A Pocket Guide To Chur – Switzerland’s Oldest City
If you travel to the heart of the Alps in Switzerland’s largest canton, Graubünden, you might come across a town called Chur. This capital of Graubünden has endless charm, captivating history, and is a stopping point for one of the magical journeys of the Rhaetian Railway. If you decide to take a trip to Switzerland, Chur is a highly recommended stop to fit into your visit.
If you do decide to visit Chur, you will quickly notice that the city has many churches, fountains, and traditional Swiss chalet style buildings. These buildings are beautifully colourful and have lovely shutters on many of the windows. From Chur Railway Station, you can walk five minutes straight up the Banhof Strasse and turn right into Postplaz which acts as Chur’s hub of everyday life. You might even catch some transport oxen crossing here.
The large department stores in this area continue on into Chur’s Old Town, where you will encounter St. Martins Church. It is said that Martin Luther, German theologist, priest and monk, himself delivered a 10-minute speech here in the 1520s. This church is also noticeable from almost all angles of Chur and stands out thanks to its prominent clock and stained-glass windows. Old Town is also car free, and the road Grabenstrasse, nicknamed the “strolling mile”, diverts traffic around this part of the city.
The Bear Hotel hotel is one of the most charming places in Chur and is extremely well preserved.Along this stretch of road is an unmissable statue of a man on stilts, who stands at the same height as the buildings in the street . In addition to this statue, Chur has a small museum of art and culture called Forum Wurth that has a beautiful outdoors sculpture garden exhibiting works from the 20th and 21st centuries. If you like museums, Chur also has the Rhaetian Museum which used to be a manor house and is now open to the public.
The Episcopal Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary is a great spot to visit for all of its charm as its own miniature town, thanks to the surrounding fortifications. The Cathedral was completed in 1272, but Chur itself dates back to around 3900 – 3500 BC and is the oldest known settlement in Switzerland.
Heading towards Hofstrasse road from the cathedral you will reach an area with vineyards where the whole of Chur is visible against a gorgeous backdrop of mountains. If you would like an even better view, you can take the Brambrüesch cable car trip which will take you up to 1000m high above Chur.
Chur itself has plenty of restaurants and tea rooms, so you will always be able to find a place to sit and relax during your visit. Restaurant Bar Calanda, which serves chicken specialty dishes, is always very busy but serves up great food at reasonable prices. If you prefer Italian then La Pasteria Otello specializes in Mediterranean cuisine and has a relaxing and cozy ambience. Going the traditional Swiss route is also an option thanks to places such as Restaurant Stern which is part of the Romantik Hotel Stern. Swiss food is known for its French, Italian and German influences, making it a ‘melting pot’ of traditional Alpine Europan flavours. Yum!
We fully endorse the Swiss Travel Pass which grants you unlimited travel by rail, road, and waterway, all with just a single ticket. This allows quick and easy transport around the country, to and from this magical town, and even grants you access to most museums. If you plan on seeing a lot of the country then this is the best method to do so as rail journeys and other transport costs can get fairly expensive. To travel onwards to Chur, you simply board a train in Zurich that takes about an hour and a half and has gorgeous views along the way.
Once you have arrived in Chur and explored the city, you also might be interested in taking the Rhaetian Railway’s Glacier or Bernina’s express routes through the Albula and Bernina Landscapes. In 2008 the Railways in these landscapes were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, so you are guaranteed a memorable trip. Along the ride you will pass many famous landmarks such as the Landwasser Viaduct and the Valposchiavo valley. The train itself has panoramic windows which allows passengers to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and take as many pictures as they please. If you take a round trip journey from Chur, it will be about a six hour trip in total and includes a slight break in Tirano, Italy.
All in all, Chur is an extremely historic town with so much to offer to its visitors. From relaxing in the quiet Old Town to taking a rail journey through the Alps, Chur provides endless activities and charm and is definitely a must-see spot within Switzerland.
text by Neda Dorudi
Edited by Stephen Hume