Samnaun is first mentioned in in 1089 in a document of the Lords of Tarasp who donated a number of estates and pastures to the Marienberg monastery in Vinschgau (South Tyrol). The owners of the monastery worked on the listed goods. This suggests that the soil here was probably cultivated before the turn of the millennium. These donations are recorded in two papal deeds of Honorius III (1220) and Innocent IV (1249). It is therefore likely that people started settling in Samnaun before the year 1000.


The remoteness of Samnaun meant that even when the people first settled here they had to orient themselves away from the valley and towards Tyrol. They were not able to trade much with the Engadin because of the mountainous crossings, which were not even passable all year round. And so they used an ox-cart trail from Samnaun to the Tyrolean Oberland. This of course had consequences for Romansh language spoken by them. As can be seen from the archives of Ramosch, the Tyrolean dialect was already occasionally spoken in Samnaun in 1675. Today the people of Samnaun are "German" speaking Engadiners.

Until the 19th century Samnaun was largely self-sufficient. They even grew tobacco. Any trading was done with Tyrol. Samnaun's farmers found a profitable market: they bought young Austrian cattle in Tyrol, fed them for one or two years, and then exported them duty-free into Austria and sold at a profit. The new customs borders of 1848 soon proved to be of great disadvantage for the Samnaun people. They had no trade relations with the Lower Engadin at all, since the only halfway passable way from Samnaun to the outside world led to Austria. For this reason, the Samnaun municipal authority requested exclusion from the Swiss customs territory in 1888. This request from the furthest corner of Switzerland was rejected by the Swiss Federal Council in Bern and was only granted when it was resubmitted. At that time it was supported by the District Office of Ramosch and the Small Council of the canton of Grisons, on 29 April 1892.

The disadvantage of the poor transport connections became more and more obvious. What is more, the fact that the only ties were with Tyrol was not without political risk. For this reason, generous subsidies were made available to build a road between 1907 and 1912, which now directly links Samnaun and the rest of Switzerland.

With this new road, the main reason that had once persuaded the Federal Council to exclude Samnaun, had become redundant. While the road was still built, the customs administration pondered the question of whether the municipality of Samnaun should perhaps become part of the customs system again.

However, the municipality of Samnaun, the Ramosch district office and the Small Council advocated for the special status to be retained. The costs for border guards and facilities were enormous compared with the expected customs revenue, they said. While the Swiss confederation would not have derived any advantage from this, it would have increased the cost of living for the people of Samnaun. And so the customs administration decided that it was better to maintain the exclusionary status

The direct road to Engadin now proved to be an excellent source of income and an excellent market. However, the customs border with Switzerland now turned out to be a disadvantage. Now import duties had to be paid for goods from Samnaun. However, the people of Samnaun were granted customs exemptions. The relevant businesses were given quotas for the import of goods from Samnaun into Switzerland.

Now tourism, the economic sector of Samnaun which was never mentioned when the customs status was granted, has become the mainstay of their income. After the opening of Samnaun road it did not take long before the first hotels appeared in Samnaun-Dorf. The first guests visited Samnaun in the twenties, and the village soon became an important winter sports resort. At the end of the thirties, Samnaun-Dorf and Compatsch already had eight hotels with 300 beds.

During the Second World War, tourism waned. However, a new era was born with the foundation of the Samnaun-Compatsch spa and tourist association in 1951. The first ski lift was built in 1954, and soon more followed. By 1971 the number of beds had increased to 800. At the beginning of the seventies tourism slumped again. It was the construction of the cable car in 1977/78 and the opening up of the Silvretta Arena with Ischgl that brought a revival.

Experience Samnaun

Enjoy duty-free shopping in Switzerland and first-class winter experiences in the Silvretta Samnaun-Ischgl Arena, the largest ski resort in the eastern Alps. Experience 238 kilometres of pistes around Alp Trida and Idalp, spectacular views and the hospitality of the Swiss canton of Graubünden.