There is an alpine city in Switzerland called Chur that you may have heard about. Perhaps you passed Chur on your way to Davos, St. Moritz, or another mountain resort in the canton Grisons. In case you’ve ever wondered if it’s even worth your time stopping by Chur, then this article is for you.
Chur is the oldest city in Switzerland.
That’s right, you’ve read it correctly. The oldest city in Switzerland is indeed Chur. Historically, Chur has been home to people for more than 11,000 years. It goes back even before Jesus Christ was born. Due to the importance of trade during the early days, the city became quite important.
In 1803, the canton Grisons (Graubünden in German) recognized Chur as its capital.
Is Chur Worth Visiting?
Yes, it is definitely worth visiting. The old town of Chur reflects its long history. The city center is also practically car-free. The small alleys are colorful and beautiful. There are several churches and even a castle.
It is also the gateway to canton Grisons (Graubünden). Many well-known tourist experiences and destinations can be found in Graubünden, such as St. Moritz, Davos, Heidi Village, Bernina Express, and others.
Due to the warm wind (Föhn), Chur has one of the highest average temperatures in Switzerland. The city is 554 meters above sea level and goes up to 1,800 meters. Half of its area is covered by trees. Eleven alpine passes are accessible from this city.
Chur offers tons of things to do, but we have selected eight of our favorites. Without further ado, here are eight fun things that you can do while visiting Chur.
1. Visit the Old Town
The oldest city in Switzerland is Chur. People have lived here 11,000 years ago. It is interesting either by yourself or with a guided tour. You can walk from the modern train station to the lively center in the winding streets of the old town of Chur. The city is the service, cultural, and shopping center of Grisons.
You will learn lots of interesting facts and stories about the city and the region if you do the guided tour. It is also possible to go with an audio guide. The audio guide is available on this page in at least the following languages:
Chur Tourism launched a new City eGuide App in summer 2020. It is available in German and English. The app is free of charge. Once downloaded, visitors and tourists can use it to do an individual tour of the alpine city. The download is available on www.churtourismus.ch.
The old town of Chur is a really nice place to stroll around. In the alleyways, you can find stores, cafes, and restaurants. In some cases, they even sell local specialty products.
2. Explore the City’s Churches
There are eight churches in Chur to visit. Here we list two of these eight churches.
St. Mariae Himmelfahrt Cathedral
St. Mariae Himmelfahrt Cathedral looms above the old town. It is an 800-year-old cathedral with an ornamented late-Gothic altar. It is one of the most important cultural monuments in Switzerland.
During the time of Bishop Adalgott from 1151 to 1160, they started building the cathedral. It was completed in 1272.
The entrance facade of the central nave is made of scalar stone. The arched window in the central axis is the largest medieval window in Grisons. Jakob Russ carved the choir stalls and the Romanesque sculptures on the bases.
Restoration work took place between 2001 and 2007. The cathedral is one of the most important cultural monuments in Switzerland
St. Martin Church
St. Martin’s Church was built in the 8th century. Named after St. Martin, Bishop of Tours, the church was originally a Romanesque Church.
After the great town fire in 1464, the church almost got completely destroyed. Upper Austrian master Stefan Klain rebuilt the church. Its architecture changed to the late Gothic style after rebuilding. In 1491, the Church reconstruction finished.
It is the largest late-Gothic building in Grisons. This church in the old town was a center and base for the Reformation in Chur starting 1523.
Since 1919, three glass windows by artist Augusto Giacometti feature in this church. The glass windows depict the Christmas story.
3. Stroll at Fontana Park
Just between the Malteserturm and Bündner Kunstmuseum (Art Museum) is Fontana Park. It is a perfect place to stroll around and relax. There are benches to sit on, statues, and fountains.
Once it was a baroque garden. Nowadays, potted plants and flowers adorn this historic park. The flowerbeds are well-kept and look absolutely gorgeous once they bloom.
Fontana Park is located at Grabenstrasse/Klostergasse. It is open daily from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM
4. Choose A Museum To Explore
This article highlights three of Chur’s top museums. They are the Art Museum (Bündner Kunstmuseum), the History Museum (Rhaetian Museum), and the Natural History Museum (Bündner Naturmuseum).
Art lovers can visit the Art Museum Chur. Located in the historic Villa Planta mansion, the museum expanded its offering from 2014 to 2016. The mansion has eastern elements. Its previous owner used to be a cotton industrialist in Egypt. The Art Museum presents an attractive permanent collection. It also has interesting contemporary and temporary collections.
The museum presents works from the Giacometti family and Angelika Kauffmann. It also displays works of various artists from Grisons including but not limited to:
- Andreas Walser
- Alois Carigiet
- Matias Spescha
- HR Giger
Graubünden Natural History Museum
The Graubünden Natural History Museum shows the flora and fauna of Grisons. It also covers geology and minerals. Special temporary exhibitions and lectures on various topics are also available.
