20 Reasons to Fall in Love with Basel, Switzerland

Written By: The Planet D

Before making our way to Basel in Switzerland, we didn’t know much about it. We had looked up blog posts and everyone had the same points about visiting the cathedral and exploring the old town (which are nice) but there is so much more to Basel, Switzerland. In fact, Basel ended up being one of our favorite cities to visit in Switzerland.

Basel has a fantastic food scene, beautiful scenery, and excellent green spaces and biking trails. While Basel may often be overlooked in favor of Zurich or Lucerne, there are plenty of reasons to visit Basel and put it at the top of your Switzerland itinerary.

Reasons to Fall in Love with Basel Switzerland

Where to Stay in Basel

We stayed at The Art House Basel (Design Hotels) right in the heart of the action. This cosmopolitan hotel was a fantastic base for exploring Basel. It was contemporary and had an urban design. The breakfast was fantastic, the rooms were filled with modern amenities offering plenty of USB chargers, and yet it combined a funky mid-century style with old fashioned telephone and other artistic touches. There’s a rooftop bar and they offer a free welcome drink of beer or wine.

1. Basel is Quirky

reasons to visit basel switzerland - swimming in the rhine river
Locals swimming in the Rhine River

We had heard that the people of Basel jump into the Rhine river on a whim and float down until their heart’s content but we really didn’t understand what it was all about. Well, if you have ever visited Basel in the summertime (or even late Spring or early fall) you’ll notice a bunch of bobbing heads cruising down the Rhine.

2. Fountain Bathing

fountain bathing in basel switzerland

We told you Basel is quirky right? Well, a popular activity in Basel is Fountain Bathing. When they are not swimming in the Rhine, they are swimming in the fountains. We saw families having a fantastic time in its many historic fountains. Basel is a city of fountains where you can fill up your water bottles with fresh clean water, but if you are a local, you just may hop in and do some “fountain bathing.” Trust me, some of them are as big as swimming pools.

3. You Too Can Swim in the Rhine

places to visit in basel the rhine river

Swimming in the Rhine is the most popular thing to do in Basel for both locals and tourists. When in Basel, get yourself a Wickelfisch and make your way to the Museum Tingley. From there, take off all your belongings, save for your bathing suit, and put them in your Wickelfisch. After you have stripped down, proceed to hop in the water and get ready to float down the Rhine for up to two km. Sit back and relax as you take in the beauty of the city, the banks of the Rhine River, and oh yeah, keep an eye out for ships, boats, and ferries.

4. Basel has Weidling Rides

basel switzerland weildling

If you don’t want to hop in the water, one of the coolest attractions in Basel is taking a ride in a traditional Weilding boat. We joined our guides Urs and Lisa on the Right Bank of the Rhine under the Tingley Museum to begin our lesson. Urs builds his boats by hand following the tradition dating back 2000 years. We learned to row and sting our way upstream. It was awesome to pass the locals enjoying aperitifs on the river banks cheering us on as we pushed our way along.

dave does weildling in basel switzerland

The river was moving fast, but we covered a lot of ground with Urs doing most of the work for us. That’s not to say we didn’t earn our dinner, this is a fantastic workout that reminded us of the gondoliers of Venice. Check out their website for a lesson or you can book a wine and cheese river tour where you can sit back and relax.

5. You Can Cross the Rhine without a Motor or a Paddle

rhine ferry in basel switzerland

For 2.5 CHF (about 3 USD) Make sure to hop aboard the ferry that crosses the Rhine. It’s a short trip, but it is one-of-a-kind. Located between Basel’s five bridges are four reaction ferry terminals that take passengers across the Rhine. The four ferries connect Grossbasel with Kleinbasel without the use of a motor. The ferries instead use a cable, and rely on the river’s current to propel it across from the river. The faster the current, the faster the boat moves. We walked behind Basel Minster down to the ferry terminal. There is a place to have a cocktail at sunset as well.

