Exploring Switzerland’s Most Glamorous Town

The perfect winter retreat in St. Moritz
The perfect winter retreat in St. Moritz | © The Tschuggen Collection

Editorial Manager

St. Moritz has a reputation for offering premium luxury in a country already known for excess. The small town in Switzerland is easily accessible by rail, and also boasts excellent roads, world-renowned ski resorts and five star hotels. But what if you find yourself here on a short break without any desire to hit the slopes? Here’s Culture Trip’s guide to a short break in St. Moritz.

When arriving in Zurich, you’ll be first struck by how pristine everything feels. It might sound like a cliché, but it really is true that everything runs like clockwork here. You can walk from the arrivals lounge to the train station in less than five minutes, and from this point the rest of the country is within easy reach. Sure you can drive too, and the routes are uniformly impeccable, but you would miss out on the award-winning train journeys that have to be experienced to be believed.

The route from Zurich to St Moritz takes just over 2 hours, and is actually longer than the flight from London to Switzerland, but you only need look out of the window when on the train to understand why this is the only way to travel here. With UNESCO recognition, the tracks dive through valleys, carve into mountain tunnels and over lofty bridges to spectacular effect.

A view of the frozen lake and St. Moritz

If you’re interested in more rail adventures, why not take a look at our magical trip from Madrid to Marrakesh?

Where to stay in St. Moritz

Part of the Tschuggen Collection, the Carlton Hotel is one of the first properties you will see when arriving by train. Perched high above the lake, you’ll get excellent views over the whole of St. Moritz and have easy access to the Upper Engadin mountains. Its hard to comprehend the size of the lake itself, especially if you arrive at night as I did. It was only in the morning – when I figured out that people were actually walking across the frozen water – that I fully realised where I was.

One of the signature experiences here is Moving Mountains, an initiative that serves as a blueprint to a healthier way of life. I’m usually quite cynical about these types of campaigns, but it really is an immersive and well-thought-out way of making the most of a stay at the Carlton St. Moritz. I felt revitalised and refreshed after a hectic few weeks before I arrived, and many of the core principles ended up enhancing my few days here.

The restorative indoor/outdoor pool at the Carlton Hotel

I’ll explain some of the activities that form part of the five pillars of the Moving Mountains immersive experiences below, but as for the rest of the hotel it speaks for itself. A modern, 5 star property with outstanding rooms and excellent dining options. The spa makes the most of the natural surroundings by incorporating the outdoors into its cool down areas. The seamless integration is easy to miss at first, but once you step out into the snow covered forests you’ll feel at one with nature. Be sure to try the cosy fondue experience in the gondolas outside the hotel too, it might be a bit cheesy but nothing beats an authentic bit of Swiss cuisine.

Carlton Hotel St. Moritz is available from CHF 880 per room per night based on two adults sharing a deluxe room on a B&B basis, with 100 CHF food and beverage voucher per adult per day, butler service, minibar, service, VAT and complimentary access to the hotel’s spa.

Things to do in St. Moritz

Yes, you can ski. Many people arriving here will end up spending time on the slopes and given how exclusive the area can be you won’t find too many crowds here. Its a great spot if you are a confident skier, but is there anything else St. Moritz has to offer? As someone who has dabbled in going downhill, I was looking for a different type of winter holiday and surprisingly there was a lot I could do away from the piste.

Depending on timings, you can head out of St. Moritz and explore the ice caves of the Morterastch Glacier. This is a fantastic experience, but it can take some time, so if you want something closer to the hotel then head down to the lake and take an ice bath. The adrenaline kick from plunging yourself into a small hole carved into the surface of the ice is meant to have incredible health benefits, but personally the sauna and pool at the hotel worked wonders too.

A more relaxing way of enjoying the lake is to take a torchlit hike under the cover of darkness. This is an invigorating way of getting fresh air and stargazing while getting in a stealth workout. If you’re going with a group you’ll also get to know them better by the end of this activity. We did both the evening hike and also a daytime one which takes you on a magical tour through the trees to some serene spots of natural beauty. The hotel can also arrange a horse and carriage if you really want to push the boat out.

The main town square of St. Moritz is full of luxury shops and smart galleries. You might think that there isn’t much else to do in the central parts of town, but there are a few cultural stops worth visiting. The leaning tower of the old St Mauritius Church dates back to the 12th century. The main part of the building was destroyed in 1893 but the tower still stands (or at least leans) today.

Ice skating on a frozen lake at sunset in St. Moritz

Elsewhere snowshoeing, snowtubing and tobogganing remain popular pastimes, and if you want a real adrenaline hit why not try hurling yourself down the Olympic standard bobsleigh run? Spectators can enjoy professional polo players taking to the ice in an annual season of games that are popular with locals and visitors alike, but for me the chance to head to another frozen part of St. Moritz to partake in ice-skating at sunset is an unmissable highlight.

For more information, please visit Swiss Tourism

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