The Glorious Fame of Davos in the Swiss Alps

Posted on 04 October 2023

Davos in the Swiss Alps is a beacon for winter sports enthusiasts worldwide. With combined nature, world-class ski resorts, and rich traditions of hosting winter events, Davos excels in skiing and snowboarding. Often called “Davos Klosters” because the town is close to Klosters resort, Davos sits in the Graubünden canton in eastern Switzerland.

Graubünden is Switzerland’s largest canton by land area with stunning mountain landscapes, outdoor recreational activities, and cultural diversity. Davos is also the most popular destination within Graubünden, as the host of the annual World Economic Forum meeting. Given the status and high flying reputation, all this combines to attract property investors and those looking to retire abroad. So, in this article, we look at Davos, the reasons for the fame and whether you should buy property there.

About Davos in the Swiss Alps

Davos in Switzerland

History of Davos

Davos’s multifaceted history spans centuries, with evidence of human habitation dating back to prehistoric times. In the Middle Ages, Davos belonged to the Rhaetian lands and was primarily inhabited by farmers and herders, but the first documented reference dates from 1213 when the area was mentioned in a deed as “Tavaus.”

Davos gained recognition in the 16th century for rest and recovery, thanks to the fresh mountain air and climate. The town’s reputation grew during the 18th and 19th centuries when tuberculosis patients started arriving to seek treatment. The clean mountain air was considered therapeutic for respiratory illnesses. The construction of sanatoriums and hospitals in the 19th century marked the beginning of Davos’s transformation into a health resort.

In the late 19th century, Davos started attracting tourists, not just those seeking treatment but also winter visitors who came to enjoy the Swiss scenery and engage in winter sports. The town’s first ski club was founded in 1895, marking the beginning of skiing.Davos developed for winter sports in the 20th century and hosted the International Skiing Congress in 1925 and 1930.

The Parsennbahn funicular railway opening in 1931 greatly improved access to the slopes. In 1971, the World Economic Forum (WEF) was founded by Klaus Schwab, and its annual meeting has been held in Davos ever since. Today, Davos has evolved into a year-round tourist destination, offering activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, and Swiss events.

Pros and Cons of Davos in Switzerland

The downside is expense. Davos is one of the most expensive ski towns across the Alps, not only for property prices, but also cost of living. To make up for this, expect incredible views of snow-capped peaks, serene valleys, and pristine lakes. Beyond winter, Davos offers several year-round activities. Enjoy hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, golfing, and water sports in summer. Davos also serves as a gateway to Engadin Valley, another picturesque Swiss region with charm and cultural attractions. You can also explore nearby towns like St. Moritz and Pontresina.

What Swiss Mountain Range is Davos in?

Graubünden, the eastern Swiss canton where Davos is, features several mountain ranges, partly explaining the town’s popularity. In eastern Graubünden, the Rätikon Range forms part of the border between Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein and earns fame for rugged peaks and hiking opportunities. The Plessur Alps in northern Graubünden, near Chur, offer hiking, skiing, and mountain biking opportunities.

The Oberhalbstein Alps include several mountaineering peaks and valleys. In southern Graubünden, the Bernina Range is home to high elevations, including Piz Bernina, challenging mountaineering opportunities and stunning glaciers. Lastly, the Silvretta Range straddles the border between Graubünden and Austria, features picturesque high-mountain terrain and is popular with hikers and climbers.

Ski Resorts in Davos

Davos gives access to several ski resorts, including Parsenn, arguably the most famous Swiss ski area connected by a funicular, and a cable car offers long, scenic descents and challenging runs. Jakobshorn, often called “Jakob,” earns fame for freestyle skiing and opportunities, attracting adrenaline junkies who want to hit the terrain park or test their skills. Family-friendly Madrisa features gentle slopes and dedicated children’s areas with ski schools and childcare services. The scenic gondola ride to reach the Swiss slopes adds to the experience.

Rinerhorn is often overlooked but offers more laid-back skiing experiences to escape the crowds and enjoy peaceful runs in beautiful Alpine settings. Pischa offers off-piste skiing opportunities. Experienced skiers seeking powder stashes and untouched snow, head here; however, Swiss Pischa is less developed in terms of facilities. Lastly, while not technically in Davos, nearby Klosters town offers exciting ski slopes and charming Swiss village atmospheres.

