If St Moritz is all about glitz, its pretty Swiss neighbour Pontresina is the antidote to this excess, with chocolate-box chalets, pastel-painted walls and a traditional alpine atmosphere. Located at 1805m above sea level, this postcard-perfect Engadine village may only be 10 minutes by car but feels a world away from the prying eyes of see-and-be-seen St Moritz. Here are 6 reasons to visit St Moritz’s sleepy little sister.
1. Getting there is half the fun…
My childhood memories of skiing always involved some awful winding bus journey for hours up through the mountains. Thankfully, visitors to Pontresina have a better alternative. Despite the alpine village being located at 1,800m – guests can reach this ski destination via train. The UNESCO listed Bernina express connects Chur in Switzerland to St Moritz and Pontresina, crossing the Swiss Engadin Alps. This means you can travel directly from Zurich to the Swiss Alps, changing at Chur to board the nostalgic red train which will whisk you up through snow-covered scenery, over arched bridges and past bleak mountain peaks in a total of 3 hours 45 minutes. Think Hogwarts Express with alpine vibes.
2. Stay at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof
The only five-star hotel in Pontresina, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof is an alpine institution in and of itself. Dating from 1848, a stay at this historic hotel is a definite highlight – all fin de siècle grandeur, elegant interiors and a lavish spa. A neo-baroque beauty with a Wes Anderson feel a stay at this hotel recalls the glamour of a bygone age, with three gourmet restaurants, a palatial dining room, formal dress and an exclusive clientele – read our full review here.
3. Eat at Kronenstubli Restaurant
Within the walls of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, you’ll also find the award-winning gourmet restaurant Kronenstübli with its cosy wood-panelled walls and exceptional tasting menus. Awarded 16 Gault Millau points, this Swiss pine parlour is headed up by chef Fabrizio Piantanida and his team, serving classics of French cuisine from Canard à la Presse to crepe Suzette, both prepared tableside in a theatrical culinary feat.
4. Head for a Hike
In both summer and winter, Pontresina is known for its hiking. The Muottas Muragl funicular and the Alp Languard chairlift reaching many different trailheads, for beginner and advanced ramblers alike. Whatever route you choose, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping mountain views and the odd charming mountain chalet offering snacks and hot chocolates. The staff at the Kronenhof are more than happy to recommend a route based on your fitness level and the time of year – you may even spot some Ibex grazing in the hills overlooking the village.
5. Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is best described as much harder than it looks. But the instructors at local ski school Schweizer Langlauf- und Bikezentrum Pontresina are able to get almost anyone (even me) around a simple course after an hour or so of lessons. It’s hot work, but one of the best ways to explore this snowy snowscape, with the track running alongside the pretty running river that cuts through the town.
6. Spa at The Grand Hotel Kronenhof
In a fusion of old meets new, an enormous glass-walled modern spa sits attached to the Kronenhof, housing a huge indoor pool and spa. Ensconced within its glass walls looking out over the snow-covered scenery, you have your pick of a dedicated women’s sauna and all gender Finnish Sauna as well as a pine-scented relaxation room. The real highlight here though are the massages, which match you with an element like fire or water to determine what is best suited to you. Bliss.
Winter room rates at Grand Hotel Kronenhof start from CHF565 for two people sharing on a half-board basis; book online at www.kronenhof.com. (For information, summer rates start from CHF445.)
For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com
Swiss International Air Lines – one way fares start from £67, visit www.swiss.com
The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets offering unlimited travel on consecutive days, for more information visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk.
Cross Country Ski School visit http://www.pontresina-sports.ch/langlaufzentrum/allegra-langlaufzentrum