Basel is a city on the Rhine River in northwest Switzerland. It is close to the country’s borders with France and Germany. The medieval old town centers around Marktplatz. And is dominated by the 16th-century, red-sandstone Town Hall. Its 12th-century Gothic cathedral has city views. Plus, it contains the tomb of the 16th-century Dutch scholar, Erasmus. The city’s university houses some of Erasmus’ works.
Basel’s history dates back thousands of years to Celtic and Roman times. These are known as the middle ages. It was then that a university was built in 1460. It became the cultural hub of Switzerland. Basel remains the cultural hub today and must be a part of any Switzerland Itinerary.
About Old Town
Like many places in Europe, the Old Town is always the main tourist attraction of a city. The best way to get acquainted with the Old Town of Basel is to take a walking tour. Here you will see the world’s smallest museum – The Hoosesagg Museum (Pocket Museum). As also the hanging gardens of the Museum der Kulturen Basel (Museum of Cultures).
To really enjoy what Basel has to offer, you must explore the old town on foot. There are many fantastic sites close to each other that are easy to miss when you’re in a car or when cycling. The Basel Munster Cathedral captures the soul of the city. Its twin towers and red sandstone walls are beautiful. You’ll see the same architectural style when you visit the City Hall which must be older than 50 years. The beautiful drawings, its red façade, and the tower reflect the historical richness of Basel.
Take a Weidling Tour
One of the most unique things to do in Basel is to get on the Rhine River and do some traditional paddling. Weidling is a traditional wooden boat that dates back to the middle ages in Basel. They were used to paddle upriver using a technique called spiking.
Float on the Rhine
In the summer, you’ll be surprised to see how many locals enjoy the Rhine river to relax and have fun. If you’re a good swimmer, you should definitely take a dip in the Rhine. Doing so, use the current of the river to float downstream.
Contemporary Art Tour
A great way to find hidden art in Basel is to take an Urban Art Tour. You can see much of the hidden art in the city like the several Space Invader tiles that are scattered throughout the city. Or see some of the town’s monuments. These include the Lällekönig or “the Tongue King”. Here the king sculpture sticks out his tongue.
Drink the spring water in Fountains all through Basel (and Switzerland)
Basel has around 231 fountains with many illustrating figures such as the basilisk. The Basel Journal calls it the city of fountains. You shouldn’t worry about drinking the water in Basel or anywhere in Switzerland. It’s clean and fresh. Fun Fact: people also use the fountains as swimming pools. Did you know that a popular thing to do in Basel in the summer is to go Fountain Bathing?
The three country corner
You’d think that visiting three countries in one day would be impossible? But in Basel, it’s a daily occurrence for many residents. In fact, many people who work in Basel, live across the border in Germany or France. If you’re in Basel, you should take a trip to Dreiländereck. There you’ll find a monument indicating the intersection of Germany’s, France’s, and Switzerland’s borders along the Rhine River.
Basel Minster is the largest cathedral in Basel. It was built between 1019 and 1500. Since it took so many years to complete, it combines two styles of Roman and Gothic architectures. It’s two towers stand proud over the city. These can be seen from both sides of the River Rhine. When exploring the cathedral, make sure to go next door to see the Cloisters. The beautiful hallways of vaulted arches are a peaceful escape from the busy square.
Shopping in Basel
Spalenberg is the best shopping street in Basel. Even if you aren’t up for shopping, this street is a beautiful street to explore. It is located in Basel’s Old Town. The boutiques and galleries are scattered within historic buildings lining cobblestone streets. With buildings dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, you are truly in the heart of the old town. Keep an eye out for the signs above the shop’s windows with the dates of when the house was built.
The premier museum in Basel is the Kunstmuseum. This museum of fine arts houses permanent collections showcasing paintings from the 14th to the 20th century. You can enjoy the works of van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne or the 20th-century artists Picasso and Léger.