My Top 10 Things to Do in Basel

Before moving to Basel in April, I had never been to the city or even to Switzerland. Upon my arrival, I dove right into exploring my new home. From my first day walking around the city square and along the Rhine, I fell in love with Basel. It’s a charming city full of winding alleys, pastel buildings with brightly colored shutters, and bikes along the river. It’s also one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe. Walking around Old Town Basel you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

Basel is not only picturesque, it’s also steeped in culture. Despite its small size, Basel is known as the “cultural capital of Switzerland“ and the city lives and breathes art and culture. In fact, many of its cultural institutions and events, such as Art Basel, are internationally acclaimed.

What’s more, Basel is located in the heart of Europe with Germany and France just across the border. It’s a clean, safe city that is easy to navigate by foot, bike, or public transportation, making your visit all the more enjoyable. So put Basel on your bucket list and while there, use this guide to discover the very best that Basel has to offer!

rhine basel

1. Discover Old Town Basel

On every corner of Old Town Basel you will find buildings dating back as far as the 15th century. Wander the streets and get lost amongst the winding alleys, picturesque buildings, and elaborate fountains. You’ll feel like you just walked into a fairytale! Don’t miss the Spalentor, the city’s most magnificent medieval gate, and the impressive Basler Münster (Basel Cathedral) with its red sandstone walls, colorful roof tiles, and twin towers.

2. Immerse yourself in art at the Beyeler Foundation

Visiting the Beyeler Foundation is a must-do for any art lover. The Beyeler’s collection of classical modernism is internationally renowned and its current Monet exhibit is a real treat. After touring the museum, enjoy the foundation’s lush gardens where art, architecture, and nature are united.

beyeler foundation basel

beyeler foundation basel

3. Experience old-world luxury at Les Trois Rois

A visit to Basel is not complete without experiencing Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois. Les Trois Rois, or The Three Kings, is Basel’s nicest hotel and one of Europe’s oldest. Founded in 1681 as an inn for gentlemen and rebuilt in 1844 as a Grand Hotel, Les Trois Rois’ guest book reads like a who’s who of world history. Situated directly on the banks of the Rhine, Les Trois Rois boasts one of the city’s best views. At night, the hotel is completely lit up and it glows in the most magical way. If you’re willing to splurge, have dinner at three Michelin star gourmet restaurant Cheval Blanc (read about my birthday dinner at Cheval Blanc here). If you want something more low-key but still a special fine dining experience, La Brasserie is another fantastic option. You can also stop in for tea or a drink and soak up the old-world glamour of this grand hotel.

Cheval Blanc Restaurant basel

Cheval Blanc Restaurant

Les Trois Rois basel

Les Trois Rois from the bridge

Les Trois Rois basel

4. Explore Marktplatz

Basel’s market square is dominated by the imposing bright red City Hall. Peak into the inner courtyard of this 500-year-old building which continues to serve as the seat of government of the Basel-Stadt Canton today. During the week, the square is transformed into a market full of fresh produce, flowers, meats and cheeses, and food stands. My favorite food stand is Piadina which serves up their namesake, a thin Italian flatbread with cheese, meat and vegetables.

marktplatz basel

5. Take a dip in the Rhine

When the temperature soars, the Rhine is the only place to be (especially since air conditioning is almost nonexistent in Basel). The Rhine becomes full of life with people grilling on the steps, drinking beers, and hanging out with friends. In the summer months, the Rhine is dotted with what the locals call “fish.” These fish-shaped floats keep your belongings safe and dry while you float down the river. Get yourself one and join in on the fun!

rhine basel summer

Spot the fish!

