Basel Tips

Basel Tips: Sights & Favorite Places

Grüezi Basel, we had no idea how beautiful you are! A picturesque old town with impressive sights, the fantastic location on the Rhine and not to forget the many great museum and architectural highlights – yes, Basel is definitely worth a visit.

The city is lively and in summer with the Rhine almost exudes a Mediterranean flair. Spoiler: You can also swim in it. Pretty cool thing.

So if you are looking for a destination for a city trip away from the classics, then off you go to Basel. In this blog article we show you the most important sights and reveal our personal tips for your trip.

1. Basel: An overview of useful information and initial travel tips

Exciting facts about Basel

  • Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland (after Zurich and Geneva). Approximately 170,000 people live here – pleasantly manageable.
  • Basel is located at the border triangle. Switzerland, Germany and France meet here. Quite curious: you can take the tram across the border without getting off or changing trains.
  • The Rhine flows through Basel. And you can actually swim in it. Rhine swimming is the name of the event where you drift down the river in summer. Later more.
  • Thanks to the high density of museums (the highest in the country, by the way), Basel is also called the “Cultural Capital of Switzerland” . And then of course there is the famous Art Basel, the world fair of the international art market.
  • And last but not least: Basel has a beautiful historic old town with narrow streets, hidden squares and some architectural highlights such as the town hall or the cathedral.

How many days should I plan for Basel?

The old town of Basel is pleasantly manageable, so that you can visit many of the most important sights in a full day. In principle, you can explore many highlights in two nights .

We ourselves were in Basel for three nights and found this time frame ideal. This way you can also take enough time for one or the other museum and not forgetting to try out many of the great restaurants. Our tips on this will of course follow in the course of this blog article.

Bucket list for Basel: You can experience this in Basel

Before we introduce you to the most important sights in Basel, we would like to give you a brief overview of what awaits you in Basel. Here is our small but fine bucket list for your trip:

  • Enjoy the view of Basel from the Münster .
  • Swimming in the Rhine: Let yourself drift downstream.
  • Stroll along the banks of Kleinbasel at sunset .
  • Explore the pretty district around the Spalenberg and its great shops.
  • Visit the renowned Kunstmuseum Basel.

2. Sights in Basel: Our tips

First, a few brief information for your orientation: The Rhine divides Basel into two parts: Großbasel (left bank) and Kleinbasel (right bank).

Most of the classic sights (e.g. the cathedral or the town hall) are located in Grossbasel. But Kleinbasel is also well worth seeing. There are many great restaurants located here and you can also enjoy what we think is the best view of Basel from this side.

Several bridges (especially the Middle Bridge) connect Greater and Lesser Basel with each other. And then there are the legendary Rhine ferries, which take you from one bank to the other solely by the power of the current.

Basel Minster, Munsterplatz & Palatinate

Let’s start at one of the most important sights in the city, the Basel Minster. It is one of Basel’s central landmarks and characterizes the cityscape like no other historic building.

The massive sacred building made of red sandstone already impresses from the outside. But you should definitely also look inside the former bishop’s church. We especially loved the cloisters.

Our tip: You can enjoy a fabulous view over Basel from the two towers of the cathedral. The narrow yet quite long climb of 250 steps is not for the claustrophobic, but it’s worth the effort. From the top you have a wonderful bird’s-eye view of the city and the Rhine.

The spacious square on which the cathedral is enthroned, the Münsterplatz, is also well worth seeing. It is lined with centuries-old canons’ houses. In summer, a gigantic open-air cinema takes place here. What a setting!

You should also not miss the viewing terrace called Pfalz at the northern end of the cathedral. From here you have a nice view of the Rhine and Kleinbasel.

Town Hall & Market Square

A second remarkable building in the old town of Basel is waiting for you on the market square. The striking town hall is enthroned here. We’ve seen many town halls around the world, but the one in Basel really catches the eye with its rust-red facade .

You should definitely make a detour to the inner courtyard . If you are interested in the history and would like to see the interior, you can also book a guided tour.

Spalenberg & Spalentor

One of the prettiest quarters in Basel’s old town is Spalenberg, which stretches around the alley of the same name. Not only beautifully decorated old town houses await you here, but also really great shops.

Here are a few specific tips for the area:

  • Interiør Butik: Fantastically beautiful living accessories in Scandinavian style.
  • Jakob’s Basler Leckerly: Here you can find the famous Basler Leckerly, which are reminiscent of gingerbread.
  • Gemsberg Fountain: A picturesque hidden fountain.
  • Andreasplatz: A romantic square with a few cafés and shops.

And last but not least, you should definitely walk a few more minutes to the Spalentor . In our opinion, this listed city gate is one of the best photo opportunities in Basel.Basel Interior Shop

middle bridge

Basel’s most beautiful and best-known bridge is the Middle Bridge. It prominently spans the Rhine and cannot be overlooked on a walk through the city.

