In Switzerland, Basel is generally known as the country’s cultural capital. In addition to a number of museums and a variety of cultural events the city has a range of options for visitors of all ages.
Basel – international flair and a long history
Basel borders on Germany as well as on France. This unique location allows visitors to quickly get from one country to another with public transport.
The airport, which is located close to Basel, has a trinational status since 1993: It is operated by Switzerland, Germany and France, hence the name “Basel Mulhouse Freiburg”.
The geographical location of Basel and the many languages that are spoken, among others the “Baseldytsch” (the local dialect), lend the city an international and big city flair. This is despite the fact that Basel is only the third biggest city in Switzerland, following Zurich and Geneva. Also attributing to the city’s flair is the fact that during the industrialisation, Basel played an important role as a factory city. In 1957 Basel celebrated 2000 years of its city history
Exploring Basel through a variety of comfortable walks
Basel is also the oldest university city in the country. In order to fully experience the city’s long history, taking walks that show different stages of the historical development are especially worthwhile. A highly recommended route starts at the famous “Barfüssplatz” or “Baarfi” (which translates as barefoot square). Starting from the “Baarfi” one can start strolling through the beautiful historic district with its picturesque streets full of neat shops and antique book stores. This way, one soon reaches one of the city’s biggest landmarks, the great market place, where the magnificent town hall built from red sandstone stands proudly. Lovers of confectionary can visit the “Leckerlihuus” (sweets shop) and can try the delicious “Läggerli”, a traditional honey pie from Basel. After a coffee break in one of the typically narrow alleys one can continue the walk in the direction of the “Münster”. This Late Romantic-Gothic structure and famous landmark of the city sits on the “Münsterhügel” (Münster Hill), which towers over the river Rhine. Some might find the walk up the hill to be a bit “gääch” (steep), but once arrived, it will have been worthwhile: The “Münster”, together with the view of the Rhine, offers a beautiful sight.
Museum lovers – spoilt for choice
Basel isn’t called the cultural capital of Switzerland for nothing. When visiting Basel and having the desire to visit a museum, you have the choice between about 40 different museums, which are more than in every other Swiss city. Despite the variety of museums, sometimes “Drùggedde” (crush of people) occurs, simply due to the popularity of the exhibitions. Many of the city’s museums, like the Art Museum of Basel which has the biggest Holbein collection worldwide and the recently built Beyeler Foundation enjoy international prestige. Another highlight is the Museum of Cultures, which exhibits a vast collection about life in other cultures. For people who prefer the abstract the Jean Tinguely Museum, which exhibits extraordinary metal sculptures made by the internationally renowned artist, is worth a visit. If you cannot get enough of exhibitions, you can also visit one of the many galleries spread throughout the city.
The Basel Zoo and Football
Besides the historical landmarks and cultural activities, for a balanced trip Basel also offers plenty of nature. A trip to the Basel Zoo will delight visitors with its 600 animal species. In addition, a visit to one of the Botanical Gardens and walks through the city’s many parks enjoying a view over the Rhine from a comfortable bench are great options for spending time in Basel. If you are prepared to spend an afternoon a bit further away from the city, the Augusta Raurica might just be for you. At this archaeological site, one can marvel at the mighty ruins and many findings at the museum and visualize the life of the old Romans.
Basel is also a must visit for any football-lover: the city is home to the St.-Jakob-Parc, in the local dialect also called the “Joggeli”, a magnificent stadium in which the local football team FC Basel is supported with loud Basel German shouts by waves of people dressed in red and blue. From the terraces of the biggest stadium in Switzerland one cannot just watch home matches of the FC Basel, but also of the Swiss national team. Such an event is guaranteed to be surrounded by an atmosphere of joy and excitement. The “Joggeli” even accommodates a shopping centre in which families as well as fashion fans can get their money’s worth.
Insiders’ Tip: The Rhine
The Rhine is a special symbol of the city and is one of those landmarks that awards greatness to the city’s appearance. Especially in spring and summer with its charm the Rhine invites locals as well as visitors to enjoy its beauty. Students relaxing on benches are soaking up the sun, passers-by are pausing to enjoy the view over the river, people ride their “Velo” (bicycle) along the streets and business men are escaping into cafés with a view over the river in order to enjoy a break from their hectic daily routine. Furthermore, a number of boat trips are organised here, so that visitors can board excursion boats floating on the river and offering a view over the city. All in all, the Rhine delights people of all ages and offers a change from the daily city life.
Carnival and the Autumn Fair: Main Features of Basel
Basel never sleeps: The whole year around there are different events that attract a number of people from Switzerland and abroad. The by far most important folk festival is the three-day carnival, which starts in February and in March. With the so-called “Morgestraich” (name of the beginning of the festival) the city comes to life and a colourful and playful parade – the “Glùggsi” in Basel German – is going through the city.
There you can find many “Gloons” (clowns) and other colourful figures. Soon afterwards, the parade is followed by two other big fairs, the Baselworld and Art Basel, both of which are attracting visitors from all over the world. For people who enjoy watching not just football but also other sports live, the Swiss Indoors Basel is the perfect spot for watching the crème de la crème of tennis fight over the cup. The event calendar ultimately ends in winter with the very popular Basel Autumn Fair, where young and old have fun at the giant funfair or at the Basle Christmas market located at the “Baarfi”. At the Christmas Market, among many handmade things, one can buy a “Beteeterli” (roughly translates as a little goody) or a “Fingge warme” (gloves) for the cold winter.
Learning Swiss German in Basel
If you want to fully enjoy Basel, it is helpful to understand the locals. The best way to be able to do this is of course by delving into the features of the local “Baseldytsch” dialect. Swiss German can be learned by listening to the radio, watching local television, renting textbooks and visiting meet-ups of societies. Nevertheless, a language course in a language school such as learn-swiss-german.ch is a particularly good way to learn the language. Learning in groups is fun and increases motivation and soon one understands expressions like “Aadringgede” (name of the New Year’s celebration), “Dintegläggs” (ink stain) and “Liechtdääfeli” (caramelised cube sugar) without problems.