Skiing Information

To avoid crowds and get better deals on lift passes, December, early January, or late in spring is best. Swiss Davos offers various ski lift pass options, from single-day passes to multi-day packages. Choose passes that cover specific ski areas or opt for the comprehensive Klosters Ski Pass, which grants access to all resorts. Purchasing lift passes in advance often saves money. For freestyle enthusiasts and snowboarders, Jakobshorn is the place to be.

A Swiss Summer in Davos

While Swiss Davos excels in winter sports, the charm and beauty extend well beyond snowy seasons. In summer, this Alpine town in Switzerland transforms into a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those seeking peaceful retreats. Popular hiking trails include the Panorama Trail, Schatzalp Loop, and Jakobshorn to Sertig Hike. Paragliding is popular, as are the lakes to enjoy swimming, paddleboarding, canoeing, and windsurfing.

The  Golf Club, at an elevation of 1,600 meters (5,250 feet), provides golfers with unique experiences, and many restaurants offer outdoor seating with breathtaking mountain views. For public transport, use the train to purchase the Davos Klosters Inclusive Card, which provides free travel on local buses and discount fares on mountain railways.

The Magic Mountain Connection

Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann is intimately connected to Davos. The novel is set in a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps, and Davos inspired Thomas Mann when writing the book. The primary setting is the fictional sanatorium known as  Berghof. Thomas Mann’s experiences and observations of patients and staff heavily influenced the characters and culture. With its international community of patients and visitors, Davos provided Mann with ample material for portraying intellectual debates and worldviews. Without a doubt, Davos played crucial roles in shaping the backdrop, themes, and characters of “The Magic Mountain.”

Famous Artists, Writers and Other People

Davos has been home to many famous artists, writers, and prominent people. They include The Swiss playwright and author Friedrich Dürrenmatt, known for his detective novels and plays, and the German expressionist artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a member of Die Brücke group. The writer of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, said he was inspired by Davos town and the surroundings, which influenced his writing.

Theodor Tobler, the Swiss chocolatier and creator of Toblerone, was born in Bern but spent much of his life in Davos. The distinctive shape of Toblerone is said to have been inspired by the Matterhorn, a famous Swiss mountain. Herbert Hoover, who later became the 31st US president, also spent time in Davos during World War I, helping humanitarian relief efforts and war-displaced individuals.

Swiss Valleys Near Davos

Sertig Valley features the famous Sertig Valley Loop cross-country skiing trail. In contrast, Dischma Valley is home to the Dischma Alpine Botanical Garden, which showcases the region’s unique flora. Flüela Valley, to the southeast, offers high alpine terrain and forests. The Flüela Pass scenic drive connects Davos to the Engadin Valley.

Jöriseen Valley, a less-visited gem, is quieter with hiking trails to Jöriseen lakes, surrounded by rocky terrain. Dischma Valley is often combined with Sertig Valley, as both are accessed from Davos Platz. Together, they offer several hiking trails leading to the renowned Dischma Glacier and the rugged Scaletta Pass.


Aerial view of Davos city and lake. Davos is swiss city, famous location of annual meetings of World Economic Forum.

Davos Platz and Davos Dorf – Two Main Districts

Davos Platz, also known as Davos-Platz, is one of the two main parts of the town. The other central part is called Davos Dorf. Together, these two areas make up the municipality. Platz is situated at a slightly lower elevation than Dorf, further up the valley. Key attractions in Dorf include the Parsenn ski area, Jakobshorn cable car, and the Davos Congress Center.

Davos Platz, the central and more commercial part, is lined with shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and Swiss institutions. In Platz, the Congress Center hosts conferences, events, and cultural performances, and there are several cultural attractions, including museums, art galleries, and theatres. Kirchner Museum is a notable Swiss institution dedicated to expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Platz train station serves as a transportation hub, connecting Davos to other towns and regions in Switzerland. While Platz and Dorf are distinct areas, they are joined by public transportation and provide visitors with different experiences. Davos Platz is typically more bustling and commercial. At the same time, Davos Dorf offers a quieter, more residential ambience and is closer to ski slopes and cable cars. Both contribute to the town’s overall appeal year-round for activities, Swiss experiences, and relaxation.

