Basel is commonly considered to be the cultural capital of Switzerland. The city lives and breathes culture, and promotes and celebrates the arts. Despite its small size, Basel has an exceptional cultural offering. Many of its institutions and events enjoy an international reputation. Basel is famous for its many museums, forty museums are spread throughout the city-canton, making Basel one of the largest cultural centres in relation to its size and population in Europe. Basel is considered a mecca for architecture aficionados. Buildings by famous architects greet the visitor at every turn.
The city’s almost forty museums display visual arts from antiquity to the present. The prestigious exhibitions hosted by Fondation Beyeler, the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Art) and Antikenmuseum (Museum of Ancient Art) draw international attention. The quality of the exhibitions was also recognised by the respected art critics of London-based newspaper ‘The Times’ who nominated the Kunstmuseum Basel as the fifth best museum in the world in 2013. But art is not limited to the indoors. On a stroll through the city, there is something to admire around every corner: “Intersection” by Richard Serra, Jean Tinguely’s “Carnival Fountain” and Bettina Eichin’s “Helvetia” are just a few of the many works of art to be discovered.
Basel is a favourite destination for architects, art historians and architecture lovers, who all appreciate the diversity of modern architecture the city has to offer. It comes as no surprise, then, that Basel is home to the Swiss Architecture Museum, where changing exhibits of international and Swiss architecture are on display. Fondation Beyeler by Renzo Piano, for instance, Herzog & de Meuron’s Schaulager or the banking building (initially belonging to UBS, today home of the Bank for International Settlements) by Mario Botta.
Internationally renowned orchestras and the newly renovated and expanded Stadtcasino Basel, with one of the best concert halls in the world, establish Basel’s reputation as a stronghold of classical music. The Theater Basel, honored with numerous awards, consists of the three branches of performing arts opera, drama and dance. In 2018 it was named theater of the year in the “Theater heute” magazine critics’ survey. Basel also has a thriving independent theatre scene. And finally, those who prefer the screen to the stage will find a film to suit their taste, whether it’s the latest blockbuster, art-house cinema, or a timeless classic.
One of the world’s most important art fairs, Art Basel, and Baselworld, one of the most important watch and jewelery fairs, take place in Basel every year. Some other well-known sights are the Basel Zoo, the Basel Minster, as well as the old town and the numerous museums in Basel and the suburbs.
The University of Basel, Switzerland’s oldest university (founded in 1460), and the city’s centuries-long commitment to humanism, have made Basel a safe haven at times of political unrest in other parts of Europe for such notable people as Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Holbein family, Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Jung, and in the 20th century also Hermann Hesse and Karl Jaspers.
Art is traditionally held in high regard in Basel. And it is not only the museums, art rooms and galleries that show a wide range of art. It is also the many artists from Basel themselves who like to display their work. They can be admired during the annual “Regionale” exhibition held at around twenty different establishments in the tri-national area, and the Kunsthalle Basel presents a yearly exhibition of the works sponsored with a grant from the Basler Kunstkredit.
The highlight of the art scene is, of course, Art Basel, the most significant art fair in the world. On four days in September, the whole city revolves around art. Many extra shows, smaller fairs and parties turn Basel into an exclusive city of art. The approximately 300 carefully selected best galleries from all over the world show high quality modern and contemporary art works. Some 90,000 artists, gallery owners, museum directors, private collectors and other art lovers gather for what insiders call “the annual family meeting of the art world”. Their interface with art and artists brings many thrilling and inspiring moments.
There’s one favourite destination for art lovers from around the world: Art Basel, the most prestigious international art fair. The high quality, the wide variety and the international participation has brought Art Basel an unequalled reputation. On show are paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, prints, video and multimedia art as well as performances by over 4,000 interesting artists. All the famous names are represented from the modern and contemporary masters like Picasso, Miró, Klee, Warhol and Jeff Koons to the newest generation.
Art is also being displayed in public places: Jonathan Borofsky’s Hammering Man, a steel and aluminium giant of 13.4 metres, works without pausing on the Aeschenplatz. It symbolises all those who work towards a safe environment that is worth living in. Another notable work is Richard Serra’s massive sculpture “Intersection” on the Theaterplatz and, just next to it, there is the fountain by Jean Tinguely with its water-spitting, playful, coquettish and melancholy sculptures. Sculptures and murals are part of Basel’s urban space, and are well taken care of.
A visit of the city is always memorable especially during the international art fair Art Basel. Throughout Art Basel, the cultural city of Basel gets a unique ambiance, reinforced by special events all over the city. Art has in fact always been in the heart of this lovely medieval city on the river Rhine. It hosts art museums of international reputations, sculptures in public spaces, theatres, concert halls and notable buildings by leading contemporary architects.
The Basel museums cover a broad and diverse spectrum of collections with a marked concentration in the fine arts. They house numerous holdings of international significance. Basel is very proud of its many museums, 37 square kilometres for almost 40 museums.The range of collections presented covers a wide range of interests, but is mainly focussed on fine art. Today’s Kunstmuseum (museum of art) displays treasures from old masters such as Hans Holbein and modern classics.
