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.
You can take trams 4, 11, 15 or bus 32 (see sbb.ch for details) to Bucheneggplatz and walk northwest towards the forest. Or you can drive past Buchenplatz to the edge of the woods and park in the blue zone street parking along Käferholzstrasse (see maps below). The parking can get very full, but I’ve never had a problem getting a spot. The maps below show some detail about how to get there.
This map shows an overview of Zurich. The blue dots show where to park and where the hut is.
This map shows more detail. The blue dot on the right shows where to park. The blue line shows where the trail is. The blue dot on the left shows approximately where the Samichlaus hut is.
Trail to Hut
Once you get to the forest, just take whichever trail you see, as they mostly all converge on a main dirt road that lead through the forest. You’ll probably see people jogging along this road and there is a parcours course there too. There will probably be other people with kids going the same place as you. Just keep walking along this dirt road until you see the Samichlaus hut.
There is at least one wood sign along the trail/road that say “Zur Samichlaus”. It takes about 30 minutes or so with little kids. It is fine for strollers. If it’s snowy, you can bring your sled to drag your kids up the trail and sled back down. This doesn’t happen every year, but when it does, it’s super fun.
The little wood hut where Samichlaus lives is a simple affair but festively decorated. There are a couple donkeys next to the hut (don’t feed the animals) and a slightly scary helper, Schmützli. You wait in line (can be very long on weekends) until it’s your turn to go in the hut.
They squeeze in about 30 people into a very small smokey room where Samichlaus lives (shown below). Samichlaus tells a story or two to the children, usually instructive (like about brushing your teeth). He asks the children to recite a Sprüchli (a Christmas poem or song) they have memorized for the occasion. If your kids go to Swiss school, they will have learned something for this, so ask them about it before. It’s all in Swiss German, so bring your own translator if that’s important to you. When you exit the hut, you can shake hands with Samichlaus and they give you a few nuts, maybe a cookie. There is a donation box outside the hut. It’s free to visit, but they do ask for donations to help fund this event. So if you’re feeling generous, drop a few francs in the box. It’s all very rustic and very Swiss. You should definitely go at least once.
If you go in the afternoon, you’ll get a lovely view of Zurich in twilight.
You should also check with your local Gemeindehaus to see what they do. They often have Samichlaus visit the Gemeindehaus, but you probably have to sign up beforehand and pay a small fee. Or they arrange Samichlaus to visit their local forest hut. You might have to be a member of the community family club to participate, or just know the right people. Just ask around your local playground and someone will know.