Chur is the capital of Switzerland’s largest canton, Graubünden. It is perched at 593 meters above sea level and is surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Alps like the walls of a Roman amphitheater. We stopped here on our way to the rocksresort LAAX, where we spent a weekend in early October. I think a lot of tourists think of Chur as a “transit” town, but in today’s article, I’ll try to convince you that it’s definitely worth stopping in the capital of Switzerland’s largest canton to get a closer look.
A little about the canton Graubünden
Once the Roman province of Rhaetia Prima, today Switzerland’s largest canton, Graubünden, takes its name from the political association founded by mountain peasants in 1395, the Grauer Bund. Graubünden covers almost the entire south-eastern part of Switzerland, bordering Austria to the east and Italy to the south, and is the source of two major European rivers, the Rhine and the Inn.
The entire canton is officially trilingual – German, Italian, and Romansh are spoken here. So it has three official names: Graubünden, Grigioni, and Grischun. If we didn’t want to forget the fourth official Swiss language and wanted to add its French name, it’s Grisons. The German language was “introduced” by German craftsmen who came here to rebuild the town of Chur, which was destroyed by fire in 1464.
Graubünden joined the Swiss Confederation in 1803.
The City of Chur
Chur is the oldest continuously inhabited town north of the Alps. It has been inhabited since 3,000 BC, but archaeological finds have been found here from around 11,000 BC. It was “officially” founded as the Curea Rhaetorium in 15 BC. by the Romans. *
Chur – crossroads of railways
Chur is a mainstay of the train routes – it is known as the starting point for one of the world’s most scenic train rides, the Bernina Express, and as a transfer point for the Glacier Express, from where this “world’s slowest express train” continues on to Zermatt. The Bernina Express connects Chur with the Albula Pass and St. Moritz, from where it continues via the Bernina Pass to Tirano, where it changes to a Postbus in the direction of Lago di Como and Lugano. The Albula Pass and Bernina Pass sections are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Glacier Express runs from St. Moritz and Davos to Chur and then southwest across the Alps to Zermatt.
If you’re just taking the train to Chur, you can visit the tourist office located under the station. Here you can pick up a map of the city and go on a tour.
From the modern train station, you can walk to the lively old town center. We knew we didn’t have much time in Chur, so we wanted to explore as much as possible. Before you reach the main north-south street, Poststrasse, which divides the Old Town in two, you’ll pass the imposing building that houses the Rhätische Bahn railway company, as well as the villa that houses the Bündner Kunstmuseum.
If you walk south along Poststrasse, you’ll reach the 15th-century town hall (Rathaus), which has an inner courtyard flanked by an arcade.
The streets of the Old Town, where cars are banned, are characterized by fountains and beautifully painted house facades – whether with paintings reminiscent of former guilds or contemporary street art.
St. Martin’s Church
Reichgasse Street ends at the small Martinsplatz square, dominated by the Gothic church of St Martin from 1491, which is particularly interesting for its three stained-glass windows by Alberto Giacometti, one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. Its slender clock tower is a symbol of the city.
Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption
To the left behind the church is the hill with St. Mariä Himmelfahrt Cathedral, another landmark of the town. On the way to it, you will pass the Rätisches Museum. The Cathedral was built in late Romanesque and Gothic style between 1151 and 1272. The cathedral is “at the head” of the Hof square, which consists of 18th-century Baroque palaces that housed the religious elite. The interior of the cathedral is beautifully decorated, but you can’t take photos here, so you’ll have to go here yourself to admire the splendor 🙂 )
If you walk back to Martinsplatz from the cathedral and turn right, you will reach Arcas Square, where you can sit in the gardens of the local restaurants.
If you want to enjoy delicious homemade Czech cakes and desserts, visit Zuzu’s Cupcakes at Reichgasse 61 (right behind the town hall, you can’t miss it 🙂 ). Zuzana bakes these delicious treats herself every day.
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