Constituting an essential component of Basel culture and cultural policy, the museums are the result of closely interwoven private and public collecting activities and promotion of arts and culture going back to the 16th century. The public museum collection was first created back in 1661 and represents the oldest public collection in continuous existence in Europa. Since the late 1980s, various private collections have been made accessible to the public in new purpose-built structures that have been recognized as acclaimed examples of avant-garde museum architecture.
Collecting art has a long tradition in Basel. In 1661, Basel was the first European city to open the doors of an art collection. Other treasures of today’s Kunstmuseum are pictures by Hans Holbein or modern classics. Apart from the Kunstmuseum, four other state run museums set the standard for many international museums with regard to research and education: The Historisches Museum Basel (Museum of History), the Museum der Kulturen (Museum of Cultures), the Antikenmuseum Basel (Museum of Antiquity) and the Naturhistorisches Museum Basel (Museum of Natural History). Over the last three decades, some private institutions such as the Fondation Beyeler (1997), the Museum Tinguely (1996) and the Schaulager (2003) have made Basel even more attractive for the general public.
The collection focus of the Basel museums is on the fine arts – painting, drawing and sculpture. More than a dozen museums cover a spectrum that ranges from antiquity to the present and shows both historical and established as well as pioneering art. The latter in particular has been made accessible in newly opened museums over the past two decades. Local and regional stocks are present, but an important feature, especially of the big houses, is their international orientation and charisma. A long tradition of collecting, which, in contrast to many Central European museums, was untouched by the wars of the 20th century, as well as the traditionally good networking of the Basel location with the art dealer and art collector market, for example through Art Basel, have contributed to this.
Numerous museums deal with a wide variety of cultural-historical and ethnological topics. There are also technical and natural science collections. The museums are still geared towards the scientific tasks of collecting, preserving and exhibiting, as well as research and education, or at least understand these as part of their work. As elsewhere, however, the traditional self-image has dissolved since the 1960s. In addition to the new forms of contact with the public (museum education or didactics), mixed institutional forms have emerged that are actively striving for a socio-politically relevant role and in which the museum business forms only one, albeit important, facet of a more comprehensive cultural business.
Museum architecture has gained in importance since the 1980s with the increasing aestheticization of the living environment. A postmodern and deconstructivist design language has been used noticeably often in exhibition buildings. New buildings, extensions or conversions have also been built in and around Basel, designed by nationally and internationally successful architects (Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, Frank O. Gehry, Steib+Steib, Herzog & de Meuron, Mario Botta) and find recognition as avant-garde museum architecture. In the case of some museums, however, the building fabric is old to very old, since it is a question of former residential and commercial buildings or monasteries and churches that have been converted for exhibition purposes.
The museums are a central aspect of Basel’s tourist appeal and are therefore an important economic factor. Some of the Basel museums are public institutions, but the majority are under private law and are usually supported by foundations. In addition to the high density of museums compared to other cities and urban catchment areas of a similar size, these private collections have also contributed to the high quality of the museums. Almost all of the private collections came into being after the Second World War. The public museums, on the other hand, mostly go back to before that. The collections of the five state museums in the canton of Basel-Stadt even have a development history of several hundred years.
There also many smaller, quaint and often quite humorous museums that harbour real treasures and intriguing little bits and pieces. The Pharmaziemuseum (Museum of Pharmacy) of the University of Basel hosts the largest collection of pharmaceutical history – which is often mysterious and sometimes a little gruesome. The oldest proven exhibit for medical students is a skeleton dating from 1543. It can be seen in the Museum of Anatomy. The Cartoon Museum shows collections of satirical drawings and cartoons. And the Toy Worlds Museum Basle is home to the world’s largest collection of teddy bears.
The Kunstmuseum Basel houses the oldest public art collection in the world and is generally considered to be the most important museum of art in Switzerland. The Kunstmuseum Basel was recently enhanced by a new building, bringing the total to three. Contemporary art is shown in the Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart, about five minutes’ walk from the main building. It is listed as a heritage site of national significance. In 2013, the London Times named the Kunstmuseum Basel the world’s fifth best museum. The extension building, designed by architects Christ & Gantenbein of Basel, is linked with the main building by underground connection and is now open. It increases the exhibition space for first-class art by about one third in a fascinating architectural framework.
Its collection is distinguished by an impressively wide historic span, from the early 15th century up to the immediate present. Its various areas of emphasis give it international standing as one of the most significant museums of its kind. These encompass: 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 main building at St. Alban-Graben features art from the period between the 15th century and 1960. In the future, special exhibits will be shown in the generous rooms of the new building. It also houses works created between 1960 and 1990. The three buildings of the Kunstmuseum Basel have a combined exhibition space of approximately 10,000 square meters.
