Basel Travel Guide, Switzerland

Basel is commonly considered to be the cultural capital of Switzerland. The city lives and breathes culture, and promotes and celebrates the arts. 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 also has a beautiful Old Town, the modern architecture in Basel is considered a mecca for architecture aficionados. The Rhine is an icon of inviting spot to rest a while.

Basel has a beautiful medieval old town centre, a fascinating carnival, and several world class art museums built by architects like Renzo Piano, Mario Botta and Herzog & De Meuron. Basel is also rich in architecture old and new, with a Romanesque Münster (cathedral), a Renaissance Rathaus (town hall), and various examples of high quality contemporary architecture, including more buildings by Herzog & De Meuron, Richard Meier, Diener & Diener.

One of Switzerland’s underrated tourist destinations, the town of Basel lies in the north-western corner of Switzerland. The town shares borders with France and Germany, Basel is a gateway to the Swiss Jura mountains and nearby cities of Zürich and Lucerne, as well as the neighbouring French region of Alsace and the German Black Forest. Besides its own attractions it can serve as a good entry point to the Alsace, Black Forest regions or the canton of Basel-Land.

The Rhine curves through the city and divides the town into two parts. Situated on the south and west bank is Grossbasel (Great Basel) with the medieval old town at its centre. Kleinbasel (Little Basel), featuring much of the night-life, is on the north bank. Gross- und Kleinbasel are connected by five bridges over the Rhine.

Basel is Switzerland’s oldest university city. Historic landmarks of the city include the large market square with its richly decorated red sandstone town hall and the late Romanesque-Gothic cathedral. 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.

Many of its institutions and events enjoy an international reputation. Home to 40 museums display visual arts from antiquity to the present, the city of culture for connoisseurs has the highest concentration of museums in the country. The prestigious exhibitions hosted by Fondation Beyeler, the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Art) and Antikenmuseum (Museum of Ancient Art) draw international attention.

Art is not limited to the indoors. Despite its small size, Basel has an exceptional cultural offering. 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.

Basel is a green city. The Botanical Gardens, several parks and the banks of the Rhine are perfect places to relax and linger for a while. And the Etoscha House at the zoo offers spectacular insights into the Namibian Savannah. At nearby Augusta Raurica near Augst impressive ruins and a great many finds at the museum bear testimony to the busy lives of the Romans in the region in the past. The charming countryside of the Basel region with its many cherry trees in spring boasts a particularly beautiful display of blooms. Germany and France, the Black Forest and Vosges Mountains are only a stone’s throw away from the border city of Basel.

The Rhine is Basel’s unofficial emblem. In summer you will find life in all its facets here as sun worshippers, walkers, students and businesspeople all gather on the shore. The river is a perfect place for a refreshing dip or a pleasant ferry trip; enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean at the Rhine knee.

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. The yearly Fasnacht (Carnival) is the most important celebration for the people of Basel. On the Monday following Ash Wednesday the city rises with the “Morgenstraich”. At four in the morning on the dot all the lights in the city go out and a colourful and brilliant procession through the streets of the city begins.

Main Attractions
The diminutive metropolitan city of Basel successfully blends tradition and modernity. With its old quarter, quaint districts and the riverside promenade along the Rhine, which separates the quarters of Grossbasel and Kleinbasel, the city offers an exceptionally high quality of life.

Basel has one of the largest concentrations of museums in Europe in addition to a wonderful old town. Among them are important art museums, such as the Tinguely Museum or the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen (northeast of Kleinbasel) and important historical museums. Art Basel host once a year which is the world’s premier fair for modern classics and contemporary art. The Basel Fasnacht (carnival/carnival) is also well-known.

The red sandstone Münster, one of the foremost late-Romanesque/early Gothic buildings in the Upper Rhine, was badly damaged in the great earthquake of 1356, rebuilt in the 14th and 15th century, extensively reconstructed in the mid-19th century and further restored in the late 20th century. A memorial to Erasmus lies inside the Münster. The City Hall from the 16th century is located on the Market Square and is decorated with fine murals on the outer walls and on the walls of the inner court.

