A cultural powerhouse set in picturesque surroundings on the Rhine, city breaks in Basel offer access to one of Switzerland’s most popular cities. Home to medieval buildings, avant-garde museums and an unforgettable winter carnival, Basel offers a rich history and a warm local welcome. Located in the northwest of Switzerland at the intersection of the Swiss, French and German borders, Basel has a unique overlap of different European cultures.
Basel has a history that reaches as far back as the Roman period, and this long heritage means that there are plenty of historical landmarks to uncover during your stay. The majority of these buildings are based in the Old Town, an area that roughly stretches between Basel Zoo and the Rhine. The first site to see here is Basler Münster, an impressive church that was built between 1019 and 1500 in Romanesque and Gothic styles. Things to look out for when vising the Münster include the Gallus Portal and the South Façade – both fine examples of Romanesque architecture. You could very happily spend a long time wandering around the Old Town, from Marktplatz to the Theaterplatz with its strange-looking scrap metal fountains.
With such a rich heritage you’d think that Basel would be content to rest on its laurels, but this dynamic city is one of the centres of contemporary art and design. The Kunstmuseum holds a spectacular collection of Impressionistic and Modernist artworks, as well as Medieval and Renaissance works by artists such as Hans Holbein the Younger. The Museum Jean Tinguely showcases ‘kinetic’ work by the Swiss artists and is an excellent choice if you’re travelling with kids in tow, while the nearby Frank Gehry-designed Vitra Design Museum is a must-see for architecture enthusiasts. Basel is also home to one of the leading events in the contemporary art world, Art Basel.
Another very popular attraction is Basel Zoo, the largest zoo in Switzerland and a great place to spend a few hours watching everything from elephants to monkeys. If the weather is nice you should also spend some time strolling beside the Rhine. There are a number of boat cruises up and down the Rhine, which helpfully point out areas of interest that you might want to visit later on. After a peaceful amble along the river, make your way to Barfüsserplatz to explore the surrounding network of lanes and shops selling local snacks.
Each year following Ash Wednesday, Basel is home to the 72-hour Fasnacht carnival. During this time there are processions and parades, where you’ll find crowds of people dressed up in elaborate costumes. And the party atmosphere isn’t only limited to the carnival – throughout the year Basel boasts an exceptional nightlife, whether you want drinks and river views in Chill am Rhy, upscale cocktails at Campari Bar or live music at Cargo Bar. Both night and day, Basel is an excellent choice for a city break.