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Basel is Switzerland’s third-largest city and also one of the region’s main financial and cultural centers. Its position beside the mighty Rhine River has contributed to its growth as a key trade and transportation center.
Furthermore, it is one of the most underrated Swiss cities, therefore it’s not very touristy. However, it is a city with plenty of hidden charm.
Basel is the perfect place for art and architecture lovers, with countless galleries, world-class museums and iconic buildings to visit.
It is undoubtedly one of the most cultural cities in Europe, where contemporary buildings compete in beauty with historic monuments.
Switzerland is known as one of the countries with the best quality of life. Basel, with its relaxed character, is an orderly and impeccable city where life is concentrated around the Rhine River and its small squares and alleys full of bars and restaurants.
In addition, its position at the confluence of the French, German and Swiss borders gives it a multicultural appeal.
Basel is a gateway to the nearby cities of Zurich and Lucerne, as well as the neighboring French region of Alsace and the German Black Forest. The dominant language in Basel is Swiss-German.
Things to do in Basel, Switzerland
This article includes some of the top things to do in Basel, Switzerland which will have you ready to plan a visit yourself.
On Marktplatz, the city hall square, a small local market is organized every morning demonstrating that Basel is indeed like a big village. Here, the producers from the surrounding area are a great success among the city’s inhabitants.
Visiting this lively market is the perfect way to discover local life. You can find fruits and vegetables, cheeses, freshly baked bread and beautiful bouquets of flowers, all fresh and local.
The wonderful morning atmosphere harmonizes with the colorful facade of the city’s Town Hall, which dominates the square.
It is also known as Rathaus and the red and gold color of its facade does not go unnoticed in the center of the Marktplatz.
It dates back to the 16th century and serves as a meeting venue for the Cantonal Parliament and the Cantonal Government.
Although many travelers limit themselves to observing its facade, it’s well worth it to step inside the main courtyard and enjoy the paintings covering the walls. Basel Town Hall is one of the icons of the city.
The heart of Basel is the Rhine River which separates the old town from the new part of the city. It is also a meeting point for locals, especially in summer when there is more ambiance.
Basel locals often come after work or on weekends to picnic on the riverbank and swim in its waters. It is also an area of bars and restaurants where you can stop to eat or have a drink.
Furthermore, it is worth crossing one of the bridges of the city for a view of the old town from the other side of the river. During the sunset, you will be able to see the cathedral of the city in front of you while the landscape turns golden.
In addition, there is a tourist boat that allows you to take a ride on the river and admire the city from the water.
The Mittlere Brücke is the oldest bridge crossing the Rhine River. It was inaugurated in 1226 and rebuilt in 1905 to enable the passage of the tramway.
It is a place full of romanticism from where you can enjoy fantastic views of the houses located on the banks of the river and the towers of the cathedral.
At night the lights of the city are reflected on the river and acquire a different charm.
Old Town of Basel
A stroll through Old Town, known as the Altstadt, is one of the top things to do in Basel, Switzerland. Its cobblestone streets surrounded by picturesque houses make it one of the most beautiful and best-preserved old towns in Europe.
Some of the places you cannot miss on your tour are the Andreasplatz square and streets like Augustinergasse, Martinsgasse, Imberggasslein, Nadelberg, Spalenberg, Heuberg and Gemsberg.
These streets are perfect to visit small boutiques, souvenir stores or art galleries. They are also full of bars and restaurants where you can stop for refreshments. In this area of the city, you will fall in love with every corner.
Strolling through the old part of the city you should also stop at Spalentor. This is the most important of the three remaining gates of the old medieval wall.
It is more than 600 years old and it survived the demolition of the walls that surrounded the city in 1866. In the past, goods coming from the French region of Alsace entered through here. It also functioned as a defensive tower.
The streets of Basel hold a multitude of drinking water fountains, symbols of the good sanitation of the city. But there is one that stands out above the rest, the Tinguely fountain.
It was created by the artist Jean Tinguely in 1977 and is a monument of Basel. The fountain is located in front of the Basel Theater, right where the stage of the theater used to be.
Tinguely designed a huge pool where amusing mechanical sculptures bring the place to life. Thanks to an elaborate system, with the force of the water jets, the nine figures that adorn the pool move constantly.
It looks as if they are dancing, just as the actors did in the past. He wanted to keep the spirit of the theater alive.
One of the must-see sights in Basel is its cathedral, the Basel Münster. This is the most outstanding religious building in the city and one of the most important in the country.
It is characterized by two high towers of more than 60 meters. From these towers are some of the best views of the city and the Rhine River.
The cathedral dates from the thirteenth century, although it has been rebuilt on numerous occasions due to damage. One example is an earthquake in the fourteenth century.
However, this makes it an architectural jewel, as it combines a Gothic exterior with a Romanesque interior.
It is worth visiting the two cloisters with large Gothic arches and centuries-old tombs of illustrious personalities of the city.
The visit to the interior of the cathedral and its cloisters is free, however, you must pay to climb the tower.
Another of the things to do in Basel, Switzerland is to visit Münsterplatz. This is the square where the cathedral is located and it is full of white houses with colored shutters. Around this square are some of the best restaurants in the city.
It is a fairly quiet place most of the year except on four occasions. The first is during the carnival held in the city, one of the most important in Europe. In August the square also fills with atmosphere on the occasion of the summer cinema and becomes a great stage.
During the autumn fair, a large and ancient amusement fair occupies the square. And finally, during winter, a Christmas market decorates this corner of the city, filling it with magic.
In fact, it has been chosen as one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe in recent years.
Book This Trip
Start planning your unique vacation to Basel, Switzerland today. Get prepared with insider knowledge on the best shopping, hotel and VRBO accommodations, local restaurant reviews and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
Find the most exciting and truly one of the kind Basel activities by booking some expert-led tours and skip-the-line tickets through GetYourGuide. Find more information and book your dates in advance here.
For the best flight deals, train tickets and vacation packages, check out OMIO Travel Partner.
Author Bio: Based in France, Lucia Otero Medraño is Spanish with a master’s degree in travel journalism. She has worked in the tourism sector but her true passion is to live enriching experiences and discover amazing places around the world and write about them. In her spare time, she likes to enjoy her second passion, music.