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Basel - The Cultural City at the Tripoint

The city of museums has everything cultural lovers could wish for: art, culture and architecture from early times to modernity. In addition,  Basel is the centre of the Swiss techno and electro dance scene and has an exciting and colourful nightlife. The Rhine invites visitors to go bathing in summer.

Basel against the backdrop of the Basel Minster

Geography - The sunny city at the Rhine

Basel is a city and political community as well as the main city of the Canton of Basel-Stadt in the outermost north-west of Switzerland. The main official language in the region is German. Basel is the third biggest Swiss city after Zurich and Geneva with an area of 22.75 km² and a population of 172,662 people. It lies in the tripoint of Switzerland, Germany and France. The city itself does not have any political districts or boroughs but for statistical reasons, it is divided into residential quarters, so-called "Quartiere". 19 quarters are located left and right of the Rhine altogether. On the left (south-western) side of the Rhine, you find Grossbasel, on the right sight lies Kleinbasel. The Mittlere Brücke connects the old town on both sides of the Rhine. The city is surrounded by three lower mountain ranges: the French Vosges in the west, the German Black Forest in the east and the foothills of the Jura Mountains in the south. Basel is also connected to the North Sea by the Rhine. In this way, the region around Basel is the only freight harbour in the whole of Switzerland, which made the city an important traffic junction and trade centre early on. Thanks to it convenient position, the city has a particularly mild and sunny climate. There is little fog in autumn in comparison to the central area and the average yearly temperature is about 11.5 °C.

The former town gate of Basel

Nature - The green Rhine Valley

The Rhine crosses the city and changes its direction from east-west to south-north in the so-called Rhine knee between the Swiss Jura Mountains and the foothills of the Black Forest. At this point, the river section High Rhine ends and the Upper Rhine begins. Shortly before the Rhine knee, the river Birs - which constitutes the border of the Canton of Basel-Landschaft - issues into the Rhine. The city Basel has an area of 320 hectares of green spaces, which consists of numerous parks and several botanic gardens. In addition, the city is surrounded by about 71 hectares of forest. You find the greatest and first Swiss Zoo here, called Zolli. Its Etosha House, for example, offers a fascinating insight into the Namibian savannah. About 600 different types of animals live on an area of 11 hectares with an exotic flora in the middle of the city.

Passenger ship on the Rhine in Basel

Culture - The city of museums

On the base of archaeological finds, it could be proved that the first people already lived in the region of Basel 300,000 years ago. The traces of the first settlements date back to the 5th century BC. Around 150 BC, the Celtic settlement emerged. From 43 BC on, the Romans ruled the settlement and changed its name to Augusta Raurica. Travellers should not miss out on seeing the remains of this settlement during their holidays in Basel. On the Mittleren Brücke, you find the statue Helvetia auf Reisen ("Helvetia on her travels"), which was built by the Basel artist Bettina Eichin in 1980. Helvetia is an allegorical female figure, which embodies Switzerland. One of the most significant art fairs worldwide, the Art Basel, takes place in Basel every year. Particularly worthwhile sights are the market square with its red town hall, which was built in 1514, and the Gate of Spalen (the former town gate). Theatre and musical fans are in good hands in the Musical Theatre Basel, the first musical theatre in Switzerland, which offers a variety of regular performances. Furthermore, Basel is a city with a significant organ culture, which is apparent from its eight churches with their impressive historical organs. Most of all, however, Basel is a city of museums with the highest density of museums in the whole of the country. There are over 40 museums altogether. One prominent example is the Kunstmuseum Basel, which does not only accommodate the greatest but also the oldest art collection on earth. In addition, there are the Antikenmuseum ("museum of ancient times"), the Swiss Architecture Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Cultures. Besides the many museums, you also find a number of small theatres and galleries. The Minster next to the Mittlere Brücke is one of Basel's most famous landmarks and definitely worth a visit. Holidaymakers who go to the trouble of climbing its tower are rewarded with a wonderful view of the Rhine and the city, the Vosges Mountains and the Black Forest.

Helvetia watching the Rhine

Experience - Tradition and modernity meet

Basel is a city which caters for all tastes, especially with regard to culinary delicacies. Specialities from Basel are, for example, the Basel Mässmogge (sweets with hazelnut filling), the Schlumbergerli (a crispy bun) or the Hippocras (a sweetened red wine). Especially worth trying is the fish dish Salm nach Basler Art ("salmon Basel style"), which dates back to Roman times. Travellers who like it sweet should taste the Basler Läckerli (a honey pastry) and visit the Läckerli Huus. Numerous sports events take place throughout the year. Thanks to the mild and sunny climate, holidaymakers can take walks on the famous Rhine promenade and enjoy the beautiful surroundings or watch the river which is vibrant with activity until late at night. There are many local recreational areas for people who want to relax. The city also has lively customs, which are shown in the world-famous Fastnacht, during which traditional pipers and drummers play music in the streets. The Fastnacht in Basel is the greatest one in Switzerland and the only Protestant one worldwide. Another attraction is the Basel Tattoo, which is the world's second best known tattoo event after the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Basel Autumn Fair is the greatest and oldest leisure fair in Switzerland. It takes place on the Saturday before the 30th of October and starts with the ringing of the bell of St. Martin's Church at 12 o'clock. The Basel Christmas on the squares Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz is considered one of the most time-honoured and greatest Swiss Christmas markets. There are also attractions which are of interest to the younger generation. The Sonic is the greatest techno dance event in Switzerland and is held in the St. Jakobshalle. The Isle of Dreams Festival in August makes Basel the centre of the Swiss electro scene. Over 1,000 concerts take place in the city every year. Its nightlife is very popular too. Whether you are sitting in an English pub or a noble bar on the 31st floor of the Messeturm, there is something for everyone. Travellers who enjoy going shopping are in good hands in the city's many boutiques and department stores.

Honey pastry from Basel

Activities - On a treasure hunt through Basel

There is a lot to experience in Basel. Especially lovers of culture get their money's worth here. However, the city is also a great destination for quiet and relaxing family holidays. Visitors can, for example, go on a trip on the Rhine on a passenger ship or the Rhytaxi (a water taxi). In summer, you can also go bathing in the Rhine. The Official Basel Rhine Swim takes place once a year. Holidaymakers can explore the city on a number of different city tours on foot, by vintage tram, by bike or by Segway. A highlight for all age groups is the City Treasure Hunt through Basel.

Through Basel by ship


Like most Swiss regions, the city of Basel can be reached easily. Thanks to its convenient position between the big European motorway junctions north-south and east-west, travellers from Europe can quickly arrive by car. The border crossing Basel-Weil is one of the most frequently visited ones in Switzerland and should be avoided during holiday season because of the high probability of traffic jams. The city shares the airport Basel-Mülhausen with Alsace in France. Basel's three railway stations offer excellent train connections to all Swiss cities and Europe's most important metropolises.

Basel is a city with a lot of potential. A unique range of cultural and nightlife activities make this city trip a special and unforgettable experience. Basel is not lacking in nature either, which means that holidaymakers find a balance between urban life and nature in this city.

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