Have you ever heard about Chur? Well, chances are good that you at least passed this alpine city in Eastern Switzerland, probably on your way to popular holiday destinations like Lenzerheide, Arosa or Flims/Laax. But Chur – the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubuenden (or Grisons) – is well worth a visit in its own right.
Marie Eckert is a veritable city enthusiast and a digital native running two co-working spaces (the BockOffices in Chur and Davos). In this interview she shares her favorite spots, things to do and how to make the most of Chur. Plus: her recommended tools and gadgets for city travelers and digital nomads.
Marie, what makes a city worth visiting for you?
I love to travel to cities where locals help me discover the city with their eyes and show me their secret, favorite spots. Typical tourist attractions are mostly crowded and busy. I don’t like that too much. I prefer to “get lost” in a city and discover special architecture, small bars and happy people.
A typical example was my last vacation. We rented a camper and cruised through Canada – from Vancouver to Calgary and back. We did not have a specific route, but asked the locals on the campsites for recommendations – best vacation ever! Also for working purpose. I just took the camper and drove. Whenever I found a nice spot, I could stop and start working. It made me feel free.
What brought you to Chur?
Ha, that was a coincidence. I came to study in Liechtenstein and loved the nature, the mountains, the weather. I liked it so much that, after having finished my studies, I searched for a job in the vicinity and found one in Chur.
What keeps me here is the lifestyle of the people in the region. After all, we are surrounded by four major skiing resorts. Sport and nature is important to me – enjoying life is important, too. It seems that I am at the right place for both.
Chur is the capital of the Grisons and the region’s largest city, but with only 37’000 inhabitants, one can strongly feel the village character of the city. I quite like that – it gives a personal touch. People are friendly – where I live, people even greet each other on the street. And if I miss city life all too much, Zurich is only 1,5h away.
Which are your favorite places in Chur?
My favorite spot in Chur is the Fontana park. It is very beautiful, small and hidden from the busy parts of the city. There are different plants and trees with benches and chairs. On one of the benches, there is even a free library setup. You simply pick a book and start reading. Being in that park recharges my battery and is just great for a picknick with friends for lunch.
Another hidden secret is the restaurant Rosenhügel. Not only is the food terrific, but also their winter garden provides a beautiful view over the city and the surrounding mountains. The sunsets there are magnificent.
Your tips for city travellers and digital nomads planning to visit Chur – where to eat and sleep, what to do?
One of my favourite hotels is the Zunfthaus zum Rebleuten (reviews and rates here). The rooms are not the most luxurious ones, but the building as such is impressive. The breakfast room is in a former guild room. It is right in the center of the old town, but hidden in a side street. The restaurant has three terraces – a great place for eating in summer. The meals there are creative and delicious. The hosts are young people: he is the chef, she is responsible for welcoming hotel and restaurant visitors – both of them very passionate.
What else… The old town is worth a stroll. Being the oldest city of Switzerland, Chur has a lot of charming, small passages with beautiful buildings to discover. Also the fountains are worth a visit – there are about 100 of them in the vicinity.
The best pastry in town can be found at Zuzu’s Cupcakes – her daily specials are definitely worth a coffee break!
For hiking or biking, I recommend the Fürstenwald forest. Those who like to do some vertical meters, the Mittenberg provides for a 2h hike with a gravel road for those who like it easy, as well as many little hiking paths for discoverers. Not only is there a wonderful view from the mountain top, the City of Chur provides for a fire place and a fountain up there. You only need to take your food, some fire acceleration and a lighter to have the greatest BBQ/pick-nick with a view.
Another good spot to look onto the city is the Rote Platte. When I first went up there, I felt like Rafiki in the rock scene in Lion king. The hike is short, but quite steep – not recommended to people who are afraid of heights.
A must-see is a trip with the Rhaetian Railway. It well deserves its classification as a world heritage. The tunnels and viaducts are one of a kind. There are a couple of nice routes and offers – also interesting to those, who are not exactly train fanatics. The landscapes are more than beautiful. My preferred one is the Bernina tour to Tirano. Have you ever passed a glacier by train? Well, here you can. For a day trip, I suggest to stop for lunch break in Tirano (Italy) and have the “Apéro”, the typical Swiss after-work drink and snack, in the train on the way back to Chur.
You manage a successful coworking office in Davos and just opened another one in downtown Chur. Why?
Being self-employed, I had to find a nice place to work myself without being alone in the office. And I love hosting and meeting new people. If you combine those elements, managing a coworking space is THE thing to do, don’t you think?
What inspires me the most when working in my coworking spaces, are the connections between coworkers that only reveal themselves through coincidental talks, for example over coffee. Have you ever had a conversation with a prototype-test-engineer, an architect, a food startup and an event manager at the same time? Well, we had a coffee together and guess what: We had a lot to discuss.
Talking to people from other job environments helps to change perspectives and thus provides true “out- of-the-box” solutions to ones questions.
What kind of persons would be a good fit for the Coworking office in Chur?
Great that you are asking! The word coworking has become so general, that it seems like everyone has their own interpretation of it. With our rather exclusive infrastructure and equipment, we are targeting settled entrepreneurs or employees, rather than offering a hub for startups.
We all like to have our morning coffee together, or initiate spontaneous lunch breaks together. But in the end, we come here to get our tasks done. So focusing on the daily job is important to us.
Next to that, companies from outside like to rent our meeting space for formal get-togethers, such as presentations to customers, or workshops. Due to its central location in the old town of Chur, BockOffice is well accessible and close to all activities the city offers: restaurant, bars, shopping, public transport, town hall, etc.
Which apps, gadgets or accessories do you always take on a city trip?
I like to take my laptop wherever I go. Requirements for choosing the right laptop model were: “fits in my handbag” and “has a long battery life”.
Another life saver is my Microsoft Arc mouse, that can be flattened to a 2cm wide surface.
When travelling and coworking, Bluetooth ear buds are a “must” in order to do focused work, which makes them loyal travel companions.
For finding special hotels and restaurants, I mostly rely on Google maps. Important here: I always read the recommendation part. Then of course Airbnb Experiences and Tripadvisor for finding special activities and hotels. I rather like small, boutique hotels and local restaurants.
For work, I love my task management system Good Day – same system as JIRA, but for free. A big helper is my password manager. Not only does it remember my password better than me, it allows to store my credit card details. I just have to sign with my finger print and have my credit card essentials ready for using it for any online purchase. Very practical feature: the cache deletes itself after a while.
I love to scribble notes whenever ideas pop up. Finding them back in the good old paper based days and in my various handbags proved to be a challenge. The solution: I use Evernote ink notes on my phone and my laptop. The integrated pen of my mobile phone helps me to have the “handwritten” feeling.
Advantage of Evernote: Information is stored in one place and the search function is very practical to find information back. The phone itself seems quite big, but that proved to be very handy when using it on a trip where I don’t take my laptop – it is quite convenient to even answer mails with the phone.
Thank you, Marie!
More about Chur, the alpine city, here
Did you like Marie’s tips on how to make the most of a visit of Chur in Eastern Switzerland, and how to enjoy it like a local? Thank you for sharing!