Other Districts of Davos

Davos Frauenkirch: On the outskirts, Frauenkirch, with a beautiful 15th-century church, earns fame for stunning natural beauty. The area sits among pristine Swiss landscapes, surrounded by lush meadows, towering peaks, and clear mountain streams. While Frauenkirch is peaceful, the site is conveniently a short drive from the town. This proximity allows residents and visitors to easily access the amenities, restaurants, and Swiss offerings. Frauenkirch is suitable for year-round living, offering tranquil environments in both summer and winter.

Davos Glaris: Residential Glaris, to the south, provides easy access to hiking, mountain biking, and skiing. While the neighbourhood may be quieter, Glaris is not far from the town centre and has more choices of amenities, including shops, restaurants, Swiss institutions, and services. Davos Glaris is suitable for year-round living, with activities during summer and winter.

Davos Wolfgang: Davos Wolfgang, on Lake Davos’s northeastern shore, offers picturesque settings surrounded by stunning mountain landscapes. The village, characterized by traditional Swiss chalet-style architecture, is ideal for water activities, especially in summer. Wolfgang is home to the Davos Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course set against stunning mountain backdrops. Attracting golf enthusiasts with a challenging and scenic course, the surrounding area also provides ample skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing opportunities. Additionally, hiking and biking trails connect the village to Davos and other nearby towns.

Davos Wiesen: Picturesque Wiesen offers more tranquil and rural experiences. The village, surrounded by towering peaks, attracts hikers with the Wiesen Viaduct Trail, which offers panoramic landscape views. While Davos Wiesen is quieter in winter, Wiesen still offers winter activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. Additionally, Wiesen Viaduct, a historic railway viaduct, provides scenic backdrops that attract photographers.


Places near Davos

While Davos is a great place to be, if the budget is too much for you or you want to explore the glory and fame of the Swiss Alps, there are many other places to go. Klosters, one of the closest ski resorts connected via the extensive Davos-Klosters ski area, offers slopes for intermediate and advanced skiers.

Just a short drive away, the Arosa-Lenzerheide ski area is one of Switzerland’s largest interconnected ski regions with many slopes, including gentle runs for beginners and challenging terrain for advanced skiers. While a bit farther away, St. Moritz is renowned for winter luxury, prestige, and world-class skiing opportunities. Corviglia, Corvatsch, and Diavolezza ski resorts provide excellent slopes for all skill levels.

A few hours away, the challenging slopes and off-piste skiing of Engelberg-Titlis are home to the iconic Mount Titlis, which offers breathtaking views and year-round glacier skiing. Approximately an hour’s drive away, Flims-Laax offers extensive and diverse ski terrain, with over 224 kilometres of slopes catering for freestyle and snowboarding enthusiasts, with one of Europe’s largest snow parks.

Parsenn ski area is one of Switzerland’s oldest and largest ski areas, offering many slopes and stunning views of surrounding mountains. Lastly, another ski area, Jakobshorn, offers excellent freestyle facilities, scenic intermediate runs and snow parks that attract snowboarders and park riders.

Buying Property in Davos

Buying property in Davos, Switzerland, like in many other Swiss cities, can be a complex and expensive process, and it may not be considered “easy” by everyone. Switzerland has strict regulations governing property ownership, especially for foreigners. Typically, foreigners can only purchase certain types of properties in designated areas, and these areas may vary from canton to canton.

Davos is located in the canton of Graubünden, and each canton has its own regulations. To buy property in Davos as a foreigner, you usually need a Swiss residence permit (such as a B or C permit). The permit type and requirements may vary depending on the canton and your nationality. Lastly, Davos is known for being a luxury resort town, and property prices can be pretty high. If you are looking for alpine property, see our portfolio of homes for sale in the French and Swiss Alps. Alternatively, call us today and chat with an agent about investing in Ski property.

More About Switzerland

Best Swiss Ski Resorts: With many Swiss ski resorts, Switzerland easily attracts winter enthusiasts with unique charm and attractions, from glamorous St. Moritz and Verbier to family-friendly Grindelwald and Zermatt.

Lake Geneva: When looking at European delights, Lake Geneva ticks all the boxes. Although, the lake isn’t situated in the skiing alpine plateaus. Since the lake is only 36 kilometres from Geneva airport, many alpine lovers take slight detours to enjoy Lake Geneva’s delights.

Buying Ski Property in Switzerland: If you are looking at purchasing a ski property in Switzerland, congratulations on choosing this highly admired destination with fantastic mountain ranges. Alpine Ski trips never disappoint, and over the last ten years, investment into new property has boosted the market’s popularity.

Davos in Switzerland