St Moritz, Switzerland
Alpine Luxury Family Vacation Travel Guide
Any family vacation can feel overwhelming, especially when you consider a winter ski destination that’s outside of your comfort zone. Believe me, I get it! Planning an alpine family luxury vacation from the US may seem like a daunting undertaking, but with proper planning and guidance, heading to St Moritz, Europe’s most iconic ski destination is 100% worth it! If Vail or Aspen skiing might feel cliché, or maybe you’ve been there, done that and want to try something new then this guide is for you! After a year of meticulous planning, and tapping into my trusted resources (ie: from Swiss friends who have been taking their annual family holiday to the Alps their entire lives to my incredible Virtuoso luxury travel expert colleagues), have I got the guide for you!
ST MORITZ FAMILY TRAVEL GUIDE
What to do
Not only is there an abundance of things to do in St. Moritz in the winter season, but summer also has its own activities perfect for an active family vacation. From taking the funicular for hiking and mountain biking to sailing or stand up paddle boarding in St. Moritz Lake, we can’t wait to experience a summer season in this Swiss town.
While it requires a bit more travel savvy than arriving by car, the train ride from Zurich to St. Moritz is worthwhile and a great way to kick off your Swiss experience. I was blown away by the scenery as we passed through Unesco World Heritage bridges of the Rhaetian Railway, Albula line. Something else to consider is the twists-and-turns car ride that can be slightly nausea-inducing if you’re prone to motion sickness.
While most think of down-hill skiing being synonymous with the Alps, St. Moritz is also home to some of the world’s best cross-country skiing and the famous Skimarathon. At the Carlton Hotel, we had the chance to spend some time with their outdoor butler who meets you with a contagious grin and gears up to take you on trails that are fit for your level, arranges for ice fishing or sets up a romantic winter wonderland picnic.
For downhill skiing, the piste levels range from 3 bunny hills, suitable for children and beginner skiers, but then jump to blue, which I found a bit too difficult for our 5-year-old and personally challenging – okay, downright scary!! In addition, Snowli Kids Village has a playground to keep kids entertained in between ski runs and après ski. In nearby villages, Samedan, Zuoz or S-chanf, you can find perfect family and beginner skiing as well.
If you love ice skating like we do, then you’ve come to the right place. There are several ice skating rinks in St. Moritz, most notably the one located next to the Kulm Hotel, with others at Badrutt’s Palace and Suvretta House (which offers the only curling classes in town).
Alternatively, you can skate on St. Moritz Lake itself, but they do not offer the push-carts that help kids learn to skate.
Distance from ZRH: 3 hours by train or car
Recommended Stay: 5-7 nights in winter, and 3-4 nights in summer, with additional stops within Switzerland
Elevation: 5,978 feet
Best Time of Year to Visit: End of June to early September and early December to early April
Corvatsch offers a 4.2 km floodlit night piste, at an easy enough level for kids to enjoy
Snow Polo & Horse Races
Without a doubt, one of the things I was most excited to experience was St. Moritz’ famous White Turf horse races. Nowhere else in the world offers horse polo and racing on a frozen lake. Every year, the who’s who from around the globe gather to watch the Snow Polo World Cup, and for 3 weekends in January/February, the White Turf horse races take place. Whether you’re there to place bets, watch horses or the high fashion, there’s something for everyone and definitely didn’t disappoint.
You cannot visit St. Moritz without a chance to do the Preda to Bergün sledge run. We looped down hills that vary from trudging along to sweeping inclines that feel like a rollercoaster with the most beautiful, scenic setting. Half-way down the run, we rode past firs and under Unesco bridges, with the chance to stop at a Schneeschloss Preda-Bergün, a cute little ice castle perfect for popping in for a hot chocolate. Be sure to start first thing in the morning, because once you finish the run, you’ll want to go again, and the afternoons can get icy as the sun goes down.
