In the Landwasser Valley, Davos is a holiday resort in the Rhaetian Alps in canton Graubünden. At over 1,500 meters above sea level, Davos is known as the highest town in Europe. Gondolas, gondolas, and ski lifts are ready to lift you to greater heights, into six mountain areas for skiing in winter and hiking and mountain biking in summer.
The avant-garde expressionist painter Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner moved to the town a century ago, and his 20-year stay is remembered in a world-class museum that houses his largest collection. Davos is also known internationally for hosting the World Economic Forum every January.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Davos:
1. Kirchner Museum
German expressionist and member of the Die Brücke Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner spent the last 20 years of his life in Davos.
He moved here in 1917 to battle drug addiction and was working again within a year, painting landscapes and figures.
The museum dedicated to him opened in the 1980s and is based on the collections accumulated by local dealers.
In 1992 it moved into a purpose-built fashion gallery consisting of four glass cubes.
With over 1,400 Kirchner paintings, it is the largest collection of his work in the world, covering his early Expressionist periods in Berlin, Munich and Dresden as well as his later Swiss years.
There are also some artefacts in his life, like childhood sketches, letters, and maybe a little morbid, the gun he used to end his life.
It’s no mystery that Davos is one of Switzerland’s top winter sports destinations.
The village has more than 320 kilometers of downhill ski runs in six different ski areas, all of which have efficient runs.
The largest and newest of these areas is Parsons, reached by the Parsons Red Railroad, which began running up and down the mountain in the 1930s.
Parsenn has long, winding trails where beginners and intermediate skiers can fine-tune their technique, while more advanced skiers can search for fresh powder off-piste.
If snowboarding is your thing then Jakobshorn is the mountain for you as it has a snow park and a “monster pipe” for big air.
A cog railway travels up and down the slopes of Davos to this green, car-free recreation area on the western slopes of the town.
The railway dates back to 1899, when an Art Nouveau sanatorium was built here, which became a hotel in 1954. Literature buffs will be curious to know that Thomas Mann, inspired by one of his most famous novels, The Magic Mountain, is in this location.
One of Schatzalp’s many walking trails is the Alpinum, a summer botanical garden with more than 3,500 alpine plants, as well as upland species as far away as Tibet and New Zealand.
4. Reiner Horn
Facing the stunning Landwassser Valley, this mountain area can be reached by bus and cable car, all of which can be used free of charge with the Davos Card.
As with almost everything on this list, your experience at Rinerhorn will depend on when you visit.
Summer means walks in flowery pastures accompanied by cattle and visits to the zoo where children are allowed to pet lambs and goats.
To rest your feet, you can rent trotti bikes (bike-scooter hybrids) to freely slide down the slopes.
During the winter, Rinerhorn is the go-to for skiers who want a less crowded ski area, and there are plenty of great off-piste runs for more adventurous skiers to try.
In Mönstein, you can join a trail woven along the bottom of a 3 km canyon.
At the entrance, the sides are green and have a gentle slope, but as you go, the Steig and Silberberg formations start to press in as things get steeper and bumpier.
The route is a “geological trail”, so when you walk to the village of Wiesen, there are information panels explaining the geology of the canyon and its rich lead and zinc deposits that were mined in the 1800s.
The overhead Rhaetian railway circles the rim of the canyon, runs through tunnels, and crosses the spectacular Wiesen Viaduct.
6. Power Arena
Between September and February, you must get a ticket to a hockey game in Davos.
First of all, the Arena of Valor is awesome, you understand when you sit down.
Every corner of the roof is supported by cathedral-like wooden vaults, and it’s one of the most dramatic places to watch sporting events.
The local team is HC Davos, which played in the Swiss National League and in 2015 advanced to the Dutch Championship. The club is known in the hockey world for hosting the Spengler Cup, the oldest hockey tournament in the world.
This dates back to 1923 and happens around Christmas, so book early to see the best players in the world on ice.
7. Davos Lake
To the northeast of the town is Lake Davos, bordered by steep pastures and forests.
There is a lot to do here in summer, people come here for water sports, easy hikes on the shore and bathing in the water.
You can rent pedal boats, paddleboards and kayaks, and there are wind-assisted activities such as windsurfing and sailing due to the prevailing breeze on the lake.
There are several restaurants by the lake, don’t forget to bring something for the tame squirrels as they will accost you in the woods.
8. Celtic Valley
Heading south from Davos, you can turn off to the Sertig valley before you reach Rinerhorn or Monstein.