The Museum Tinguely is an art museum in Basel, Switzerland that contains a permanent exhibition of the works of Swiss painter and sculptor Jean Tinguely. The Museum Tinguely houses the world’s largest collection of art by Jean Tinguely, famous for his moving mechanical sculptures. Interactive exhibitions explore his influences, the work of his contemporaries and the latest trends. Located in the Solitudepark by the Rhine, the museum was designed by the Ticinese architect Mario Botta and opened on 3 October 1996.
Jean Tinguely (1925–1991) is one of the most innovative and important Swiss artists of the 20th century. The permanent exhibition at the museum dedicated to him presents a cross-section of his work over four decades. The temporary exhibitions build on Tinguely’s ideas to throw light on a broad spectrum of artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, from inspirations such as Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters to contemporaries such as Arman, Niki de Saint Phalle and Yves Klein – and on to artists shaping contemporary themes and tendencies.
The building that houses the Museum Tinguely is a work of art in itself, designed by the leading architect Mario Botta. A variety of Tinguely’s kinetic art sculptures are on permanent display, complemented with illustrations, photographs and other documents related to the artist’s life and work. Tinguely’s wife, Niki de Saint Phalle has donated 55 sculptures to the museum. The museum’s temporary exhibitions show works from Tinguely’s friends and contemporaries, as well as other modern artists such as Bernhard Luginbühl, Niki de Saint Phalle and Yves Klein, among others.
Museum der Kulturen Basel
The Museum of Cultures in Basel is a Swiss museum of ethnography with large and important collections of artifacts, especially from Europe, the South Pacific, Mesoamerica, Tibet, and Bali. The Museum der Kulturen aims to promote cultural life and awareness in the Basel area and beyond by hosting attractive, exciting exhibitions and varied events. The museum offers a unique opportunity to explore cultural dimensions and to learn and enjoy. It is a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
The Museum der Kulturen Basel is one of the most important ethnographic museums in Europe. The collection inventory with more than 300,000 items is impressive and world-renowned. The focus of the collection has been developed over generations and features gems from Europe, Africa, America, Oceania and Asia.
The Beyeler Foundation or Fondation Beyeler with its museum in Riehen, owns and oversees the art collection of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler, which features modern and traditional art. The Beyeler Foundation museum includes a space for special exhibitions staged to complement the permanent collection. The garden surrounding the museum also periodically serves as a venue for special exhibitions.
The Beyeler Foundation opened its doors on 18 October 1997, presenting 140 works of modern classics, including 23 Picassos. The overall collection of 200 works of classic modernism reflect the views of Hildy and Ernst Beyeler on 20th-century art and highlight features typical of the period from Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh to Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Francis Bacon (artist). The paintings appear alongside some 25 objects of tribal art from Africa, Oceania and Alaska. A third of the exhibition space is reserved for special exhibitions staged to complement the permanent collection.
Vitra Design Museum
The Vitra Design Museum is a privately owned museum for design in Weil am Rhein. The museum’s collection, focusing on furniture and interior design, is centered on the bequest of U.S. designers Charles and Ray Eames, as well as numerous works of designers such as George Nelson, Alvar Aalto, Verner Panton, Dieter Rams, Jean Prouvé, Richard Hutten and Michael Thonet. It is one of the world’s largest collections of modern furniture design, including pieces representative of all major periods and styles from the beginning of the nineteenth century onwards.
The museum building, an architectural attraction in its own right, was Frank O. Gehry’s first building in Europe, realised in cooperation with the Lörrach architect Günter Pfeifer. Gehry used his trademark sculptural deconstructivist style for the museum building, he allowed curved forms to break up his more usual angular shapes. A continuous changing swirl of white forms on the exterior, each seemingly without apparent relationship to the other, with its interiors a dynamically powerful interplay, in turn directly expressive of the exterior convolutions. As a totality it resolves itself into an entwined coherent display
The sloping white forms appear to echo the Notre Dame du Haut chapel by Le Corbusier in Ronchamp, France, not far from Weil. The building backs the factory fence and is embedded in a meadow adorned with cherry trees. Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s prominent sculpture Balancing Tools provides a colourful contrast,while Tadao Ando’s nearby conference pavilion gives a more muted one.
Basel is considered a mecca for architecture aficionados. Buildings by famous architects greet the visitor at every turn. Contemporary architecture is one of Basel’s trademarks. Twelve winners of the ‘Pritzker Prize’, the most prestigious architecture prize worldwide, have implemented projects in or around Basel. The city is also home to numerous architectural works of art that draw visitors from around the world.
Good architecture is not only self-evident, instead as important to the city as the bend in the Rhine. Here you have buildings by international stars like Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid – and the world-famous Basel-based duo Herzog & de Meuron. Anyone keen on architecture is in their element here, and able to follow one of three architectural paths.
Basel is noted for its modern architecture, with many prime examples of how former industrial sites are being developed into vibrant districts today. Basel boasts an impressive density of buildings by famous architects such as Mario Botta, Herzog & de Meuron and Richard Meier.
