Walk through Basel – best places to see

by Pepe Strub, October 28, 2020

Swiss cities are best explored by foot due to their size and the fact that everything is close by, you can’t really get lost. I invite you to get to know Basel on a self-guided walk with our easy to follow directions. Stroll through my hometown and explore – from well-known sights like Basel’s cathedral to hidden gems. You may discover unexpected places and watch the daily life going-on.

Allow at least 1.5 hours for the tour around Basel without any major stops along the way like visit to museums or restaurants.

Make your way to tram stop Bankverein (from Basel SBB take tramway lines #2, 8, 10 or 11). There you follow the tracks slightly downhill to the left and within 1 minute you will see the famous Tinguely Fountain on your left. Dating from 1977, this shallow fountain boasts of mechanical figures powered by low-voltage current that appear to be playing in the water.

TIP – The Restaurant Kunsthalle just next to the fountain unites a typical brasserie, an elegant restaurant, as well as two bars in the center of the Old Town. This Basel institution is open all year round and offers the ideal setting for various occasions. The classical venue which serves authentic and wholesome food, exudes a wonderful ambience. Enjoy being served in the large and lively garden in summer or cozy up in the “Fondue Stübli” in winter.

From here walk back up to Bankverein and take a left down into Freie Strasse. Take the first street to the right, Bäumleingasse, and follow till its ends. Take a left and within a couple of minutes you are standing in front of the Basler Münster (Cathedral) which is probably the most famous landmark in Basel. With its red sandstone walls, colorful roof tiles and twin towers, no other building adorns the cityscape of Basel like the Cathedral. The Pfalz – the terrace offering wonderful views over the Rhine – is one of the most popular viewpoints in the city.

TIP – The Museum der Kulturen (Museum of Cultures) which ranks among the leading ethnographic museums in Europe, is just across the square in front of the Cathedral. The impressive collections (320,000 objects) including artefacts of world renown reflect the vast and varied scope of human ways of life. It includes 3 of the most important Lintels from the Maya’s of Guatemala.
Entrance Fee [adult: CHF16 / youth under 20: CHF5, free with Swiss Travel Pass]

Just a few steps from the Pfalz down to the River Rhein you will see the Münster Fähre (operates 11:00am to 17:00pm) which will take you to the other side. There are 4 of these ferries: “Wilde Maa”, “Leu”, “Vogel Gryff” and “Ueli”, allowing you to cross the Rhine without motorized assistance, using only the natural power of the river’s current. Not only tourists are thrilled by this mode of transport, but the inhabitants of the city also regularly use these ferries. On the other side of the river, walk with the flow of the water on the lively Rhein Promenade and soon you will see the oldest of Basel’s five bridges, the Mittlere Brücke (Middle bridge). Hardly any other monument in Basel has become such a symbol of the city as the Mittlere Brücke. Opened in 1226, it is one of the oldest Rhine crossings between Lake Constance and the North Sea.

Cross the bridge and walk straight ahead where the road turns slightly left. You will get to Marktplatz (Market Square) and see another landmark, the City Hall. This building is the seat of the Basel government and its parliament. In the midst of the Old Town, it is particularly eye-catching with its red facade, the characteristic tower and playful frescoes. It was built after the great earthquake of 1356 to replace the former seat of government. After Basel joined the Swiss Confederation, the front part of the building was replaced with an imposing new structure. The coats of arms of Basel and the 11 other members of the Confederation at that time adorn the crenellations.

Cross Marktplatz and take Sattelgasse until its end. On Schneidergasse take a left and follow until Spalenberg.  Walk uphill on Spalenberg and into the Old Town of Basel. This is a pedestrian zone as most of Basel is nowadays. You will see quite a few interesting side alleys – explore and get lost! Once up on the hill walk to your right and until the tramway tracks. Now you will see the Spalentor. The Spalentor (Gate of Spalen) is the most magnificent and impressive of the three city gates still remaining from the city fortifications dating from 1400.

TIP – Once you reach the Spalentor you are just next to the Basel University and the Botanical Garden. The history of the botanical garden of the University of Basel goes as far back as the 16th century, making it one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. It includes the historic Victoria House and a large Sequoia Tree. The garden is not very big but free!

From Spalentor you can take tramway #3 back to Bankverein.

If Basel is on your bucket list, let us assist in organizing your city trip. And if you’re interested in directions for a self-guided walk through some other Swiss city, please get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to book your vacation and provide you with detailed information!