6. Basel is Beautiful

beautiful basel switzerland city streets

Basel is filled with amazing architecture. While many of the buildings in Switzerland are historic (and much of Basel is as well) there are many modern designs and buildings in Basel that make the city stand out from the rest. The city has done an excellent job of integrating modern buildings with its medieval wonders.

7. Museum der Kulturen Basel (Museum of Cultures)

museum of kulteren exterior in basel switzerland

A stand-out is the Museum de Kulturen which has a classicist-style design dating back to 1849 with a modern rooftop with hanging gardens bringing it into the 21st century. The modern reflective ceramic tiles mimic the Old City’s medieval roofs.

8. Basel Exhibition Center

basel exhibition center hole

The Basel Exhibition Center is another stand-out design that makes for the perfect Instagram-worthy shot. The entire complex is a work of art, but the giant oculus is what catches your eye. Piercing through the ceiling, the massive hole opens up above a public square putting a modern twist on a historic city.

9. Basel is Perfect for Cycling

cycling in basel switzerland art trail

One of our favorite days in Basel was when we hopped on an e-bike to explore the countryside. There are numerous cycling trails around Basel and one of the best trails to hop on for tourists is the Rehberger Weg. It features 24 stops with art installations by Tobias Rehberger. It runs from the Foundation Beyeler to the modern Vitra Design Museum in Germany which was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. Before you hop on your bike, grab a snack at Beyeler Restaurant in the Park and fill up your water bottle at the fountain outside.

10. Foundation Beyeler to Vitra Design Museum Trail

foundation beyeler museum

We picked up our e-bikes at the Rent a Bike in Central Station where we set off for the day to explore as much of Basel as possible. You can cover a lot of ground on an e-bike and it is a fantastic way to get around. We highly recommend it when exploring any city in Switzerland. “Museum hopping by e-bike.”

11. Cycle to Germany to see a Frank Gehry Design

vitra design museum

Have you ever heard of anything so decadent? For more information visit the Foundation Beyeler website and the Vitra Design Museum Website.

12. You Can visit 3 Countries at Once in Basel

Dave at The Dreiländereck in basel switzerland

There aren’t many places on earth where you can stand in one place and stand in two other countries. (We did it once before in Brazil) but at The Dreiländereck (Three Country Corner) you can stand at the Grand Tour of Switzerland photo spot and be in three countries at once! This is where France, Switzerland, and Germany meet. The industrial neighborhood is transforming with bars lining the river. Deck 57 is a cool bar situated in an old ship, or you can have cocktails directly above the Dreiländereck as you watch the ships come in.

13. Basel Has Awesome Street Art

basel street art

One doesn’t come to Switzerland and often thinks of street art, but when in Basel, make sure to take an Urban Art Tour to find the hidden gems around the city. It wasn’t until our guide Nina pointed out the Invader tags (which are depictions of the space invaders from the 1980s video game) around town that we started to notice all the stylishly situated street art in town. Invader is world-famous for his Space Invader tiles that have been seen everywhere from the bottom of the sea to outer space.

basel switzerland  Simon Berger glass sculpture

Our favorite piece of art looked like a shattered glass window at first glance but upon closer viewing (and through the camera lens) we saw the ingenious work of Swiss Artist Simon Berger. He created a famous etching of Kamala Harris in Washington D.C. but the original glass design stands in Basel, Switzerland. Urban Art Tours in Basel can be booked through Artstübli

14. Basel Has Fantastic Museums

kunst museum basel switzerland

Dave and I didn’t use to hit up many museums during our travels and we were definitely missing out. Now that we have slowed down a bit (and maybe have become a bit more cultured?) we are starting to go inside to appreciate artists from the past and present. We couldn’t get enough of the Kunstmuseum Basel and if we had more time, we would have whiled away an entire day exploring the likes of Cézzane and Gauguin, van Gough, and Picasso. See what’s on at the Kunstmuseum on their website.

