Basel City Breaks
Our Basel city breaks include a number of locations popular for their unique atmosphere and culinary delights. Located on the River Rhine and bordering France and Germany, Basel is regarded as a lively, open-minded city full of contrasts. Switzerland's oldest University City is known as a centre for art, music and architecture. The beautiful old town centre is steeped in heritage and tradition with historic landmarks built by world-renowned architects like Mario Botta and Renzo Piano.
Historic landmarks of the city include the large market square with its richly decorated red sandstone Town Hall and the Romanesque cathedral. The City centre is perfect for the shopaholics among us, with a wide selection of boutiques and designer stores to keep you occupied all day long before going for a drink or local beer to relax after a long days shopping. The Basel Christmas market is something to look forward to during the winter months as the city plays host to the largest and most traditional Christmas market in Switzerland.
No Basel city break would be complete without a trip to the Marktplatz. This monumental market square is located in the shadow of the glorious 14th-century city hall. Take in the colours and aromas of this busy area which is popular with visitors on nearby Freiburg City Breaks. The market sells a vast array of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as locally produced bread and pastries.
Did you know?
Basel is the sunniest city in Switzerland and often experiences temperatures a few degrees hotter than elsewhere.
- Flight time from London: 1 hour 35 min
- EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg: 6km from the city centre; transfer time about 17 min
- Nearest railway station: Basel SBB railway station
- Currency: Swiss Franc
- Modern Architecture: 12 of the Pritzker Prize holders have built in Basel
- The sun shines for 3,500 hours in Basel each year
- Almost 40 museums in just 37km2
Zoologischer Garten Basel
The Zoologischer Garten, opened in 1874, is one of the greatest zoos in the world, famous for breeding endangered species in captivity. Covering 26 acres in an urban setting with just a 7-minute walk to the railway station, it has some 4,500 animals of 600 different species. Trained elephants and sea lions perform tricks and the Vivarium is filled with everything from penguins to reptiles.
Some half a century ago, Ernest and Hildy Beyeler set out to acquire some modern paintings to decorate their home. By the turn of the millennium, they had collected one of the greatest private art collections of Switzerland, which they now share with the public in the suburb of Riehen, 15 minutes by tram from the centre near the Swiss borders with France and Germany. See some of the biggest names in art - Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Georges Seurat, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Joan Miró, Léger, Max Ernst, van Gogh, Kandinsky, Edgar Degas, Cézanne, Alexander Calder, and Georges Braque among others. Under 25s will get free entry if you show ID.
Kunstmuseum (Fine Arts Museum)
The oldest museum in Switzerland, offering one of Europe's most remarkable collections - everything from the old masters to 20th-century paintings. You approach the massive building through a courtyard graced with sculptures by Rodin, Calder, and others. The collections represent the development of art in the Upper Rhine Valley from the 14th to the 17th centuries, as well as works by outstanding modern artists.
Cathedral and Pfalz
The most dominant landmark in the city has to be the cathedral, looming over everything with its sandstone walls and twin towers. Located behind this, the Pfalz is a peaceful terrace which offers seating complete with fantastic views over the Rhine.
Basel is home to one of the best preserved and prettiest Old Towns in Europe. Many of the buildings date back to the 15th century and these are interspersed with modern architecture that has been created by some of the world’s best architects. The Old Town also features the Town Hall. A characteristic building, it is covered in interesting frescoes and has a beautiful red façade.
Jean Tinguely designed this water feature to be a peaceful place for residents and visitors to take a break. The water travels around various different contraptions, putting a smile on everyone’s face.
A quirky means of transport that has survived the years, four ‘Fahrimaa’ (river ferries) will help you cross the Rhine. These boats can be summoned by using the bell on either bank and are propelled by nothing but the current of the water.
This bridge was first built in 1226 and remains one of the oldest crossings over the Rhine. In the middle, there is a reconstructed version of the chapel (the Käppelijoch) which once stood on the bridge.
The ‘Gate of Spalen’ is one of three gates in the old walls of the city, built in 1400. It is regarded as the most beautiful of that that remain and stands tall in the Old Town.
The Dreiländereck is located in the north of the city and is the point where Germany, France and Switzerland meet. It is a great place for a photo opportunity and somewhere you can be in three places at once.
A museum dedicated to the man who created Basel’s playful fountain. There are many works by Jean Tinguely here, along with temporary exhibitions by other artists.
One of the best ways to save some money on your Basel city break is to purchase a BaselCard. There are 24 or 48-hour options and you receive money off some of the best attractions in the city. This includes half-price zoo tickets, free ferry crossings and discounted museum entries. Get yours at https://www.basel.com/en/BaselCard
Mobility Ticket for free public transport
Getting around Basel is already pretty easier but it becomes effortless with the complimentary mobility ticket. Pick yours up from your hotel and you’ll receive free access to public transport for the duration of your stay.
