7 of the Best Things to do in Basel, Switzerland

Written By: Ben Kepka

Travel writer Ben Kepka shares his picks for 7 of the best things to do in Basel Switzerland after spending two years in the city. 

Switzerland should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

If you find yourself in Switzerland and enjoy mixing history with contemporary culture, fun, and entertainment, you should visit Basel.

Its history dates back thousands of years to the Celtic and Roman times. It really became a cultural hub during the middle ages when a university was built in 1460.

7 Things to do in Basel Switzerland

I was lucky enough to spend almost 2 years living and working in Basel.

It’s just 10 minutes away from the border with France and Germany and built alongside the Rhine River. A great spot to live!

So, I put together a small guide of things to do in Basel, Switzerland so you don’t miss out on anything which this amazing city has to offer.

what to do in basel switzerland

1. Float Down the Rhine

In the summer, you’ll be surprised to see how many locals enjoy the Rhine river to relax and have fun.

You’ll notice a stream of bobbing heads among the many ferries.

If you’re a *good* swimmer, you should take a dip in the Rhine and join the legions of locals!

The Baselers use the current of the river to float downstream.

things to do in basel swimming

But what are those blue bags? I asked one of the locals and found out they’re called Wickelfisch.

Every person in Basel has one in their apartment.

They’re waterproof and help store your valuables while you’re floating down the river or when you’re cycling in the rain.

You can buy a Wickelfisch from the many small shops next to the river. Don’t leave Basel without one!

2. Drink the spring water – Fountains all through Basel (and Switzerland)

Basel has around 300 fountains with many illustrating figures such as the basilisk.

The Basel Journal calls it the city of fountains, and for good reason.

You shouldn’t worry about drinking the water in Basel (or anywhere in Switzerland), it’s clean and fresh.

what to do in basel water

You’ll notice two metal bars fitted across the diameter of the fountains which would help support the buckets used by locals to collect water.

That’s when no plumbing was available.

Today, you can use the fountains whenever your drink bottle is low or you need a sip while jogging.

I was fascinated to see all the Basilisk fountains on the right side of the Rhine which interestingly enough are all pointing towards the river.

Why? It’s so that when you take pictures of the fountains, the mythological bird is looking straight at you and you can capture the city in the background.

3. Visit The Dreiländereck (Three Country Corner) – See Three Countries In A Day

best things to do in basel three countries

You’d think that visiting three countries in one day would be an unbelievably difficult undertaking.

In Basel, it’s a daily occurrence for many residents. If you’re in Basel, you should take a trip to Dreiländereck.

A monument indicating the intersection of Germany’s, France’s and Switzerland’s borders along the Rhine River.

Although the Schengen agreement doesn’t require that you carry your passport to cross the borders, if you’re not from the EU, it’s a good idea to have it on you when walking across borders.

Sometimes there are police making random stops, but this is rare.

You can take a tram to Saint-Louise in Alsace and enjoy a relaxing afternoon walking through the Petite Camargue Alsacienne park.

Or, you can hop on a tram to Weil am Rhein where you can visit the Tri-Countries Bridge and the Vitra Design Museum.

4. Carnival Time

The Basler Fasnacht.

It’s the place to be if you’re visiting during February or March.

It kicks off in the historic center of Basel at exactly 4 AM on Monday morning.

All city lights are turned off and the festivities begin.

You’ll see thousands of costumes and masks parading across the city for 3 days.

things to do in basel the Basler Fasnacht
The Basler Fasnacht Celebration

Musical groups playing small flutes (piccolos) and drums while carrying themed lanterns to entertain the crowd.

This Unesco heritage event is more of a Protestant manifestation than a Catholic tradition.

You’ll have fun watching how the Fasnachtiers which follow two ring routes, one clockwise and the other counterclockwise.

They throw confetti over the crowds while handing out candy and other delicious treats.

It is the one time of the year you’ll see the traditionally organized Swiss go absolutely crazy!

5. Walk the Alt Stadt (Old City)

To really enjoy what Basel has to offer, you should visit the old city on foot. So many fantastic sites close to each other are easy to miss when you’re in a car or cycling.

The Basler Munster Cathedral captures the sole of the city through its twin towers and red sandstone walls.

things to see in basel Basler Munster Cathedral
Basler Munster Cathedral

You’ll see the same architectural style when you visit the City Hall which is over half a century old.

The beautiful drawings, its red façade, and the tower reflect the historical richness of Basel.

things to see in basel switzerland city hall


Next to the City Hall, you’ll find Marktplatz where locals sell fresh fruit and vegetables. You can visit the many shops and boutiques in the Old City which is built on two hills along the Rhine River.

