The architecture of St. Moritz

Colourful cultural history

The St. Moritz skyline is richly diverse, contradictory, unusual – and often underrated.

Mighty stone walls, small funnel-shaped windows and decorative sgraffito abound: for centuries Engadin-style houses have defined the look of Oberengadin villages such as Zuoz, Samedan and La Punt. The typical Engadin architectural style is not as prevalent in St. Moritz. The skyline of this cosmopolitan hub starkly contrasts the neighbouring villages. The surrounding wilderness – as everyone agrees – is a sight to behold.

The architecture, on the other hand, is a matter of taste. But either way, you're sure to be moved. St. Moritz is not your average quaint chalet village, or even the perfect Engadin village. It's a melting pot of architectural styles, which is often unfairly underrated. The blend of tradition and progress, zeitgeist and nostalgia, can be felt down every lane and around every corner. That's what makes St. Moritz so utterly unique. And that's why we encourage all architecture enthusiasts to take a stroll through this fascinating Alpine town. We've listed a few highlights here, which you should ideally visit in the order shown, starting at St. Moritz Bad.

Chesa Futura
Chesa Futura was created by acclaimed British architect Lord Norman Foster and unites futuristic design with traditional building materials.

The route begins with the Forum Paracelsus. Inside, the history of the St. Moritz mineral springs is brought to life with a series of listening stations and touchscreens. At the heart of the museum you can view the Mauritius collection well that dates from the Bronze Age and was discovered in 1853. A few years later a new spa house, today's Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, opened for business. In 1874 the Hotel Reine Victoria was added. Built in the Palazzo style, it is not exactly typical of the Engadin region. But St. Moritz was markedly cosmopolitan even in those early days and such architecture reflected the prevailing trends. The OVAVERVA Pool, Spa & Sports Centre St. Moritz opened more or less opposite the hotel in 2014. This impressive structure has become a distinctive St. Moritz landmark, yet it would look equally at home in Barcelona or Paris.

Leaning tower
The leaning tower of St. Moritz is a landmark dating back to the 12th century. It leans around one degree more than its considerably more famous counterpart in Pisa.

Let's walk around Lake St. Moritz to the Oscar Niemeyer house. The landmark home is the only building in Switzerland by the famous Brazilian architect who is considered a pioneer of modern Brazilian architecture. Wander to Parkhaus Serletta. The car park platform juts out over the lake, adding yet another sophisticated accent to St. Moritz's architectural mix. Long escalators will carry you to the distinctive Badrutt's Palace Hotel, which has long characterised the St. Moritz skyline. On Via Serlas there are more architecturally significant buildings to be found – particularly Norman Foster's Murezzan complex. In front of the famous Conditorei Hanselmann you can catch a glimpse of one of the British architect's true masterpieces: the Chesa Futura. This unusually shaped building is reminiscent of a UFO and its façade is clad with around 250,000 larch wood shingles. It stands in stark contrast to Chesa Veglia, an old Engadin farmhouse from 1658 that has been converted into a restaurant.

A few metres away is the Kulm Hotel – St. Moritz's very first hotel, where the notion of "winter holidays" was born in 1864. Opposite this you'll find the leaning tower, a landmark dating back to the 12th century. The tower was originally part of the St. Mauritius Church, which was demolished in 1890. Today this tower with its 5.5 degree tilt remains one of St. Moritz's most spectacular sights. A few steps away: Star architect Norman Foster, an ardent St. Moritz fan, has renovated and extended the Olympic Ice Pavilion dating back to 1905. Now called the Kulm Country Club, it houses a public restaurant with terrace, a bar-lounge and a skate rental facility. Not far from there, you'll find the Cresta Run Club House, which has more in common with Steve McQueen's 1970s Porsche racing car than a typical Engadin house. Just like the nearby Olympic Stadium used during the Winter Olympic Games in 1928 and 1948. For the last two decades the building lay dormant, but it has since been restored by furniture designer Rolf Sachs, a sport and culture enthusiast with strong ties to St. Moritz, who now lives in the former stadium.

If you're keen to continue walking, head over to the Segantini Museum. The impressive main building is located on a steep mountainside overlooking Lake St. Moritz, facing east towards Schafberg Mountain where the Italian artist Segantini passed away. The striking architecture designed by Nicolaus Hartmann (1880–1956) is modelled on the monumental pavilion Segantini dreamt up for the Paris World Exhibition (1900). At the other end of the spectrum, there's the fabulously modern Quattro Bar. This futuristic Alpine tavern on Corviglia, St. Moritz's local mountain, was honoured with an international Red Dot Design Award in 2014.