Free entrance to museums
The best time to visit any of the state-owned museums is the first Sunday in every month as entry is free throughout the day. If this doesn’t correspond with your visit though, these museums also offer free entry one hour before closure on Tuesday to Saturday. Special exhibitions may not be included, the Kunstmuseum has no happy hour on Thursday and the Museum for Music (part of the HMB) doesn’t run a happy hour on Tuesday.
The state-run museums are:
- Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig
- All three museums of the Historisches Museum Basel (HMB)
- All three buildings of the Kunstmuseum Basel
- Museum der Kulturen
- Naturhistorische Museum Basel
Ask at your hotel about accessing the free Wi-Fi hotspots located around the city. These can be found close to most of the main attractions and will ensure you don’t run up a large phone bill while you’re away.
If a city break isn't complete until you have shopping bags in your hands, then Basel is the place for you. It's easy to combine shopping with sightseeing. And there is plenty to keep you occupied: luxury brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton or Rolex; shoes, fashion, books and specialities; from small boutiques and old antique shops to chic department stores.
Flea Market Petersplatz
Every Saturday morning, Petersplatz is overtaken by the flea market. Take some time to browse the quirky stalls and you might find some treasures.
If you are looking for boutique shops and independent stores, head for the narrow alleys of the Spalenberg. This is the perfect place for finding things that you wouldn’t get back home.
Famous for its elegant riverside terrace, with tables set close to the waters of the Rhine in midsummer. The restaurant offers food made from the best of market-fresh ingredients.
Basel's best Italian restaurant - the creation of Romano Villa and Peter Wyss, whose viands are just as fine as those in southern Italy itself. This has long been a favourite of artists visiting Basel; it was a former haunt of Andy Warhol and Jean Tinguely. Ancient statuary is placed against periwinkle blue walls and chandeliers light the dark woodwork. All of this is just setting the scene for the first-class cuisine, which some critics have hailed as the finest Italian dining in the entire country.
Ueli Beer is one of the most popular local beers in the city of Basel and one the best places to sample a pint or two is Brauerei Fischerstube on the Rheingasse. The beer has been brewed in the microbrewery here since 1974 and there are often festival and season tipples to try too.
This lively brew house is situated inside Basel’s former electrical substation and produces three different varieties of Volta Bräu beer. With a long bar and comfortable lounge inside and an inviting beer garden outside, this is the perfect place for a few drinks whatever the weather.
If you are looking for variety when it comes to beer, head to this establishment just outside St Johannspark. It serves 18 beers on tap and 250 different bottled options.
Atlantis - Klosterberg 13.
Universally known as "Tis" and the most popular venue in Basel, hosting live bands and dance nights.
Babalabar - Gerbergasse 4.
City-centre club, with plenty of variation in dance styles (nightly) and famed all-nighters (Sat).
Bird's Eye - Kohlenberg 20.
Live jazz every weekend (Thurs-Sun), jazz DJ-ing the rest of the week - very popular, very lively.
Hirscheneck - Lindenberg 23.
Grungy hardcore, metal and ska acts in this café-bar venue, generally on weekends.
Kaserne - Klybeckstrasse 1b.
Focus of Kleinbasel nightlife, a café-bar with adjacent venue for live bands, DJs, readings and happenings.
Parterre - Klybeckstrasse 1b.
Folky, jazz trio music nights, often midweek.
Jazz Festival Basel
24.04. – 18.05.2017
Now in its 27th year, The Basel Jazz Festival returns with some of the biggest names on the national and international stage. From percussionists to large bands and solo singers, all the big names from the world of Jazz will be there.
12 – 16.05.2017
Young Stage showcases talent in the form of circus performers breaking the boundaries of what we expect the big top experience to be. As the young artists delight the crowds, agents and circus officials from around the world watch on in the hope of landing the next big star.
15 June – 18 June 2017
For a short period, Basel’s premier exhibition centre is taken over by galleries from around the world. This year, they will present works from over 4,000 different artists for everyone to enjoy. Art Basel is one of the biggest art festivals on the planet.
Basel Autumn Fair
28 Oct – 12 Nov 2017, 27 Oct – 11 Nov 2018
The Basel Autumn Fair is a much-anticipated event for everyone in the city and something definitely worth checking out if you are visiting at this time. There are fairground rides to enjoy, local delicacies to sample and a giant market takes over Petersplatz.
30 Nov – 23 Dec 2017, 29 Nov – 23 Dec 2018
Check out our Basel Christmas market page for all the information on this magical annual event.