After spending a fortnight in the heart of Lazio, in Italy, while living with a Roman family and experiencing their way of life, as I left the country and started heading north, my preconceived, seemingly romanticized notions of Switzerland – now that I’d already explored Zurich and a few other towns in Switzerland a couple of months ago – started reappearing slowly. It was undoubtedly clear that the bus ride, as soon as we escaped Italy and entered in Swiss territory, became far more entertaining. Everything around now looked unrealistically beautiful.
But as I arrived in Basel, and took the tram to my hostel, things became even more surreal. Basel was, indeed, a city to behold!
An Old European Charm
Despite being the third largest city in Switzerland, Basel unwinds itself as a romantic small town. Its many winding cobblestone streets, in the old town (that are also, lawfully, traffic free), are both narrow and beautiful. Its combination of old architecture – dating back its foundation to 13th century – with modern monuments, while keeping everything in one style and harmony, moreover adds to the charm.
My favorite experience in Basel was just walking in the Old Town. Every time I walked those narrow, fairy tale streets, it made me feel like I was back in time. The old wells with their colorful statues and the charming decorated houses definitely have their share in the atmosphere.
And if it’s walking, you shouldn’t miss, at any cost, the walk along Rhine River, or one of the many bridges that connect the two halves of the city, to get the nicest panoramic views.
The City Of Basel And The River Rhine
Though I ended up visiting Basel when the city was still recovering from Swiss cold and the mercury stayed between 5 and 15 degrees, it was still not impossible, at least, to put my feet in river Rhine and enjoy the panoramic views and my favorite drink.
But if you just happen to be more lucky and visited Basel during one of those warm sunny months, you will notice that it’s probably more common here in Basel, than in many places around Europe, to splurge on your afternoon meal (or relishing the evening drinks) while enjoying the riverside of Rhine.
To make it better, you are even allowed to BBQ and grill near the river, and even take a swim should you find the weather too hot – while keeping the entire experience all real and natural. Just buy your own Basel fish bag, put your clothes in it (to keep them dry), toss it into the river and jump in! A certain part of the river is sectioned off for swimmers and you simply let the current take you, and your fish bag of goodies, down the river – what an amazing way to spend a sunny afternoon in Switzerland!
Where Art And Culture And History Resides
Basel also offers plenty of pluses for fans of culture: wonderful museums, world-class architecture, quirky bars and polished restaurants.
Art: Other than being a paradise of museum lovers (having 40 museums withing 37 sq km) Basel hosts most important and prestigious international art fairs in the world (definitely most charming and overwhelming in the entire region). An uncountable open art galleries, which allow you to take a peak inside and marvel, moreover makes you believe that Basel, in all sense, breathes art.
Culture: Basel, and its people, are not only proud of its rich culture and customs, but the beer as well. Just about all the restaurants and bars in Basel serve the regional beer – Ueli.
Served with traditional and hearty fare like spatzli and of course any fabulous meal, a pint of Ueli can make your day. The town is full of wonderful places to order a Ueli beer (including the original Ueli brewery) where you can experience the culture and be amongst the locals.
History: The city itself dates back to Pre-Roman times and even has evidence of early Celtic settlements. In 1356 the majority of the city was destroyed in a catastrophic earthquake and much of the city as we see it today is a result of the 14th century rebuilding process.
The Exclusivity Of Crossing International Borders
Basel is unusual in straddling the borders of three countries, with a little to indicate when you are actually moving between France, Germany or Switzerland, which has the largest portion.
True to its own unique international character, Basel actually has 3 train stations – the Swiss and the French stations sharing one hub (Basel SBB) near the city center, and the German station (Basel Bad Bahnhof) on the opposite side of the Rhine. When you’re here, it’s fairly possible that you arrive in a Regionalbahn train at the German station, before you walk to Basel SBB to deposit your luggage. But make sure you walk in the correct part of the station, because almost half of the station (the left half) is owned by France, and comes under French territory.
Similarly, while arriving in or departing from Basel you inevitably end crossing border (again!) into France, because the city’s international airport (Basel Euro Airport), which however is owned by Switzerland, is situated around 4 kilometers inside the French territory.
With museums galore, an emerald green river running though the heart of the city, and an old world European charm, Basel indeed makes an appealing stopover.
Have you been to Basel already?
I wrote this post under my #loveBasel blogging trip. While my stay and experiences were hosted by BaselTourism, all the suggestions and ideas are solely mine. I only recommend what I personally love and experience.