The copper signal box by Herzog & de Meuron, the white business house by Richard Meier, the Novartis campus with distinctive buildings by Frank Gehry and SANAA or the equally impressive as simple expansion of the art house of Christ & Gantenbein: So much quality architecture in a small space is rare – and one can certainly say that Basel is rightly regarded as the architectural Mecca of Switzerland.
Whoever wishes to deepen aesthetic pleasure with knowledge is able to get the “Architecture in Basel” brochure at the tourist office, and can select one of three architectural tours with focus on “Tradition and modernity”, “Large buildings in little Basel” or “working and living in greater Basel”. Better still, all three paths can be followed on foot or by public transport. The tours last from 2 to 3 hours and permit more than just a glimpse of urban living in terms of architecture.
Those wishing to learn a little more about the architecture beyond its pure aesthetic appeal should first head to the tourist office to collect the “Architecture in Basel” brochure, choosing from three themes: “Tradition and modernity”, “Big buildings in Kleinbasel” and “Living and working in Grossbasel”. All three trails can be explored on foot or by public transport. The tours take between two and three hours to complete and are a chance to experience the architecture in action as part of everyday urban life.
The façade of the Meret Oppenheim tower block by Herzog & de Meuron catches everyone’s eye with its moving elements that create a constantly changing appearance. The fountain situated on the square out in front features a sculpture by the artist Meret Oppenheim. The copper signal tower, the locomotive depot, and the glass palace known as the Alsace Gate, all by Basel’s own star architects Herzog & de Meuron. Reflected in the glass façade of the Alsace Gate is the gleaming white Euregio office building by the American architect Richard Meier. Not far from here is the Peter Merian House by Zwimpfer Partners with its spectacular, emerald-green façade executed by the artist Donald Judd. A few steps along is the Jakob Burckhardt House by Zwimpfer Partners and Jakob Steib. Finally, a brief five-minute walk from the main train station brings you to the bank building by Mario Botta in the shape of a round stone sculpture.
In the last two decades, private patronage has allowed for the construction of pioneering museum buildings, such as Herzog & de Meuron’s monumental Schaulager in Münchenstein, Fondation Beyeler by Renzo Piano in Riehen and the Museum Tinguely by Mario Botta. Just across the border in Weil am Rhein, Vitra Design Museum displays buildings by Frank O. Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Nicolas Grimshaw, Alvaro Siza and Tadao Ando. Under the direction of Herzog & de Meuron, the Museum der Kulturen experienced a considerable expansion to become a new highlight in Basel’s collection of visionary architecture. In spring 2016 has taken place the grand opening of the extension to the Kunstmuseum Basel designed by Christ & Gantenbein Architects.
Among Basel’s architectural highlights are the 105-metre-high Messe tower by architects Morger Degelo Marques and the St. Jakob-Park football stadium by Herzog & de Meuron. The new Novartis Campus next to the French border has been constructed and the illustrious list of architects giving shape to this centre of innovation includes Tadao Ando, David Chipperfield, Diener & Diener, Frank O. Gehry, Adolf Krischanitz, Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, Peter Märkli, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SAANA office), Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura. In 2013, the Exhibition Centre in Basel received its new ‘City Lounge ‘exhibition hall designed by Herzog & de Meuron. The 205 meter high Roche office tower in Kleinbasel is the tallest office building in Switzerland. The first Roche Tower, already completed in 2015, is 178 metres high. These buildings were also designed by Herzog & de Meuron.
With the new construction of the exhibition center through the Basel-based Herzog & de Meuron star architects, Basel has a new architectonic landmark. Messe Basel, designed by Basel architects Herzog & de Meuron, comprises a modern hall complex, multifunctional event hall and the Congress Center Basel with 25 congress and conference rooms. The site is situated in the heart of the city and offers exhibitor space totalling 141,000m2, with 83,000m2 suitable for multi-level stands. The rooms impress with comfort and the latest technology that will meet even the highest demands. Many of the separate halls and rooms can be combined, which provides an unusual degree of flexibility in terms of layout and capacity.
Basel is considered to be Switzerland’s most important exhibition and congress center, and certainly one of the most important in Europe. The opening of the newly created exhibition center by the Herzog & de Meuron architects in 2013 therefore met with a great echo. Discover in-depth views of the construction type, technical aspects, possible use of the various halls – and, last but not least, the most impressive architectonic visitors card that the building presents to the city of Basel. Whether a trade fair, exhibition, congress, shareholder meeting, concert or corporate event, Messe Basel is the perfect location for any event.
The Messeplatz exhibition space in Basel, at the spacious area at the heart of Kleinbasel, with its impressive buildings and over 140,000 m2 of exhibition space, comprising a hall and typical clock dating back to the 50’s, the 105-meter high tower and new Herzog & de Meuron construction lend the ensemble an unmistakable identity. It makes no difference whether to the so-called Mustermesse to view new products, Art Basel or Basel World, when half the world makes its way to Basel to experience the newest trends, they are sure to gather on Basel’s famous Messeplatz.
the spacious area at the heart of what’s known as Kleinbasel – little Basel, is surrounded by some mind-boggling architecture: The 105 sky-meter-high Morger & Degelo tower – and the new Herzog & de Meuron construction with its “window to the heavens.” Reason alone to pay the region a visit even when there’s no large-scale exhibition. Besides the eye-catching architecture, the “Bar Rouge” on the 31st floor also lures guests. Here at lofty heights you can enjoy a drink with far-reaching cross-border views. Funnily enough, those in the know suggest guests take a trip to the “smallest room in the house”.
