Basel is a cultural powerhouse, with 40 museums, in addition to a fine Old Town, the oldest university in Switzerland (1460), a fascinating Old Town, and some modern buildings by some of the most celebrated contemporary architects. It is on the northern border of Switzerland, close to both France and Germany. The third largest city in Switzerland, its official language is Swiss German. The river Rhine plays an important part in Basel’s traditions, and there are four traditional cable ferries powered by the river’s current. Read on to view some of the more unusual visits and activities possible in Basel.
Boggi Milano in Basel
The Boggi Milano store in Basel is located on Freie Strasse, the city’s most important shopping street that runs through the Old Town, and so it is also an attractive visit in its own right.
Freie Strasse 84
Tel. +41 (0)61 271 11 05
Monday-Wednesday 9am-7pm, Thursday 9.30am-8pm, Friday-Saturday 9am-7pm, Sunday 9.30am-6pm
Highlights of a visit to Basel
Swimming in summer
The Swiss have a passion for natural swimming, made possible by the cleanliness of its waterways. In summer, the people of Basel cool off by putting their clothes into a waterproof bag, jumping into the river on the banks of Kleinbasel, and swimming or simply floating down through the old town. They have even invented their own bag, the Wickelfisch, shaped like a fish and sold locally or online.
Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was born in Fribourg, grew up in Basel, and moved to France, where he developed his clanking, whirring machines made mainly from scrap metal that provided a satirical reflection on automation and materialism in contemporary society. The collection presents works from all phases of Tinguely’s career, with sculptures, drawings, letters and other exhibits. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm, Mondays closed.
Paul Sacher-Anlage 2
Tel. +41 (0)61 681 93 20
The Old Town
The Old Town is a beautifully preserved city centre with many monuments on both sides of the Rhine, comprising Grossbasel on the left bank, and Kleinbasel – originally a separate city and still today considered as more of a working-class district – on the right bank. The sights include the cathedral, Basler Münster, the City Hall in Marktplatz, and the Pfalz terrace which offers great view over the Old Town and the river. Many of the buildings date back to the 15th century, with others by contemporary architects that create an interesting contrast.
This modern and contemporary art museum is open 365 days a year, and it is considered as one of the world’s most beautiful museums. Located in a building by Renzo Piano set in a landscaped park with a historical villa, mature trees and water lily ponds, the museum presents exhibitions of works by 19th, 20th and 21st century artists. Highlights include Bacon, Calder, Giacometti, Lichtenstein, Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, Warhol, Van Gogh and many others. It is in the outskirts, and it can be reached by tram 6 in about 20 minutes. It’s well worth saving some time for a walk in the park.
Tel. +41 (0)61 645 97 00
A well-rounded collection of art from the 15th century to modern periods, in a generally uncrowded setting. It includes some paintings by symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin who was born in Basel. The museum has three locations: the permanent collection is at the Hauptbau, temporary modern exhibitions are at the nearby Neubau, while Gegenwart is a ten-minute walk away. Admission is free after 5pm. Open
Kunstmuseum Basel | Hauptbau
Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am–6pm
Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau
Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am–6pm
Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart
Open Tuesday-Sunday 11am–6pm
Tel. +41 (0)61 206 62 62
Basel Paper Mill Museum
Set in a medieval mill, the Basler Papiermühle offers an unusual discovery of paper, books and bookbinding, pens and writing, printing and calligraphy, with many practical, hands-on experiences. Open Tuesday-Sunday 11am-5pm, except for Saturday, 1pm-5pm, closed Mondays.
St. Alban-Tal 37
Tel. +41 (0)61 225 90 90
Pharmaziemuseum Universität Basel
Pharmaceuticals is a major industry in Basel, with companies such as Novartis, Bayer and Hoffmann-La Roche headquartered here. The Pharmaziemuseum Universität Basel provides a historical overview of the science, located in a charming building in the Old Town, itself a notable location with links to Erasmus of Rotterdam, Hans Holbein and Paracelsus. The collection includes a reconstruction of an alchemist’s laboratory, apothecary shops, historic medications and laboratory equipment, microscopes and pharmacy ceramics. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm.
Totengässlein 3, CH-4051 Basel
Tel. +41 (0)61 207 48 11
Basler Läckerli is a local speciality, a biscuit made from honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied citrus peel, spices and kirsch, with a thin sugar glaze. It has a history dating back 700 years. Variations on this biscuit can be found in other Swiss cities, all slightly different.