Basel: Discover Switzerland's quirky city and cultural capital

Basel Airport Directory (BSL)
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Travelling around Switzerland may often make you feel like you are dreamscaping. Every scene looks different from the next, and the city of Basel is no different. As you walk along the streets, you will spot a mix of historic and modern buildings. The third-largest city in Switzerland, it is divided into two parts by the Rhine River and connected by six bridges. There are numerous places to visit in this city, ranging from the beautiful old town to magnificent churches, exciting shopping streets, and history-filled museums. All of these places are bound to charm travellers from all walks of life.

Best Time to Visit: From May till the end of October is the best time to visit Basel.

How to Reach?

By Air: Basel does not have a dedicated airport, but there are three international airports that connect the city. EuroAirport is located in France. It serves the border regions of France, Germany, and Switzerland. This airport is the closest, just 20 minutes away from the city. Zurich Airport is the country’s main hub for air travel; it has direct trains from the airport that will take around 70 minutes to reach Basel. Frankfurt Airport is also a major airport in Switzerland that has direct trains to Basel, taking approximately three hours of travel time. Together with Turkish Airlines, we at IndiGo can connect you from India to Basel with multiple flights to Basel options as well as to several other European cities from Istanbul.

By Train: There are three major railway stations connecting Basel to other cities across the country, and neighbouring countries. These are the Swiss Railway Station (SBB), a German-operated railway called the Badische Bahnhof, and the French Railway Station (SNCF) located in the heart of the city.

By Road: Basel is well-connected by highways and tourists can either drive down or take a bus. Travel from Zurich to Basel will take a little over an hour by road. Zurich has several private bus networks as well as government services that will take you to Basel. The highway is scenic and has smooth roads, making for a delightful journey.

Basel is also close to France and Germany, thus enabling travellers to drive from these places. But make sure you have all your documents with you while crossing borders. There are several overnight and long-distance buses that connect Basel to other European countries.

By Sea: There are cruises that sail through the Rhine River from countries like Germany, France, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The sea route is open during the tourist season, and quite popular from June through September. Cruises usually take 7–11 days, so if you decide to visit Basel by sea, make sure you plan accordingly.

Getting Around

Basel is a beautiful city, and the best way to explore is the old-fashioned way - walking! But, if you prefer otherwise, the city has a great public transportation system that you can. The tram and bus system in Basel is convenient and affordable. You can get a Mobility Pass, which offers free access to all transport systems. There are also bicycles, electric bikes, and segways that can be rented. Ferry services are also available to get you to your location smoothly

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Places to visit in Basel

  • Basler Münster (Basel Minster): One look is enough to ignite your curiosity to get closer and explore this historical cathedral. With twin spires and a tiled roof, this gothic-style place of worship is located in the old city of Basel. The place where the church sits is also at the highest point; thus, it can be easily seen from across the city. After an earthquake in 1356, much of the building had to be restored, but it still retains the original appeal. You can see the St. Gallus doorway, the 12th-century Romanesque stone carvings, the crypt that contains the tombs of 10thto 13th century bishops, and more.
  • Fondation Beyeler: Opened to the public in 1997, this place houses a series of collections of classic modernist art. Created by collectors Ernst and Hildy Beyeler, the Fondation Beyeler displays a number of artworks by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Seurat, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, and Vincent Van Gogh, to name a few. It also includes paintings and drawings, along with many sculptures by Alberto Giacometti and Max Ernst. One of the most eye-catching things about this place is that it is located within a lovely park, in a building that was designed by architect Renzo Piano.
  • Tinguely Fountain: A major landmark in Basel, this fountain is named after the Swiss artist, Jean Tinguely, who designed the fountain. It is a fun place where the iron figures are seen spraying water into the air and playing around in a shallow pool. There are a total of 10 water-spouting figures built from metal pieces which were extracted from an old theatre that stood here. If you visit Basel during warmer months, you can see this imaginative sculpture in all its glory.
  • Old Town: This part of Basel is beautiful, with century-old houses, stone streets, and a heart-warming atmosphere. Amidst the historical houses, you can see a modern fountain sculpted by a famous sculptor, Jean Tinguely. The old town oozes a touch of the whimsical, with narrow side streets, quaint cafés, and many iconic buildings adorned in a Baroque style of architecture. Some of the must-see places here are Marktplatz, which is a notable market street; Basel Cathedral; and Geltenzunfthaus, a historical building.
  • Kunstmuseum Basel: This is a famous museum of art in Basel that has the finest collection of modern and older paintings. These paintings are located on the first floor, which also has a good collection of both French and Dutch paintings. Amongst these installations is the 15th-century Heilsspiegelaltar by Konrad Witz, the Crucifixion by Mathias Grünewald, and 16th-century portraits by Holbein the Younger. There are a series of collections from the 19thand 20th centuries on the second floor.