The Carsten Höller slide tower, charming fuel station by Jean Prouvé and more: The architectural quality of all buildings on the Vitra Campus is fascinating. This establishment is considered one of the world’s leading museums for industrial furniture design and lighting – the publications of which create a loud echo near and far. And, faithful to the philosophy of this establishment, it’s not only form that matters instead content and capacity. The Vitra Design Museum is in fact one of the most important exhibition centers for industrial furniture design.
The world elite in terms of architecture had a hand in building the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, from Frank Gehry to Tadao Ando and Herzog & de Meuron. The spectacular content also up on the inner building, ever since 2014, and the inauguration of the 30.7 meter-high Vitra sliding tower by Carsten Höller, you also get to see the transparent and fast way that good architecture is not only nice to look at, but can also be fun. Besides the many beautiful things, the museum offers changing exhibitions, guided tours and workshops. And those who fall in love with one of the objects there and then can purchase it from an own shop.
St. Jakob-Park Basel
The architects Herzog & de Meuron are world-renowned. Their most significant edifices include the Tate Modern in London and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. With Basel’s St. Jakob Park, these two architects also designed the first multifunctional football stadium in Switzerland. The multifunctional St. Jakob-Park is much more than a home to sporting success. The stadium and its facilities are available for major occasions of up to 50,000 people. The St. Jakob-Park is an exclusive venue for events of every type and size.
With its charming French gardens and English park with sculptures by Richard Serra, Villa Wenkenhof is Basel’s answer to Versailles in miniature. The name Wenkenberg first appeared in the Middle Ages and at that time referred to a farming estate. Hidden behind these historic walls is a long history. Today the villa boasts magnificent rooms that can be hired for social events. The French garden is open to the public every Sunday.
The Münster is one of Basel’s main sights. Situtated in a promiment position high above the Rhine River, the former episcopal church presides high above the region. The reformed church is a vivid monument to Romanesque and Gothic red sandstone architecture (1019-1500). It can look back on a varied history with a rich tradition of outstanding musical events and church services.
St. Antonius Church
This first church in Switzerland built from concrete was designed by the architecture professor Karl Moser. It was built between 1925 and 1927. The floor plan of the church, which is built in precast concrete, is a rectangle with the impressive size of 60 x 22 meters and a height of 22 meters. The monumental stained glass windows make St. Antonius stand out as a pioneering church structure.
The Spalentor is the most imposing of the three city gates that were part of the large city fortifications dating back to the year 1400. Many important supplies entered the city of Basel from Alsace through this gate. From here, there is a wonderful view over the roofs of Basel’s old town and the hills of the Jura, the Black Forest and Vosges.
Spalentor Gate – With its square main tower with round flanking towers on the corners facing away from the city, the Spalentor can be seen from some distance away. The outward-facing representative facade is also adorned with three 15th-century corbel figures: a Madonna and two prophets. St. Alban-Tor Gate – In the gateway, next to the large wooden door, you can still see the heavy posts that were lowered individually in times of danger to bar entry to the city. St. Johanns-Tor Gate – Built in 1356. It once formed part of the third medieval fortification ring that was built around the whole city shortly after the great earthquake of 1356.
The Basel music scene is very lively in the three fields of classical, jazz and rock / pop.
The Stadtcasino is at the heart of the classical music scene in Basel. Built in 1876, the concert hall has excellent acoustics and is one of the best concert halls in the world. The extension of the Stadtcasino by the famous architects Herzog & de Meuron was officially opened in 2020. In addition to high-class local orchestras and chamber groups, including the Basel Symphony Orchestra, the Basel Sinfonietta and the Basel Chamber Orchestra, which has won the Swiss Music Prize 2019, international orchestras and soloists also regularly perform there. The music and culture center Don Bosco Basel also offers concert experiences. Basel also boasts a vibrant vocal music tradition. Large oratorio choirs such as the Basler Gesangverein, smaller chamber choirs like the Tradiophon vocal ensemble, and children’s and youth choirs all contribute to the rich musical variety. Renowned choirs such as the Basler Madrigalisten and the Männerstimmen Basel regularly embark on international tours.
