The wide range of cultural attractions, including museums, galleries, libraries and other sights, all bear witness to the local customs and traditions that are still alive here today. Anyone who thinks St. Moritz is stuck in the past, however, would be wide of the mark: the area is a melting pot of tradition and modernity, reflected in the numerous Michelin-starred restaurants that serve traditional and innovative cuisine, the mix of contemporary and historical architecture, and the many longstanding boutiques.
In Engadin, culture and tradition are inseparably intertwined: the rich history of this sunny Alpine valley is evident on every street and every corner. The leaning tower in St. Moritz, for example, has been a cultural landmark for centuries. It used to be the bell tower on the town’s first parish church, St. Maurice, and dates back to 1139. It began losing its shape at some point before 1800, and was eventually made secure in 1928.
Historical buildings can be found everywhere in the Engadin valley. The characteristic Engadin houses alone, with their imaginative façade decorations (known locally as Sgrafitti), are well worth a trip to the Engadin. Although St. Moritz itself is characterised more by a mix of tradition and modernity than by these typical Engadin buildings, the luxurious Alpine metropolis is still one of the highlights of the beautiful Engadin.
One of the most famous buildings in St. Moritz is undoubtedly the Segantini Museum, which first opened in 1908. Built by the architect Nicolas Hartmann, it is home to the world’s largest exhibition of work by the famous painter Giovanni Segantini, who – like Gauguin and Van Gogh – was a pioneer of modernism. The majestic dome and round structure are particularly impressive.
Modern buildings such as the Chesa Futura, designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster, provide further examples of St. Moritz’s ability to unite tradition and modernity: 250,000 larchwood shingles were used to create this futuristic-looking apartment building. At Parkhaus Serletta, 35 large illuminated glass showcases hang along the length of Switzerland’s longest escalator all the way down to the lake. The St. Moritz Design Gallery, as it is known, allows passers-by to marvel at the different historic posters that are exhibited all year round.
It’s well known that St. Moritz is the birthplace of winter tourism. But the small mountain village became famous long before it achieved this status – it was originally the healing springs, with their iron-rich water, that attracted the rich and beautiful to St. Moritz in the summer. The spa culture in St. Moritz dates back to 1400 BC.
The region also has lots to offer in terms of food. The famous Engadin walnut tart, for example, is one of Grisons’ most famous culinary creations, and anyone who comes to the high Alpine valley to sample the local cuisine will soon realise just how important food is up here. Home-style cuisine can be found everywhere. Whether traditional or reinterpreted, the local food in the canton of Grisons is as diverse as the recipes themselves. Capuns, maluns, pizokel, Grisons barley soup, pizzoccheri – an impressive variety of traditional dishes are on offer. And they all have one thing in common: they’re absolutely delicious! In the local restaurants, many of which have been awarded Michelin stars and Gault Millau points, international dishes and traditional local recipes are reinterpreted and combined in highly creative and innovative ways.
In Engadin St. Moritz, sweet treats are just as much a part of local life as traditional savoury dishes. Engadin’s tradition of confectionery dates back to the 15th century. Forced to leave their homes, migrants often achieved fame and glory in faraway places with their sweet creations. Did you know that evidence of Grisons’ confectionery artistry can now be found in 891 European towns? This impressive number should come as no surprise, given how seductive and delicious the many different creations are. A stroll through the picturesque yet urban St. Moritz shows how traditional confectioneries and cafés have influenced the image of this luxurious Alpine resort.
Of course, the tradition of winter sports should not be forgotten either. This Alpine winter sports hotspot has hosted two Olympic Winter Games, five Ski World Championships and 24 Bobsleigh World Championships. But international winter sport isn’t just practised in St. Moritz – it also originated here. Cricket and curling tournaments, as well as other ice sports events, were held here in the early days, and were soon followed by the Olympia Bob Run and the Cresta Run. The winter sports tradition continues to this day at the highest level, from the Snow Polo World Cup and international horse racing on ice, through to bobsleigh competitions on the world’s only natural ice track.
Also worth mentioning are the magnificent grand hotels of St. Moritz, which have been setting standards for the luxury hotel business from the very beginning. The opening of Hotel Kulm in the winter of 1869/70 laid the foundations for the rise of winter tourism and winter sports in the region.
The international spirit that characterises St. Moritz is just one of the many reasons to visit this high Alpine valley. It is the local brands that truly make the town a melting pot of cosmopolitan elegance and regional charm. They include traditional fashion stores such as Faoro and Cashmere House, historic speciality shops like Glattfelder with its famous Caviar-Stübli, and the Hatecke butcher with its square salsiz sausage.