15. Basel Also Has the Smallest Museum in the World

smallest museum in switzerland

Blink and you may miss it. We would never have known it was there if we hadn’t been on a walking tour of the Old Town. The Hoosesagg Museum (Pocket Museum) is housed in a tiny 2X2 foot window of a 600-year-old building. The display rotates every couple of months and our guide Margrit told us that people can apply to have their memorabilia and important items put on display. (It isn’t officially the smallest museum in the world, but I looked for smaller online and couldn’t find any, so I am giving it that title)

16. Basel Has one of the Most Beautiful City Gates in Europe

pretty gates of Basel switzerland

Basel was once a fortified city and you can still see parts of the Old City Wall. The Spalentor gate is a fairytale-like gate that has been standing since the 1400s.

17. It Also Has a Gorgeous Town Hall

basel switzerland city hall

The Rathaus (City Hall) is the crown jewel of Basel standing proud in the center of Marktplatz. Its 500-year-old red facade is one of the most beautiful in Europe. With its red facade and colourful frescoes it is particularly beautiful. The Town Hall is still a working city hall and is the current base of Basel’s government and its parliament. Most people look at it from Marktplatz, but make sure to go inside the inner courtyard.

18. Basel Has a Great Food Scene

delicious dining in Basel Switzerland

We ate at a lot of places in Switzerland and in no place did we enjoy our dining experiences as much as we did in Basel. Our favourite restaurants were located directly on the River Rhine. Le Rhin Bleu is located in the picturesque St. Alban Quarter on the Rhine River. It has an outdoor terrace and in the winter it turns into a sauna. We also had superb service at Ufer7 on the Rhine as well and of course, no visit to Basel would be complete without having a cocktail at the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (Three Kings).

19. Feel Welcomed at The Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (The Three Kings)

trois rois hotel interior basel switzerland

Les Trois Rois is the swankiest place in Basel that overlooks the Rhine. It is a deluxe 5-star hotel and may be swanky, but we went in after a day of cycling and they welcomed us with grace as we sauntered in our shorts and sneakers. The relaxed atmosphere made for a perfect place for an aperitif at sunset. This place has been welcoming visitors since the 17th century.

20. Basel is the Cultural Capital of Switzerland

It is a small city, but Basel boasts 40 museums, countless theaters featuring musical theater, ballet, and stage productions. With 300 days of sunshine a year, Basel has plenty of outdoor festivals, cinemas, and markets. It has its own carnival too. Basler Fasnacht is a three-day festival that is the biggest festival in Switzerland featuring masked musicians and performers.

Basel has a very popular Christmas Market which seems to be on everyone’s “things to do in Basel” list. It also hosts the world’s largest art fair. When we were there in August, an open-air cinema was set up on Münsterhügel (Minster Hill) in front of Basel Minster, a former Catholic cathedral that is now a Reformed Protestant church.

As you can see, Basel Switzerland is an amazing city to visit. Once you dig deeper beyond the cathedral and exploring the old town there are so many things to see and do, you will fall in love with Basel too.

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Book Your Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner. We have used them for years and have found that they have the best flight deals.

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor.

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

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Book Your Activities: Looking for walking tours, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more? Then we recommend Get Your Guide.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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4 thoughts on “20 Reasons to Fall in Love with Basel, Switzerland”

  1. The only things I was knowing about Swiss are clocks & chocolate. After reading this great article and the other about Zurich, I discovered that there is a lot of great things to visit there. Next trip will be sure the Switzerland!

  2. Hey, Thanks for writing such a detailed article on Basel, Switzerland. I guess you have covered every possible must-see place in Basel. I am planning a family trip to Basel in October & this blog has provided me important things to look at or do in Basel. I would like to add that if you are a crazy world traveler and want to know more about different world destinations then do check out https://www.wideworldtrips.com/. Keep inspiring everyone & all the best for your new adventure.

  3. Love the Swiss….
    I’ve been there before, but never had the time to explore Swiss entirely.

    *Adds a few more places in the Itinerary*

    *Hopes the travel restrictions will be loosened*

    Love your blog, especially the content and photos.

    Hope to be back to browse more 🙂