Destination Switzerland: Why Not Choose… Basel?
When modern architecture rubs shoulders harmoniously with mediaeval buildings… Welcome to a city that balances elegance and warmth! On foot, by bike, by tram… visit Basel, where art, culture and architecture take centre stage. A tri-national city with many surprises up its sleeve!
An Open-Air Museum
On the left bank of the Rhine, Grossbasel offers countless things to see and do. Start your visit on the Market Square, in front of the City Hall, and step inside this imposing building to discover its architecture. Then head towards the breathtaking and majestic Basel Minster, on Münsterplatz. From here you can access the city's abundant cultural offer.
There is an impressive number of museums, covering everything from the city's history to classical and contemporary art. Take a look around Basel Historical Museum, which has the largest collection devoted to the history of civilisation in the Upper Rhine region, the Kunstmuseum, famous worldwide for its 4000 paintings, sculptures, installations and videos, or maybe the Kunsthalle contemporary art museum. And if you're passionate about architecture, the Swiss Architecture Museum presents Basel's famous buildings, but also offers intelligent and innovative exhibitions to familiarise you with the various phases of modern architecture.
As the birth city of Le Corbusier, Basel is an important city for contemporary architecture. Although the majority of the city centre retains its historical charm and is wonderful for a stroll among half-timbered houses, there are also many modern buildings worth a visit. The Signal Box, nicknamed the Copper Tower, is a surprising building by Basel architects Herzog and De Meuron (the brains behind London's Tate Modern).
Walk along the Rheinsprung to admire its white and blue houses ("Wendelstörfer" and "Reichensteinerhof"), built in the 18th century by silk ribbon manufacturers Lukas and Jakob Sarasin.
You should also take time to observe the city: from the Pfalz, you can enjoy a splendid view, whilst the Mittlere Brücke is ideal for contemplation.
After such a full day of visits and discoveries, you will have earned a good beer in a beiz!
Top 10 Must-Sees
Münsterplatz and Basel Minster: on top of this this vast, red sandstone building, partly reconstructed in the 14th and 15th centuries and restored in the 19th, stand two Gothic towers, offering an excellent view of the city. The main gate is decorated with delicate sculptures of angels and prophets. The interior has five aisles, and boasts several 11th-century decorative elements.
The Market Square: Basel's magnificent main square dominated by the imposing City Hall. It fills with fresh fruit and vegetable stalls in the week, as well as hosting a flower market.
The City Hall: undoubtedly the most remarkable city hall in Switzerland, with its blood red walls, its golden details, and a pretty tiled roof, all topped off with an enormous tower, and a late Burgundian Gothic style main building (1504-1521). The new wing towards the left and the high tower on the right were added in the 19th century. The clockon the façade dates back to 1511-1512. In the inner courtyard, the mural paintings (1608-1611) have been restored.
The Kunstmuseum: this extremely beautiful art museum boasts an impressive permanent collection of works from the 19th and 20th centuries, including a whole room filled with masterpieces by Picasso, as well as a vast collection of paintings by European artists from the Mediaeval and Renaissance periods.
The Museum Tinguely: this museum devoted to the life and work of famous artist Jean Tinguely will allow you to discover pieces from all his creative phases. Life, movement, laughter, astonishment and discoveries in a space which brings the senses alive and where art comes to the spectator.
The Tinguely Fountain: situated in the space formerly occupied by the municipal theatre, the Jean Tinguely Fountain, which is now an emblem of Basel and dates back to 1977, is a playful construction. Its mechanical structures are powered by a low voltage current and move to spurt water.
Pfalz: a staircase down from this panoramic terrace takes you towards the ferry pier (Münsterfähre). On the other side, visitors enter the silent cloister via a narrow door. Here, there are many ornate tombstones belonging to Basel's great families of the 16th to 19th centuries.
The Gate of Spalen: the most important of the three remaining doors from the great walls of 1400. In the Middle Ages, it was through this gate that many food products came into the city from Alsace. With its square main tower, flanked at its outer corners by round turrets, the gate is visible from afar.
The Mittlere Brücke: no other construction is so symbolic of the city of Basel. Inaugurated in Basel in 1226, it is one of the very first bridges built over the Rhine. It was intended for local traffic, then international trade.
The Beyeler Foundation: this art museum, which is the most visited in Switzerland, has an extraordinary collection of works from internationally renowned classical modernist and contemporary artists. In the bright and pure premises designed by the architect Renzo Piano, the Museum presents works by Picasso, Max Ernst, Klee, Van Gogh, Miró, Rothko, Monet, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Alexander Calder, Matisse, etc.
Food of Three Nations
Influenced by French and German gastronomy, Swiss cuisine is extremely varied. As well as its 450 varieties of cheese and its famous raclette and fondue, you can sample röstis (grated potato pancakes fried until golden), Zwiebelwähe (onion tart, found everywhere at carnival time), or Fastenwähe (a kind of butter pretzel dusted with cumin).
And for dessert, you must taste Läckerli, Basel's best-known speciality, which is similar to gingerbread.
March: Baselworld Show
This show allows the most prestigious watch brands to exhibit their latest creations. It is a global benchmark which attracts big names in watch-making and jewellery, dealers of precious stones, and all the key buyers in this luxury, precision industry.
May: Three Countries Race
Participants in this race run across the borders, from Basel to Weil am Rhein, via Saint-Louis.
July: Summerblues Basel (blues festival)
Outdoor stages all along the right bank are perfect for a night out in the crowds, to a soundtrack of blues from local and international artists.
1 August: Swiss National Day
For over a century, Swiss National Day has been celebrated on 1 August, a date arbitrarily determined by one of the first treaties signed between the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, which formed the core for the creation of Switzerland.
August: Basler Rheinschwimmen (swimming in the Rhine)
In mid-August, everyone takes the plunge! The whole city gathers for this event, held since 1980 on the initiative of the Swiss Lifesaving Society.
October: Basler-Herbstwarenmesse (Basel Autumn Fair)
Homes, household, health and well-being, sports and leisure, gastronomy and wine: thousands of visitors come to this big fair to find out what's new or discover disappearing professions. This tradition, which goes back 545 years, is considered a part of the cultural heritage.
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