Basel – What to do in and around this Swiss city

Getting to Basel by train

From Zurich there are half-hourly direct connections to Basel (53 minutes), from Bern you reach Basel in 56 minutes, and from Lucerne in just over an hour.

If you arrive from Germany or France by train, Basel is probably your first station in Switzerland. This city on the Rhine river is known for its great carnival, which starts annually at 4 a.m. on the Monday after Ash Wednesday and lasts until 4 a.m. on Thursday. Besides, Basel has one of the best art scenes in Switzerland.

Basel Rathaus

International connections

The German border station, which is also included in the Swiss train network, is called Basel Badischer Bahnhof. From there, trains run to many cities in Germany.

There also is an international airport in Basel. From EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse you can reach the city center by taking bus number 50 to Basel train station in 20 minutes. By the way, it’s often cheaper to fly to Basel instead of Zurich or Geneva. When booking your tickets, check which airport is best for you.

Since Basel is located in the border triangle, a day trip to France would also be possible. Or you can hop on the TGV train and be in Paris in just over 3 hours.

What to do in Basel

Of course, you could simply float in a suitable place in the Rhine or have a coffee in one of the inviting restaurants. However, Basel has much more to offer.

Embark on an architectural tour

In Basel, there are several striking buildings, which you could discover on a walk through the city. For example, the BIZ (Bank for International Settlements, address: Aeschgraben) by Ticino architect Mario Botta, the dome of the Market Hall (Steinentorberg 20), where you can eat well at the food stalls after or during a city tour. The nested Novartis Campus (e.g. Fabrikstrasse 15) is also worth a photo. The Roche Tower (Grenzacherstrasse124) by architects Herzog & de Meuron is the tallest building in Switzerland at the moment. It reminds me of a big piece of Toblerone. In 2021, a second tower of 205 m was completed. Football fans can visit the St. Jakobs-Stadion (St. Jakobs-Strasse 395), which FC Basel calls its home. Art fans should definitely go to the Werkraum Warteck, which is a beautiful brick building. A futuristic staircase leads into the building (Burgweg 7-15). The gothic Basel Minster is also nice to visit.

Be enchanted by the Tinguely Fountain

Everyone likes the art of Jean Tinguely, as he mostly creates moving mechanical figures. His fountain on Theaterstrasse is open to the public. If you want to see more of Tinguely’s art, you can visit his museum (Paul Sacher Facility 2, open from Tue-Sun, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Admission: 18 Fr., free with the museum pass, and 9 Fr. with the Basel Guest Card.

Walk across the world’s longest, free-supporting pedestrian bridge

The curved bridge connects the French Huningue in Alsace with the German city of Weil am Rhein. So, if you cross the bridge from Switzerland, you would be in three countries in one day. To the bridge and the shopping center you can easily get on tram 8 in the direction of Weil Bahnhof. Get off at Dreiländerbrücke. If you just want to take a good picture of the bridge, you take it from Westquaistrasse 75. There you can also relax in the Sandoase and have a bite to eat or drink. Afterward you could take a stroll along the banks of the Rhine back to the center in 30 minutes.

Stroll through Little Venice

From the Kunstmuseum Basel (which is one of the best art museums in Switzerland and always has various exhibitions) you can walk right through the pretty St. Alban neighborhood to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Behind the museum is the St. Alban Valley. There is a small river directly past timber-framed houses and you could almost think that you have landed in Venice. A good place for Instagram photos.

Journey to Roman times

Take the S1 from Basel to Kaiseraugst station in 22 minutes. From there, a 10-minute walk leads you into another era and you land in Augusta Raurica (Giebenacherstrasse 17, 4302 Augst). It is the largest archaeological park in Switzerland and includes, among other things, a big silver collection, and a huge open-air theatre. Admission costs 8 Fr. and with the Basel Guest Card 4 Fr. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On the last weekend of August, the largest Roman festival in Switzerland takes place there.

Feast on fresh food

An open-air market takes place every day (7am to 2pm) on the market square in Basel. You can find treats from the region and around the world or you could buy a nice bouquet of flowers. The red town hall building (Market Square 9) is another architectural highlight.

Where to stay in Basel

The Nomad Design & Lifestyle Hotel in Basel is a 5-minute walk from the train station, centrally located to all attractions. At the reception, you have the chance to win a room upgrade or other goodies, and thanks to the friendly staff you immediately feel at home. The décor is not only stylish and sustainable but also comfortable, allowing tired city tourists or business guests a fabulous night’s sleep. With our room category, we had access to the Library Club, where there are great books to read and free snacks and drinks so that we felt like VIPs. Nomad also has a gym with a sauna. So, you have everything you need. Definitely a hotel that adapted modern services and fulfills the needs of the guests.

I can also highly recommend their restaurant Eatery. The Tajine was very tasty and authentic, and the breakfast buffet had everything we desired.

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