Basel is living, breathing, history all wrapped up in a mini but mighty Switzerland metropolis. The city dates back over two thousand years, and history seeps from every nook and cranny. The romantic and well preserved old town is filled with lots of narrow streets and hidden squares. There are over one hundred and eighty fountains sprinkled throughout the old town, and they carry the same charm as the centuries-old buildings that surround them.
Basel is a place where history meets the present day, and the modern face of the city offers an exciting contrast to the beating heart of the past. The Rhine flows through the centre and has been a contributing factor to the growth of the area. Modern-day Basel is an important travel and trade hub and is home to some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical giants.
Its position at the junction of the Swiss, German and French border gives it a vibrant and multicultural appeal. The charm of walking along the Rhine among brightly coloured, quaint old houses and cobbled streets brings visitors from all over the world. This, coupled with the short cross of a bridge into contemporary Little Basel with boutique shopping and alfresco riverside dining, give this city the complete destination package.
Things to do in Basel
On a trip to the city, you have to take in the Basel Munster. The Munster is a twin-towered gothic cathedral that is still in use today as a place of worship. When visiting the Munster, be sure to be respectful of any services taking place while you’re there. You can climb to the top of the towers for a great lookout view or sit in the gardens and take in the glory of the Rhine.
You can’t visit Basel without checking out the Rathaus. This may seem like an oddly named visitor attraction, but we can assure you it is nothing to do with rats. The Rathaus is the Parliament building and was built in 1509. Not only is this a historical and attractive building, but it is also a bright and beautifully coloured piece of architecture and very instagrammable. The town square in front of the Rathaus holds craft fairs and farmers markets throughout the year, and you should be able to pick up some exciting food or unique gifts to take home.
Museums and galleries
Basel is bursting with museums and art galleries that celebrate its history, twenty-five of them in fact. The Jean Tinguely museum plays host to an array of crazy moving sculpture contraptions. If you are unsure if you will like Tinguely, you can get a preview of his work by visiting the Tinguely Fountain and deciding from there. His art is fun and not in the least bit pretentious, so even if you aren’t a traditional art lover, Tinguely might be for you.
The Beyeler Art Foundation is well worth a visit. You can take a tram out through leafy green suburbs and pass old houses and parks en route to your final destination. This is a small and well-curated collection of work and holds pieces by Van Gough, Bacon and Jackson Pollock. The building is a small affair and a chance to see important works in an intimate space.
There are so many museums you won’t get through them all, but our recommendations include the Old Paper Mill Museum, housed in a medieval mill covering everything from hand printing to finished books. We also love the cartoon museum and the pharmaceutical museum.
One of the most incredible things about a city on the Rhine is sitting by the river and enjoying the view. On the East Banks in Basel near the Mittlere Brucke Bridge, you will find deep steps that lead down to the river’s edge. The steps are more like rows of seats, and you can choose to sit and look at the river, or if you visit in summer, you can jump in and have a bob along the Rhine with the locals.
Another great feature you have to take advantage of when visiting Basel is a ferry trip across the Rhine. There are four ferries in total that cross, and one of them is silent. Time seems to stand still on this short and silent crossing as the ferry is pushed solely by the current.
There are local festivals year-round in Basel, and they appeal to adults and children alike. Fasnacht is a wickedly fun festival that boasts costumes and masks alongside pipe bands and confetti. At night the city is lit only by lanterns, and late-night eating, drinking and festivities are the norm.
The Basel Fun Fair takes place around the city and is held in different squares. This usually takes place in Autumn and is great fun for adults and kids alike. Each square has its own feel. Some might be action-packed, while others feature nostalgic merry go rounds.
The world-famous Art Basel Festival features artists from across the globe. If your visit coincides with this massive art festival, you will have a chance to be exposed to lots of new artists for free. That’s pretty good going, even if you aren’t an art fan.
The lead up to Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the Christmas markets that Basel is famous for. They have everything, including stalls where you can make your own Christmas candles.
Other cool Basel things
No matter what you’re looking for in a city break, Basel has you covered. History, culture, fine dining and shopping are all on the doorstep when visiting this Swiss city. Add to that the many water fountains and beautiful scenery, and you have a perfect spot.