Places to eat in Basel 

  • Schloss Bottmingen: Perhaps the best place to dine, while enjoying the ambience of the place, is at Schloss Bottmingen. The restaurant feels like a medieval palace. If not to eat, you will definitely want to visit for its beauty and great location. It is situated in the middle of a man-made lake with an elevated walkway to access it. You can find an impeccable menu that sells classic French dishes.
  • Volkshaus: The façade of this place is enough to impress you. Volkshaus feels regal and luxurious, and the architecture of the building is pretty grand, to say the least. The restaurant has an interesting mix of furniture, including light bulbs dangling from the walls, green benches, wooden tables, and large mirrors. Volkshaus serves a variety of simple but tasty dishes. It has a striking bar with a glamorous design, and their outdoor setting is pretty. On occasions, the restaurant hosts music performances - yet another reason to visit Volkshaus.
  • Restaurant Matisse: Recently awarded with the coveted Michelin star, Matisse must definitely be on your list of places to eat in Basel. The vibe of the restaurant is calm and it offers a warm ambience with dark furniture, pastel walls, and flowers for decorations. The menu has a variety of dishes that are served in a creative way and in irresistible combinations.
  • Blindekuh Basel: The reason that makes Blindekuh Basel one of the most unique and popular restaurants is that it is dimly lit with light that focuses on the table. As soon as you enter the restaurant, you will be taken to your table and you will notice the entire room plunge into darkness. This is a new and innovative concept that allows guests to savour delicious meals without any distractions. Blindekuh Basel is very spacious, has an airy lounge, a bar, and a series of comfortable seating areas.

Shopping in Basel

  • Stadtmarkt: What’s not to love about an open-air market, right? It is colourful, lively, and has a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. The market also sells beautiful flowers and delicious snacks. Stadtmarkt is held outside the iconic and historic Town Hall.
  • Indoor Market: Another note-worthy market in Basel is the Indoor Market which provides a wide variety of fresh and organic food. It is an excellent place to visit if you want to sample homemade food such as oven-fresh breads, pizzas, baguettes, and more.
  • Flea Market Petersplatz: To find unique souvenirs and clothing, you need to visit the Flea Market Petersplatz. This is one of the most popular markets that is held every Saturday. It is packed with locals and tourists, both. You can find several hand-me-downs and an assortment of antiques.

Where to stay in Basel?

  • Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois: If you wish to stay luxuriously, you need to book at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois. In 2020, it was voted by the Gault-Millau guide to be the best hotel in the world. This 19th-century structure has a good reputation and is strategically located on the Rhine. All the rooms are grand and have luxurious amenities. Their in-house restaurant has also received a three star Michelin rating from Cheval Blanc.
  • Hotel Krafft Basel: Located on the banks of the River Rhine, Krafft is one of the most luxurious hotels that caters to every guest's needs. So much so, that guests are even permitted to bring their pets. Apart from being a pet-friendly hotel in Basel, it is situated in a historic building in the Kleinbasel area, opposite the old town of Grossbasel. The hotel has lavish rooms, with a sweeping view of the river and the old town.
  • Art House Basel: This is a luxury boutique hotel that makes sure guests are pampered with the comfort they deserve. The Art House Basel boasts of a blend of modern and street art-style architecture. It consists of 33 rooms and suites that were designed by Italian designer Andrea Caputo. It oozes a contemporary look and consists of creative photographic work throughout the hotel. One of the major draws that attracts guests to stay here is their private terrace with a panoramic view of the city.

More reasons to visit Basel

  • Swim at the Rhine: The city is known as the cultural capital of Switzerland, and rightfully so as it is surrounded by historic sites. But Basel also has a fun side. If you come during the summer months, you will find locals taking a plunge in the River Rhine to cool their bodies. It is a common sight that is also loved by many travellers who come here. You can get your bathing suit and inflatable float rings, and cruise down the Rhine.
  • Bathe in the fountain: It’s said that Basel is a quirky city, and it can be proven when you see people bathe in the fountains. That is right! This is a popular activity in Basel, when the river becomes too crowded or cold; they sit in the many historic fountains that can be found in every part of the city. Each of the fountains is as large as a swimming pool.

Visa and Immigration

To ski on the Swiss Alps or wander through some of the scenic towns and villages, or even dwell around the city of Basel, you need a Switzerland visa. However, you need to make note that Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but it is a part of the Schengen Area. Hence, you need a Schengen visa. This visa allows travellers to enter Switzerland for a short stay up to a period of 90 days. Remember to keep your travel documents updated and ready before the date of departure.

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