Basel is also host to an array of buildings by internationally renowned architects. These include the Beyeler Foundation by Renzo Piano, or the Vitra complex in nearby Weil am Rhein, composed of buildings by architects such as Zaha Hadid (fire station), Frank Gehry (Design Museum), Álvaro Siza Vieira (factory building) and Tadao Ando (conference centre). Basel also features buildings by Mario Botta (Jean Tinguely Museum and Bank of International settlements) and Herzog & de Meuron (whose architectural practice is in Basel, and who are best known as the architects of Tate Modern in London and the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, the Olympia stadium, which was designed for use throughout the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics).

Old Town
The entire Old Town of Basel features a great number of heritage sites of national significance. Basel Old Town is a compact, walkable area bounded to the north by the Rhine and to the south by the Zoo and SBB main railway station. There are many museums, some with a free opening hour at the end of the day. 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.

Religious heritage include: Old Catholic Prediger Kirche (church), Bischofshof with Collegiate church at Rittergasse 1, Domhof at Münsterplatz 10–12, former Carthusian House of St Margarethental, Catholic Church of St Antonius, Lohnhof (former Augustinians Collegiate Church), Mission 21, Archive of the Evangelisches Missionswerk Basel, Münster of Basel (cathedral), Reformed Elisabethenkirche (church), Reformed Johanneskirche (church), Reformed Leonhardskirche (church, former Augustinians Abbey), Reformed Martinskirche (church), Reformed Pauluskirche (church), Reformed Peterskirche (church), Reformed St. Albankirche (church) with cloister and cemetery, Reformed Theodorskirche (church), Synagoge at Eulerstrasse 2

Civil heritage include: Badischer Bahnhof (German Baden’s railway station) with fountain, Bank for International Settlements, Blaues Haus (Reichensteinerhof) at Rheinsprung 16, Bruderholzschule (school house) at Fritz-Hauser-Strasse 20, Brunschwiler Haus at Hebelstrasse 15, Bahnhof Basel SBB (Swiss railway station), Bürgerspital (hospital), Café Spitz (Merianflügel), Coop Schweiz company’s central archive, Depot of the Archäologischen Bodenforschung des Kanton Basel-Stadt, former Gallizian Paper Mill and Swiss Museum of Paper, former Klingental-Kaserne (casern) with Klingentaler Kirche (church), Fasnachtsbrunnen (fountain), Feuerschützenhaus (guild house of the riflemen) at Schützenmattstrasse 56, Fischmarktbrunnen (fountain), Geltenzunft at Marktplatz 13, Gymnasium am Kohlenberg (St Leonhard) (school), Hauptpost (main post office), Haus zum Raben at Aeschenvorstadt 15, Hohenfirstenhof at Rittergasse 19,

Holsteinerhof at Hebelstrasse 30, Markgräflerhof a former palace of the margraves of Baden-Durlach, Mittlere Rhein Brücke (Central Rhine Bridge), Stadtcasino (music hall) at Steinenberg 14, Ramsteinerhof at Rittergasse 7 and 9, Rathaus (town hall), Rundhof building of the Schweizerischen Mustermesse, Safranzunft at Gerbergasse 11, Sandgrube at Riehenstrasse 154, Schlösschen (Manor house) Gundeldingen, Schönes Haus and Schöner Hof at Nadelberg 6, Wasgenring school house, Seidenhof with painting of Rudolf von Habsburg, Spalenhof at Spalenberg 12, Spiesshof at Heuberg 7, city walls, Townhouse (former post office) at Stadthausgasse 13 / Totengässlein 6, Weisses Haus at Martinsgasse 3, Wildt’sches Haus at Petersplatz 13, Haus zum Neuen Singer at Speiserstrasse 98, Wolfgottesacker at Münchensteinerstrasse 99, Zerkindenhof at Nadelberg 10.

Villa Wenkenhof
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
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.

City Gates
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.

Museums and galleries
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.

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.

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. 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

Kunstmuseum Basel
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.

Museum Tinguely
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.

Beyeler Foundation
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.

Modern architecture
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.

Messe Basel
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.

Fairground Square
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”.

Barragán Gallery
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.

Zoo Basel is, with over 1.7 million visitors per year, the most visited tourist attraction in Basel and the second most visited tourist attraction in Switzerland. Opened in 1874 and affectionately known as “Zolli” by the locals, Basel’s Zoological Gardens are home to a large number of indigenous and exotic animals. Through its history, Zoo Basel has had several breeding successes, such as the first worldwide Indian rhinoceros birth and Greater flamingo hatch in a zoo. These and other achievements led Forbes Travel to rank Zoo Basel as one of the fifteen best zoos in the world in 2008.