This tributary feeds the Landwasser, and along the way you’ll come across the most idyllic Alpine farmland you could hope to see.
At the bottom of the valley are lush green pastures, scattered with cattle and sheep, and turned into wilderness and forest at the heights.
It’s worth the drive or bike ride all the way to the end, and you’ll come to the base of the jagged snow-capped peaks, Mittaghorn, Plattenfeller and Hoch Dukken.
On the way you will pass the cosy little village of Sertig Dörfli, founded by Walser farmers in the 13th century.
Here, look for a sweet country chapel dating back to 1699.
9. Fluera Pass
In summer, join Route 28 for a mountain road you need to see to believe, connecting the Landwasser Valley in Davos with Susch in the Lower Engadin.
The road, which runs east from Davos, is usually closed in winter due to the risk of avalanches, even though it is used by BMW as a test road at that time of year.
In June, don’t be surprised if there’s still snow on the roadside, where marmots are common.
The highest part is the Flüela Pass at 2,383 meters.
It is located between the Blackhorn and Flüela Wisshorn peaks above 3,000 meters above sea level.
Far above the tree line, the winding road has many hairpin bends, and a constellation of towering mountain peaks makes you feel very small.
10. BierVision Munstein
A 15-minute bus ride or a winding mountain road southwest of Davos will take you to Monstein, home to Europe’s highest brewery.
BierVision is open for tours on Friday, where you’ll gain an in-depth look at the brewing process and get a close-up look at the brewing vats and fermentation.
Before that, you will take a guided walk around the village, where you will meet several locals and learn about the way of life here.
BierVision produces five beers, from stouts to whites, which you can taste in the cosy Gambrinus bar in the basement.
At the store, you can buy chocolate and cheese made by Monstein, as well as a bottle of the brewery’s own whisky, which is also distilled on-site.
11. Mountain Bikes
In summer, the slopes of Davos are filled with mountain bike trails, 7 of which are highly recommended by the MTB community.
If you only ride one trail, it must be the infamous Gotschna Freeride.
The route is 6 km long and zigzags down Gotschnagrat to the village of Klosters.
There are over 720 meters of descents, and more than 200 inclined curves and jumps to negotiate.
Typically, riders will complete this creepy roller coaster ride in under 20 minutes.
Despite all the thrills and obstacles on the way, the trail serves as the blue label in the middle for both pros and beginners.
12. Madrid Sadi
In warm weather, the Sonnenberg Mountain in Klosters has Switzerland’s highest adventure park.
Madrisa land is suitable for the whole family, but the youngest family members will enjoy the park’s slides, climbing walls and tree houses best.
Parents can watch their children from seats on the edge of the park.
Meanwhile, the kids will ride ponies and make friends with little alpine goats at the farmyard.
13. Train travel
There’s nothing quite like hanging out in a warm carriage and watching a movie-like Alpine landscape roll by.
Davos is the terminus of two of the most famous railway lines in the world: the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express.
The first train, dubbed “the slowest express train in the world”, travels through the Swiss Alps from Graubünden to Valais, admiring legendary peaks such as the Matterhorn.
The Bernina Express is another sightseeing route that travels through the Bernina Mountains to Tirano, Italy.
There are audio guides on board that label natural wonders as you pass by, and panoramic carriages offer views of a lifetime.
14. Davos Friedrich Adventure Park
Below Flüela Pass is an adventure park where you can don a seat belt and helmet and climb five different routes in the forest canopy.
Dragging yourself over ladders, rope nets, swing bridges and treetop climbing walls is certainly great exercise, but it’s also good for team building, as you can handle lessons in small groups and have to protect each other.
There is also a child-oriented course which is closely supervised if you have any doubts and uses a fail-safe ‘fallback’ system to keep children safe.
15. More winter activities
We have to mention cross-country skiing, as Davos hosts the stage for the FIS Cross Country World Cup every year in the Flüela valley.
What’s great is that when the route isn’t used by the best long distance skiers in the world, you can ride it yourself for free.
This is one of more than 100 kilometers of off-road tracks, all carefully prepared and planned for you to plan your journey.
The long toboggan route you can pass at the Rinerhorn and Schatzalp at high speed is less tiring.
Back in the center of the village, Ice World Davos is an outdoor ice rink like no other, made up of interconnected ramps and rinks.
If you need a break, the market stalls are poured with hot mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Davos, Switzerland
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