After seeing the captivating old town of Bern, the most beautiful lake in Lucerne and the high-streets of Zurich, my longing to visit a few ‘old’ cities was still welling in my heart. It was my seventh day in Switzerland. Mulling over the next stop, I landed at the tourist information centre at the Lucerne station.
“Chur, the oldest town of Switzerland, must be your next destination, girl,” said the customer help at the desk. Handing out the train time-table, she described some of the tourist sites in Chur (pronounced kuir). 8:10am was the next train to Chur from Lucerne. Chur can be reached by rail from Zurich, a journey of 120km. A meeting-point of the routes from Italy over many alpine passes, the city is the centre of an active trade, particularly in wine from the Valtelline.
In just about two and half hours I was in the capital of Graubünden canton. The country’s oldest city charmed me with its fine mountain setting, meandering alleyways and historical buildings. Every stone here is witness to the city’s 5000-year old history. The oldest archaeological discovery on city grounds dates back to 12,000 to 9000 years BC. History aficionados can discover witnesses to the past and hear some interesting tales from the civil wars or amusing anecdotes from the past. If you are on a guided tour, you will be amazed to know that the Celts, Romans, Ostrogoths and Franks all ruled Chur once upon a time. Though a major portion of the city area is covered with forest, Chur offers an urban infrastructure with cultural events, farmer markets and an astounding 130 restaurants.
Strolling around the pretty lanes will surely take you through your history lessons, thanks to the artefacts from the Roman period installed in every nook and corner of the town. Also, the testimonies to more recent history such as the 800-year-old Cathedral near the Bishop’s residence. If you want to add more old tales to your travel, the two-hour Chur–Bellinzona trip by yellow PostBus–a historical journey, can take you through contrasting climates and scenery, and a world rich in cultural diversity.
Surprisingly, the oldest city to this day is a commercial centre and a capital of a large region. The city has not grown much over the years and still is home to a sparse population. According to census data, it had 2,331 individuals in 1780 which has grown to barely 34,000 by 2012, of which 17% are foreign nationals.
The variety of stores, galleries, museums, the theatre and the PostBus station, a hub of Graubünden’s mountain world—all makes this 28sqkm town lively just like other major towns in the country.
Numerous fashion boutiques, multi-cuisine restaurants and bars in the largely traffic-free old town create a Mediterranean-style atmosphere. Towers of the medieval fortifications, namely Obertor, Malteserturm and Sennhofturm still stand here. The paintings in the archway of these towers sport erstwhile views of the city. Thanks to its appearance Obertor is one of Chur’s main landmarks.
Ambling ahead, I spotted a cable car and then learnt that very close to Chur is beautiful Brambruesch, a recreational area. It is located at an altitude of 2,200m. The higher you climb, the better the view you get. If you’re an adventurous person don’t miss the hiking trails, biking routes, and some of the most spectacular ski slopes in Canton Graubünden. The view from the aerial cableway to the top starting from Chur city centre is stunning. In summer, Chur is the ideal spot to set off on walks and visits to the vineyards in the ‘Bündner Herrschaft’ winemaking region.
Ample history, art, culture and adventure—Chur is one of the best preserved old towns in Switzerland and boasts of four museums. Enjoy the cultural and culinary diversity of this Alpine town. So, now we know what makes a good souvenir for your loved ones.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The water of Chur’s spring is exported and sold as Passugger mineral water
- Every Saturday morning from May to October there is the weekly market (farmers’ market) in the old town
- Rapper Gima is from Chur