At the height of 1560 m, Davos is the highest larger town in Europe. It lies in a beautiful Alpine valley, right in the heart of Switzerland’s canton Graubünden.
The area of Davos was known even at the prehistoric period and at the time of Old Rome, but it was not inhabited due to harsh weather conditions. The tourist development of the settlement began at the end of the 18th century.
In the 19th century, Davos became a microclimate air spa that doctors still recommend to lung patients. In the early 20th century, it gained its first international attention as a health and wellness town.
Today, Davos is most well-known for its ski areas, with ski runs that go for up to 12 km, and for over 700km of marked walking trails, making it one of Switzerland’s top walking destinations.
Davos is not as glamorous as some other Swiss towns, nor does it have a substantial historical town center. It is all about the natural beauty in the surrounding area, walks into the mountains, uncovered tapestry of traditional Swiss villages, dramatic views, and abundant wildlife. It is perfect for nature lovers.
There is unlimited use of the lifts in the mountain resort free of charge. There are also numerous activities and events in the region with free participation. But above all, Davos is renowned as a conference center. Almost every year, it hosts the World Economic Forum in its modern Conference Centre, a true showpiece of the town.
The town of Davos is split into two parts with Davos Dorf in the north-east and Davos Platz in the south-west. A walk from one end to the other takes about 45 minutes.
This long-drawn-out town in the Landwasser is a major winter and summer sports center with a huge range of activities and an international flavor. It is also the headquarters of the Davos Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.
In the town center, you can find a wide range of restaurants, cafés, and accommodation, as well as numerous boutiques for excellent shopping. At night, plenty of bars, discos, and casinos are there to entertain everyone.
If you are about to visit Davos, read further to find some tips which will help you organize your time while you’re there.
1. How to get to Davos?
Davos is a ski region located in the Graubinden Alps in the eastern part of Switzerland. The closest international airport is Zurich, 154 km away. From there, Davos can be reached by car or train year-round. Trains from Zurich airport to Davos depart every hour from underneath the airport and the journey lasts approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes.
There are two main train stations in the town center, Davos Dorf and Davos Platz. For those who would rather avoid public transport, it is highly recommended to hire a private chauffeured car service. The car will wait for you at the airport and bring you all the way up to your resort. Especially convenient for families with children.
The area of Davos can be explored by train, bus, and car, while the town itself is small enough to get around on foot. It takes only 45 minutes of walk to get from one end of town to the other.
There is a train which connects both ends of town. Buses are also available, especially for trips between far ends of this long, narrow town as well as to nearby Klosters.
The area of Klosters is of exceptional beauty and it has very good trails. You can stay there for a round of skiing, or head up on the Madrisa gondola and up to Mässplatte for a beautiful view of the Prattigau valley.
For a slightly challenging route, take the Parsenn lift from Davos Dorf and walk across the peaks following the ‘Panoramaweg’ path. From there, get to Klosters via the Gotschna cable-car.
More experienced hikers can catch the Postbus to Tschuggen and walk up to the protected area of Pisha. There at Hüreli is a ridge to cross and head down to Lake Davos. On the way, there is to find the only place from which both Davos and neighboring Klosters are visible at the same time.
2. Davos travel: summer
Hiking is a number one activity in Davos. The Rinerhorn mountain area, facing the stunning Landwasser Valley, in summer offers walks in a flowery pasture in the company of cattle.
If you are there with children, take them to the petting zoo where they can handle lambs and baby goats. To rest those feet you could hire Trotti bikes (cycle-scooter hybrids) to freewheel back down the slope.
The Flüela Pass connects Landewasser Valley with Susch in the Lower Engadin. In 2015, the Flüela Pass road made the fourth place out of the 25 top world-class roads. At the top of the pass, a small, dark lake and the view of the Flüela Weisshorn and Schwarzhorn allure you to stop over and stare. The road heads east from Davos and the final destination of Susch is in an ideal spot for excursions and bike tours to the National Park Region.
However, don’t be surprised if there’s still snow on the side of the road even in June. Neither of the marmots, which are a common sight along the edge.
Below the Flüela Pass, an adventure park is set. There you will gear up with harnesses and helmets and clamber over five different courses in the forest canopy. Hauling yourself over ladders, rope nets, swinging bridges and treetop climbing walls is fantastic exercise. Of course, there is a course for children as well which is closely supervised and uses a failsafe “fall-back” system to ensure their safety.
Another adventure park, the highest in Switzerland, is in the Sonnenberg Mountain at Klosters. There are also activities in which the whole family can enjoy, but the children will be happiest with the park’s slides, harnessed climbing walls, and treehouses. Kids can take pony rides and make friends with baby Alpine goats in the farmyard. While children enjoy themselves, parents can watch them from seating on the edge of the park.
Davos Lake is unavoidable during summer. It is placed at the northeastern limit of the town and bordered by steep pasture and forest. People visit it for swimming in the clear lake and watersports. There you can hire pedalos, paddleboards, and kayaks.
If you have a more adventurous spirit, there are also more extreme activities like windsurfing, wakeboarding, and sailing. And if you are more in the mood for leisure, the lake boasts a couple of restaurants by the water in which you can enjoy Swiss cuisine.
Later, you can go on light hikes around the shore, just don’t forget to bring some nuts for the tame squirrels to snack on as they’ll accost you in the wooded areas.
3. Davos travel: winter
Davos is a winter sports metropolis. It is popular among skiing and snowboarding fans all around the world. There are six well-equipped ski resorts in this region: Jakobshorn, Parsenn, Pischa, Madrisa, Rinerhorn and Schatzalp.
Schatzalp is the first-ever ski resort in Europe, and Picha, Madrisa and Rinerhorn are smaller ski resorts ideal for families. Six smaller ski resorts are brought together into one vast winter sports arena and connected by a train that runs along the valley. At altitudes between 1124 and 2844 m, you will find 300 km of slopes, 75 km of cross-country ski tracks, 8 sledding runs, two artificial ice-skating rinks, and 58 ski lifts. There is also Europe’s largest natural ice rink and the new “Ice Dream” for ice hockey, skating, and Bavarian curling.
Pischa is the largest and sunniest area in Switzerland. It is especially praised for its 30 km of well-arranged freeride trails. From Davos, the gondola comes to the peak of Pischa at 2848 meters above sea level where there are a restaurant and a children’s ski park, as well as marked paths for cross-country skiing and walking.
For those who are not ski lovers, several horses and carriages offer trips in the Davos region. Carriage rides are a big thing in Davos. It is something no one who visits should miss out. It is truly magical in winter. The carriages are comfortable and equipped with cozy warm blankets.
Some providers even offer some free tea or mulled wine to warm up on your ride during the coldest months. One of the longer carriage trips goes through the Dischmatal – the longest side valley in Davos with exceptionally great views.
Bonus Davos tips: If it gets too cold, visit the big indoor swimming pool “Eau-la-la”. It has a wellness area with a sauna, a great heated outdoor area that feels like a big hot spring with a built-in whirlpool, and a relaxation area to ease tiredness from all the hiking, ice skating or sledding. It is also the perfect place to get a massage before you go to bed.