You can check out here the other amazing places which are worthwhile visiting in Basel.

6. Take A Trip To the Roman Ruins

things to see in basel roman ruins

If you don’t mind venturing out of Basel a bit, you should visit the Augusta Aurica open-air museum which is situated on the southern bank of the Rhine and only 20 km away from Basel.

These magical Roman ruins include the Temple, the Gravestone from Cirencester, the amphitheater and the Basilica.

Excavations have shed light upon the Roman roots of Basel.

When I visited the Roman Museum I was overwhelmed by the reconstruction of a Roman house and the silver treasure of Kaiseraugst which is thought to have been owned by a Roman commander.

Seeing ancient Roman aqueducts that are caked in calcium from years of use is a truly humbling experience.

7. The Christmas Markets

If you’re visiting Basel during November/ December you should take a walk around the magnificent Christmas Markets at Barfüsserplatz, Münsterplatz, and Claraplatz.

Barfusserplatz is the largest of the three and its where about 140 merchants in decorated small chalets sell Christmas goods and seasonal delights. Although it’s tightly packed, the market is sublime.

things to do in basel christmas

The Munsterplatz holds around 40 stalls set out in a larger area so it’s easier to navigate through.

You can also enjoy amazing sights of the Rhine River and the Gothic Basel Minster.

The smallest Basel Christmas Market Is the Claraplatz in Kleinbasel. However, it’s worthwhile visiting.

basel christmas market

Bonus Tip – Accommodation for Basel

If you’re like me, you’re on a budget.

Due to its proximity to other countries, the best way to visit Basel is to book a hotel across the border, in Germany.

The accommodation rates are around half of what you’ll find in Switzerland.

From here, you can simply hop onto the Number 8 tram which will take you straight to the center of Basel.

Final Words on Basel Switzerland

switzerland basel

So, why Basel?

Well, for starters you’ll enjoy the wonderful experiences offered by the Rhine River.

You’ll get to visit marvelous sites throughout the city including the Basel Cathedral, The City Hall, the fountains, the Christmas markets and beautiful small boutiques in the Old City.

Let’s not forget about the magical three-day Carnival.

Basel will always hold a special place in my heart.

Every year I return to swim in the Rhein, join in on Fasnacht and drink some mulled wine at the Christmas markets.

If you have any questions about Basel or need any advice on planning your journey, leave me a message in the comments below or you can contact me at Cultured Kiwi!

Read more about Switzerland:

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things to do in basel

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About Ben Kepka

Ben is a travel photographer and filmmaker, from New Zealand, now living the nomad lifestyle in Europe. He has partnered with outlets like Lonely Planet and Stuff.co.nz just to name a few. If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and have any questions feel free to contact me at Cultured Kiwi / Facebook / Instagram /

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8 thoughts on “7 of the Best Things to do in Basel, Switzerland”

  1. Basel is the best city in Switzerland se everyone from travelling geek to normal person. It really refreshing experience and motivate your from the bottom of heart to go travel. Thanks a lot for sharing impressive article. Keep it up

    Reply
  2. It was a great time living there but very difficult to stay working and living there unless you are Swiss or from the EU. As a New Zealand citizen, it was pretty hard to stay. Anyway, I think that you should head to Basel to get a Wickelfisch haha! Like any waterproof bag, they do let a little bit of water in over time, so it’s best to replace them often.

    Reply
  3. Basel is a city on the Rhine River in northwest Switzerland, close to the country’s borders with France and Germany. Its medieval old town centers around Marktplatz, dominated by the 16th-century, red-sandstone Town Hall.

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  4. Basel has much to offer. I’ve lived there a number of years and still haven’t explored all its nooks and crannies. The museums alone would take quite awhile.

    I do feel constrained to point out that some of the photos in the article don’t match the subject. The one labeled the Basel Munster Cathedral is not the Munster Cathedral. The next picture down, the red building with the twin spires, is. Under that photo, the city hall (Rathaus) at Marktplatz is mentioned, but not shown, which is surprising because it’s a spectacular building.

    The photo of Basel Fasnacht looks to have actually been taken at Liestal, a town some kilometers away. Those fire brooms are part of that town’s unique and rather harrowing celebration, but they have nothing to do with Basel’s own Fasnacht, which is renowned in its own right.

    We toured the Roman ruins at Augusta Raurica not that long ago, and while it’s definitely worth a visit, I don’t recall a wall with arrow slits and a panoramic view. (Could be wrong about that one, though.)

    Reply
  5. You’re so lucky you got to spend almost 2 years living and working in Basel! Where can I buy those Wickelfisch online, though? I’ve had so many waterproof bags with me and some don’t last long.

    Reply