Ibiza is one of those places whose reputation precedes it. Before going to Ibiza, I assumed it was just a huge party island. I was picturing something straight out of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” So while I was curious about it, I must say it wasn’t necessarily top on my list of places to visit. I love a good party as much as the next person but I’ve never been into big clubs or techno music (which Ibiza is famous for) so it didn’t seem like my cup of tea. However, when a Swiss friend invited us to celebrate his birthday there (and take his plane!) we were obviously not going to turn that down. Even better, the group we were going with had booked an amazing villa weeks in advance. So we didn’t have to do anything but show up! It was too great of an opportunity to pass up so we packed our bags and hopped on the plane. Next thing we knew, we’d landed in Ibiza for a weekend of partying, incredible culinary experiences, and so much more.

Friday

Dinner at Bambuddha

By the time we had arrived Friday night, we were all starving. Upon landing, we met up with the rest of our group and headed to Bambuddha for a big dinner. Our group included three Swiss, three Italians, one German, one Israeli German, two Spanish, one Siberian(!), one Mexican, and one American (aka me). Out of this jet setting crew Julian and I were the only ones who’d never been to Ibiza before. Luckily, everyone else was well-acquainted with the best places to eat and party on the island and we were more than happy to tag along.

It was a little after midnight when we finally arrived to Bambuddha. This spacious, open-air restaurant looks like something you would find in Goa. We dined under a large bamboo temple packed with people kicking off their weekends. The vibe was a mix of spirituality and sensuality with women rocking low-cut maxi dresses amongst East Asian statues. Bambuddha describes their cuisine as MediterrAsian with fusion recipes inspired by the ancient Spice Route. Their extensive menu has something for everyone and we ordered a copious amount of food for the table. We tried everything from truffle dumplings, to Thai king prawns, Wagyu beef burgers, octopus carpaccio, Thai curry, crispy duck and pineapple fried rice. Everything was delicious but my favorite dish was the miso roasted Alaskan black cod.

After our feast, we were too tired to party. Instead, we decided to get a good night sleep and rest up for what was to come. In retrospect, I think this was a very wise decision.

 Bambuddha ibiza

Saturday

Our Ibizan Villa

Saturday morning I was the first to wake up and I took the opportunity to explore our amazing villa. I absolutely loved the classic minimalist Ibizan architecture with white stucco walls and wooden beams. The vibrant pink bougainvillea trees against the white walls looked like postcards and I couldn’t stop snapping pics. The villa was also perched on a hill and offered a spectacular view of the towns and sea below. Unfortunately, it was hazy over the Mediterranean and remained like that for most of the weekend.

villa gaudi ibiza

The master suite

ibiza villa guadi bougainvillea

Villa Gaudi’s beautiful bougainvillea

Located in Sant Josep de sa Talaia, a municipality known for its quiet coves and peaceful fishing villages, Villa Gaudi was the perfect place to relax away from the hordes of partygoers. The only downside was it was far outside of town and incredibly difficult to direct cabs to. Our new friends also told us that booking it was a long and arduous process. So while staying at this luxe villa was definitely a treat, if you’re just going to Ibiza for the weekend I’d recommend booking a hotel. Hotels are far more convenient and much closer to the action.

ibiza villa guadi

ibiza villa guadi

Lunch at Es Xarcu

After a few hours of relaxing by the pool, we were ready to venture outside of our villa for lunch. We had made a reservation at Ex Xarcu, a beachfront restaurant known for its fresh seafood. One of my favorite things about our weekend in Ibiza was our long, Spanish-style lunches by the water. For hours, we sat at our table next to the sea, chatting and getting to know one another while countless dishes and drinks appeared. We feasted on Ibizan specialties such as razor clams, langoustines, shrimp, and various kinds of white fish accompanied by pitchers of sangria. Growing up on the water, I having always been a huge seafood fan. In Ibiza, I loved trying seafood dishes I had never had before. I especially liked the tiny fried fish that you just pop into your mouth and eat whole.

