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Basel hadn’t really been on my radar as a place to visit, but the flights are always cheap and I’ve never visited Switzerland before. So this summer I thought, why not? Let’s go spend a weekend in Basel and see what the city has to offer!
Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland after Geneva and Zurich, and shares borders with France and Germany. The city is split in two by the river Rhein and connected by 6 bridges. Basel is fairly compact so I planned 2 days here which is enough to see all the major attractions.
Below is my blog and vlog featuring some of the highlights of my trip and some travellers information.
Wander around the old town
Stroll through cute cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways, whilst admiring the charming 15th century swiss buildings. Make sure you walk down Gerbergässlein to see the awesome Rock Star mural and browse the many chocolate shops all over town. If you have plenty of time during your stay, wander over to the pretty St Alban district.
This red sandstone building with a gorgeous mosaic roof has a mixture of gothic and roman architecture. The cathedral is free to enter but to climb the 250 steps to the top for panoramic views of the city will cost you 5chf (£4) entry. The stairwell is very narrow so anyone who suffers from claustrophobia should give this a miss. Make sure you keep climbing to the very top, as the best views of the Rhine can be found on the second and third levels. Try to visit on a Sunday when the city is quieter as there really is not much room to move up there.
Address: Münsterpl. 9, 4051 Basel
Take a Fähri boat across the Rhein
Taking this small shuttle boat gets you from one side of the river to the other in about 5 minutes. There are 4 different crossing points along the Rhein in the city centre and the fare is 1.60 CHF (£1.30) per person each way. These traditional small wooden ferries don’t have an engine, using only the power of the natural current to cross the river using a cable extended between the shores. One of the waiting areas is decorated in sunflowers and colourful cushions – so cute.
The Rhein river
Enjoy Basel like a local and chill by the river with a few drinks from one of the riverside pop up bars. Many groups gather together and get a nice meaty BBQ going too. The locals also love a good river swim and you’ll see a lot of people bobbing up and down in the water with Wickelfisch (these are bags that are completely waterproof and used to store belongings whilst acting as a floatation device).
Farmers market on Marktplatz
The Basel Marketplace is home to a weekend Saturday market selling vegetables, fruits, cheeses and beautiful flowers. There are also some very tasty bratwurst stalls! Open Monday – Saturday.
Address: Marktplatz 9, 4001 Basel, Schweiz
Take in the beauty of Rathaus
Located in the Marktplatz, Rathaus is the huge, bright red town hall dominating the main square. It was built in the 16th century and is still used today as a government building. Make sure you walk inside to admire the courtyard and its gothic style architecture.
Address: Marktpl. 9, 4001 Basel
Have a few drinks in hipster Klybeck
Walk for 20 minutes out of the city beside the old train tracks along the Rhein and you’ll find the hipster district of Klybeck. Here you will find a makeshift outdoor hangout with an eclectic array of colourful pop up bars in shipping containers and junkyard finds. Walk a bit further down and you’ll also find Club Nordstern, a really cool large boat bar!
Visit the many museums
There are so many museums to visit in Basel that you are spoilt for choice (I think there are about 40 of them!). Many are free on the first Sunday of the month so try and plan your visit then! The Kunstmusuem is one of Basel’s most popular, housing 19th-20th century artwork and an entire room of Picasso paintings. Other museums include Museum Jean Tinguely, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst or Foundation Beyeler. A great city for art and culture lovers.
Markthalle food court
This large food court (located in an old converted market) is a great casual dining environment with a diverse range of food choices on offer. The prices are still quite expensive, but a bit cheaper than eating out in restaurants in the old town, plus it’s a great way to dine if your fellow travel mates have different tastes. At night the the bar is open and the lights are dimmed creating a relaxing and romantic atmosphere, complete with music, and candles on every table. Markthalle is located about 200m from the main train station and is open every day, check online for opening times.
Address: Steinentorberg 20, 4051 Basel
This fountain, made up of nine mechanical sculptures was created by Jean Tinguely and is a famous Basel landmark. It was erected in 1977 where the stage of the old city theatre company once stood. It’s really cool!
Use your free mobility ticket to ride on the trams
One great perk in Basel is that all hotel or registered accommodation guests receive a free public transport pass for your entire stay. The tram network is excellent and you can get around most of the city using them, plus you can use it on the bus to get back to the airport!
Getting to Basel
We booked cheap flights from London Gatwick to Basel Mulhouse Freiburg airport with Easyjet costing £43 return. We flew out 7am on a Saturday, and returned 7am on Monday during the month of August.
When you arrive in Basel make sure you exit the terminal to the correct country – don’t accidentally walk out of the France/Germany exit – you want the Swiss exit (its easy to miss!).
To get into the city take the number 50 bus from outside the terminal, they depart every 10 minutes and take you all the way to the main train station in Basel town. The fare is 4.80CHF/£3.80 (purchase your ticket from the machine at the bus stop) and the journey takes about 20 minutes.
Accommodation in Basel
We booked 2 nights at Ibis Budget Basel City costing £148 for 2 nights (162 euros), which is fairly cheap compared to other accommodation in the area. The hotel is located in a rather quiet part of town, with the main train station a 10 minutes walk away (or 2 stops away on the number 10 or 11 tram).
It is a rather basic room layout (no fridge, kettle or hairdryer included) and does not include breakfast. Usually I would suggest it would be better to stay in the centre of town, but because of the ease of using and the frequency of the trams, it was fine to stay in this area.
Dining in Basel
Switzerland is VERY expensive. If you are on a budget you will struggle to find anywhere to eat out that is cheap. I treated myself one night at the Markthalle food court to some Vietnamese bun cha which cost 17chf (£13.70). But for the remainder of our stay we either ate from the farmers market, the bakery section in the supermarkets or in Mcdonalds.
We did find an Aldi supermarket near the Claraplatz tram stop which had some cheap picnic food (one small bottle of fruit smoothie is a bargain price of 1chf/80p) Tip: if you are staying near the train station, you can find some half price food from the Migros takeaway stalls around 8pm every night. Also a lot of supermarkets close on Sundays, so there is a lot of reduced salads, sushi and sandwiches to purchase on the Saturday.
Weekend in Basel – Good to know
Currency: Swiss Francs
Shopping: Most shops are closed on Sunday.
Languages spoken: German. French is spoken a bit as well. There aren’t many menus or signage in English.
All photography is by Caroline Keyzor and copyright protected