6. Visit the quirky Tinguely Museum

This hands-on art museum contains the works of Jean Tinguely, a famous Swiss sculptor who created intricate sculptural machines out of junk. Tinguely’s interactive, moving art is fun for children and adults alike. Also, the museum’s park on the Rhine makes for a great setting for some of his massive works.

tinguely museum basel

tinguely museum basel art

One of Tinguely’s massive, interactive moving art pieces

7. Enjoy top-notch restaurants and bars

The Swiss take their food seriously and Basel has many great restaurants to choose from. After living there for four months I still didn’t get to go everywhere on my list! While in Basel, take advantage of the Swiss love for all things local and organic and treat yourself to some seriously memorable meals. Top on my list: the baguettes at Kaffe 1777, the Wiener Schnitzel at Walliser Kanne, the meat and veggie plate at Landestelle, and the cocktails at Werk 8. For more recommendations, check out my food and drink guide for Basel.

werk 8 bar basel

8. Spend an afternoon at the Vitra Design Campus

Vitra is a Swiss furniture company that manufactures some of the most internationally renowned furniture designs. But Vitra not only makes furniture, it also has its own Campus with buildings by prominent architects such as Nicholas Grimshaw, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid. Today the campus serves as a fully operational production site and as a field of experimentation for architecture and design. Located about 20 minutes outside of Basel, Vitra’s sprawling, otherworldly Campus is open to the public and it is a must-see. While there, make sure you stop by VitraHaus, Vitra’s flagship store. At VitraHaus, you can see their furniture in different settings and try out their latest contemporary designs. There’s even an all-pink Alice in Wonderland themed room which is not to be missed.

vitra design campus basel vitrahaus basel alice in wonderland pink vitrahaus chain design basel vitra design campus basel party

Read about Vitra’s famous Summer Party during Art Basel here.

9. Relax in the city’s parks

If you need a break from sightseeing, head to one of the city’s many well-kept parks for a little R and R. In nice weather, the parks become a hub of activity with Baselers sunbathing, grilling with friends, and playing with their kids. We loved relaxing in Schützenmattpark, a leafy green park right by our apartment. If you’re lucky, a local stork will make an appearance! You can find more great parks in Basel here.

Schützenmattpark basel

Enjoying a sunny day in Schützenmattpark

basel aerial

As you can see, Basel is a very green city! Drone shot by Julian.

10. Wander around

Finally, just let yourself wander around the city. If you see an intriguing alley, take it. If you’re curious about what’s around the corner, see what’s around the corner! I discovered so many unexpected and delightful parts of the city simply by walking around and taking a few detours along the way. The best part is, Basel is small enough that you won’t get yourself truly lost. It’s also so safe that you don’t have to worry about running into harm’s way. So go explore! You just may stumble upon a few treasures 🙂

basel house flowers

spalenring basel

Pin the images below to save this guide for later!

top 10 things to do in basel

top 10 things to do in basel

If you find this list helpful or have something to add, I’d love to hear from you!

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38 Comments

  1. September 27, 2017 / 6:09 am

    awesome!!

    • Sarah Daisey
      Author
      October 7, 2017 / 6:40 pm

      Glad you liked it!! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. August 13, 2017 / 8:52 pm

    Basil in Summer looks amazing! Switzerland is so pretty! Will definitely include it in our next European Roadtrip!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 14, 2017 / 8:07 pm

      So happy to hear that! And when you go, be sure to check out my posts on the Swiss Alps as they cannot be missed!

  3. August 12, 2017 / 8:37 pm

    Basel looks absolutely lovely, I’ve never been to Switzerland but I really want to book a trip next year! xo

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 14, 2017 / 8:06 pm

      You must go! And when you do, check out my other posts on the Swiss Alps as they are a must-do as well!

  4. August 12, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    I love the diverse set of activities! I think number 10 is great idea in every city. Just walk around, get lost and discover something new 😉

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 14, 2017 / 8:06 pm

      Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it!!

  5. August 12, 2017 / 8:20 pm

    I live so close to Switzerland (maybe to close) and I’ve never been to Basel yet. But also probably because… well, I heard that Basel is kind of boring. Your post completely changes my mind ! I think I would love to taste its diverse cuisine, float down the Rhine River, or spend time walking its historic city center with its riveting museums, zoo, and extravagant cathedrals… Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 14, 2017 / 8:05 pm

      Before moving to Basel my boyfriend and I had heard that too. Luckily we were pleasantly surprised by the city and came to realize there’s so much to do there! But I would definitely recommend going in the warmer months to see Basel in its best light 🙂

  6. August 12, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    Basel looks wonderful! I’ve heard so much about Switzerland’s countryside but very little about its cities. Certainly seems like Basel is the place to visit, and so I shall! Thanks Daisey!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 14, 2017 / 8:03 pm

      Sure thing! I hope you get to visit soon!