As early as the 1930s, Paul Sacher founded the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, which became a center for research into and cultivation of early music. The Stadtcasino Basel is the most important concert venue for classical music. It is currently being expanded and renovated, and the reopening is scheduled for autumn 2020. In the meantime, many concerts take place at alternative venues, such as in the Musical Theater Basel or in the Martinskirche, which has been used as a concert church since the 19th century. In addition to the Basel Symphony Orchestra (chief conductor Ivor Bolton), a number of specialized orchestras also operate in the city, such as the basel sinfonietta, the baroque formations La Cetra Barockorchester Basel, the Kammerorchester i tempi and Capriccio Basel, as well as the Ensemble Phoenix and the Basel Chamber Orchestra. The Collegium Musicum Basel has existed since 1951 and the New Orchestra was founded in 1982.
In addition to the large oratorio choirs such as the Basler Liederverein and the Basler Bach-Chor, there are also numerous smaller chamber choirs, most of which specialize in a cappella music. The Basel Madrigalists and the Basel Boys’ Choir (KKB) are internationally renowned. The European Youth Choir Festival takes place in Basel every two years. Basel has a music academy with sub-departments such as the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, from which the baroque orchestra La Cetra emerged, and the music academy. The Paul Sacher Foundation is also based in Basel.
Basel is also a city with an important organ culture, which has several churches with historic organs, such as the Predigerkirche (Johann Andreas Silbermann, 1769), the Elisabethenkirche (Joseph Merklin, 1864), the Church of St. Joseph (organ builder Kuhn, 1904), the Church of St. Anton (Organbau Willisau, 1931) or the former First Church of Christ, Wissenschafter on Picassoplatz, which was converted into a rehearsal house primarily for the Basel Symphony Orchestra (Organbau Kuhn, 1936).
The Basel music scene has already spawned several nationally and internationally known bands, such as the Lovebugs, Myron and Dankner. In addition, the singer and actor Martin Schenkel and the singer Nubya are coming or came from Basel. Black Tiger was the first in Switzerland to rap in dialect. The hip-hop band Brandhärd comes from the vicinity of Basel.
Basel also has a long tradition and international reputation in the field of new music. The Gare du Nord – the Bahnhof für Neue Musik is the venue for the extremely lively and productive contemporary music scene in Switzerland, the trinational region and beyond. The Musikakademie (College of Music) has an excellent reputation and runs its own concert hall. A large part of the classical music scene is funded by the Allgemeine Musikgesellschaft (AMG), founded in 1876. The Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel is home to one of the largest collections of autographs, including works by Stravinsky, among others.
Jazz & blues
Basel is a lively and important centre for jazz and blues with numerous events and highlights. The range of offers is varied and of high quality. The jazz music events Bâloise Session (formerly AVO Session), Em Bebbi sy Jazz and the Basel Jazz Festival are known nationally. The jazz club The bird’s eye in the Lohnhof am Kohlenberg is counted among the best in Europe. The blues is also cultivated at the knee of the Rhine, with the Blues Festival Basel founded in 2000 and the summerblues in Kleinbasel being just a few examples. The Sonic in the St. Jakobshalle is considered the largest techno dance event in Switzerland. The FLOSS Festival takes place annually from the end of July to mid-August on the banks of the Rhine.
For jazz devotees, Basel has a number of clubs such as “the bird’s eye jazz club” as well as a selection of festivals celebrating jazz genres from Dixieland and swing to classic jazz and avant-garde.The Jazzfestival Basel brings jazz legends to Basel, and the largest one-day jazz festival in the world, “Em Bebbi sy Jazz”, infuses Basel’s city centre with traditional jazz sounds. Opened in 2014, the Jazzcampus of the Academy of Music/FHNW is an academic institution, jazz club and meeting place all in one.
During the Blues Festival Basel held at the Volkshaus, the city on the Rhine becomes a blues destination, and the largest open-air blues event in Switzerland, “Summerblues Basel”, transforms the Kleinbasel district into a unique open-air blues club for one long summer’s night. The Groove Now! concert series at the Volkshaus in Basel features concerts by the most exciting international musicians who are currently influencing the development of modern blues and soul.
Rock, pop & techno
Rock and pop concerts are organised at various smaller venues in the city centre, at the Kaserne in Kleinbasel, the Volkshaus and the Sommercasino. Large concerts with well over 30,000 concertgoers are held at St. Jakob Park. Some 300 bands, a dozen music studios and many DJs make sure that Basel has a broad-based and lively music scene ranging from rock to techno and hip-hop. The Beat on the Street music parade held every two years makes its way along the banks of the Rhine in Basel to the harbour and features various styles of music such as drum and bass, dubstep, dance hall and hip-hop.
And finally, Basel also has a pulsing techno scene. Techno fans can drop in to Das Viertel Klub Basel, Nordstern or Elysia, for example, in their search for the best beats. The Jungle Street Groove techno parade takes place along the banks of the Rhine every two years, alternating with Beat on the Street.
Festivals in Basel will bring you everything, from world stars to hidden gems, and in all musical genres. While classical and jazz festivals are held mainly indoors, rock and pop bands like to play outdoors, and the city becomes their stage. A highlight certainly is the international crossover Stimmen-Festival which takes place near the border in Lörrach (Germany) and at other locations on both sides of the border. At the Jugendkulturfestival, the very young take over the city. During one weekend in June, young bands and dance groups show what they have achieved in weeks of practice. The Basel Early Music Festival also takes place every other year.