With its fascinating park landscape and lovingly designed enclosures, Basel Zoo is well worth a visit at any time of year. In summer, the park invites you to a cozy outdoors stroll – and in winter the many animals’ dwellings promise exciting encounters at close range. Those wishing to explore the underwater world also discover a colorful variety of marine animals. Particularly noteworthy is the newly remodeled “Gamgoas” lion habitat, as well as the recently opened monkey house.

Watch the snow leopard cubs playing on their rock. Just next door, the enclosure containing Indian rhinos and small-clawed otters provides an insight into the wildlife of Asia. Those who want to discover an underwater world will find a rich variety of sea creatures in the vivarium, including seahorses, sharks and penguins. Switzerland’s largest zoo also includes the Etosha house, a spectacular recreation of the Namibian savannah. After more than three years of construction, Basel Zoo has opened the Tembea elephant enclosure. The new, expanded outdoor areas and the new building will be home to elephants as well as African clawed frogs, brown rats and harvester ants.

The river is the perfect place to take a dip. The pivotal point of Switzerland’s commodity supply is located here, where Germany, France and Switzerland meet and the ships ply towards the North Sea.The best way to see the city from the water is while on a passage though the locks to Rheinfelden or during a harbour cruise on the Basler Personenschifffahrt company’s white fleet. Experience the wide world in miniature.

The Basler Personenschifffahrt boat trip company also offers city and harbour tours, as well as a trip from Basel up the Rhine to Rheinfelden. The four ferries “Wilde Maa”, “Leu”, “Vogel Gryff” and “Ueli” operate between the five Rhine bridges in Basel, connecting Grossbasel with Kleinbasel. These public transport options let you cross the Rhine without an engine, using only the force of the river’s current. The Rhine ferries are not only a contemplative pleasure for tourists, but also a pleasant and convenient means of transport for locals and commuters.

Explore the Rhine in and around Basel on the Rhytaxi by aboard the flotilla of the Basle passenger cruise company: lock passages between Basle and Rheinfelden, city and harbour tours, rich brunch offer and much more.. On offer are city and harbour cruises with commentary, longer journeys to and from Rheinfelden, Mulhouse and Breisach, and individual tours with a specially tailored programme.

The city and harbour tours take roughly one hour. They take visitors past the charming facades of the Basle old town, Basle cathedral and the ancient city walls near the St. Alban valley, further along the Kleinbasle Rhine shores up to the border triangle and the Basle Rhine harbour, which is the loading and unloading station of countless goods.

The two-and-a-half hour Rhine lock journey takes passengers along the Rhine shores from Basle to Rheinfelden. Two locks at Augst and Birsfelden have to be negotiated on the Swiss as well as the German side. Also, the vessel docks at several boat landings: at Kaiseraugst and at the former Roman city Augusta Raurica among others.

The Spalenberg district in the Old Town with its historic alleyways and beautifully adorned houses is packed with seductive boutiques, attractive galleries and irresistible delicatessens, along with shops selling innovative labels and original gifts. Above all, however, this is a place of inspiration: stroll through the quarter with an eye for its charms and you’ll enjoy an intimate experience of Basel’s rich history.

Basel’s “shopping mile” goes from Clarastrasse (Claraplatz) to Marktplatz and up Freiestrasse and Gerbergasse to Heuwaage and Bankverein. Much of the shopping here is in speciality stores and luxury boutiques, with a few department stores. Like other large Swiss cities, Basel has many jewelers, horologers (watches), and chocolatiers.

Check out Schneidergasse (off of Marktplatz), the hilly Spalenberg and adjacent little alleyways such as Heuberg, Nadelberg, which are not only lovely to walk through but where you are likely to find more original shops, selling artisan jewelry, antiques, specialty items, vintage clothing, books, art, etc.

There are a number of culinary specialties originating in Basel, including Basler Läckerli cookies and Mässmogge candies. Being located in the meeting place between Switzerland, France and Germany the culinary landscape as a whole is very varied and diverse, making it a city with a great number of restaurants of all sorts. The so-called Buvettes along the Rhine shores of Kleinbasel offer cool drinks and small yet delicious specialities during the summer months.

