St Moritz is one of the premier ski resorts in Switzerland, attracting the rich and famous. High in the Swiss Alps, well-to-do Europeans love the challenging ski trails and the charming town of St Moritz. There are a number of quaint villages and towns near St Moritz in the Engadine region, plus an amazing national park, all of which are worth visiting.
The Swiss National Park
The Swiss National Park is the only official national park in all of Switzerland, and it’s also registered as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Founded in 1914, it is one of the earliest designated national parks in Europe. Spanning 65 square miles of pristine alpine mountains, the park has close to 50 miles of nature trails and marked hiking paths, with 21 routes from easy to super challenging.
Stop by the visitor center in Zernez for comprehensive information about the park. In the summer they feature nature-related exhibitions. The park offers guided private and group full-day tours and a list of children’s activities. If you visit the park, they recommend bringing the following list of items, as the weather can be unpredictable:
- Warm clothes
- Ample food and drink
- A change of clothes
- Binoculars for bird watching
Besides being the gateway to the Swiss National Park, Zernez is a lovely village with tons of indoor and outdoor activities available including a swimming pool and spa center, miniature golf, a skate park, hiking, ice skating, cycling, and mountain biking. There are also campgrounds in Zernez.
Where To Eat In Zernez: Grotta Pizzeria Mirta
Since the Engadine region is close to Italy, there are many authentic Italian restaurants. Grotta Pizzeria Mirta makes excellent wood oven pizzas.
Where To Stay In Zernez: Baer And Post Hotel
Resembling a lodge more than a hotel, the Baer and Post has comfortably appointed rooms with padded headboards, natural pine paneled walls, feather-down quilts, free mountain drinking water, and thick, terry cloth robes. There are single rooms available for solo travelers, and the price of the rooms includes a breakfast buffet.
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner and has a versatile menu of Swiss and Italian cuisine, plus salads and vegetarian options.
Scuol is an excellent, centrally located town to use as a base to explore the other villages in the region.
Known for its healing mineral springs, Scuol has a spa with the first Irish and Roman therapeutic baths, which combines a treatment of brisk soap and brush massage to exfoliate and stimulate the skin, followed by being wrapped in a warm blanket to relax. The spa also has a large indoor pool and jacuzzi, and in the summer, there’s an outdoor pool with spectacular views of the Dolomite mountain range and Piz Pisoc, the highest mountain in neighboring Swiss Mountain Park. Scuol has pure, refreshing drinking water derived from the mineral springs.
The beginnings of Tarasp Castle were believed to have been built here in either the 10th or 11th century. Located on top of a steep mountain road, Tarasp Castle has been modified and rebuilt a number of times over the centuries. In 1919, it became a museum and in its current standing, it was bought by local-born artist Not Vital and is now an art foundation. The only way to visit the castle is to take a one-hour guided tour organized by the foundation. Click here for more information. In summertime, you can enjoy the on-site cafe.
Where To Eat In Scuol: Trais Portas And Hotel Astras
If you are lucky enough to land a reservation at Trais Portas, the smallest restaurant in Scuol, you are in for a treat. Primarily a steakhouse, Trais Portas is a converted house with three, intimate rooms for dining — one of them a former dungeon. In the summer, there’s a lovely outdoor dining garden. Deer and bison are popular dishes, and the Toblerone mousse is a knockout.
There’s also the reasonably priced restaurant inside the Hotel Astras, which has an eclectic menu of Swiss and Italian fare, such as pizzas and pastas and an ample vegetarian selection. The cozy inside has pine walls and red cloth-covered banquettes, and in the warmer months, there’s an outside patio with spectacular mountain views.
Where To Stay In Scuol: Guardaval Hotel
An authentic, preserved Swiss house is now the Guardaval Hotel. The 36 spacious rooms are well designed and many of them have terraces with jaw-dropping mountain views. Room amenities include flat-screen televisions, in-room safes, terry cloth bathrobes, slippers, and a bag packed with bath towels so guests can visit the Engadin Bad Scuol Spa, which has free entry for hotel guests. There’s an indoor tunnel that connects the hotel to the spa. The hotel supplies free backpacks for local hiking and mountain climbing, too.
