Located on the river Rhine where Germany, France and Switzerland meet, Basel is a bi-lingual city with over 2,000 years of history.
Perhaps most famous for its arts scene, Basel has also created a contemporary edge as the host of Art Basel, held annually in June.
Considered the cultural heart of Switzerland, Basel has 40 museums, which is a huge number in comparison to the size of the city. The Kunstmuseum, originally built in 1936 is one of the great classical art galleries in the world. After a three-year project to extend the museum, the new gallery opened in 2016. According to the Financial Times it is “simply one of the best new museums of recent years.”
For those with a deep interest in design and art the Vitra Design Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, should be a priority. Located on the Vitra Campus, (technically just on the opposite side of the Swiss/German border), it is an extraordinary ensemble of contemporary architecture from 1981 -2011. It is quite easy to spend an entire day here.
One of the highlights of Basel’s old town is Mittlere Brücke (Middle Bridge). The oldest crossing on the Rhine, a bridge has been here since 1226! The current structure was built at the turn of the last century. The bridge connects the old town to the ‘lesser town’ Kleinbasel, which has transformed itself in recent years from a rather run-down and unattractive area to the creative heart of the city. Packed full of independent stores, restaurants and wine-bars, the area has flourished. Don’t miss the collective of independent boutiques.
For those that want to experience some high-octane adventure, or simply relax and enjoy the stunning views, Interlaken is not to be missed. Located a short distance from Basel, and surrounded by the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, and Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, Interlaken could not be more picturesque. The scenery is jaw dropping both in summer and in winter and there are countless activities for every level of fitness. If you want to enjoy mountains, lakes, nature and alpine air, even just a day trip to Interlaken is a must.
Basel hosts several festivals a year, the most famous being Art Basel in June. Like Geneva, Lucerne and Zurich, Basel is a year-round city. Enjoy outdoor café life and the Rhine in the summer months or the charm and romance of a medieval city in winter. Most museums are closed on Monday and many stores are closed on Sunday. Basel `Fasnacht´ – a three day carnival that falls after Ash Wednesday, is a popular annual event with parades, parties and a unique atmosphere. Go to experience drums, pipes and colorful costumes and masks.
Our team of travel experts can customize a unique program for you based on your exact preferences and interests. We suggest you allow a minimum of two nights in Basel.
If you are on a Rhine river cruise, chances are you may be embarking or disembarking in Basel. We can arrange a private pre/post cruise extension with your own Exeter hand-picked private guide to experience the city and surrounding countryside has to offer, before or after your cruise. Our private pre or post cruise extensions ensure that you’ll receive not only the best experience possible, but personalized service throughout, allowing you to maximize your time in the city. Why not extend beyond Basel to include Lucerne and Zurich, too!
This being the cultural capital of Switzerland, our unmissable pick for Basel had to be an art museum. If you only have time for one it should be the incredible Renzo Piano designed Fondation Beyeler. Intimate and low level, the museum is idyllically located in the Berower Park on the edge of the city. A small collection of 250 works, the permanent collection has been called ‘essential edit of modern art’s masterpieces.’ Sculptures are dotted around outside close to the lily pond, and inside you will find works by Monet, Bacon and Picasso.
Basel is certainly a foodie city with 11 Michelin starred restaurants, including one three star. You will be spoilt by choices. However, you want something perfectly Swiss, Walliser Kanne is a great place to enjoy Fondue, Raclette and, our favorite, Wiener Schnitzel prepared at your table! It is also open every day from 11:30am to 12:00am, so the perfect place for all day dining. For something completely different try dinner at Bottmingen Castle, a baroque mansion surrounded by water, a truly an unforgettable experience.
Every Saturday there is a craft market in Petersplatz. This is the ideal place to find unique reminders of your Swiss travels. At Christmastime the main Christmas market is in the old town at Barfüsserplatz. Basel also has the wonderful Läckerli-Huus confectioner that started in Basel in 1904 and became famous for crème caramels. Visit one of the three stores in Basel for the ideal sweet gift.