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.
Candle Dipping Basics
Many candle dipping centers are managed by community volunteers and are mostly self-service. First, you pick a wick width and length depending on how big you want to make your candle. There are diagrams of the corresponding candle width for reference.
Beeswax (aka Bienenwachs) and parafin wax are treated differently and cannot be mixed on the same candle. For beeswax, you can only dip in beeswax and it must air dry between dips. For paraffin wax, you can dip a single candle in a variety of colors, creating designs, and you can cool the candle in water between dips, speeding up the process.
The basic dipping process is pretty simple. Hold your wick by the loop at the top and dip into the wax and remove slowly. Don’t leave the candle in too long or it will melt the previous layers.
Then the candle needs to cool briefly before redipping, so the wax can cling to the next layer. At some tents, the children parade outside in the cold to help the candle cool faster.
For paraffin wax, you can cool the candle between wax dips by dipping the candle in cold water then lightly drying the candle with a towel. This makes the whole dipping process go much faster, which helps with impatient kids. This method is provided at some candle dipping locations but not all.
Plan for about 30 to 60 mins to complete a candle. Candles are charged by weight, about CHF 3 to 4.50 per 100g, beeswax is more expensive. An average-sized candle ends up costing about CHF 5 but can easily get up to CHF 20+ the longer you dip.
Many locations offer a candle locker, so you can store the candle and return later to finish and pay for it. You typically pay a small depot fee to store your candle, which can be applied to the candle purchase later.
Some places provide old shirts to wear to avoid getting wax on your clothes, but some kids come out with wax splattered on their pants and shoes, so be prepared.
Kids can dip on their own with supervision starting around 4 years old, but I’ve seen much smaller kids do it with help.
Candles are charged by weight, about CHF 3 to 4.80 per 100g. An average-sized candle ends up costing about CHF 5 but can easily get up to CHF 20 or more the longer you dip.
Where to go
This helpful website has a list of all candle dipping locations in Zurich, including many community centers, aka “GZ” or “Gemeindezentrum.”
The Bürkliplatz Kerzenziehen tent is particularly charming, with lots of cosy dipping corners and an attached cafe. They only offer beeswax, which is smells nice but takes much longer to not quite as fun for the kids as dipping in lots of different colors. They offer a candle locker so you can store the candle and come back later to finish it. They are open daily 10:00 to 20:00. See website for details.
Beeswax candles at Bürkliplatz.
The Riesbach community center in Seefeld offers colored paraffin wax, which is more fun for the kids. Open afternoons and evenings Wed – Fri and Sat mornings. Seefeldstrasse 93, 8008 Zürich. See website for details.
Kerzenwerk in Wiedikon offers regular candle dipping as well as candle making workshops and fancier options. Open Wed-Sun 14:00 to 19:00. Räffelstrasse 10 8045 Zürich. See website for details.
Quartier Treff Enge offers both beeswax and multicolored paraffin wax. Open afternoons Sun – Fri from 15:00 to 18:00. Gablerstrasse 20 8002 Zürich. The adjacent cafe and playground offer a nice break from the candle tent. See website for details.
When doing a striped candle, dip the candle in white before doing the next color. This makes each color pop.
When you are doing with your candle, they will cut off the bottom of your candle to make it flat. But you still pay for that wax. So it worth it to periodically push on the bottom of the candle while dipping, so you don’t have a long unusable section that gets cut off at the end.
To get the spiral candle, dip a straight candle first, then dip another wick until is a few mm thick. While warm, wrap the second candle around the first then dip in wax to glue it together. You can keep dipping or leave it as is.
This is the most difficult aspect of candle making. These hand made candles can be tall and unwieldy. I tried many methods of securing them to candle holders, including playdough, tinfoil, and toothpicks. The best method is filling old glass jars full of rice and sticking the candle in. It keeps the candle upright and also provides a wide base for catching wax drips.