences: Chur vs. St. Moritz
The key differences between Chur and St. Moritz are as follows:
|Population: approx. 35,000||Population: approx. 5,200|
|Total Area: 28.09 km²||Total Area: 28.69 km²|
|Elevation: 592 meters||Elevation: 1,822 meters|
|Main transport gateway to the Grisons (Graubünden) region||Luxury alpine resort town in Engadine Valley|
|Highlights: Old Town, Church of St. Martin, Brambrüesch||Highlights: Diavolezza, Morteratsch Glacier, Piz Corvatsch, Bobsled Run, Segantini Museum|
|Lakes: None||Lake: Lake St. Moritz, Lake Staz|
|River: Rhine||River: Inn|
Which is Better: Chur or St. Moritz?
Chur and St. Moritz are 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.
It’ll be the hotels and shopping 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. It’s the same story when it comes to shopping. St. Moritz has a lot of high-end brands, whereas Chur has high-street brands.
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.
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.
- Rhaetian Museum – The Rhaetian 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.
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 has always stood for beauty and luxury. The town has five grand hotels and big buildings instead of the small wooden chalets present in Zermatt or Verbier. 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 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:
- Leaning Tower – was part of the St. Mauritius Church
- Via Serlas – for shopping
- Kulm Park Eispavillon – used during the Olympic Winter Games in 1928 and 1948
- Chesa Veglia – a farmhouse from back in 1658
- Segantini Museum – houses the largest and most important collection of artist Giovanni Segantini
- Badrutt’s Palace – an iconic grand hotel in St. Moritz
- Olympia Bob Run – also still used regularly for Bobsleigh, Skeleton Championships, and other events
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.
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. The Bike Kingdom has 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 of 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 – a beautiful alpine village with Engadine houses and Belle Epoque hotels
- Guarda – a 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 – the place to see the third longest glacier in the Eastern Alps – Morteratsch Glacier
Hotels: Chur vs. St. Moritz
While St. Moritz may offer a wider selection of luxurious hotels, Chur also boasts a few great options for those looking for comfortable accommodations.
You’ll find that all the links for hotels below lead to Booking.com, with the exception of one link that will direct you to Hostelworld.com for hostel bookings.
Recommended Hotels in Chur
Recommended Hotels in St. Moritz
- Kulm Hotel St. Moritz (5-star) – Due to the pioneering efforts of hotel founder Johannes Badrutt, St. Moritz became a winter sports mecca. This makes the Kulm Hotel St. Moritz a special part of the city’s history. There are 5 restaurants, a spa with a pool, a whirlpool, a children’s pool, an open-air pool, and more at this elegant hotel. Also nearby, the hotel has its own 9-hole golf course with pitching, chipping, and putting areas. During the winter months, guests can skate and curl at the hotel.
- Badrutt’s Palace (5-star) – There are six restaurants, an indoor pool, a spa, and fitness center, valet parking, a tennis court or ice skating rink (depending on the season), and a free shuttle service to the train station at this elegant 5-star hotel in St.Moritz. Badrutt’s Palace is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, Swiss Deluxe Hotels, and Swiss Historic Hotels.
- Suvretta House (5-star) – Skiers will love this exclusive ski-in/ski-out hotel in Suvretta-Corviglia. There’s a regular shuttle service that takes you to other ski resorts and St. Moritz. They have a huge indoor pool, a fully-equipped gym, a sauna, gourmet specialties, and a kids’ restaurant.
- Hotel Steffani (4-star) – This well-priced hotel has 3 restaurants, 3 bars, a nightclub, and a spa area with an indoor pool. Just 300 meters from Corviglia ski area, it’s in the heart of St. Moritz.
- Hotel Waldhaus am See (3-star) – The Waldhaus am See is one of the leading 3-star hotels in Switzerland. A few steps from the train station, it features a breathtaking view of the Engadin Valley and is situated on the banks of St. Moritz Lake. With over 2500 different kinds of whiskey, the hotel has the largest whiskey bar in the world.
- St. Moritz Youth Hostel (Hostel) – An affordable option is to stay at a hostel in St. Moritz where you’ll get everything you need – free breakfast, linen, security lockers, hot showers, microwave, a play area, and free wifi.
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 McDonald’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 the 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 to 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!
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- The Charming Tschiertschen Village
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- Experience Alp Grüm At Least Once In Your Lifetime
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. She is based in the Lake Zurich region in Switzerland and has a second home in Grisons. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.