Basel is in Northern Switzerland, situated near the borders of France and Germany. It’s known for its culture, museums, and annual carnival. Even though it’s the third largest city in Switzerland, I found it to be quaint and with a nice leisurely pace.
My friend Alicia and I stayed at the YMCA Basel. This was one of my favorite hostels from my Switzerland trip due to the modern decor, large rooms, and the outdoor courtyard. Other perks include in-room lockers, a community kitchen, and breakfast available.
We picked up a city map and were easily able to take our own tour of the sights. If you’re working your way East, start with the Gate of Spalen (Spalentor), which is one of Basel’s former city gates. You’ll notice Basel’s unique coat of arms above the doorway, as well as on a number of other city landmarks. It’s then a 10-minute walk to the Town Hall (Rathaus), which is a quick stop but is well worth it to see its ornate detail and vibrant colors. The Town Hall is part of the Marktplatz, which hosts a daily farmer’s market. If you’re able to visit on a Saturday, you’ll have the greatest selection of vendors. Another 10 minutes will take you to Basel Minster, one of my favorite churches I saw in Switzerland, mostly for its stained glass windows. There are also opportunities to take a boat taxi across the Rhine and back; it’s even included in the Swiss Travel Pass if you have one.
Another recommendation I have is to buy a Wickelfisch, which can be found at Tourist Information or a number of souvenir shops. What is a Wickelfisch you ask? It’s basically a waterproof bag that holds your cell phone, clothes, and other valuables while you float along the Rhine River. Floating on the Rhine is a favorite for locals; if swimming isn’t your thing, you can still walk along the river and watch the action.
There are also a TON of museums to choose from in Basel. We opted for the Historisches Museum Basel (HMB). You can read about their collections here: http://www.hmb.ch/en/collection.html My favorite was a temporary exhibit called Museum of Broken Relationships, which featured mementos from relationships that ended, along with brief descriptions of the object and backstory. In case this is ringing a bell, this exhibit has been featured at other museums and on the U.S. show, The Bachelor (not that I watch it or anything). One other thing I remember is that the furniture collection was quite large; if I went through again, I might cover that one quickly or skip it altogether. There’s also the Kunstmuseum, which we didn’t have time to visit but is considered one of the most renowned art museums in all of Europe. Or, if you’re so inclined, there are also museums about cartoons, dolls, funeral objects, fire-fighting, or cereal processing. You pick!
As an animal-lover, one of my favorite experiences was the Basel Zoo (for CHF 18). They had a wide range of animals (many of whom were babies), and I was surprised how different the enclosures felt from zoos in the U.S. Though I had a couple moments where I thought, “Hmm, is this safe?” I felt like I got to see animals in relatively close proximity. Here are a few amazing animal shots that Alicia took:
Number of days recommended in Basel: 2, or more if it’s during the carnival
Must-pack items: swimsuit and towel for the river
What tips do you have for visiting Basel? Share them below!