Basel is so tucked away on the northern edge of the country, bordering both France and Germany, that it’s not on the regular Geneva-Bern-Lucerne-Zurich route and is often forgotten by tourists. But speaking of my first impression of Basel, as I happened to explore it during a 3-day blog trip with Basel Tourism, it was undoubtedly charming and undeniably pleasant.
Being Switzerland’s third largest town, Basel offers something for everyone. It has over 40 museums, uncountable art-galleries, world-class architecture, quirky bars, polished restaurants, it’s own trademarked beer, a lively riverside, traffic-free streets, Switzerland’s best town hall… well, I can go on. But honestly speaking I loved Basel not for the attractions it offered, but because of its old town European charm. Its many medieval winding streets that ooze both history and culture, offer a treat for the eyes. There couldn’t be a better place to conclude my 2 month long solo backpacking trip across Europe.
Before I arrived in Basel, I’d no idea that this part of Switzerland is straddling the borders of three countries, with little to indicate when you are moving between France, Germany or Switzerland — something that makes it easier for tourists to visit three countries, even if they didn’t want to (as was the case with me). During my 3 days in the city, I ended up in Germany twice, and in France, a few more times than I can actually remember.
Other than the main Basel train station, a part of which is situated in Switzerland, and a part, in France, its own airport ‘Basel-Mulhouse’ lies within French boundaries but is connected to Switzerland by a land corridor.
Public transport in Basel is fairly efficient. If you’re arriving at Basel-Mulhouse airport, bus number 50 departs every 10 to 20 minutes to the railway station, for a fare of 5CHF per person. An interesting thing to note about Basel, moreover, is that you’re exempted to buy any tickets in its public transport network of buses and trams, if you’ve a hotel booking in Basel. All hotels/hostels in the town offer you a free mobility ticket (throughout your period of stay) for promoting the use of public transport — what a wonderful way of encouraging eco-tourism!
[Also Read: My First Impression Of Basel]
Explore The Old Town
Thanks to its compact size, the ideal way to discover Basel is by foot. On every corner, you’ll find buildings dating back their foundation to 15th or 16th century, with a mix of modern buildings designed by world-renowned architects. The old town of Basel is an atmospheric web of cobbled streets and old buildings with red sandstone architecture and coloured roof tiles.
The five walking tours around Basel’s historic centre, each marked with blue symbols, on a free brochure provided by Basel Tourism, is a good way to explore the city and get under its skin. Just visit the Tourist Information Center in the city center, grab their free brochure called “A journey back into history”, and explore your favorite trail.
But if you’re short on time, and can’t afford to explore much, head straight to the most interesting square in the old town called Marktplatz, and in Marktplatz, the popular Rathaus — a beautifully renovated Renaissance palace that has been the town hall for centuries. Right across the town hall lies the market square full of street food vendors, flower shops, and the many happy tourists making their buy.
Explore Rehbergerweg And Its Vineyards On Foot
Take tram no 6 towards the direction of Riehen Grenze until the stop «Fondation Beyeler» and explore a 6-km long trail, designed by the artist Tobias Rehberger, that links two countries, two communities and two cultural institutions – and tells countless stories along its 24 stops.
The trail takes you through 24 different sculptures or pieces of art, as you make your way from Switzerland to Germany, and back, overlooking the city of Basel and surrounding vineyards. A free borcure can again be found at the Tourism Information center in the Basel City Center.
Drink Like Locals
Ueli beer has been slaking the thirst of Baslers for more than 40 years, and its two brewery restaurants, located at Rheingasse have several varieties on tap.
The one I’d personally explored and favored was Restaurant Fischerstube, which offers freshly brewed beer. You can even take a look at their in-house brewery from a glass window. I ordered Sauted sliced beef liver “sour” with Rösti, and a mountain of cheese, and a couple of Ueli Beers. The beers were the best.
For a bit of touristic stuff, and an unforgettable view of the city, head to the panoramic Bar Rouge, situated in the 105-metre-high Messeturm.
Dine Like Locals
For lunch look no further than Markthalle. A cool place where India to Mexico, and all the countries in between are selling best of their culinary delights. Situated inside the big domed hall close to the station, Markthalle was once Basel’s wholesale veg market, which later turned into a shopping center, before finally becoming a Singaporean style food court.
For dinners, check Lily’s Stomach Supply, Brauerei Fischerstube, Union Restaurant and Restaurant Kohlmanns, as recommended to me, as a place if you wanted to dine like a local. Go to Restaurant Kohlmanns, for example, if you fancy a cosy place, filled with the smells of fire, wood and freshly baked goodies.
If you’re a backpacker, however, in search of a lively bar, crazy cocktails, and some burgers and french fries as the in house special, then head to Nomad Eatery. I explored Nomad Eatery as a place with some life. This lively spot is a meeting place from early till late – for a convivial dinner, a healthy business lunch or a hearty brunch. Come here for an urban ambience as well as occasional events.
Where To Stay
Youth Hostel in Basel is where I stayed. And I will definitely recommend the place, for keeping a Swiss standard. The rooms were tidy, staff was affable, and the showers — eco-friendly and smart! Its easy accessibility from the train station SBB made it even better.
Disclaimer: I wrote this post for BaselTourism, under #VisitBasel campaign. Though my tour in the city was hosted by BaselTourism, all the recommendations and ideas are solely personal. I only recommend what I personally experience and find worth sharing.