A HORSE CARRIAGE RIDE
An unquestionable hallmark of St. Moritz are the beautiful horse carriages that you’ll see around town. It’s an easy way to transport tired kids from the ski gondola to the lift, and helped us avoid some major meltdowns after a full day of skiing. Plus, it’s a great way to see the city!
Where to stay
Switzerland currently has 39 Virtuoso hotels, so choosing the best one might feel like a shot in the dark. I get asked all the time, “What’s the best hotel in any given destination?” The truth is, the best hotel for you might look a lot different than the best hotel for me. Fortunately, as a travel advisor, I’m able to tour all hotels both physically and virtually and make a recommendation based on who you are, your taste, and your budget. Think of me as your holiday match-maker! Below, I’ve highlighted a few of my personal favorites, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other great options out there.
From the moment our driver greeted us at the train station to whisk us off in a Bentley, the experience was something out of a fairytale. First, we were welcomed with house-made macaroons, muffins, marshmallows and fresh oranges and a fully-stocked complimentary mini-bar. Stuffed animals and coloring books with Swiss-made Caran d’Ache colored pencils and a beautifully embroidered baseball cap were left for us on the dining table, part of the VIP treatment that is typical when you BOOK with Diego Travel.
Details like block-chipped ice in your cocktail with a glass straw or bath salts waiting on your nightstand after a long day of skiing. Need to pick up your ski lift tickets? Not to worry, they’ll send someone for them. Your ski boots feel a little too snug? Don’t bother bending down to fix it, as someone will already be on one knee, adjusting them for you. Don’t bother with a taxi to get around town, as the driver is eagerly waiting to shuttle you around, no matter the time of day and on little to no notice. At the Carlton, the entire purpose of your stay is to relax, disconnect, and not lift a finger while delighting in every possible amenity. When it came time to check out, we definitely weren’t ready to leave!
As a Virtuoso partner, the hotel provided us with an upgrade to a Carlton Suite, with a balcony overlooking the best view of St. Moritz. When you book with Diego Travel, you’ll also enjoy complimentary buffet breakfast for two, an upgrade upon availability, a $100 USD spa credit, early check-in/late check-out upon availability, and of course, free Wi-Fi. Whether planning your honeymoon or traveling with kids, the Carlton offers a first-class stay with privacy, and a boutique, personalized experience.
While not a Virtuoso partner, this hotel is one of the Leading Hotels of the World, and it’s at the top of my list for clients looking for a family-friendly vacation. No other property comes close when considering the kid-centric inclusions. The oldest Swiss family-owned and operated hotel in the region, this property has a rich history of drawing the same clients again and again, who consider it their second home.
Suvretta Sports School includes its own ski school, curling lessons, an ice skating rink, and guest year-round ski equipment storage. So if rentals won’t do, you’ll have a secure place to store your gear. Even the full-service locker rooms have a state-of-the art fire place! You can also make use of the 25-meter lap pool and solarium, something you won’t find at the other hotels.
As a mom of 3 kids, what just might be the biggest draw is the children-only restaurant, the Teddy Club. You read that right – children only. You can drop off your kids at this pint-size restaurant that offers everything in miniature, including the ceiling height, while you’re able to actually enjoy your meal at one of the 3 restaurants, several bars, and 2 off-site restaurants. They also offer a unique kids club, as well as summer camp for kids and teens, so you won’t see anyone on a device throughout your stay.
Suvretta House is set outside of St. Moritz, but a shuttle is on a constant loop, and being apart means having their own ski lift and trails for the guests of its 181 rooms and 10 suites. In summer, they set the stage for the British Classic Car Meeting, as well as the Engadine Bike Giro and Suvretta House Clay Pigeon Shooting Cup. For music lovers and foodies, you can’t miss the Engadine Music Festival or La Tavolata Food Festival. And if you plan to spend Holiday season here, you’ll need to book a year in advance and stay for a minimum of 14 days. Be ready for the time of your life! I was told by the general manager, “It’s basically like a large family-reunion each year and an extraordinary celebration.”
