Finding Christmas Trees in Zurich

Find your perfect Christmas tree in Zurich Switzerland, maybe even cut your own tree down in the city forests.

Do you have a special place to get your tree? Christmas trees are not hard to find but there are a few fun places to get your tree in the Zurich area. Zurich has three forests where you can buy locally grown trees and even has two days where you can cut down your own tree. We also like visiting a Christmas tree farm in the countryside, wandering through the large forest of trees searching for a perfect one, then cutting down a live one to take home. Here are some resources for all your Christmas tree needs.

Candle Dipping 101


Making hand-dipped candles is a time-honored tradition in Zürich. Most Christmas markets and many community centers host a candle-making tent during November and December, usually with beeswax and sometimes a variety of paraffin colors. Read on for tips on candle dipping and locations in Zurich.

Christmas in Zurich with kids



Christmas is just around the corner and Christmas stuff starts early in Zurich. I don't want you to miss any of it! So here's a little overview of fun Christmas things in Zurich for kids:

Samichlaus Parade on Bahnhofstrasse


First Advent Sunday 5pm on Bahnhofstrasse. This is a big parade with hundreds of Santas and Santa helpers marching along the Bahnhofstrasse, with lots of floats and marching bands. Get there a little early to get a good spot; we usually set up near Paradeplatz. Dress super warm and bring some snacks. The Santas hand out Lebkuchen to the kids. Website.



Visit Samichlaus in the woods


Samichlaus is the German Swiss version of Santa Claus. Your kids will see a lot of Samichlaus in the first week of December. He usually visits the Kindergartens. Some community centers (Gemeindehaus) have him visit, but you must sign up beforehand and pay a small fee. Some Swiss hire a Samichlaus to visit their home and give personal scoldings. You can also visit Samichlaus in woods at various locations.

In Zurich, Samichlaus is always at the waldhut (forest house) in the Chäferbergwald near Buchenggplatz during the first week of December and it's free to visit. In 2016, he'll be there from Fri 2 Dec to Wed 7 Dec from 10:00 to 16:00. See their website here.

See my post with more details about Samichlaus in woods.



Märlitram (aka Samichlaus story tram)


For most of December, the Jelmoli Märlitram drives kids around town while Santa and his angel helpers tell stories to children. My son went for the first time when he was 5 years old and it was pure magic. Children from 4 to 10 years old may go, not accompanied by parents. The ride starts at Bellevue and lasts about 20 mins. Rides start about every 25 mins starting at 13:35 until 19:00.

You can buy tickets at Jelmoli (usually the top floor near the restaurant) one week before you want to ride. This is a hot ticket, so go early in the morning to get your tickets before they sell out. They also have a booth by the tram stop to buy last minute tickets for anything unsold for that day. See website for details.



Photos with Santa


(From my trusted friend Kim) The American Women's Club of Zurich does a great visit with Santa for the kids. Each year it gets better but in 2010 the kids could color and do a craft before meeting with Santa. Santa was VERY patient, listened closely to EACH child and asked several questions which meant the line could get long but my 6-year-old loved it. The bake sale is nice and they usually have a small craft market as well.

In 2016, this will happen on Sunday 4 December. See the AWCZ website for details.



Dec 6 - St. Nicholas day


In Switzerland, Samichlaus visits children on Dec 6, not on Christmas Eve (the Christ Child brings presents on Christmas). I've heard different stories from different people. But in general, on the night of Dec 5, children leave shoes outside their door. The morning of Dec 6, they'll find a canvas bag with peanuts, oranges, little cookies, Lebkuchen with Santa decal, and a Grittzbänz (bread man, see below). Migros and other shops sell the bags filled and empty to make it really easy for St. Nicholas to do his job. Many of my expat friends have embraced this tradition and have Samichlaus visit on Dec 6 and Santa visit on Dec 24. At my house, Santa still comes on Christmas Eve and doesn't visit on Dec 6. So far, my 7YO and 3YO haven't complained. I told them that I wrote Santa and told him we'd prefer him to come on Dec 24.

> More about St. Nicholas in Switzerland (German only).
> More about St. Nicholas around the world and Switzerland (in English) and ideas about how to celebrate.

