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Basel was my first experience of Switzerland and it did not disappoint. We visited Basel for a weekend during Winter and was greeted by cobbled streets, Bavarian style architecture and an ever present warm sense of community. Our weekend in Basel was a welcoming introduction to Swiss culture while still proving itself as a stronger contender as an alternative city break to the typical capital cities.
How to spend 2 days in Basel, Switzerland
Where is Basel
Basel lies in the heart of Europe, on both banks of the Rhine. The city is the centre of the idyllic border triangle of France, Germany and Switzerland – lying between the Swiss Jura, Germany’s Black Forest and the Vosges in Alsace. Due to the very close proximity to the bordering countries, it is not unusual for locals to cross the borders on a daily basis for work.
From both London Gatwick and London Heathrow, there are 5 flights daily with a short duration of 1 hour 30 minutes. With EasyJet now flying to Basel, flights can often to be found at low cost – the price of our flight (Friday evening to Sunday Evening during December) cost just £45 return.
Important: Basel Airport has two exits – a Swiss exit and a French exit, be sure to exit out of the correct side.
How to get around in Basel
If you are a tourist in Basel and staying in a hotel you will receive a Basel Tourist Card. This card allows you free access to public transport across the city. We found the trams to be easy to navigate as well as extremely regular.
It is worth noting Basel is quite small in size as a city, due to this if you are able I do recommend walking around the city in order to take more of the wonderful architecture in.
The Basel Tourist card also gives you access to free wifi across the city ensuring you always have access to Google Maps to find your way!
Fun things to do in Basel, Switzerland
The Kunstmuseum Basel is home to one of the largest and oldest public museum collections in Europe. In its unique history, it has assembled works from the early fifteenth century to the present.
Other notable museums in Basel include the Toy Museum and the Fondation Beyeler. You do have to pay for admission to museums in Basel, however with your Basel Tourist Card you will receive a discounted entry.
Visit the smallest museum in Basel
Imbergässlein 31, 4051 Basel
Situated in the old quarter you will find Basel’s smallest museum also known as the Hoosesagg Museum. It is essentially a window in a door which exhibits different collections each month. Past exhibitions have included stones, Easter eggs, toy cars – anything that fits into the palm of your hand and locals can contact the owner to ask to display their items for the month.
Swim in the Rhine River
If you are visiting Basel during the summer months then be sure to pack your swim wear! During the warmer months, locals and tourists head to the Rhine river to cool down and it essentially turns into an open-air swimming pool. During these months many of the shops also sell 100% waterproof fish-shaped bags (Wickelfisch) so your valuables can stay with you are all times while you are in the water. I have plans to head back to Basel during the summer just so I can do this.
If swimming is not for you, don’t worry, there are plenty of bars with outdoor seating situated along the river so you can just watch instead.
Visit the Christmas Markets in Winter
If you are visiting Basel in December be sure to visit the Basel Christmas Markets to truly get into the festive spirit.
The Basel Xmas markets start from November 22nd until December 23rd, and between that time they are open every day between 11 am and 6 pm. The markets open on November 22nd with an official opening ceremony where the lights are usually turned on by an official member of the government. The evening usually consists of a live choir and other festive events.
Where to stay in Basel
Located in the lively centre of Kleinbasel, right at the Rhine River, East-West Riverside Hotel is just a short walk across the bridge from the Old Town of Basel and a 10-minute tram ride from the Messe Basel exhibition centre.
We stayed here and absolutely loved it. Our room had a riverside view meaning we had the stunning Rhine river directly in front of our window, which was especially beautiful at sunset. Despite being on the right side of the river (the main centre is on the left of the river), the city of centre of Basel is a short walk away and there is a tram spot located a few minutes walk away.
The hotel offers a continental breakfast which serves one of the best croissants I have ever had in my life – warm and filled with Nutella!
Overall, it is a really great moderately priced hotel which has recently been renovated.
The best restaurants in Basel
The Nomad Eatery
Brunngässlein 8, 4052 Basel
If you cannot decide on what cuisine you want for dinner then head to The Nomad Eatery. The luxury restaurant describes itself as serving delicious culinary travel souvenirs, essentially food from around the world. The dishes range from Black Rice Noodle Bowls, Beef Tajine to CurryWurst Burgers, so there will be something to suit most tastes. I would say the Nomad Eatery is more on the luxury scale of restaurants when visiting for dinner, something which is also reflected in the price, however the food is fantastic and in my opinion worth the price if you are looking for a special night out.
Untere Rheingasse 11, 4058 Basel
Ufer7 is your go to for lunch in Basel, situated alongside the Rhein River this small eatery is wonderfully bright with a strong local feeling. The menu is small and vegetarian options are on request rather than being placed on the menu, however the quality of the food is great and beautifully presented. Ufer7 also has a separate salad menu, which you can individually pick the contents of your salad including dressings – meaning you can create a wide variety of choices using this menu. The servings of food at Ufer7 are large making it great value for money.
Steinentorberg 20, 4051 Basel
The Markthalle is a big indoor street food market located just outside the city centre, it is still in walking distance but it is also accessible by tram. Inside you will find street food stalls selling cuisine from Vietnam, Ethiopia, America as well as European countries as well, again, it is a great place to go to suit a wide range of tastes however many of the stalls do not open on Sundays, therefore I would advise visiting on an alternative day.
There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and with the food being very fairly priced the Markthalle is a great option if you are looking to visit Basel on a budget.
I found a great sense of local community inside the Markthalle and it seemed to be busy hotspot for the local people, there was also various other things going on inside such as jumble / vintage sale.
Where to go for drinks in Basel
Messepl. 10, 4058 Basel
Bar Rouge is the highest bar in the city situated 105 meters above Basel, it boasts spectacular views making it one of the top things to do when visiting Basel. Bar Rouge is a cocktail bar but it also has a club attached as well if you feel like partying during your weekend in Basel, however I will say it gets really busy so if you want to get a window seat I recommend turning up early to secure a table with a view.
Bar Rouge is only open on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
How expensive is Basel?
Basel, much like the rest of the Switzerland, is not a cheap city to visit. However, it is not as expensive as others such as Copenhagen in Denmark. In my opinion, for comparison I would place Basel alongside Central London when it comes to prices for eating out and souvenirs. On average, we paid around £45-50 for a 2-course meal for two with a glass of wine / beer in a restaurant. In places such as the Markthalle, street food was slightly cheaper with a dish being on average £6-7.
However, with the tourist board providing the Basel cards for visitors staying in hotels you save money by having free transportation and discount at attractions – something I have not yet seen offered in any other city. As I also previously mentioned, with low-cost airline Easyjet flying there from multiple destinations such as London, you can get really good deals on return flights to Basel.
Despite being a small city with a population of just 171,000 Basel is a great choice destination for a short haul city. If you planning visiting Basel in the summer you will have plenty of outdoor options, including a swim in the Rhine, and then if you are visiting Basel during the winter you of course have the most festive Christmas markets.
At present Basel maybe one of the lesser known Swiss cities for tourism, however, I expect this to change. The quaint city with its historical architecture and warm personality is definitely not one to be missed.
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