Basel Travel Guide

Photo by fietzfotos on Pixabay // CC0


Sitting near a tri-border area (Switzerland, France, and Germany), Basel is a culturally rich destination. Like many Swiss destinations, you’ll within easy reach of outdoor attractions. However, this city’s cathedral, museums, and other attractions will give you plenty to do over a 2-3 day stay.

Top Attractions

Make the Basel Minster your first stop in town. This attraction is this Swiss city’s most prominent cathedral – since the 11th century, it has served parishioners. Originally, its builders crafted it in the Romanesque style. But in 1356, an earthquake levelled much of the structure.

Its replacement gave Basel the Gothic landmark locals know today. But as impressive as its red sandstone exterior is, many visitors will find the interior to be just as stunning. Within, its stained-glass windows are a highlight, as are the views from its 200-foot high bell tower.

Sample some of the best visual works in Switzerland at the Fine Arts Museum Basel. In the 1960s, the city of Basel purchased a private collection of Hans Holbein works. Soon after, they opened it up to the public, launching the first municipal art museum in the world.

In its galleries, you’ll find an astounding array of works from the Upper Rhine. Represented artists made these pieces during the 14th to 16th century, but you’ll also find more modern pieces (from the 19th to 21st centuries).

However, in the Basel area, the name Jean Tinguely carries the most weight in art circles. So make time to check out the Jean Tinguely Museum during your visit. A prolific painter and sculptor, he created numerous, daring modernist pieces during his career.

Of particular note are Jean Tinguely’s kinetic sculptures, which move when you press its associated button. Plan to spend a couple of hours here to make the most of your time.

Publishing took a giant leap forward during the Renaissance. At the Basel Paper Mill Museum, you can learn more about how people made paper centuries ago. After seeing how people 500 years ago made paper, you’ll have the opportunity to do the same.

Other Attractions

If you are travelling as a family through Basel, there are a couple of attractions worth seeing. Start by paying a visit to the Spielzeug Welten Museum. Translating to English as the Dollhouse Museum, this institution is home to over 6,000 dolls, teddy bears, and miniature figurines.

Distributed over four floors, this museum is well worth the 7 CHF (6.50 EUR) it costs for adults (kids get in free). If you take public transit to this attraction, get off at the Barfusserplatz tram stop.

If your children are still in need of a good distraction, take them to Zoo Basel. This conservation-minded attraction has been caring for its guests since 1874, making it Switzerland’s oldest zoo. While it is home to thousands of animals representing hundreds of species, guests like the pygmy hippopotamus stand out.

In addition to this, you’ll also find flamingos, cheetahs, and rhinos. As cool as that is, realize that many locals feel the same way. In an average year, more than 1.8 million visitors pour through this zoo’s gates. As a result, we recommend visiting midweek.

If you have time, make room in your schedule, swing by Basel Town Hall. This municipal building stands out from other structures lining Market Square with its brilliant red sandstone. But don’t quickly snap a photo and walk away – stray into its courtyard.

Inside, you’ll find amazing wall painting that dates back centuries. During the holiday season, you’ll also find a gorgeously-decorated Christmas tree in this space.

Before moving onto your next destination in Switzerland, spend an evening in the Old Town of Basel. As you walk its narrow streets, this part of town will charm you with its fairy tale architecture. When sightseeing tires you, sit at a sidewalk cafe and locals & tourists go by.

What To Eat

After a busy morning of sightseeing in the Basel area, find a restaurant that serves Basler Mehlsuppe. Cooks create it from beef stock, adding onions, browned flour, and seasonings like fresh pepper, nutmeg, and cloves. Garnished with grated Gruyère, this hearty lunchtime treat is Basel’s signature dish, so you’ll be in for a treat.

You can easily reach world-class hiking and skiing from Basel. After a long day outdoors, there’s nothing like a hearty helping of Raclette. The fact that this meal shares a name with a local cheese is not an accident. It plays a central role in this dish, where cooks heap melted Raclette on roasted potatoes.

If you have room for dessert, have some Basler Läckerli. As the name suggests, these cookies trace their origin to this city. Since medieval times, this mix of hazelnuts, almonds, and honey have satisfied local sweet lovers.

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