Basel is Switzerland’s third largest city and is filled with a vast variety of art and culture. It is located on the Rhine River in northwest Switzerland, close to the country’s borders with France and Germany. In fact, it is so close that you can actually take a tram from Basel, to either of these countries. It is also just over an hour’s flight from London, making it ideal for a city break.
I visited Basel as part of a press trip and fell in love with the cobbled streets, the colourful buildings, the clean crisp fresh air, the cosmopolitan vibe, as well as the greenery everywhere.
It is an architecture and art lovers dream with its mix of both traditional and modern architecture, such as the medieval old town centre as well as modern skyscrapers and museums. There are fabulous spots dotted around the city which offer magnificent views of the River Rhein, where you can also relax and sunbathe in the summer. It is truly picturesque.
Getting around Basel is super easy, and if you are a tourist and staying at one of the hotels in Basel, you can actually use the trams and buses for free. This is fantastic as it is an ideal way to explore and discover the city and the transport system is so easy to navigate. I love to immerse myself in a city by either walking or using the public transport as you come across so many things off the beaten track and would hugely encourage this to anyone.
Things to do in Basel
Immerse yourself in Art and Culture at one or more of the 40 museums
There are approximately 40 different museums in Basel with amazing collections and exhibitions and so plenty to explore and see.
The Fondation Beyler, which we visited, currently has a summer exhibition on with works from Wolfgang Tillmans, which was fascinating to see as there were also some forms of live/performing art. I don’t want to spoil the surprise of what these are and so if you visit before October 1, you will get to experience it first hand.
The grounds of the Fondation Beyler are also stunning and lovely to take a stroll through, and there is a restaurant on site too, so a fabulous place to spend an afternoon.
As well as art in museums, you can spot mural and street art dotted around Basel city and I was lucky to stumble across an artist painting on a wall as we happened to walk by.
Visit the Tinguely Fountain
Jean Tinguely created sculptural machines in a shallow fountain in 1977 which are adorable and appear to work in motion together. It is just mesmerising! The nine iron figures are in constant motion and appear to be in conversation with each other to mimic the the mime artists, actors and dancers that once occupied the stage that stood in this spot.
Circular roof on exhibition centre
The exhibition centre Messe Basel, near the tram stop Messeplatz, has a stunning circular roof, made with textured aluminium, which lets in sunlight and is a must see whilst in Basel. It certainly had us captivated for a while!
Swim in the River Rhein with all your belongings
If I told you I swam in the river with my DSLR Camera, various lenses and iPhone would you believe me? Well I did and it was insanely fun! I’m not going to lie. The initial thought of it scared me but I was assured so much that if I put them in a special bag called a Wickelfisch, my belongings would be 200% dry and that it would double up as a floating aid.
I have to say this was the highlight of our trip and if you get a chance to go to Basel, take your swimsuit and go swim in the Rhein!
It was so refreshing and you get carried in one direction by the current. It is how locals choose to commute daily too.
Sunbathe by the River Rhein
Once you’ve had your swim (because it is a must do activity), another lovely relaxing activity is to sunbathe on the banks of the River Rhein. The views are gorgeous and lots of buzz, and ample people watching opportunities.
Enjoy cocktails with a view at Bar Rouge
A lovely venue to enjoy cocktails with a view, at 105 meters high is Bar Rouge, which is one of the highest bars in Switzerland.
Amongst their amazing cocktail selection (which are very instagrammable), one of their specialities was a Watermelon Mojito, and so I was in heaven.
Bar Rouge can be found at Messepl. 10, 4058 Basel, Switzerland
The Allianz Cinema Basel
During the summer months, there is an open air cinema located in Münsterplatz, where they show various films. This would be a lovely way to spend an evening if in Basel. There are lots of seats and the surroundings are fabulous.
Try the Basel Läckerli
The Basler Läckerli is a traditional hard spice biscuit made of a combination of honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied peel, and Kirsch. These are a must try and some variations even have chocolate on them, which can be found at Confiserie Bachmann.
They can be eaten hard or soft and go perfectly with a cuppa!
Marvel at the views
There are plenty of lovely spots in Basel with amazing views and the best way to discover them is on foot. There are various bridges, terraces and streets where you can get glimpses of the River views and they really are picturesque.
Lunch at the Markethalle
For a quick lunch, the covered and cool Markethalle offers a wide variety of dishes from all over the world, served straight from the various stalls.
It is close to the Basel SBB station and is a really buzzing popular spot to eat.
This restaurant is beautiful and designed by Herzog & de Meuron as part restaurant-bar, part gallery and part performance space. I would recommend dinner in the courtyard with its twinkling lights, making it super pretty and atmospheric. The food is amazing too.
Sunset dining at Uferstrasse
For casual and relaxed dining head to Uferstrasse, where during the summer there are pop up restaurants and bars serving up amazing gourmet food and delicious cocktails and chilled drinks.
We ate at Landestelle which was amazing and I would highly recommend. The best part was the transition of the sky colours as the sun was setting.
Visit the markets
Next to the Town hall at Marktplatz, you can find various stalls selling food, flowers and household items and some of the produce looked amazing – so fresh! A must see when in Basel. I personally love visiting food markets in a country and immersing myself in them as you get to see day to day life from the perspective of the locals.
Visit the Rathaus City hall
A visit to the Rathaus (city hall), close to the food market, is a must to see the gorgeous courtyard. It was built after the great earthquake to replace the former seat of government. It has a charming statue, lots of architectural delights and interesting to see.
Visit the all year round Christmas shop
There is an all year round Christmas shop in the heart of Basel’s old town, called Johann Wanner’s on the Spalenberg and worth a visit to see all the delicate variety of ornaments and decorations on sale.
Hydrate from the drinking fountains
The summer temperatures in Basel are pretty high and so make sure you hydrate yourself every now and then, and no better place than one of the many drinking fountains dotted around the city which look like pieces of art themselves!
I had a wonderful time in Basel and it really is perfect for a city break. There is so much to see and do, the food is fabulous and swimming in the river Rhein was a memorable experience and one I would highly recommend anyone to do.
A big thanks to Basel Tourism for hosting me on my trip. All views and photos are my own unless stated otherwise.