Occupying the entire southeast, Graubünden is Switzerland’s largest canton. Encompassing a sparsely populated area bordering Austria and Italy, its landscape of isolated valleys, sheer summits and thick pine forests makes it the wildest part of Switzerland. Plan your trip to Graubünden with our guide to Graubünden, based on The Rough Guide to Switzerland, your travel guide for Switzerland.
What to expect when travelling to Graubünden — your Graubünden travel guide
Two of Europe’s greatest rivers rise in this region – the Rhine and the Inn – while smaller rivers water pomegranates, figs and chestnuts as they flow through some of the finest scenery in the Alps.
The area certainly shows why you voted Switzerland one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Home to the world-famous ski resorts of St Moritz, Klosters and Davos, the canton is officially trilingual, and known as Graubünden in German, Grigioni in Italian and Grischun in Romansh.
A historic fiercely independent streak is cherished here to this day. Only in 1803 did Graubünden join the Swiss Confederation, and large numbers of Bündners consistently vote against joining the EU.
Chur and around
Sitting in a deep valley carved by the Rhine, Chur (pronounced koor), the lively cantonal capital, has an atmospheric Old Town. It's full of medieval cobbled alleys, secret courtyards, and boasts a huge cathedral that symbolizes the rule of the prince-bishops of years gone by.
For culture vultures, booking a private walking tour is sure to be a highlight of your Graubünden vacation.
The town serves as the linchpin of transport routes, with buses and trains sneaking through the high valleys of central Graubünden to Davos and St Moritz, and west through Surselva to the High Alps around Andermatt.
This area is also known as "Heidiland" — the patch of mountain supposedly inhabited by Johanna Spyri's Heidi.
- Best for couples: Freieck. A comfortable hotel in renovated sixteenth-century buildings in the Old Town.
- Best for central convenience: Hotel Stern. Smart Old Town hotel with quality service, wood-beamed rooms and an excellent restaurant.
- Best for budget travellers: Viva Hostel. This modern, lively hostel has a range of rooms, some en suite.
Where to stay in Chur
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Arosa was discovered by the outside world in 1883 when Dr Otto Herwig-Hold came across the remote hamlet on a skiing tour, concluding it would be a perfect location for his new tuberculosis sanatorium.
The chest patients have long since given way to sports enthusiasts, and Arosa has developed into one of Graubünden’s finest resorts. That said, it’s still small enough to have retained its atmosphere.
Lying at the end of a spectacular mountain road, it's also stunningly situated, and comprises two distinct areas.
The main resort of Ausserarosa, clustered around the Obersee lakelet, is distinguished by its own version of Geneva’s Jet d’Eau. Meanwhile, the older village at the upper end of the valley is dubbed Innerarosa.
- Best for couples: Arosa Kulm. This historic palace hotel at the top of town is right on the edge of the slopes.
- Best for families: Sunstar Hotel Arosa. A casual hotel near Untersee Lake with its own ski school, spa and pool.
- Best for winter sports in the wilds: Prätschli Prätschlistrasse. With a unique location on the slopes above the Obersee, this is truly out in the wilds.
- Best for all-out opulence: Tschuggen Grand Hotel. One of the finest luxury hotels in the Alps, with world-class service, an architect-designed spa, and its own monorail.
Where to stay in and around Arosa
Find more places to stay in and around Arosa.
The Upper Engadine — St Moritz
The Upper Engadine is one of the most scenic valleys in Switzerland — an array of forests, snowy mountains and silvery lakes.
Holding court at its heart is St Moritz, a resort that's all you'd expect and more — a brassy, in-your-face reminder of the hotshot world beyond the high valley walls.
Together with the neighbouring towns of Pontresina and Celerina, St Moritz provides an excellent base for walking and (of course) skiing.
If it's hiking you're after, book a full-day trekking tour along the sunny side of the Alps around St Moritz and the Engadine valley.
- Best for shameless extravagance: Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. This legendary five-star is one of Europe’s swankiest hotels — the haunt of film stars and princesses, both real and wannabe.
- Best for families: Chesa Languard. A comfortable, friendly little hotel with some of the best rates in the centre.