The Basel Tattoo is unique in Switzerland, and is the second largest open-air festival of its kind in the world. Every summer, the best representation orchestras from around the world, present catchy tunes combined with elaborately choreographed march sequences, and provide a marvellous spectacle of colour and light in front of the magnificent backdrop of the Kaserne Basel.
The European Festival of Youth Choirs Basel takes place every second year during the Ascension holidays. First held in 1992, it has now become firmly established, and, with more than 22,000 visitors, has become an integral part of the cultural life of Basel and the region. The festival focuses on interaction. Choirs representing a broad musical and cultural spectrum of European choir singing can be seen in more than 25 large and smaller concerts in Basel and the region.
The Floss festival in July and August creates just the right mood with free concerts held on a floating raft stage on the Rhine.
Besides a successful theatre offering drama, opera and ballet, Basel is also home to around 18 additional stages and a number of off-spaces offering everything from productions in dialect to performance art.
The Theater Basel, which consists of the three branches of performing arts opera, drama and dance, is the centre piece of theatre life in Basel. In 2018, the renowned cultural institution was named theater of the year in the “Theater heute” magazine critics’ survey. In order to build a new central stage, a private group of theatre-loving ladies collected the funds needed. In 2002, the new Schauspielhaus was opened, so that Theater Basel has now three stages to perform.
As the largest multi-genre theater in Switzerland, Theater Basel has a permanent opera, drama and dance ensemble as well as an opera choir. The Basel Symphony Orchestra and other orchestras from the region (La Cetra Baroque Orchestra Basel, Basel Chamber Orchestra, Basel Sinfonietta, Ensemble Phoenix Basel) provide the orchestra services for opera and dance productions. Theater Basel has two stages in the main building, which opened in 1975, at the intersection of Theaterstrasse and Klosterberg, and another stage in the theater that opened in 2002 at Steinentorstrasse.
Basel offers groups on the free dance and theatre scene an attractive and much-acclaimed production location. New contemporary theatre, dance and performance art productions by groups from the region are regularly shown on both stages at the Kaserne. The programme for Theater ROXY in the neighbouring municipality of Birsfelden also injects momentum into the theatre scene.
The Kaserne Basel is the most important venue for groups from the free dance and theater scene in the canton of Basel-Stadt and regularly hosts guest performances by groups from home and abroad. The ROXY Theater in Birsfelden (Canton Basel-Landschaft) and the theater company Neuestheater.ch in Dornach (Canton Solothurn) are also of great importance for the Basel independent dance and theater scene as production and performance locations.
Younger and older children take part in performances at Basler Kindertheater and Junges Theater Basel, while theatre performances for the whole family are also shown at Vorstadttheater, Basler Marionetten Theater (puppet theatre), the puppet theatre Felucca, the puppet theatre Doris Weiller and the hugely traditional private theatres and cabaret theatres that show their own productions, including establishments such as Theater Arlecchino, the Reactor in Bau 3, Theater Fauteuil & Tabourettli, Helmut Förnbacher Theater Company, Häbse-Theater, Kammertheater Riehen and Theatergarage. The cast members at Baseldytschi Bihni are committed to preserving dialect.
The area of children’s and young people’s theater is shaped by the Junge Theater Basel, the Vorstadttheater Basel, the Basel Children’s Theater and the work of independent groups. The range of private and small theaters is unusually varied. The Baseldytschi Bihni, the Häbse Theater, the Theater Fauteuil (with tabourettli), Building 3 (formerly TheaterFalle Basel), the Theater Arlecchino, the Theater im Teufelhof, the Theatergarage as well as the Baseldytschi Bihni, the Häbse Theater, are here on the territory of the city of Basel on the territory of the municipality of Riehen to name the Kellertheater Riehen (formerly Atelier-Theater). The Musical Theater Basel also regularly offers theater and dance guest performances.
In addition to the continuous work of the above-mentioned companies, some festivals set additional accents, such as the Basel Theater Festival (formerly «Welt in Basel»), the Fuel Theater Days and the Basel Figure Theater Festival (all in a biennial rhythm) as well as the annual Basel Dance Festival. In addition, there are the multidisciplinary festivals wildwachsen and Culturescapes, which have a significant share of theater and dance productions in the overall program. The youth culture festival Basel also shows an increasing proportion of contributions from the performing arts.
The Musical Theater Basel has an ideal stage for showing major touring theatre and dance productions. In addition, Treibstoff Theatertage, Basel Theatre Festival, Culturescapes, Wildwuchs and FigurenTheaterFestival Basel are all festivals that are held once every two years and offer a window to showcase productions on the international dance and theatre scene along different themes. The Basel Region Dance Festival takes place every year in May. Last but not least, private theatres and cabarets such as the Theater im Teufelhof, H95 Raum für Kultur or Station Circus consistently present programmes by renowned guest artists.
