Top 10 reasons to visit Basel
With Switzerland, France and Germany meeting at this bend in the Rhine, Basel is a city with a unique advantage. Situated in the centre of Europe, the city is international, multi-lingual, and saturated in culture. Switzerland’s third largest city is a rising star for city-break destinations.
1. Enjoy the Rhine
Flowing directly through the city, the Rhine is at the heart of Basel culture. Enjoy Rhine boat cruises throughout the year. For a mini-Basel adventure head to one of the old-fashioned jetties and cross the river by hopping on one of the ferries - they cross the Rhine using the current as power, a single oar for steering, and an overhead cable to stay on course! In the summer, bring your bathing suit and join the other river floaters, then soak up some sun on the deck of one of the several “Badhysli” or bathhouses along the river bank.
2. World class events
Drawing tens of thousands of artists, collectors and dealers from around the world, Art Basel is Europe’s No. 1 International Art Fair. Set up in 1970, the brand has grown to include prestigious events in both Miami and Hong Kong.
For watch and jewellery aficionados Basel World is a must. But the gem and people watching alone will entertain most at this flashy event.
Each July the city is overtaken by impressive musical performances and parades during the renowned Basel Tattoo.
3. Dine well
Messeplatz 10 - Amazing cityscape views day and night from this 31st floor bar/club next to the Ramada Plaza.
Kornhausgasse 10 - Authentic Basel dishes brought up to speed by a creative young team. Close to all the Aldstadt sights.
Barfüsserplatz - Beer barrels line the walls of this Basel classic; enjoy Swiss home baking and expect cooked cheese.
Downtown Wielandplatz - Pitched in perfectly with the Slow Food movement – with a real community buzz. Support local growers and farmers and catch up with foodie events.
4. Sleep well
Leonhardsgraben 49 - Each room by a different Swiss designer - with seriously cool results.
Steinentorstrasse 25 - Great location close to the station and Supmarket Freie Strasse shopping, plus Spa.
St. Alban-Kirchrain 10 - A hidden gem close to the contemporary art scene. Originally a rustic water mill; now with smart designer rooms and a bustling café/bistro.
5. Impressive architecture
Local Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron have made their mark, plus Mario Botta and Diener & Diener, Richard Meier and Shard-maker Renzo Piano. Industrial Basel had the finance, space and vision to develop its property-capital. Today, bricks and beton brut mark out an incredible skyline. Pick up the Architecture Guide from Basel Tourism at Barfüsserplatz.
6. Fasnacht carnival
Party like a Swiss at Basel’s Fasnacht celebration. This famous three-day winter extravaganza is a non-stop carnival that blows away the cobwebs with music, masks and marching. Starting at 4am Basel beats the drums and parties for 72 hours. It’s crazy and it’s noisy – but the atmosphere’s unique.
7. Top-notch museums
Home to the largest public art collection in Switzerland, Basel’s Kunstmuseum has recently added a dynamic new riverside wing by local architects Christ & Gantenbein.
Renzo Piano created the famous Fondation Beyeler, an elegant, low profile building in a glorious Zen-like garden on the edge of Basel. With an exceptional line-up of Picassos, Cézannes, Rothkos and Légers, this is the collection of billionaire Swiss art dealer Ernst Beyeler.
For more head-turning commissions hop on Tram 8 to the Vitra Design Museum, in nearby Weil am Rhein. This huge campus is still a fully-functioning factory, producing exclusive designs in furniture, lighting and interiors from the archives of Ray and Charles Eames, Verner Panton, Alexander Girard, Anton Lorenz and George Nelson. But it also curates and exhibits – presenting some 7,000-plus “key objects of design history”.
8. Family friendly
Museum Tinguely will be a hit with the kids, as who can resist the clanking, turning, whizzing and whirring of these loud and colourful machine sculptures? Again a designer building by Swiss architect Mario Botta, there’s wit, high art and clever gearing at work here – with buttons to press that set a playful movement into life.
The record-breaking ToyWorlds Museum or Spielzeug Welten has a collection of 6,000-plus Teds, dolls, toys and miniatures strapped into racing cars, playing in the park and relaxing in dolls houses. There are ancient toys, rare items and the largest collection of bears worldwide – including a Ted from 1904! Don’t miss the show-stopping display windows either – even the busiest shoppers stop and stare!
Open in 1874, Basel Zoo, or “zolli” to locals, is Switzerland’s oldest and largest zoo. The impressive complex has undergone several renovations, with a state of the art aquarium coming in 2019.
9. Green spaces
Take a break from city traipsing for a visit to the beautiful Botanical Gardens of the University of Basel, near to the main station and the zoo. Another choice for botanical lovers is the marvellous Meriangärten in the St. Jakobs district, which includes several gardens, a farm, museum, and restaurants.
10. International hub
Arriving in Basel is a breeze. The international Euro Airport offers connections to all major European cities. Likewise, if train travel is your preference, you’re sure to find the connection you need at the well-connected main station.