Kerzenziehen - Making candles


Making hand-dipped candles is a time-honored tradition in Zürich. Most Christmas markets and many community centers host a candle-making tent during November and December, usually with beeswax and sometimes a variety of paraffin colors.

This helpful website has a list of all candle dipping locations in Zurich. The Bürkliplatz Kerzenziehen is particularly charming, with lots of cosy dipping corners and an attached cafe. The Riesbach community center in Seefeld offers colored paraffin wax, which is more fun for the kids. See my full post on Candle Dipping 101 for more locations and tips.



Singing Christmas tree


Starting at the end of November, the Singing Christmas Tree shows up on Werdmühleplatz in Zürich, off the Bahnhofstrasse opposite of Globus. It is a set of risers decorated to look like a big Christmas tree, so the performers can stand in the tree. There is a musical program almost every evening at 5:30 and 6:30, often from local school or singing groups (not particularly professional). See their online program here. There are some food booths near Singing Christmas Tree, selling wurst, glühwein, raclette, etc. We go at least once a year and then go get hot chocolate at a nearby cafe.



Diorama Bethlehem in Einsiedeln


Diorama Bethlehem is advertized as the "largest nativity scene in the world" with "over 450 wood-carved figures wearing oriental costumes in a realistic reproduction of the environs of Bethlehem." It's just one room, with an enormous diorama depicting various aspects of the Christmas story with an accompanying commentary (in English). I think it's a bit expensive (5.50CHF/adult, 2.50CHF/child), but my kids and I kinda liked it. You will only spend 15 minutes or so inside so I'd combine this with a visit to the Einsiedeln Christmas market, Kloster and the Lebkuchen museum.

Diorama Bethlehem, Benzigerstrasse 23, CH-8840 Einsiedeln, Switzerland


pic from their website

Christmas Markets


You'll find Christmas Markets all over europe, some much better than others. Zurich's main markets are the Wienachtdorf Market at Sechseläutenplatz near the Opera house and the Christkindli Market at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof.

Some markets open as early as the last weekend of November and continue through Christmas Eve. Some only run one weekend during December. So make sure check info online for whichever Christmas market you choose.

The Zurich markets are fine, but not nearly as charming as some farther afield and across the border.
I'd recommend Basel or Strasbourg or Colmar in the Alsace region. Besides being impossibly cute, I thought these markets had more for kids and more handcrafted products that other markets. I'll post soon, detailing all the Christmas markets I've visited, in and outside Switzerland.



Lichterschwimmen


This event usually happens in the third week of December. Primary school children float hundreds of little candles down the Limmat river, starting near the Ratbrücke. For 2016, it's scheduled for 22 Dec at 18:00. More info at www.zuerich.com



Silvesterlauf


I haven't done this myself but my friends have and really enjoyed it. This "new years" run happens every year in Zurich in mid-December. The course is fairly short and they have several categories for children and families. Most race times are in the late afternoon and evening, so you get to run through the streets of Zurich lit up by all the Christmas lights.

In 2016, this run happens on Sunday 11 December. Get information here.

Ice Skating at Landesmuseum




During winter, the Landesmuseum has a free ice skating rink that's lit up with festive lights. I finally went there in 2011 and it was more fun than I expected. It's a very small rink and it can get very crowded. But it's very charming with the castle walls surrounding the rink. At night, it's all lit up with snowflake designs projected on the walls, as shown in my pic above. They have skates to rent (8CHF for 1.5hr), but the "rutscherlis" (two-blade strap-on skates) are only for sale (35CHF). They rent pengiuns as skating stablizers (8CHF/hr), but they are so popular that we had to wait about 30 mins to get one. We had to carefully watch for someone who was just finishing and immediately ask to use theirs after they got their depot back. Maybe I'll do a longer post later but for now, you can get more information on their website.

More fun places to ice skate in Zurich...

Cutting down your own tree


(From my trusted friend Kim) If you can wait until late December to get your tree then I highly recommend going into a city forest and picking out your own. There are only two dates to cut down your own tree so it can be busy. Saws are provided and staff will wrap your tree in a net so you can easily carry it home on the tram like we did. There's a grill with sausages for sale as well as glühwein and hot drinks. If there's snow like last year, bring a sled to drag your tree on. This is by far one of our favorite things to do as a family. We go to the Albisgütli forest and this year you can cut your tree on Dec. 18 from 11-16:00. You can also cut down your own tree in Hönggerberg on Dec. 17 from 11-16:00.

