The story of Zernez
Zernez is at the same time the southernmost and westernmost municipality in the Lower Engadin; covering an area of over 200 sq. kilometres, it is also the second largest municipality in the canton, after Davos. The main valley stretches out along the River Inn from the point of confluence of the Ova da Punt Ota to the Val Sarsura and beyond. To the east, the Spöltal Valley and its side valleys run as far as the Punt dal Gall dam; most of the area is taken up by the Swiss National Park. Zernez was first mentioned in an official document in 1161 and over the years has grown in a slow but constant manner. At the time of the first population census in 1780, 546 people lived here; today the population numbers around 1,100. The main sources of income of the people of Zernez in the 17th and 18th centuries were livestock farming, lumber and service in foreign armies. However many saw themselves forced to leave the area in search of work. A number of them made a name for themselves throughout Europe as confectioners and coffee-house proprietors. After a major fire in 1872, which destroyed 117 of the 157 houses, part of the village was rebuilt in an urban style. As a result, nowadays the village centre is characterised by houses from the early modern and late classicism periods. Zernez is also known far and wide as the gateway to the National Park and as the home to the new National Park Visitor Centre.