My first impression of “The Palace” was the Old World glitz and glamour oozing from its core at this iconic property, mixing tradition with innovation. Overlooking the lake that appears in every post card photo of St. Moritz, Badrutt’s Place is where you want to stay to see and be seen, or to have quick access to the high-brow shops that line its streets. While I was there, the entire white-gloved staff lined up at the lobby entrance to welcome a VIP guest who had just landed by private plane from Russia.
The hotel itself is adorned with important works of art, Michelin starred restaurants, an exclusive smoker’s lounge, and an expansive spa. I was lucky enough to be greeted by the receptionist who had worked at the Palace for a lifetime, proud to be part of the Badrutt family business. Rooms and suites are currently being updated with understated elegance, and the Luxury Lake View Suite features a sustainable chandelier with detachable crystals (for recharging under the moonlight) by Australian artist, Christopher Boots, commissioned by the not-to-miss Gallery Elle, owned by the brilliant and gorgeous Atossa Meier, and located within Suvretta House.
If you want to add a bucket-list experience to your plans, you might consider a New Years Eve spent here, which begins to book as far out as 2 years in advance. A whopping 200,000 Swiss Francs are spent on just the decor alone, so if you want to rub shoulder’s with the world’s elite, contact me to set up your Holiday travel. As a Virtuoso property, you’ll receive an upgrade on arrival, subject to availability, daily breakfast buffet, seasonal welcome amenity and mineral water, $100 USD spa credit, and round trip transfer from the train station among other VIP perks. Contact me HERE to get started with travel planning.
Where to eat?
I’ll be the first to admit that when traveling with kids, culinary experiences and fine dining are not at the top of our priority list. With more Michelin-starred restaurants than I could count and insider secrets to the best dining in St. Moritz, I might steer my clients in a different direction than what I’ve highlighted below. For us, we wanted more casual meals but still authentically chic and where the locals go.
There’s no better place to après ski in the Engadin than either the Checha Restaurant & Club, where the menu is built to impress or Salastrains where the scene is to see and be seen. Conveniently situated at the Alpine slopes, either is the perfect meet up spot for all levels of skiers. Dress code of Moncler and Bogner encouraged.
If sipping aperol spritz while DJ music plays in the background is more your thing, than El Paradiso Mountain Club is where to go with its mountaintop views that can be reached if you are more of an advanced skier (with kids, we aren’t), or if you take the gondola from Suvretta House hotel.
For a casual, traditionally Swiss experience, try the family-friendly fondue at Le Lapin Bleu, St Moritz’s oldest restaurant. We loved the service here as they made us feel right at home in their cozy chalet quarters.
An offshoot of Badrutt’s Palace, the charming Chesa Veglia, an old Engadine farmhouse built in 1650, is the one place you can’t miss while you’re in St. Moritz. In addition, the famed hotel offers Michelin rated restaurants like IGNIV and La Coupole Matsuhisa, but the truffle pizza at Chesa Veglia has our heart.
Where to shop?
If you’re like me, a cultural trip isn’t complete without doing a little research in the shops. I couldn’t resist checking out my favorite Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli – and Loro Piani for my husband – and run my fingers over the perfectly coordinated luxurious garments that drape from their hangers. And if you’re also like me, a budget of $1,000 might not cut it at the Swiss chocolatier Läderach, or a little more budget-friendly option would be Confiserie Hanselmann. I was able to pick up some traditional pieces at Haus des Jägers AG, since my son’s lucky lederhosen have been well-loved and worn for every special occasion over the last few years.
Luckily for my husband, so much time skiing left little time for shopping, but the after hours window-shopping had me drooling at Ender Sport and Jet Set. And finally, if you’ve fallen in love with St. Moritz and want to buy a place to call your own, visit Maura Wasescha, the premier agency in Switzerland and agent to the stars. Let her know I sent you!
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