Basel in Switzerland, located in north western part of Switzerland where the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland meet, has a vibrant earthy vibe. Basel was our base city on the self planned trip to Switzerland, not out of choice but mostly because the husband’s work needed him to be there for couple of days. I did not know much about the city beforehand and it took me lots of research before planning the trip to Switzerland. Basel seemed to be quite a staid city from most of the accounts I read on the travel blogs & articles. However, Basel surprised me with this vibrant culture, heritage, rich repository of art & culture and its multiple layers. Spending our time in Basel during the Switzerland trip was one of the best decisions we took, as it also was economical than other more popular Swiss cities. Sharing my experience of Basel in Switzerland.
Basel city is located by River Rhine, which splits the city in half and renders to it an interesting mix of culture, with Old town situated at one side of the city (Grossbasel) and newer part of the city on the other side (Kleinbasel). Basel has an International Airport, as well as Train Station. The Airport has limited international flight connectivity though and we opted to take a flight till Zurich, reaching Basel by train, as we had the Swiss Travel Pass which included all train travel within Switzerland.
Recommended Read : Using Swiss Travel Pass to Travel in Switzerland
How to Reach Basel
Air: There is International airport at Basel However, please check availability of flights here as its quite limited direct connectivity (mostly connecting flights from neighboring staes of Germany, France and ither cities of Switzerland). The “Euro-Airport” is known as Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg .
Railway: Basel is connected by railway and Basel SBB Train station has inter-regional and inter-country train connectivity (i.e. Trains connecting to other regions in Switzerland and neighboring countries of France and Germany).
Road : Well connected by road from Zurich and other cities in Switzerland.
Pro-tip : The Airport has limited international flight connectivity and we opted to take a flight till Zurich, reaching Basel by train, as we had the Swiss Travel Pass which included all train travel within Switzerland.
We had booked a tiny one bedroom apartment (with private washroom and kitchen) via AirBnb located 10 minutes walking distance from Basel train station and met the host in front of the station. She was quite genial person and answered all our queries regarding Basel & also whatever she knew about going round Switzerland. While we visited Basel in bits and pieces over the next few days as we were based there, I went on a walking tour by myself one day while my husband was busy all at work.
Basel can be explored on foot and by public transport in a day or if one is a museum buff, in 2 days. I started my Basel exploration on a beautiful sunny morning from the banks of Rive Rhine, walking along the tree lined pathway, then taking a charming boat ride to the other side of the river, ending at the gates of the historic Minster or Munster.
Going Around Basel:
Basel is well connected by Public Transport and there are Trams & Buses one can use. Basel is also a very walk able city. There are public amenities available with free public toilets and many fountains, which provide for drinking water.
The Basel Munster or Minster, along with the chestnut trees in this backyard are all that remains of a Pflaz (or Palace) built in 15th century. The Munster is a cathedral, however Im not sure any church services are held here in present times and it mostly is a heritage building. Entry is free here. The Munster has a roman and gothic architecture style, with German influences. It’s quite an interesting building to go around as one can understand the evolution of renaissance architecture, exploring it and then walking out into the Old Town (Grossbasel), with its cobbled stone pathways, German style villas, churches, fountains and other buildings. I walked through the old town leisurely, exploring the alleys, looking up the shop fronts and then into the main road which led to the biggest Museum in Basel – Kunstmuseum.
There are around 40 museums in Basel! The Kunstmuseum is the biggest Museum in Basel and one of the first in Europe to make Art accessible to public. Entry is charged here, however, since I had the Swiss Travel Pass, this was included in my package and I just had to show my pass at the counter to get an entry ticket. I was certainly impressed by the collections at the museum and without going into details (otherwise it will become a really long post), I would say this is a must visit when in Basel.
Recommended Read : Benefits of using Swiss Travel Pass.
I took a breather & snack by the fountain at Kunstmuseum before resuming my Basel exploration. I visited Tinguely fountain, the most popular fountain in Basel city (whuch has many fountains). It is certainly a very charming fountain and I had my lunch besides it, people watching (like all other people were doing there). I then walked upto ElisabethenKirche which is a 19th century Church building in the centre of the city.
I took a tram to the Jewish part of Basel of the city and it was an interesting experience. The Jewish synagogue and vibe of the neighborhood was completely different from the other parts of the city. I spotted Jewish elders and rabbis in their traditional dresses walking about, children playing in the neighborhood, but it was much laidback and emptier neighborhood than other parts of the city.
I took a breather, went back to my apartment for a siesta in late afternoon. In the evening, me and the husband went walking again to the Rhine River bank and this time we were treated to a very interesting activity. It seems that every year there is an annual Rhine River swim day and this year (that is 2017), it happened to be the day we were visiting Basel! Talk about being at the right time at the right place. It seemed to us that the whole town had descended on the banks of River Rhine and residents were either taking a swim in the river or enjoying barbeque & suppers by the bank. It was fascinating to see the diverse mix of people; it said a lot about the openness as well as ‘swissness’ of people who lived in Switzerland.
Basel charmed me with its heritage, art, culture and most of all the lovely River Rhine. I can surely come back here one more time.
If you like this article on Basel, you may be interested to read the following:
Read about my self panned Switzerland summer holiday here.
Read about my visit to Bern, Switzerland here.
Read about my visit to Thun, Switzerland here.
Read about my travel guide to using public transport to travel around Switzerland here.