More info about where and when to cut down your own tree on stadt-zuerich.ch.




Visiting Samichlaus in Zurich Woods




In Zurich, Samichlaus is always at the Waldhut, aka forest house, in the Chäferbergwald near Buchenggplatz during the first week of December and it's free to visit. In 2016, he'll be there from Fri 2 Dec to Wed 7 Dec from 10:00 to 16:00. See their website for more info.

Children and parents can sit inside the hut and listen to stories and advice in Swiss German from Samichlaus. Prepared children can recite traditional poems and get a nod of approval, and perhaps a few nuts or a cookie as a treat. They can pet the donkeys and meet Schmützli. It's very Swiss and a fun Christmas tradition to participate in while living in Switzerland.

We've been to this hut many times since 2005. Here's how to get there and what to expect.

Our Favorite Christmas Markets

There are hundreds of Christmas markets around Europe and everyone has their favorite. We try to visit a different one each year, giving us an excuse to visit a new city and see something new. Honestly, many markets have the same stands selling the same Made in China junk. But some have local crafts, special food, musical events, activities for children, and seasonal displays which are worth seeking out. Here are some of the Christmas markets we've enjoyed over the years, all within a day trip distance of Zurich.

Toy shopping in Germany - How to Guide


This sugary sweet advent calendar was brought to you by Germany's affordable VAT-free shopping. Each bag of mini-candies: ~1-3EUR. The advent sock chain: ~12EUR. Checking one item off my Christmas to-do list: priceless.

After six years in Switzerland, I finally did my first shopping trip to Germany in Dec 2011, processing the VAT refund and everything. It was awesome! I did a bunch of my Christmas shopping there and it made me so happy to buy more for less. Plus there is a different/better selection than in Switzerland. Since then, I've gone back many times and gained a little experience. Keep reading for tips on where to go and how to process your VAT refund.

Grittibänz - Christmas bread man



As you may know, Samichlaus visits children either in person Dec 5th (reserve early!) or leaves them a little bag of goodies to be discovered the morning of Dec 6. Usually we just visit him in the woods, but last year Samichlaus brought goodies for my children on Dec 6, including super delicious hand made Grittibänz. Oh, those elves are such good bakers and so creative with their designs :)

Every bakery and grocery around town has their own Grittibänz style and it's fun to go on a little Grittibänz tour to see the variety. But it's also fun to make your own, which often morph into simply bread monsters or lumps of dough covered in sugar. So I'm including a super easy recipe to get you started.

Gifting Experiences: Theater and Music for Kids in Zurich


watching a professional performance can inspire your kids in their own theatrical endeavors

After the holidays, I like to have some exciting activities lined up to counter the after-Christmas blues. Last year I started the tradition of taking the kids to the theater a few days after Christmas. My mother took me to the Nutcracker every year. But they don't always do the Nutcracker in Zurich and I have boys who are not so interested in tutus. So I had to make some adjustments and I think it's a good compromise. Here is a summary of a few of my experiences.

Zurich City Walk: Wehrenbach Ravine

Forest walk by a river in the middle of Zurich, fun for kids and families. Picnic area and playground as well.

A neighborhood friend led my son's school class on this strange city walk that included two extremes: strolling through a lush forest and river hidden in the middle of the city and climbing down into a water canal and walking through pitch black tunnels with a flashlight. It was so fun to see this secret side of the city. My friend assured me that this was allowed by the city but I felt slightly rebellious the whole time. I guess that adds to the excitement! The forest section is wonderful for all ages and abilities. The canal section is better for older children and those with agility. In any case, I'm sure you'll love getting to know your city a little better.

Zurich Fountains



One of my favorite things about Zurich is the 1200+ fountains with drinkable water. Since I come from the semi-desert of southern California, the free-flowing fountains are both shocking and wonderful. You probably have your neighborhood favorites, but I want to share a few ways to discover more fountains in Zurich.