ibiza Es Xarcu beach club

ibiza Es Xarcu beach club view sea

View from our table

Dinner at IT Ibiza

From lunch, we went back to our villa to chill before dinner. In Ibiza, our days revolved around food, which I was more than ok with! For dinner, we headed to the restaurant IT Ibiza. IT Ibiza is located in the Marina Botafoch district, one of the hottest fine dining hubs on the island. I soon learned that, in Ibiza, restaurants are all about the dining experience. While this is true in many chic locales, in Ibiza the experience is everything. In other words, dining is about so much more than the food. It’s also about a restaurant’s style, decor, entertainment, creativity, and overall vibe. At IT, we dined on innovative and artistic Mediterranean and Italian dishes in a luxe setting. After dinner, we moved to the outdoor lounge and sipped on cocktails under the stars before hitting the club.

it ibiza restaurant

Clubbing at Hï

When it came to partying in Ibiza, I didn’t have the slightest clue where to go or what to expect. Fortunately our friends knew all the hot spots. For our first night out, they wanted to try a brand new club called Hï. Hï is owned by the same group that owns the famous open air club Ushuaïa Ibiza. Although I had heard the clubs in Ibiza were huge, I was absolutely blown away by the size of Hï. It was by far the most massive club I’d ever been in with room after room packed with people dancing to loud techno music. I personally found it extremely overwhelming so I mostly hung out outside in their garden area. The garden was more subdued and you could actually have a conversation there. While this superclub wasn’t for me, I can see how Hï would be heaven for someone who loves big techno clubs.

A note on dress: Before going to Ibiza, I was a bit stressed about what to wear clubbing. My wardrobe is lacking in the clubwear department and I was worried I’d be underdressed. Luckily, going out attire is relatively relaxed on the island. Most girls wear skirts and shorts, crop tops, and maxi dresses (aka standard beach attire). Generally, girls also wear flats out since they know they’ll be dancing all night and this suited me just fine.

ibiza hi club garden

The Magic Garden at Hï

ibiza hi club teepee

Sunday

Exploring Old Town Ibiza

After waking up late Sunday morning, I was determined to explore the island. While the others slept late, Julian and I headed into Old Town Ibiza. Unfortunately, Sunday was even cloudier than Saturday but I wasn’t going to let the less-than-stellar weather stop me from touring around. I’d been told the fortress was the highlight of Old Town, both for its history and its views. The imposing city walls that stand today were built in the 16th century to protect the island from pirates. Within these walls lies the remnants of the many cultures who have called Ibiza home, from the Phoenicians to the Arabs and finally the Catalans.

ibiza old town fort

Entrance to the old fort

ibiza old town fort

On our way to the castle, we explored the narrow, winding, cobbled streets of Old Town. I loved the charming little cafes and shops painted white with a pop of color. It was a hike up to the fort but the views along the way were well worth it. If the sun had been out the sight would’ve been even more spectacular!

ibiza old town houses

ibiza old town

ibiza old town sea view

Lunch at Experimental Beach

Having gotten our exercise for the day, we descended the fort and went to join the others at Experimental Beach for lunch. This hip beach club is a great place to chill over a long lunch or on a luxurious white sunbed. If the weather had been better, Experimental Beach would’ve been the place to spend an afternoon. But even with the clouds we had a great time here. Although it was quite pricey (like most restaurants on the island), everything we ordered was delicious. I also loved the chic boutique and left with an off the shoulder white top that was only too fitting for Ibiza.

ibiza Experimental Beach club

ibiza Experimental Beach club shop

Live Dinner Experience at Heart

For our last dinner in Ibiza, we went to Heart, a restaurant/club that is the result of a collaboration between two chefs and the founder of Cirque du Soleil. Heart was created with the intent of exploring the boundaries between food, music, and art and was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. 

We began our evening at Heart on the terrace for a welcoming aperitif. As we lounged on couches, servers in elaborate costumes delivered tiny, delectable bites and drinks to our table. After a few drinks, we headed downstairs to the live dinner experience. On our way, women dressed in Victorian clothes offered us more tasty morsels, including macarons plucked off of a tree. It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland!

ibiza heart restaurant

Downstairs in the Lab it was a whole other world. As we ate, acrobats performed incredible feats set to enchanting music. It’s hard to put this experience into words so I’ll let this video do the talking for me. After dinner, Heart turned into a club. It was a much more intimate setting than the previous night and I had a blast dancing into the wee hours of the night.

