We don't necessarily think of Basel for a city break. However, with its superb old town, its architectural heritage, the diversity of its museums and its relaxed rhythm of life, Switzerland's third largest metropolis (3 inhabitants) is a particularly attractive destination. Basel? A cultural and relaxing getaway on the banks of the Rhine ... just 180 hours by TGV from Paris and just across the border for Alsatians.
Old Basel: attractive urban walks
Good news for walkers! Basel can be easily visited on foot, the city center being largely pedestrianized and the various points of interest not very far away. A stroke of fatigue? The bus and tram network, very dense, allows you to go everywhere, and for free if you sleep in one of the hotels in the city.
Basel is separated in two by the Rhine, with on one side the Greater Basel, on the other the Little Basel. It is on the side of Greater Basel, built on two hills, that the most striking sites are to be found.
Cradle of the city, the cathedral hill (Münsterhügel), which overlooks the Rhine, is dominated by the slender silhouette of the Cathedral (Münster) of pink sandstone. Along the streets, you can admire beautiful medieval and Renaissance buildings, mansions such as the blue house and the White House (18th century) or the final resting place of Erasmus.
On the other hill, the alleys around Saint-Léonard Church (Leonhardskirsche), without cars, bathe in a delicious village atmosphere. It is one of the prettiest corners of the old City always delimited by three medieval gates, the streets of which are dotted with elegant residences (13-16C) resembling dolls houses.
Going down the street Spalenberg, Mecca of trendy shopping in Basel, we then join the market place (Marktplatz) where, as the name suggests, a market is held every day (except Sunday). The masterpiece of the square remains City Hall (Rathaus), an impressive bright red building (16C) topped with a belfry.
A few minutes on foot are then enough to reach the Barfüsserplatz, nerve center of Basel, and the Franciscan church Barfüsserkirche (14th century) which now houses the Historical museum. In particular, you can see fragments of Basel's famous medieval fresco La danse macabre.
On the other side of the Rhine, the Little Basel also has its share of pretty old houses. But we mainly go there to discover a more popular and cosmopolitan Basel, around the bars of the Rheingasse, and somewhat "bobo" in the quiet alleys overlooking the Rhine.
Museums: Basel, cultural capital
The museums of Basel alone are worth the trip. There are no less than 40 of them, an exceptional concentration for a city of 180 inhabitants!
Flagship of them, the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) is one of the most prestigious in Switzerland. In addition to the world's largest collection of paintings by Holbein, it contains some 3 works from the 000th century. today, spread over three sites. Renaissance paintings (including Holbein) and 15th-19th century masters. are the strengths of the museum, from Böcklin and Holder to Picasso, including Monet, Cézanne, Matisse, Renoir, Corot, Füssli… Exceptional!
Other hot spots for art lovers, the Jean Tinguely museum, devoted to the mechanical sculptures of this iconoclastic Swiss genius, is worth the detour, as is the formidable Beyeler Foundation in Riehen (15 min from the center by bus). Known worldwide, it houses, in a beautiful building by Renzo Piano, some 200 major works (Monet, Matisse, Van Gogh, Bacon, etc.) from the Beyeler collection. The temporary exhibitions are of an excellent standard.
Recently revamped by the famous Basel architect duo Herzog and De Meuron, the Cultures museum brings together, for its part, rich collections of ethnography, including a remarkable background on Balinese culture.
More original, an exciting Paper museum (Papiermühle) established its quarters in a paper mill dating from 1453, nestled along a canal in Saint-Alban. The exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to discover the history and secrets of paper making, writing, printing and typography. Another unique place of its kind, the Puppenhausmuseum is the largest museum in Europe dedicated to dollhouses and toys. A unique place to visit with the family.
Dozens of other museums across the city bring together lovers of natural history, music, ancient art, contemporary art, Jewish culture, even pharmacy history or electronic art. … More info on http://www.museenbasel.ch/fr/
Architecture: a laboratory of contemporary trends
Basel does not fall asleep on the laurels of its prestigious past. Located on the border between three countries, it is a cosmopolitan city open to modernity which, each year in June, becomes the world capital of contemporary art with the Art Basel fair.
Modernity is also found in the streets of the city, where the famous duo of architects originated. Herzog and De Meuron. Here, urban walks are not just combined with the past. Basel elegantly cultivates the art of contrast, bringing together venerable 15th century residences and the most contemporary architectural daring.
Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Richard Meier, Mario Botta, Basle Herzog & De Meuron and Diener & Diener, as well as a dozen Pritzker Prize winners, have left their mark on the city, notably at Messe Basel, at the Vitra Campus , at the Roche Tower and at the Novartis Campus. Routes, designed by the tourist office, allow you to visit these emblematic buildings of the new Basel.
Fans of urban cultures will take the path of street art sites in Basel, near the port, the train station and the Gerbergässlein. Another place to recommend to urban trekkers and lovers of a post-industrial atmosphere: the port area and the Klybeckquai, with the caravans of Wagenplatz and the refreshments on the banks of the Rhine.
Further on the bank of the Rhine, at Corner of the 3 borders (Dreiländerecke), a kind of aluminum rocket signals the meeting point between Switzerland, France and Germany. Ideal for a souvenir photo.