The original bridge at the site was built in the 13th century and is therefore one of the oldest Rhine crossings. The current stone bridge dates from 1903.

In the middle of the bridge is the so-called Käppelijoch, a small Gothic chapel. It is a replica of the original Käppelijoch, where death sentences were once carried out.

Quarter St Alban

Another pretty neighborhood is St. Alban, just south of the old town. Medieval half-timbered houses, historic mills and a few canals in between – in St. Alban there is a completely different, very idyllic suburban flair.

The most famous sight in St. Alban is the Basel paper mill. In the walls of a medieval paper mill there is now a museum for paper, writing and printing. You can also try out new things yourself at the active stations and make your own paper, for example.

The St. Alban Gate, which once belonged to Basel’s city wall and is slightly elevated above the St. Alban Valley, is also worth a stopover .

3. Museums in Basel

No trip to Basel without a visit to the museum! Admittedly, on city breaks we tend to be among those who prefer to be outdoors than in a museum. But we made an exception in the cultural city of Basel.

There are around 40 museums in Basel. This means that Basel has the highest density of museums in Switzerland. And then of course there is the renowned Art Basel, the international art fair for which Basel is so famous and which is now also held in other parts of the world (eg Hong Kong or Miami).

Art Museum Basel

The Kunstmuseum Basel is one of the most famous museums in the city. At three locations (two of which are connected underground), around 4,000 paintings, sculptures and other works of art from a total of seven centuries are on display.

So if you catch a rainy day, then you’ve come to the right place. You can spend hours in the art museum – and still haven’t seen everything.

We personally were also very impressed by the architecture , both that of the old, neoclassical main building and that of the modern new building.

You can find more information here: Kunstmuseum Basel (official website)

Fondation Beyeler

The second important art museum in Basel is the Fondation Beyeler. The museum is located just outside of Basel in the small town of Riehen, but you can easily reach it by tram in about 20 minutes.

The art collection of the married couple Hildy and Ernst Beyeler is on display with a focus on 20th century art. There are also changing special exhibitions.

A little tip: you can reach the Vitra Campus (see next point) from the Fondation Beyeler in about an hour via the so-called Rehberger-Weg . The path is lined with a total of 24 sculptures by the artist Tobias Rehberger.

You can find more information here: Fondation Beyeler (official website)

Vitra Campus (Germany)

Yes, you read that right: Germany. The Vitra Campus is not in Basel, but just across the border on German soil in Weil am Rhein. That’s the practical thing about Basel’s location at the border triangle: You can easily drive or walk to Germany for an afternoon (if you come from the Fondation Beyeler via the Rehberger-Weg.)

You are probably familiar with Vitra. If not: This is a renowned designer furniture manufacturer. The Eames Chair, for example, is legendary.

The Vitra Campus combines production facilities, museum and architecture. In the Vitra Design Museum, for example, exciting exhibitions are shown. The company’s flagship store awaits you in the Vitra Haus. In general, there is a lot to see on the entire, very extensive area and we recommend planning at least three to four hours.

Our tip: For a coffee and cake break, we can warmly recommend the Depot Deli next to the Schaudepot.

You can find more information here: Vitra Campus (official website)

Museum Tinguely

One of the strangest museums we’ve ever been to is Museum Tinguely. It shows the life and works of Jean Tinguely, one of the most famous Swiss artists of the 20th century.

Now what’s so strange, you ask? Well, Tinguely is famous for his innovative machine sculptures . He built huge, moving machines out of the craziest materials. You can set some of these sculptures in motion in the museum yourself thanks to pedals.

If you like modern art, like to think outside the box and just want to see something completely new , this is the place for you.

You can find more information here: Museum Tinguely (official website)

4. Tours & Activities

city ​​tour

Would you like to get an initial overview of Basel and find out some historical details ? Then we can highly recommend a guided tour of the old town. We did this on the day of arrival and were able to take valuable information with us for our time in Basel.

The tour of the old town lasts about two hours and takes you to the most important historical buildings in Basel, such as the cathedral and the town hall.

More information & booking: City tour of Basel’s old town stories (Basel Tourismus)

Food Tour

We can recommend the self-guided food tour through Basel to all foodies. On your own, you make four stops in Basel, where you can try something.

The tour starts in the Kult bakery, then it goes on to an unpackaged shop, to Klara for lunch and last but not least to Jakob’s Basler Leckerly.

Because you walk through the city at your own pace, you can also visit one or the other sight during the tour.

More info & booking: Food Tour (Basel Tourismus)

Shipping on the Rhine

Would you like to observe Basel from the water ? The Basler Personenschifffahrt offers a wide variety of trips. The classic journey takes 50 minutes and runs either in the direction of the old town or in the direction of the port or industrial area.

If the weather is nice, we recommend an evening trip at sunset. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t play along during our visit.