Basel, where the famous humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam once published his major works, is still an important literary city today. The Swiss Book Prize is awarded each year in November at the BuchBasel international literature festival. And the international Lyrikfestival Basel at the end of January offers visitors from Switzerland and abroad an insight at today’s poetry scene. The Literaturhaus Basel is another important meeting place for readers, writers and literary enthusiasts with over 100 events a year. The Wortstellwerk on the Dreispitz area offers young writers writing workshops and text coaching.
Basel is home to at least 65 libraries. The “Gesellschaft für das Gute und Gemeinnützige (GGG)” society operates public libraries in all city districts with an extensive range of books and other media in various languages. The library of the University Basel is also open to the public and can be used free of charge. The “Allgemeine Lesegesellschaft” reading society at Münsterplatz maintains a library with a very attractive reading room. The Intercultural Library for Children and Young People (JUKIBU) specialises in children’s and youth literature in over 50 languages.
Some of the largest include; the Universitätsbibliothek Basel (main university library), the special libraries of the University of Basel, the Allgemein Bibliotheken der Gesellschaft für Gutes und Gemeinnütziges (GGG) Basel, the Library of the Pädagogische Hochschule, the Library of the Hochschule für Soziale Arbeit and the Library of the Hochschule für Wirtschaft. There was a combined total (as of 2008) of 8,443,643 books or other media in the libraries, and in the same year a total of 1,722,802 items were loaned out.
The film weeks held in Basel in 1939, 1943 and 1945 can be described as one of the first film festivals in the world – only the Venice Festival started earlier. The Bildrausch – Filmfest Basel has established itself in a few years as an intimate international film festival on the Swiss film calendar and offers a multifaceted supporting programme, with discussions with film makers, panel discussions, readings, workshops, artistic interventions and concerts. As a non-profit event with an international flair, the Gässli Film Festival provides cinematic fascination and background information on film making. Film talents are given the opportunity to present their short films or music videos to a larger audience.
Basel has many smaller and larger cinemas spread throughout the city. The largest collection of cinemas can be found along Steinenvorstadt. Many of the films are shown in their original language with subtitles. All the major Hollywood productions and a great many European films, as well as a number of non-European films, can be seen on the numerous cinema screens in the Basel region. Many films are shown in the original language with German subtitles, a speciality of Switzerland that contributes significantly to the enjoyment of the film.
The cinema centre extends to the Theater Basel, where the Stadtkino Basel is located. It is one of the most important programme cinemas in Switzerland and shapes Basel film culture with special events such as lectures, international conferences, festivals and musically accompanied film screenings. The kult.kino atelier at the Theater Basel and the kult.kino camera at the Claraplatz stand out from mainstream cinemas and let you immerse yourself in cinematic discoveries from all over the world with their versatile, lively and sophisticated cinematic art.
At PATHÉ Küchlin in the Steinenvorstadt, everything is geared towards a unique cinema experience – the most modern cinema theatres with comfortable seats, innovative technology and outstanding film projection. The Filmhaus Basel is a cultural piece of home in the middle of the old town centre in Gerbergasse, with creative studios for film makers, a small cinema and an atmospheric club as a meeting point, where visitors can immerse themselves in cinematic worlds. In the neues Kino in the Klybeck district, politically uncomfortable, aesthetically innovative or regionally explosive works are shown in various formats and provide a framework for expanded analysis and discussion.
Large screens are set up in many parks and castle ruins in the region in summer. The highlight, with one of the largest screens in the world, is the Allianz Cinema, which takes place on Münsterplatz over a number of weeks. It offers reruns, premieres and special nights in a unique atmosphere for over three weeks in July and August. Those who prefer their films away from the mainstream can visit exciting retrospectives from new cinema on the roof of a silo in the Rheinhafen.
The Magic Lantern has been an integral part of Basel’s film education and cultural offering for primary school children (from 6 to 12 years of age) since 1994 and aims to increase children’s awareness of films in an entertaining way with images and sound. During the school year there are several performances in Basel and at various locations in Switzerland. It is not only regularly recommended by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), but it is also supported by the Federal Office of Culture (BAK).
Besides Humanism the city of Basel has also been well known for its achievements in the field of mathematics. Among others, the mathematician Leonhard Euler and the Bernoulli family have done research and been teaching at the local institutions for centuries. Basel hosts Switzerland’s oldest university, the University of Basel, dating from 1460. Erasmus, Paracelsus, Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, Jacob Burckhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Tadeusz Reichstein, Karl Jaspers, Carl Gustav Jung and Karl Barth worked there. The University of Basel is currently counted among the 90 best educational institutions worldwide.
In 2007, the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich) established the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel. The creation of the D-BSSE was driven by a Swiss-wide research initiative SystemsX, and was jointly supported by funding from the ETH Zürich, the Swiss Government, the Swiss University Conference (SUC) and private industry. Basel also hosts several academies of the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz|Fachhochschule NW (FHNW): the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, FHNW Academy of Music, and the FHNW School of Business.