- Best for romantics: Soldanella. This family-run hotel in an Art Nouveau building offers modern rooms, some with lake and mountain views, and a wellness centre.
- Best for sporty types: Hotel Stille. Popular with skiers and snowboarders, this well-run sports hotel is beside the woods, 20-minutes from the centre.
Where to stay in St Moritz
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Davos originally achieved fame as a health resort, and counts Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its illustrious former patients.
Though a few clinics remain, today Davos is most known for its toothpaste-fresh air and consistently excellent snow cover.
It's a bustling place with perfect skiing and snowboarding, and lush countryside that gives the town a new lease of life in summer. Meanwhile, in the last week of January, global leaders gather here for the World Economic Forum.
Based in Davos and into outdoor activities? Book an exhilarating tandem paragliding experience.
- Best for good-value comfort: Alte Post. This two-star has simply furnished rooms and a convenient location.
- Best for Art Nouveau elegance: Schatzalp Hotel. Some rooms in this former sanatorium offer views over the Jakobshorn and beyond.
- Best for affordable elegance: Edelweiss. This historic 1912 hotel is one of the more affordable places in town, and welcoming with it.
Where to stay in Davos
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Top attractions around Graubünden
If you're into epic train trips, you might want to discover the best scenic train rides in Europe. Unsurpisngly, Switzerland gets a few mentions.
From St Moritz, you could also take the Bernina Express to Tirano in Italy.
Cutting its way into a sheer valley southeast of Chur, the mountain road leading to Arosa passes a succession of terraced villages offering vistas that are breathtaking enough to make you want to stop and gape.
The town itself a great option for a base. The skiing is satisfying, scenic and small-scale, while summer serves up spectacular hiking and biking experiences.
Perhaps the most beautiful valley in the Alps, with over 320 days of sunshine a year, the Upper Engadine is a heart-stoppingly beautiful array of forests, snowy mountains and silvery lakes.
Raised at 1800m and looking southwest directly into the crispest sunshine in the Alps, its St Moritz heart, together with the neighbouring towns of Pontresina and Celerina, provide an excellent base for walking and (of course) skiing.
This Italian-speaking valley is dotted with stone-built villages, and characterized by a Mediterranean lushness in flora and cuisine.
The principal village in the valley is Vicosoprano, an attractive place bypassed by the main road, and birthplace of the painter Augusto Giacometti and his son, the sculptor Alberto.
Across from Celerina, the ridge of Muottas Muragl rises to 2456m. The panoramic view from the top offers an uninterrupted gaze southwest up the length of the Engadine, its string of lakes glittering in the sunlight.
The ridge is accessed by a steep funicular from Punt Muragl, which is on the Celerina–Pontresina road, and connected to St Moritz by buses and trains.
Davos and Klosters
From the junction town of Landquart, north of Chur, roads and rail lines meander up to two of the most famous names in the Alps — first Klosters, then, beyond the Wolfgang Pass, Davos.
Davos and Kloster are stunningly sited, and their focus is fair and square on outdoorsiness — skiing and snowboarding in the winter, hiking and mountain-biking in the summer.
Parc Naziunal Svizzer — the Swiss National Park
Amazingly enough, the Parc Naziunal Svizzer is Switzerland's sole national park.
Accessed from Zernez, the park is a protected Alpine wilderness that's ripe for walking and hiking, and spreads for 169 square kilometres.
Great day tours and excursions in Graubünden
Heididorf and the Heidialp trail
Despite the lack of evidence linking Spyri’s story with any particular house, an old chalet in the former hamlet of Oberrofels, now renamed Heididorf, has been reborn as “the original Heidi’s House”.
A scenic trail from Heididorf leads up through woodland to “Heidialp” in the mountains. The path is punctuated by child-friendly information and activities along the way to “Heidi’s Alp Hut” — purportedly Heidi’s grandfather’s house,
The east bank of the Rhine around Maienfeld is one of Switzerland’s more unusual winemaking areas, dubbed the Bündner Herrschaft.
Thanks to the warm southerly Föhn wind, which can sometimes raise summer temperatures well above 25°C, Pinot Noir grapes prosper here.