The art of living in Basel, gently
Change of tempo for the Parisians who disembark from the TGV Lyria. The people of Basel obviously know how to take the time to live. Human-sized, pleasant and relaxing, their city is punctuated by numerous green spaces, several pedestrian zones and 168 drinking water fountains. The bicycle is king here and the Rhine ferries don't even have an engine. Connected to a cable, the Fähri indeed move with the sole force of the current.
In summer, the people of Basel like to take a dip in the Rhine (yes!), whose shores take on the air of a beach. Near the Johanniterbrücke and in the Breite district, furnished pontoons (badhysli) invite you to sunbathe. On the banks of Petit Bâle, between Mittlere Brücke and the three borders, refreshments allow you to quench your thirst and eat.
In the evening, the taverns of the Rheingasse (Petit Bâle) and the bars of the Steinenvorstadt (Greater Basel) welcome night owls, who remake the world over a local beer or a glass of wine. The hipsters climb to the 31st floor of the Messeturm to admire Basel by night from the very select Bar Rouge.
Finally, to savor the sweetness of life in Basel, we cannot recommend a stroll through Saint-alban, Our favorite. Close to the center, it is a district with a village atmosphere, where you can hear birdsong rather than horns.
Saint-Alban has a crazy charm, with its old and beautiful houses, its designer boutiques, its galleries and its secret gardens. Going down towards the Rhine, we cross a channel on the banks of which, in the Middle Ages, there were mills. One of them, still in operation, now houses the Paper museum.
Around Basel: from Roman antiquity to contemporary design
Interesting excursions are easily possible within a radius of 15 km from Basel, by bus, train or boat:
The Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein
A must for lovers of design and architecture. Located at the gates of the border town of Weil am Rhein (Germany), the Vitra company is world famous for its collaborations with the greatest designers.
Its production site houses the Vitra Design Museum, the first building built by Frank Gehry in Europe, as well as the Vitra Haus where you can visit a fascinating permanent exhibition on Vitra and design. Also on the site, a Zaha Hadid fire station, a conference center designed by Tadao Ando and even bus stops designed by Jasper Morisson!
The Roman ruins of Augst
Roman ruins in German-speaking Switzerland? To find out, head to the site ofAugusta Raurica, 10 km from Basel, which is the oldest Roman settlement on the banks of the Rhine (44 BC). A curiosity for archeology enthusiasts.
Rhine cruise terminal, Rheinfelden, founded in the 12C, is a medieval village with period or Baroque residences, arranged around the rue du Marché (Marktgasse). Small peculiarity: this artery is connected by a bridge to its German namesake, which is just across the Rhine.
Find all the practical information, tips and addresses in the Swiss Routard bookstore.
Consult our Swiss online guide
How to get there ?
- de-Lyon) to Basel in 3 hours. Prices from € 29 in 2nd class.
- Flights to l & rsquoMulhouse from many French cities (Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice, Toulouse…) with EasyJet.
Basel is easy to explore on foot or by bicycle. Excellent bus and tram network that can be used free of charge if staying in one of the hotels in town. Ask for the mobility ticket at the reception.
At the restaurant, count at least 20-25 francs for an evening dish à la carte. Good to know: many establishments offer interesting lunch options and the portions are generally generous.
A good plan to save money: the Basel Card, which offers discounts for museums, cultural activities, transport, etc.
- Alban Kirchrain 10 youth hostel. At c & oeligAlban, by the canal, a modern and design AJ with double rooms and dormitories with refined decor. The Rhine is not far, neither is the old town and you have the impression of being in the countryside. Dormitory from 41 Fs (38 €) and double from 132 Fs (123 €)
- Hotel Bildungszentrum 21: Missionstrasse 21. A stone's throw from Old Basel and Spalentor, a comfortable and quiet hotel, housed in a 19th century building in the heart of a green park. Rooms with simple, modern and tasteful decor. Doubles from 135 Fs (125 €), reductions on the Internet.
- Teufelhof sol, the remains of the medieval ramparts of Basel. More than a hotel, a cultural center and a unique place. Doubles from 170 Fs (160 €).
- Buvettes du Rhin Rhyschänzli and Oetlinger: downstream from Mittlere Brücke, on the Petit Bâle side, these refreshments are a good option for a snack and a drink in good weather. Count 10 Fs (9,5 €).
- Tibits service vé20 Fs (14-18 €) for a hearty plate. Tibits is a subsidiary of the vegetarian restaurant Hiltl, a local institution since 1898.
- Zur Harmonie sausage, croû22 Fs).
- Brasserie Fischerstube: Rheingasse 45. A very popular address in Petit Bâle, where the local Ueli beer is brewed. Warm atmosphere and dishes around 30 Fs (27 €).
- Café des Arts: Barfüsserplatz 6. A large bar on the popular Barfüsserplatz to have a drink, before continuing the evening on the Steinenvorstadt.
- Sky Red Bar, from where you have an exceptional view of Basel. Chic and trendy.
- Läckerli Huus: Gerberstrasse 57. Shop where you can buy the famous Basel specialty, “Basler Läckerli”, small cookies made with honey, hazelnuts and almonds.
Among the guides, Monique Chevalley, member of l & rsquointerprètes du patrimoine, offers tours in French.