Confession: I’d secretly judged those who said that they went to Heididorf in Maienfeld.
A village built after the blockbuster story of Heidi? It must be some kind of Disneyland. But on a sunny autumn day while staying at the Grand Hotel Quellenhof in Bad Ragaz, curiosity got a hold of me.
“It’s less than a 10 minute drive, after all.”
And so we ventured from our hotel across the valley towards the yellow vineyards of Bündner Herrschaft. Here in eastern Switzerland, these vineyards produce some of the best wines thanks to the abundant sun exposure.
After passing the idyllic town of Maienfeld with its narrow streets, we soon reach the parking lot for Heididorf. Located right below the Hotel Restaurant Heidihof, this is the closest you can get to the historic village if you are arriving by car. From here, it is just a brief walk to the gift shop inside Heididorf.
Welcome to the world’s only Heidi village!
First things first: we need to buy an admission ticket from the cashier. (Adults: CHF 13.90, children above five: CHF 3.90.) Mamiko is overjoyed to be on the site where the Heidi story supposedly has taken place. But at the moment, she is slightly overwhelmed by all the merchandise in the gift shop ranging from local delicacies to Heidi outfits for all ages…
Also: the smallest post office in Switzerland! If you mail a postcard from here, it will be stamped with a special Heididorf stamp. The admission provides access to the Heidiwelt Museum, the Heidi House and the mountain hut. The museum seems to be a good place to start; it is on the floor right above the gift shop.
I am fascinated by the collection of Heidi books from all over the world. The story has been translated into no less than 55 languages! Scenes from the 18 feature films add yet another layer to the amazing reach of this Swiss story. The museums also keeps the original props and costumes from the most recent Heidi film adaptation.
But above all, this is an homage to the Zürich author, Johanna Spyri, who used to visit a friend in nearby Jenins. It is said that Spyri met girl during one of those visits who would become the protagonist in her novel Heidi. 140 years later, Heidi still inspires people of all ages and backgrounds.
After the museum, knock on the doors of the original Heidi House
By now, I have amended my initial disposition: this place is nowhere close to a Disneyland! In fact, Heididorf Maienfeld is aiming to be as authentic as possible while managing the roughly 150’000 visitors per year.
Given the popularity, it is perfectly legit for the Heidi House to have a turnstile. Because what is behind the wooden entrance door is a historic artifact.
The Heidi House feels like a place where Heidi would have lived back in 1880.
There is a cellar which was used to preserve food. Upstairs at the kitchen table, Heidi and Goat Peter are busy doing homework. And on the top floor, there is Heidi’s bedroom featuring simple wooden furniture. Low ceilings remind of people’s short stature back then.
Granted, the Ballenberg Outdoor Museum in Brienz may be the most comprehensive place to experience Switzerland’s history.
But the Heididorf is right up there with Ballenberg as it has lots of artifacts and explanations for those who want to learn about life back in the day. I especially appreciated the many details – I could swear people are still living here today!
Grandfather’s mountain hut
Before you leave, make sure to walk up the trail to the farm house. Inside this typical Swiss mountain hut, you will find even more clues to how someone might have lived during Heidi’s times.
There is a kitchen with an open-fire stove and a pantry with various baskets containing mock foods.
And if you go upstairs and stick your head out the center window, you might just have a Heidi moment!
Check the Heididorf event calendar but most every Sunday, there are live demonstrations of typical Swiss handicraft. From wood carving to basket weaving, the professionals will usually allow visitors to get hands-on. So you may walk away with your very own souvenir – handmade in Maienfeld.
As it turns out, you do not need to be a Heidi fanatic in order to enjoy this place. I had a great time tracing the footsteps of Heidi, meanwhile learning a lot about Swiss traditions.
What’s new at Heididorf Maienfeld in 2020?
When we visited Heididorf in autumn 2019, we were told that this spring will bring a new attraction: a historic town hall. Located right in the heart of the Heidi village in Maienfeld, the new building will house several exhibits.
In the story, Johanna Spyri’s character not only attends private classes in Frankfurt, but Heidi also went to a regular school in the village where her grandfather lived. As it was common in Switzerland in the 19th century, classrooms were located inside the town hall. The same was true for Maienfeld and Johanna Spyri placed Heidi in this very classroom.
As with most exhibits at Heididorf Maienfeld, the historic classroom, too, will teach visitors something interesting about Switzerland’s past: what was education like in the 1880’s? And how did Switzerland’s education system develop?
Finally, there will be an herb room inside the town hall. Alpine pastures such as the one where Heidi stayed are filled with precious plants and herbs. But since our grandparents’ generation, we have largely lost the wisdom of how to use these herbs for health and healing purposes. Inside the herb room, we can expect displays explaining the various benefits of common plants. We will update this post with more intel once we have visited the new attractions…
Open daily from March 14 to November 15, 10 AM to 5 PM.
Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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