Zuoz is mentioned in documents as early as the beginning of the 9th century. Excavations have shown that another small settlement existed on the Chastlatsch hill above today's Hotel Castell as early as the Bronze Age.
Originally, the Dorta farm in the village part of Zuoz with the same name was the center of the village. The Bishop of Chur, Konrad I von Biberegg, bought the estate in 1137 in the course of his extensive acquisition of large plots of land in the Upper Engadin and thus marked the beginning of the 400-year-long episcopal rule in the Upper Engadin - with its seat in Zuoz. Criminal jurisdiction or high court jurisdiction was also exercised in Zuoz.
In the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, a closed square of impressive effect was created in the center of the village, framed by stately bourgeois and patrician houses. The late Romanesque chapel of San Bastiaun, with its old frescoes and modern windows by Gian Casty, as well as the Gothic church of Santa Catharina contribute to the adornment of the village. The Engadin houses may look impressive from the outside, but the splendor of the interior decoration exceeds the exterior many times over and reflects the living culture and the economic success of its inhabitants. Some of them had emigrated as tradesmen and came home wealthy. Others, usually members of noble families, served foreign princes or held high offices in the Valtellina and returned even wealthier. We still encounter the names of these influential families in many contexts, such as Planta, Travers, Juvalta, and Jecklin Schucan.
Massive stone walls, small funnel-shaped windows, and characteristic sgraffiti characterize a true Engadin house. In Zuoz, too, they characterize the townscape. Under the wide gable roof, the Engadin farmer once united all his possessions: dwelling house, cattle and hay barn, cellar, storehouse, and a covered forecourt. The entrance to the house leads through an ornately decorated main gate into the sulèr, the anteroom, to the residential house. This served as a storage and working room and even as a dining room in summer. If you go up a few steps, you enter the stüva, a parlor usually paneled with Swiss stone pine, the showpiece of every Engadin house. Another striking feature is the sgraffiti - the elaborate ornaments on the facades, carved out of the still damp plaster. They come into their own thanks to the light-dark contrast of two different plaster colors. The scratching technique originated in Italy ("sgraffiare" is Italian for "to scratch") but came to the Upper Engadine with migrant workers as early as the 16th century, where it is still practiced today.
In 1499 Zuoz burned down completely. It was not carelessness that caused the fire, but the inhabitants themselves had set fire to their houses in order to leave only scorched earth for the approaching Austrian imperial army. Since then peace has reigned in the region, and Zuoz soon blossomed with those impressive buildings as we know them today.
Would you like to hear and see more about Zuoz? Then we recommend the guided tour of the village which takes place weekly in summer and winter.
Today Zuoz is known as, among other things, a holiday resort for families. Since 2016, the village has carried the "Family Destination" seal of approval. The range of leisure activities ensures great experiences and plenty of exercise in the great outdoors. Themed trails, an animated children's program, golf course for kids, cinema at Hotel Castell, first turns in the children's ski area - the village offers so much for unforgettable experiences and is always a great choice for a family holiday.
The Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, founded in 1904, is an international boarding school for students between the ages of 12 and 18. The high school educates around 100 external students from the region and 200 internal learners from over 30 nations. Together they create a school that is open to cultural diversity while remaining rooted in the Engadin and Switzerland.
March 1 in the Engadin is marked by the Chalandamarz. It is sacred to most of the locals. The school children look forward to it months before, and the adults enjoy the memories of how it was in their time.
Our ancestors celebrated the pagan custom of driving away evil spirits. Today it is the winter that people want to put a stop to by singing and ringing cowbells. The custom is cultivated and celebrated in many places of Romanisch-Bünden, but no two festivals are alike. In Zuoz, for example, the Chalandamarz begins two days before March 1. This is in order to cover the extensive village and Madulain, which belongs to the same school community. Another special feature is that only the boys take part in the procession. The girls make rösas and caramellas in advance, and the boys parade as shepherds with bells through the alleys from house to house, singing songs, and cracking whips to drive away the winter. But cracking the whip has to be practiced - that's why you can see schoolchildren practicing all February long in Zuoz. Two Sundays before the first of March, the main rehearsal takes place, during which all the fountains in the village are circled. The best way to see the procession is on the 1st of March in the square of Zuoz, where the procession ends.
A pagan fertility ritual that still takes place on the 24th of June around the ancient solstice. Here the boys chase the girls with homemade water spouts.
The Pardunaunza, the parish fair on the third Sunday of August, has lost some of its original significance. Today only a village schutzenfest (shooting fair) commemorates it.