Basel is the cradle of higher education in Switzerland.
The first university in the country was founded here in 1460 by Pope Pius II. Over the course of centuries as many scholars came to the city, Basel developed into an early center of book printing and humanism. During the same period, the Basel University Library was founded. With more than three million books and writings, it is the largest and among the most important libraries in the country today.
The city lies along the Rhine River, at the mouths of the Birs and Wiese rivers. Basel is located at the exact spot where the Swiss, German and French borders meet – at the gates to the Swiss Rhineland.
The Rhine divides the city into two parts which are connected by six bridges. Kleinbasel is on the right side of the river bank and is the Rhine port and industrial section. On the other side, there is Grossbasel, the older commercial and cultural center.
Dominated by the Romanesque and Gothic-style cathedrals and with the town hall from the 14th century around the market square, Grossbasel is the actual center of Basel.
Except with your private car, you can arrive at Basel by plane, bus or a train, depending on your starting point. The interesting thing is that Basel Airport is located in France and is run by both countries. However, it is the third busiest Swiss airport with over 6 million passengers a year, right after Zurich and Geneva.
The other interesting thing about Basel is that the main spoken language is the Swiss variety of Standard German, although it borders with France too. But there’s still an interesting mix of both German and French going on that’ll strain your comprehension. If you want to practice either of the languages or both, Basel is the perfect place to go.
Vacations and holidays are approaching. Perfect holidays combine chilling at the beach, drinking cocktails and soaking up the culture and the spirit of the place. By providing both, Basel makes a perfect destination.
Before you even arrive in Switzerland, make an arrangement and hire a limousine in Basel, or Geneva, to pick you up right at the airport, and enjoy your itinerary.
Basel’s intriguing architecture
You can learn much about the development of the city by looking at and admiring the beauty of its buildings.
On one side, there is the Old Town of Basel in which streets the history is written. On the other, there is a combination of authentic Swiss style and quality and a multicultural population which make it unmistakably cosmopolitan and innovative.
Wandering around Basel’s Old Town is such a pleasure. There are still three of the original 14th-century gates, winding lanes and well preserved medieval buildings.
Many of those have been turned into exclusive boutiques and romantic restaurants. Some of the buildings that proudly stand out are the curiously red Rathaus (town hall) and the Basel Cathedral. You will be puzzled by the decorations of the Town Hall’s inner courtyard.
The Cathedral is mainly medieval gothic, but there are still remains of its original 9th-century church. Ascend the Cathedral tower for a spectacular view. For the most instagramable view of the Cathedral, head to the Pfalz, a terrace that overlooks the Rhine river.
Many other spectacular buildings designed by renowned architects stand as a fascinating contrast to the historic and picturesque Old Town.
Take a tour around the city and admire the view of architectural masterpieces by luminaries such as Mario Botta, Frank O. Gehry, and Herzog & de Meuron. Don’t miss to visit the hardest-working of all of Basel’s inhabitants – the Hammering Man on Aeschenplatz.
Remember to bring a reusable water bottle to refill with the clean and fresh water flowing in the almost 250 fountains around the town. Tourists’ favorite is the basilisk fountains resembling a reptile-like animal, a symbol of the city.
Basel – the cultural capital of Switzerland
Baslers love art. In 1967, they voted to buy some of Picasso’s paintings. The famous artist was so touched by this act that he donated three other of his works to the city.
Basel is the home of Art Basel, the most important contemporary art fair in the world. Basel can be a proud city for boasting 40 museums. But you won’t only find art museums in Basel. With various subjects and world-renowned special exhibitions, there is something for every taste:
- Natural History Museum with over 7.7 million items covering zoology, entomology, palaeontology and more,
- Museum der Kulturen Basel, one of the most important ethnological collections in Europe, with an impressive 300,000 artefact pieces,
- Cartoonmuseum Basel, a museum devoted to the art form of satirical cartooning,
- Basel Paper Mill Museum, otherwise known as the Swiss Museum for Paper, Writing and Printing, the highly interactive museum where you can try your hand at making paper,
- Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel, with over 6,000 teddy bears, dolls, toy trains, and miniature figurines,
- Pharmazie-Historisches Museum hosts one of the world’s largest collections of pharmaceutical products.
