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Basel, Switzerland Vacation Guide
Basel, a city canton with nearly 200,000 people and 2000 years of history, is located in the Three Countries Corner of Germany, France and Switzerland and the second largest city in Switzerland. Strategically situated in the heart of Europe where the river Rhine turns north, Basel has long been an important transport hub and gateway to Switzerland. The Euro Airport is located only 15 minutes from the city and offers many connections within Europe. Getting more and more popular is the arrival by river cruise ship from Amsterdam. Read on through our Basel, Switzerland vacation guide to discover the amazing things to do in this city.
Basel is not only easy to get to. You will find that the city is just as easy to get around in. Public transport quickly carries you wherever you wish to go and the Basel Mobility Ticket it is free of charge with qualifying hotel stays. On walks and rides through Basel you can discover the town's many attractions and places of interest. These include the Old Town with its picturesque streets and historic buildings, the Cathedral and the Town Hall. The old city gates – Spalentor, St. Johanns-Tor and St.-Alban-Tor, which were part of the former fortifications remain as testimony of Basel’s past. The multicultural Kleinbasel on the right bank of the Rhine is the home of the alternative cultural scene. The town center, around the Marktplatz, is located on the left side of the river.
Basel is both proud and very aware of its history, but at the same time very receptive to everything new. This aspect of the people of Basel is exemplified by the many modern structures designed by world-famous architects. They complete the picture of an open and tolerant metropolis and serve as a contrast to the venerable buildings in the historic Old Town. Art ranks high on Basel's list of priorities. It is just as much a part of the city as the river Rhine. It's no wonder that a stroll through Basel often takes you past one of the many art objects that so characterize the city's image. The many galleries also offer an unbelievable variety. It is known for its music and jazz festivals with top-class performers and its choice live music clubs. There is no shortage of bars, dance halls and discotheques to suit every taste and big events take place regularly. These are just a few of the many beautiful attractions you can see on your Basel, Switzerland vacation.
Attractions and Activities
In Basel you are surrounded by art and history – the city has the highest density of both galleries and museums in Switzerland and plenty of interesting history. Cyclists will feel at home in this bike-friendly town, and can explore the region on the Three-Countries Cycle Route. Culinary pleasures are also guaranteed. Nowhere in Europe is the concentration of "starred" restaurants as high as in the Three-Countries Region. To complete your Basel experience you might also want to take one of the 4 Rhine Fähre crossings. It is a boat attached to a steel cable and moved by the currents of the river. Visitors should also make sure to see the Tinguely fountain next to Barfüsserplatz while on vacation in Basel, Switzerland.
Excursions from Basel
Jungfraujoch is a famous peak in the Bernese Alps, connecting the two four-thousander peaks Jungfrau and Mönch. Travel time from Basel is approx. 2.5 hours up to the Jungfraujoch at an altitude of 3,454m/11,332ft. The Jungfrau railway has been operating for more than 100 years and is a true engineering marvel. The railway journey of the last 7 km/4 mi happens mostly in tunnel and but provides a view point of the Eiger North Face. Up on the top you also can see the Aletsch Glacier which is the largest in Europe.
Starting with a train to Lucerne of about an hour, you either head up with the north side’s cable car or the steepest cogwheel train in the world on the south flank of the mountain. When taking the cogwheel, get ready to be impressed as it climbs gradients of 48% on the way to the peak. It is also important to be prepared with warm clothing and good shoes in order to gain the full experience.
Excursions from Basel to other Cities in Switzerland
Beautiful Bern, the Swiss Capital is only an hour away from Basel. This is a city of medieval magic, listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage. Attractions include the famous clock tower, the new bear park which is home to Berne's heraldic animals – and excellent shopping arcades.
One of Switzerland's most popular excursion destinations, lovely Lucerne is only 60 minutes' travelling time from Basel. The city is renowned for its attractive townscape, historic Chapel Bridge and excellent shopping facilities.
Nestling beside Lake Zurich and along River Limmat, Zurich offers splendid views of the Swiss Alps and is an absolutely charming, interesting, and beautiful place to visit. The intellectual capital of the nation that is particularly receptive to contemporary trends is only 50 minutes' travelling time from Basel.
Other Excursions in Basel
Beautiful, lush landscapes, picturesque villages and many culinary enticements surround Basel. The neighboring Cantons of Basel-Land and Solothurn, France's Alsace and Germany's southern Baden form an enormous nearby recreational area with endless leisure possibilities. In only a short time you can arrive by public transport at the Roman town of Augusta Raurica in Augst, or in Alsace for a meal, or in one of the well-known wine cellars of southern Baden.
Summer Sports in Basel
Swimming in the Rhine
Throughout the summer months the River Rhine presents a tempting bathing opportunity. In addition, the great Basel "Rheinschwimmen" (Rhine Swimming Event) is held once a year. On this occasion, both young and old alike dive in mass into the clean currents of the Rhine, and allow them to be carried downstream.
Winter Sports in Basel
While on your Basel, Switzerland vacation you will want to visit nearby Bernese Oberland that boasts of such renowned resorts as Interlaken, Grindelwald, Wengen, Gstaad and Murren to name only a few. Interlaken is less than two hours by train and from there it is not far to any of the mentioned resort villages. You will have the opportunity for all sorts of winter activities including: skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, curling, ice climbing, sledding, cross country skiing, snowshoe trekking, and snow tubing and zorbing.
Entertainment in Basel
The music scene in Basel functions according to the classical division: classical music, jazz and modern. In Basel a high-ranking and comprehensive classical music program has been offered for many years. Furthermore, every year several renowned international festivals take place in Basel.
In November, when the days grow colder, Basel wraps itself in its Christmas robes. Thousands of lights and many tastefully decorated Christmas trees exude their festive charm, and form a perfect backdrop to romantic Christmas shopping trips. At the Christmas market, 150 painstakingly-adorned stands create an enchanting Christmas atmosphere at Barfüsserplatz. In recent years, the Christmas program, with numerous associated cultural events for the young and old alike, has been continuously expanded. All in all, Basel has acquired a justified reputation as one of the most beautiful Christmas cities.
Museums in Basel
The Kunstmuseum (Art Museum) houses the Painting Collection and the Kupferstich Kabinett. The main focus is on paintings and drawings by artists active in the Upper Rhine region between 1400 and 1600 and on the art of the 19th to 21st centuries. The Kunstmuseum possesses the world’s largest collection of works by the Holbein family. Further examples of Renaissance art include major pieces by such masters as Konrad Witz, Martin Schongauer, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Mathias Grünewald.
This museum is unlike others: here, things rattle, squeak, crash and thump. Colorful scrap rotates, multi-coloured lights flicker. It is a place full of vitality, laughter, amazement and discovery; a place that sets the feelings in motion and where art reaches across to the spectator. This museum arouses children and adults alike, to experiment, to play and to think about art. It is dedicated to famous Swiss artist Jean Tinguely.
Museum of Ethnology
This museum houses one of Europe's largest collections on European and non-European cultural life. The museum's exhibits on the South Seas, Ancient America, Tibet and Bali are world-famous, as are its textiles. The exhibitions and a full program of events make the museum's treasures accessible to a wide audience. The carved lintels from Tikal, which are the museum's most valuable treasure, provide unique testimony to the high level of culture attained by the Maya civilization.
Location and Map
Basel is located in Northern Switzerland and has its own Airport (codes: BSL, EAP and MLH). It is 88 km (55 miles) from Zurich and 102 km (64 miles) from Berne, the Capital. Travel time to both cities is about 1 hours by train or car.