The city of Basel is a centre for numerous fairs and events all year round. One of the most important fairs for contemporary art worldwide is the Art Basel which was founded in 1970 by Ernst Beyeler and takes place in June each year. Baselworld, the watch and jewellery show (Uhren- und Schmuckmesse) one of the biggest fairs of its kind in Europe is held every year as well, and attracts a great number of tourists and dealers to the city. Live marketing company and fair organizer MCH Group has its head office in Basel.

The carnival of the city of Basel (Basler Fasnacht) is a major cultural event in the year. The carnival is the biggest in Switzerland and attracts large crowds every year, despite the fact that it starts at exactly four o’clock in the morning (Morgestraich) on a winter Monday. The Fasnacht asserts Basel’s Protestant history by commencing the revelry five days after Ash Wednesday and continuing exactly 72 hours. Almost all study and work in the old city cease. Dozens of fife and drum clubs parade in medieval guild tradition with fantastical masks and illuminated lanterns.

Basler Fasnacht
The Carnival of Basel is the biggest carnival in Switzerland and takes place annually between February and March in Basel. It has been listed as one of the top fifty local festivities in Europe. Since 2017, the Carnival of Basel has been included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage. The parades taking place on Monday and Wednesday afternoon are called Cortège and follow two defined ring routes: the inner ring runs clockwise, and the outer ring runs counterclockwise. The two routes are sometimes referred to as the blue and the red route because of their colour representation on the route map. The Fasnächtler who participate in the parade generally toss confetti into the crowds, and hand out candy and other treats to the spectators.

The approximately 18,000 active Fasnächtler dress up in a wide variety of costumes, including a mask known as a Larve. Participants are fully concealed and must remain incognito while parading; it is considered inappropriate and a breach of protocol to identify oneself by removing the mask, other than during official breaks from the parade. Members of the various Cliques wear costumes that fit a specific theme, except during Morgestreich and on Fasnacht Tuesday. Costumes and masks commonly represent famous people including politicians, or even comic characters or animals. More traditional masks recall Napoleonic soldiers, harlequins (Harlekin) and the famous Waggis.

Art | Basel
The highlight of the art scene is 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.

Co-founded by gallery owner Ernst Beyeler in the late 1960s, this is the world’s premier fair for modern and contemporary art. Another event that seems to all but double the population of the city. The five day fair attracts major galleries and wealthy art collectors from around the world. ArtBasel showcases works by virtually every important artist from the late 19th century up to red hot trendsetters.

Concurrently with Art | Basel, three other contemporary arts fairs are held in Basel each year, Liste, Voltashow and Hot Art. Basel is a permanent exhibit of the expertise of artisans. The international art world virtually takes over Basel for the week leading up to and during the fairs, with all kinds of art-themed parties and side events and much the same kind of beautiful.

International Watch and Jewelry fair. Late March-Early April. The world’s biggest watch and jewelry trade show. The watch displays are particularly elaborate, with the indoor exhibition space.

Basel Herbstmesse (autumn fair).
Two weeks beginning on the last Saturday of October every year. Rides, booths, shooting alleys and lots of food in several locations all over the city, including Messeplatz (biggest site with most attractions, including rollercoaster and the like), Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz.

Basler Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).
The Basel Christmas Market is considered one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Stroll through the historic Old Town, past lovingly decorated houses and festively adorned shop windows, and you’ll be charmed by the care that Basel puts into celebrating the Christmas season.

The Advent market on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz has long attracted visitors from far and wide, while the hundred-odd Christmas trees adorning the streets guarantee an enchanting seasonal atmosphere throughout the city centre. Each year, the traditional Christmas lights in the Freie Strasse create a magical atmosphere. You can also admire the Christmas lighting in the St. Alban-Tal. The apprentices at the municipal nursery greatly enjoy setting these up every year.

Music festivals
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.

Surrounding area
Basel’s location in the Dreiländereck (border triangle) does not only make this a cosmopolitan and welcoming destination, but also allows you to enjoy a variety of activities in the tri-national hinterland. The endless forests of the Black Forest will inspire you to go out hiking or playing golf as well as to take part in water sports in the summer and skiing in the winter. There is guaranteed fun at Europa Park with breathtaking roller coasters and spooky ghost trains. First-class wine and regional culinary delights await you right on the border in Alsace, including in beautiful Colmar or in Eguisheim. Explore the “Route des Vins” wine route and enjoy the culinary delights of our neighbouring countries.