The villages are linked by footpaths and have good rustic inns in which to enjoy a carafe of local wine as you explore.
Alternatively, book a wine-tasting tour around the Graubünden region, including Heidiland.
Reachable on a minor road that heads south from Ilanz between high valley walls, the spa village of Vals is where Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has built the spectacular Therme Vals complex.
The building is effortlessly sleek and sensuous — all water, natural light, wood and polished stone, and the spa has every facility, including therapy treatments.
Guests at the stylish attached House of Architects hotel benefit from extended hours and discounts.
Beyond the Lej da Silvaplauna lies the quiet village of Sils, which offers ethereally beautiful views over the Lej da Segl, acclaimed by a century of artistic and literary visitors – not least Hermann Hesse, Marc Chagall, Richard Strauss and Friedrich Nietzsche.
In fact, this was Nietzsche's summer home for eight creative years, and his modest house has been turned into the Nietzsche-Haus museum.
Here you can see manuscripts and the room in which he wrote his most celebrated work, Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Located on a lofty perch above the river, Guarda is one of the most attractive Engadine villages — its architecture and traditional sgraffiti has a federal order of protection.
The village is also famed as the setting for a popular Swiss children’s book. Schellenursli, in which a young boy seeks a cowbell so he can lead the traditional Chalandamarz procession.
Sports and activities in Graubünden
Skiing and hiking in Arosa
The skiing is small scale but high quality, with over 70km of mostly blue and red pistes sidewinding down the gentle sunny slopes.
Summer hosts several good high-country hikes and mountain-biking routes. You can rent mountain bikes from the station to tackle any of the five marked MTB trails, which include circular routes as well as downhill runs.
Sports and activities in Flims-Laax-Falera
Flims-Laax-Falera boasts a huge winter-sports area, the largest in Graubünden, with access from all three villages in the area.
In summer, the hiking network is extensive. The three-hour trek from Falera up to Crap Sogn Gion, and 3.5km along the crest to Crap Masegn, is especially beautiful.
Meanwhile, Swissraft runs whitewater-rafting trips on the Vorderrhein between Ilanz and Reichenau.
Sports and activities around St Moritz
St Moritz has four main ski and snowboard sectors. Other attractions include skiing by moonlight, kitesurfing on ice, skating, curling, paragliding, hang-gliding, canyoning, glacier walking, abseiling, sailing, tubing, rock climbing, and multiday trekking itineraries.
There’s also rafting, horseriding and go-karting in Celerina. The whole area offers superb mountain-biking routes with around 400km of trails.
Sports and activities in Davos and Klosters
The options for outdoor activities are almost limitless. The best advice is to check the local site for up-to-date details. Look out for good-value winter and summer package deals at hotels, which often include a free lift pass.
If you want to walk on Switzerland's wilder side, discover the best outdoor activities in Switzerland.
Female travellers might want to read up on a host of women-only outdoor activities in Switzerland.
How to get around Graubünden
The RhB Graubündenpass – on sale at all train stations – is actually a variety of passes, covering all the canton or just the northern or southern half. It can be vaild for either two days within any seven, or five in any fourteen.
Holders can travel free on most trains and buses and some cable cars within the selected region.
Graubünden’s Rhätische Bahn has one of the most scenic train networks in the world, with tracks spanning deep valleys on soaring viaducts and crossing several mountain passes.
Many of the most dramatic routes are marketed as attractions in their own right, but are all served by regular, scheduled trains at standard fares.
The only extra costs are seat reservations, surcharges to sit in panoramic coaches, upgrades to first class and/or reservations for the dining car. Otherwise, all RhB trains are free to Swiss Travel Pass holders.
Make travelling a breeze by buying your Swiss Pass in advance.
Buses venture to even the most remote valleys and hamlets. Be aware, though, that journeys to the wilds are less frequent, and can be long and tortuous.
Despite the excellent train and bus service, if you want to cover a lot of ground independently, Graubünden merits renting a car.
Not a fan of planning? Consider booking a hassle-free tailor-made trip to Switzerland, with customisable itineraries covering everything from unforgettable highlights of Switzerland, to touring the Grand Circle.
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