Exciting encounters with the mammals of Graubünden are possible on the first floor. Some examples include the following animals:
- The red deer
- The mouse weasel
- The large brown bear
- The Capricorn
The Rhaetian Museum is the historical museum of Grisons. It is located in the Old Town below the Cathedral. It presents artifacts from the past and discusses the following themes:
- Archeological findings in canton Grisons
- The Oldest traces of Chur-Marsöl settlement
- Work and life during the earlier days
- Major and cultural changes during the Roman occupation
- Tourism as an engine of the economy
5. Ride the Gondola Direct from Chur to Brambrüesch (1,597 Meters)
The valley station of Brambrüesch mountain is only one kilometer away from the train station of Chur. From the outskirts of the city, you can go up to Känzeli. Here you can change to the gondolas which lead all the way up to Brambüesch.
The cable cars have been available since 1957. Initially, these were in the form of 2-person cabins. The views are amazing. First, you see views of the city Chur. Higher, you see into the Chur Rhine Valley. Then the views turn to Calanda. Other views include Piz Beverin over Heinzenberg and the Safien Mountains until Vorab. You can also see until Lenzerheide and Schanfigg.
Hikers can explore the area called Dreibündenstein. It is two hours to walk until the boundary stone of the former three Rhaetian leagues at its highest point. Dreibündenstein covers the areas Brambüesch, Feldis, and Pradaschier. There are options to proceed to Feldis (cable car to Rhäzuns) or to use the toboggan in Pradaschier.
Adventurers stay in Brambrüesch. There are popular mountain bike tours available in this area. One highlight is the freeride routes on Pizoggel. It was the venue for the 2009 Swiss Bike Championships.
6. Get Active in the Climbing Hall, Skate Park or Pumptracks
One of the most modern climbing halls in Switzerland is Kletterzentrum Ap ‘n Daun. It has bouldering and route climbing terrain. It also has climbing areas both indoors and outdoors. The address is Pulvermühlestrasse 8.
There are a variety of pump tracks in and around Chur (i.e., Domat/Ems, Zizers). Pump tracks for beginners and advanced bikers are both available. There are also tracks for inline skaters.
There is a skate park on the Obere Au in Chur. It is suitable for skateboards, inline skates, and BMX. It is free of charge. The address is Grossbruggerweg 6.
7. Shop in the city
Chur offers the largest choice between Zurich and Milan. Almost all large department stores and fashion houses have a store in Chur. Over 500 shops invite you to enjoy the shopping experience in the city. Above all, it is easy to walk around the car-free Old Town. Parking spaces are in the immediate vicinity. Other shops are also available in City West Chur.
If you are interested in local produce, farmers come from the entire canton of Graubünden every Saturday for the weekly market. Among the fresh products that you can buy are fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, and meat. You can find the markets at the following places: Gansplatz, Ochsenplatz, Martinsplatz, Kornplatz, Majoranplatz, Pfisterplatz, Arcas, Post- and Bahnhofstrasse. Markets take place between June and end of October from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM. For more information, visit churer-wochenmarkt.ch
8. Chase the City Food Trail
Another special idea is to chase the FoodTrail. It is a paper chase throughout the city. Solve clues and discover fascinating facts about food. Enjoy culinary delicacies while doing it.
So, there you have it. Lots of wonderful reasons to visit the alpine city of Chur. Stroll through the old town, visit the churches and museums, head up to the local mountain, shop, or eat.
Have you seen this drone footage of Chur by Swiss drone? If not, check it out below.
And if you want to explore further, check out more suggestions below. There are loads of other excursions near Chur that you can choose from and tackle within one day.
Other Excursions near Chur
To round off the list, we present some more ideas of fun things to do near Chur.
- Bathe in Crestasee, one of Switzerland’s most beautiful lakes
- Visit St. George’s Church in Rhäzüns – the oldest valley church
- Go to the romantic Haldenstein Castle, its gardens and the fortress nearby
- Relax in the 7,300-square-meter large thermal water world Tamina Therme
- Ride the helicopter and enjoy the alpine scenery (Swiss Helicopter AG, Untervaz)
- Try whitewater rafting in the Rhine gorge near Flims
- Ride one of the many train lines from Chur main train station
- Explore the world’s largest collection on Middle Earth in Greisinger Museum
- Enjoy the long toboggan ride in Pradaschier
- Find out more about Heidi and its author Johanna Spyri in Maienfeld
- Visit the Il Spir Vantage Point of the “Swiss Grand Canyon” (Rhine Gorge)
- Look at the bears in Arosa Bear Park
- Observe the impressive Viamala Gorge
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