  7. August 12, 2017 / 7:12 pm

    Basel looks like such a beautiful, charming town and sounds like there’s a lot to do and see! Love your insider perspective on it, definitely keeping this post handy!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 14, 2017 / 8:02 pm

      So glad you found it useful!

  8. August 12, 2017 / 6:47 pm

    Wow! Basel is definitely picturesque! I had no idea it was also Switzerland’s cultural capital. I’ve been to Zurich and Lucerne, and now you’ve added Basel to my “must-visit” list. Thank you! 🙂

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 14, 2017 / 8:01 pm

      Sure thing! Thanks for reading and hope you get to visit Basel soon!

  9. August 12, 2017 / 5:19 pm

    My husband and I were just in Basel and were pleasantly surprised by how much we loved it. Our favorite part was watching the people Rheinschwimmen! We almost bought ourselves Wickelfisch, but couldn’t justify the cost since we were only there 3 days. We did dip our feet in the river anyway – and to answer the commenter’s quesiton below the water was delightfully warm!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 12, 2017 / 6:06 pm

      My boyfriend and I were also pleasantly surprised by Basel and became very fond of it during our time there! The Rhine culture in the summer is definitely one of my favorite parts about Basel 🙂

  10. August 12, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    OMG! How did you click the first pic? Drone? That’s a stunning capture of the Munster! I walked with the those color way marked paths and its just awesome to discover Old Basel.

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 12, 2017 / 6:04 pm

      Thank you! Yes, my boyfriend took that shot with his drone! And you’re so right, those colored marking are a great way to discover Old Town Basel 🙂

  11. Ticking the Bucketlist
    August 11, 2017 / 5:57 pm

    Isnt the water in the Rhine cold…I would always associate Basel with cold water…but you make me think differently. I loved the Marktplatz …so colourful. I would love to visit Basel in summer and soak in some sun!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 11, 2017 / 7:11 pm

      In the summer the Rhine is the only place to be!After spending some time there I must say the city really comes alive in nice weather, you’ll have to go back someday in the spring or summer!

  12. August 11, 2017 / 1:02 pm

    Basel sounds amazing!! Heading down to old town Basel would be a must for me as I love old architecture! The buildings look magnificent!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 11, 2017 / 3:37 pm

      Walking around Old Town Basel was definitely one of my favorite things to do in Basel! And I felt so lucky because we lived on the cutest street in Old Town, it was like being in a fairytale!

  13. August 11, 2017 / 3:04 am

    The skyline of Basel reminds me of Melaka, Malaysia. We got the best view form the revolving Observation Deck. If I had to choose any 2 activities, I would go with admiring the art at Beyeler Foundation and walking around the Old Town on foot. Cheers!!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 11, 2017 / 3:36 pm

      Oh that’s so interesting! I’d love to go to Malaysia one of these days! Thanks for the reading!

  14. August 10, 2017 / 7:42 pm

    Great information! I’ve never heard of Basel, so I was glad to learn more. I can tell that it really is a culturally rich place. I’d like to try the flatbread. I’d also like to spend some time at the Rhine.

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 11, 2017 / 3:35 pm

      Glad you found it informative! Thanks for reading and I hope you get to Basel one day!

  15. August 10, 2017 / 1:52 pm

    I have always wanted to go to Basel. I will keep your suggestions in mind for when I go. Thanks for sharing!

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 10, 2017 / 5:54 pm

      Sure thing! Glad you found it useful for your future trip!

  16. August 10, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    I missed out on Basel when I went to Switzerland. That’s too bad! I flew into Geneva, and took a train trip to Interlaken and Lucern, then made my way to Austria 🙂

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 10, 2017 / 5:54 pm

      That’s a bummer! I too was unable to see a lot of the parts of Switzerland that I wanted to but now I have a reason to go back!

  17. Lisa
    August 10, 2017 / 10:35 am

    Le Trois Rois looks so palatial, I’d love to see a place so classic. Basel Old Town looks very pretty and historic too. Those quaint streets and houses really make you feel you’re in another world. Beautiful photos that make me want to visit 🙂

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      August 10, 2017 / 5:51 pm

      So glad to hear that Lisa! Basel really does have so much to offer, I hope you get a chance to visit one day!

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