Gueardaval has four restaurants: the Gault Millaut rated gourmet restaurant; Nam Thai restaurant; the Allegra, with hearty local fare; and the modern designed Bistro Belvair with a Mediterranean menu.
The tiny town of Sent is a charming mountain village with a population of fewer than 1,000 people. In the 1700s, Sent was a center where wealthy businessmen built their mansions with features such as tented roofs and Senter-Giebel, an exterior gable adorning them. After a great fire in 1823, most of the homes were rebuilt, although there are a handful of authentic farmhouses that were saved. Stroll through the narrow streets of Sent to discover the houses and scenic views. In the main town square, see the fountain with potable mountain water. Just below the town is a covered wood bridge constructed in 1868 that runs 180 feet long.
Where To Eat In Sent: Chasa Veglia
Chasa Veglia is a local favorite with a cozy dining room outfitted with walls of logs and crafted wood chairs. The menu features local Swiss specialties and there’s outdoor dining in the summer months.
Where To Stay In Sent: Pensiun Aldier Sent Hotel
Opened in 1865, the Pensiun Aldier Sent Hotel has had a variety of owners and transformations, and at one time there was a bakery on the ground floor. In 2012, the Gross family from Italy bought the hotel and lovingly restored and updated it. The rooms are a mix of traditional Swiss elements such as half-paneled wood walls and contemporary, minimalist furniture.
Carlos Gross is a collector, and the hotel has an extensive library. In the lower level of the hotel is a museum that houses Gross’s personal collection of artist Alberto Giacometti’s works including drawings and bronze sculptures of his brother Diego Giacometti. The hotel restaurant serves a menu filled with locally sourced ingredients such as mushrooms and meat sourced only from alpine animals.
One of the most beautiful villages of the Engadine region, Guarda won the Wakker Prize, given annually by the Swiss Heritage Society for outstanding architectural preservation, in 1975. Propped up at 5,400 feet, Guarda faces south and gets abundant sunshine year-round. The facades of the farmhouses from the 1600s are hand-painted, and in summer, you’ll see overstuffed window boxes with fresh flowers. There are numerous hiking paths throughout Guarda.
Where To Eat In Guarda: Crusch Alba
Crusch Alba is a highly rated small restaurant that serves dishes such as pizokel, a baked pasta, and other regional specialties.
Where To Stay In Guarda: Hotel Meisser
Two 15th-century houses have been converted into the Hotel Meisser Resort, which has been family owned since 1893. The rooms have floors and architectural details made of pine and have mountain views. Room sizes range from a cozy, single 150-square-foot room to a 600-square-foot loft with authentic wood beams with a south-facing balcony.
The stylish turn of the century, art nouveau dining room offers four-course lunches and dinners. The other dining hall serves a hearty mountain Swiss breakfast, and their newest restaurant, Dalet, serves a small plates menu.
The hotel provides accessories and equipment for summer and winter activities including bike and hiking stick rentals, backpacks with binoculars, sleds, bobsleds, skates, and snowshoes for rent. Free activities include a curling rink, an igloo, and heated storage rooms for winter sports equipment.
The main airport serving St Moritz and the Engadine region is Zurich, and from there, you’ll have a three- to four-hour train ride with gorgeous views of the mountains. You will need to change trains at least once to reach St Moritz. Or, if you prefer, you can rent a car at the Zurich airport. Driving time to St Moritz and the other towns of the Engadine listed above takes a little over three hours.
German and Swiss German are the main languages spoken in the Engadine with Italian being the third most spoken, but English is spoken in most establishments including restaurants, hotels, shops, and park facilities. The currency is Swiss francs, not euros, although euros are sometimes accepted.