Even if you are not a massive art-o-phile, visit the Fondation Beyeler. The founders of this beautifully designed landmark had a wish for it to be an open, active museum that would inspire an appreciation for art in a wide audience. Placed in a beautiful garden, the space is intimate and very well curated. The museum promotes both cultural education and interpersonal encounters and is considered one of the finest in the world.
Basel is also home to some of the largest and most eclectic theatres in the country. The most popular ones are The Theatre Basel and The Musical Theatre Basel, covering all the bases with opera, drama, ballet, colorful stage-productions and modern takes on old shows taking to the stage and awing audiences on a regular basis.
Indulge in enjoyable leisure time
The climate in Basel is temperate so it boasts around 300 days of sunshine a year. This makes a great place for summer vacation, but even outside of summer you are likely to get a bit of sun.
To escape the heat, go the banks of the Rhine River. You will see plenty of people swimming in its waters. Other activities include kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. There are also ferries, water taxis and cruises transporting passengers from one side of the river to the other – using nothing more than natural power.
The boats, which are attached to a cable, are pulled across the water using the swift flow of the river. The short ride, which has been operating the same way for the past 150 years, is one of the fun things to do in Basel.
The country boundaries meet in the middle of the river, so standing in all three countries at once is impossible. However, from the Dreilandereck (3 Countries Monument), it is possible to be in all three countries at the same time. Start in Switzerland, walk north into Germany and then cross the bridge into France.
You won’t make a mistake if you choose Basel as your honeymoon destination either. Basel offers local and international cuisine in beautiful and peaceful surroundings. Take your beloved one to some of its lovely places and discover the perfection of luxury and romantic ambiance.
To enjoy a birds-eye view of Basel, go to the top floor of the Messeturm tower in the chic contemporary Bar Rouge. Mingle with the hipster crowd on the dance floor, chill out on the luxurious lounges, or throw a private party that no-one will forget.
Then, rest in your honeymoon suite in some of its prestigious hotels with fascinating wellness centers refined with saunas, thermal baths, massages, and other relaxing treatments.
Christmas time in Basel
During the festive season, the famous Freie Strasse in Basel becomes one of longest displays of decorations in Europe, creating a truly magical experience. The city is illuminated by fairy lights and its streets are lined with over 100 Christmas trees. Basel’s incredibly popular Christmas market is nestled in the charming Old Town and spread on over two squares.
The market extends from Barfüsserplatz up to the historic cathedral on Münsterplatz and offers everything the heart desires. Festive decorations, towering Christmas trees and around 180 wooden, rustic chalets will take you to a winter paradise.
Dealers sell their regional, diverse products and culinary delights, including waffles, mulled wine, roasted almonds, Swiss raclette, and salmon. While you are there, check out Claraplatz where seasonally decorated catering stands spoil guests with tasty delights.
Besides food and Christmas decorations, you can purchase handmade candles, leather goods, hats, souvenirs, toys, and other handcrafts.
In addition to the Christmas markets, most shops have decorated shop windows while streets have special Christmas lighting too. Tall Christmas trees can be found in many public squares with particularly large ones inside the red Rathaus courtyard and in front of the Basel Cathedral. Christmas in Basel is a unique experience that should not be missed.
As the Christmas season opens at the end of November, you can also hire a limousine in Basel and visit Bern or Geneva to experience the way they celebrate this great Christian holiday. But come back to Basel for New Year’s Eve, as it is a bit different than in other places. The bars are open late and there are lots of open parties throughout the city with plenty of people dancing.
There are also fancy bars and restaurants which have to be booked in advance as they are pretty popular. They usually serve menu dinner and a buffet with a party.
There is a large fireworks display launched from barges on the Rhine in Basel. However, it starts around 23:30, half an hour or so before the year ticks over. Wear something warm and enjoy the spectacle.