Civilized, beautiful and vibrant, Basel is one of Switzerland’s most appealing tourist destinations. Although less famous than Geneva or Zurich, Basel has a well-preserved medieval center and everything is close together in downtown Basel, making it one of the easiest cities to see by foot.
The crowning glory of the city is its fabulous medieval cathedral, the “Münster” which is surrounded by winding cobbled streets. See the intricate sculpture work around the doorways or climb one of the cathedral towers for stunning views over the town and the Rhine.
Basel is also a great place for river tours and you can charter boats or be piloted in leisurely fashion past the rolling fields and hills of the region. Special tour boats also offer two-hour trips which take in all of the city’s sights.
Another of Basel’s great attractions is the lively town market. Buy locally produced fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as Swiss delicacies like chocolate or cheese, as well as local craft products and Rhine wines.
The city also boasts some world-class museums. Head to the Art Museum to see a room stuffed with Picassos and a marvellous renaissance collection or visit the superbly designed Beyeler Foundation, which houses a collection of modern art. For the kids, the Jean Tinguely Museum features animated figures and cartoons, while the city zoo is the largest of its kind in Switzerland.
Basel also offers some unique attractions such as a subterranean sewer tour or taking a dip in the placid waters of the River Rhine. Then there are the city’s many vibrant festivals. Check out the Easter Carnival to see colourful costumes and musical delights and don’t miss the fire festival “Chienbäse” in the nearby town of Liestal.
If you plan to mix a trip to Basel with a sampling of the Swiss ski slopes, then head over between December and March, when town accommodations will also be fairly cheap. Easter is a great time to visit Basel alone, with the excitement of carnival, but summer allows for more outdoor activities such as swimming in the Rhine and local vineyard tours.
The best way to see the Old Town is still by foot, but the city also has an extensive tram and bus network if the hills become too much. When walking, remember to look out for the trams, and be advised that tickets for the trams and buses need to be bought before boarding at the green ticket machines.