You can find more information here: Boat trip on the Rhine (Basel Tourismus)

Rhine swimming

Strange but true: In summer, swimming in the Rhine is one of the most popular activities in Basel. You can go swimming at any time, but there is one day a year when the official Rhine swimming takes place.

How it works? Very simple: You put on your swimwear, pack your clothes in a so-called wrap fish (a dry bag in the shape of a fish), go to an entrance (e.g. at the Wettstein Bridge) and let yourself drift comfortably down the Rhine. You can then get off at several points.

During the official Rhine swim, the Rhine is closed to shipping (and there are also lifeguards on the road in case of an emergency). In this respect, this event is ideal for all newcomers.

Alternatively, there is also the possibility to take part in the accompanied swimming in the Rhine . This takes place every Tuesday in the summer.

You can find more information here: Swimming in the Rhine (Basel Tourismus)

5. Eating & drinking: Tips for cafes & restaurants

Za Zaa: One of our very favorite restaurants in Basel. Lebanese-inspired, vegetarian cuisine is served in a very nice atmosphere. We chose the mezze for two people – a big recommendation! The service staff is also very courteous, so that you feel completely at ease.

Leek: Creative vegetarian-vegan cuisine of a very high standard is served in this great restaurant. The prices are rather high, but so is the quality. Make a reservation.

Klara: Culinary delights from all over the world can be found in this hip market hall. Several food stalls offer their delicacies here, from Vietnamese to Israeli cuisine, everything is included. You just get what you feel like – and a drink from the bar.

Bäckerei Kult: At two locations in Basel, this hip bakery sells delicious bread, sandwiches and sweets such as cinnamon rolls or cakes. Perfect for a coffee break in between.

Cantina Don Camillo: This very nice restaurant is located in the Warteck workroom, a former brewery. The menu features many internationally inspired dishes – mostly vegan, but also with meat. It’s very nice to sit outside on the terrace in summer. Make a reservation.

Markthalle: In the chic market hall, built in 1929, there are now plenty of food stalls that are ideal for a quick, uncomplicated lunch. The offer ranges from Thai to Indian to Afghan. A really great concept!

Lora: If you want to eat something at Basel train station before you leave, we can highly recommend this Italian restaurant. There is pizza, focaccia and salads – all the dishes we ordered tasted delicious.

Bruno Lorenzo Gelato Lab: This hip gelateria produces and sells perhaps the best ice cream in Basel. Classics such as pistachio or vanilla are included as well as more unusual or vegan varieties.

6. Arrival & local transport

Arrival: How to get to Basel

Basel’s train station is fairly central. Thus, the train is a great means of transport for all those who travel from the south-west of Germany or the west of Austria, for example.

An alternative is the airplane. Basel has an airport that is on French territory. There are direct flight connections to Vienna, Berlin or Hamburg, for example. You can reach Basel quickly and easily from the airport by bus (approx. 20 minutes) or taxi (approx. 15 minutes).

Local transportation: Getting from A to B

You can easily explore many sights in Basel on foot . (Don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes – your feet will thank you.) For further distances you can use the tram (called Tram) and the bus .

Cool thing: If you stay overnight in Basel, you will automatically receive the BaselCard. This means that public transport is free of charge. (By the way, this already applies to the journey from the airport/railway station to the hotel – simply have your hotel booking confirmation ready.) And by the way, the BaselCard gives you discounted entry to some sights. You can find more information here: BaselCard .

Our tip: To find the fastest connection from A to B, we prefer to use Google Maps. This works very well in Basel. (Caution: Data roaming can be extremely expensive in Switzerland! So please check your mobile phone contract here.)

7. Our hotel tip for Basel

We spent our time in Basel in the wonderful Hotel Kraft Basel , which we can warmly recommend. This great boutique hotel is in a prime location, right on the banks of the Rhine, just a stone’s throw from Basel’s main attractions.

The rooms exude a touch of retro charm and are very comfortably furnished. Our very personal highlight was the incredible view from our terrace. Hence our tip: definitely book a room facing the Rhine – it’s worth it.

A small exciting detail: In the Hotel Krafft, more precisely in room 401, Herman Hesse once wrote the “Steppenwolf”. We lucky children were allowed to stay in this room!

In general, the entire house – it dates from 1873 – tells a story. The stairwell is a highlight in itself. The prominent location directly on the Rhine naturally means that there is often a lot going on in front of the hotel in the evenings. That didn’t bother us personally – on the contrary. The windows are also well insulated.

The great visit is rounded off by an extraordinarily friendly staff. We always felt very welcome at reception and at breakfast. We would not hesitate for a second and would stay here again at any time.

You can book the hotel here: Hotel Krafft Basel

Transparency: Advertising & Affiliate Links

This trip and our blog article were created in cooperation with Basel Tourism. Thanks very much! Of course we are free to report. This cooperation has no influence on our honest opinion.

This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!

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