ibiza heart live dinner experience ibiza heart live dinner experience

By the end of our stay, I came to realize that Ibiza is more than just a crazy partying destination. It’s also home to a gastronomy scene full of delights and surprises. Every meal was more unforgettable than the last and I left knowing I’d only had a taste of what Ibiza has to offer. I hope to come back one day to explore more of this beautiful white isle. And maybe next time the sun will decide to grace us with her presence 🙂

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Ibiza guide more than party destination

Have you been to Ibiza? If so, what did you think? If not, would you like to go? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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For my birthday, Julian told me he was going to take me somewhere special for the weekend but he wouldn’t tell me where. My mind was racing with possibilities! It wasn’t until the morning of our departure that he finally spilled the beans– we would be spending the weekend in Istanbul!

The City where East meets West

For years now I’ve been dying to go to Istanbul, the city where East meets West. Its cultural heritage spans from an ancient Greek civilization through Persian, Greek, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires to the modern nation-state. This convergence of civilizations has shaped Istanbul into one of the world’s most culturally rich cities and I was eager to experience it first-hand. I had also heard great things about Istanbul from Julian, his sister who studied abroad there, and our Turkish friends. Though many of our Turkish friends now live elsewhere (in part because of the current political climate), our friend Zeynep recently moved back home. Luckily for us, she was happy to show us around and give us an insider’s view of Istanbul.

hagia sophia istanbul flowers

Getting to Istanbul

Istanbul has two airports, the Ataturk Airport on the European side of the city and the Sabiha Gokcen Airport on the Asian side of the city. Though we were staying on the European side (where the main tourist attractions are), we flew into Sabiha Gokcen Airport because the tickets were much cheaper. The only downside was the long cab ride to our hotel which took over an hour in traffic. Before going, make sure to check whether or not your country requires a visa to visit Turkey. For Americans, a visa is required but it’s just a matter of paying $30 upon arrival.

istanbul airport map

Friday

Hotel Shangri-La Bosphorus

If you want to stay somewhere special while in Istanbul, choose a hotel along the beautiful Bosphorus Strait. With the major turndown in tourism last year, hotels are cheaper than ever and rooms that normally would’ve been out of our price range were surprisingly affordable. We stayed at the Shangri-La Bosphorus largely because of its great location and view of the Bosphorus. The Shangri-La is conveniently located in the financial and entertainment district of Besiktas. This was the perfect area for us because it’s very close to the trendy neighborhood of Bebek and only a tram ride away to the historic Old City.

Shangri-La Bosphorus hotel

Luxe lobby of the Shangri-La Bosphorus

Night Out in Bebek

After settling into our room at the Shangri-La, Julian and I raced to get ready for dinner. We were meeting Zeynep and her friends for dinner at Lucca, a local hotspot in the hip neighborhood of Bebek. When we arrived at around 11 pm, it was buzzing with activity. The cool thing about Lucca is it’s a cafe by day and one of the hippest bars in Istanbul by night. Fortunately, we got there in time to try several tasty Turkish dishes. Around midnight the last plates were cleared and the party started. The DJ was one of the best I’d heard in a while and every song had the room belting out the words and dancing. Interestingly enough, the vibe of Lucca reminded Julian and I of bars in Mexico City and we felt right at home. 🙂

lucca cafe and bar istanbul

Saturday

Saturday morning we woke up and rushed to the window to see the sparkling Bosphorus. Although it was a bit cloudy, the water was still the most magnificent shade of blue. We had a full day of sightseeing ahead of us and I couldn’t wait to get outside and start exploring. The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace in Old Istanbul were all on our agenda.

bosphorus istanbul

View from our room in the Shangri-La Bosphorus

Touring the Old City

The Blue Mosque

After a traditional Turkish lunch of lamb koftas and kebabs, we set off for our first stop, the Blue Mosque. The minute we got in sight of this famously beautiful mosque, I was snapping pictures. The only problem was it’s so large that it was nearly impossible to fit in one frame! 

istanbul blue mosque

A note on dress: When visiting mosques in Istanbul make sure to dress somewhat conservatively out of respect. The Blue Mosque asks that both men and women cover their legs and shoulders and that women cover their hair. However, a long robe and an attached headscarf are provided for those who, like me, did not bring their own. Also, all visitors must take off their shoes upon entrance in keeping with Islamic tradition. 

istanbul blue mosque interior

Admiring the mosque’s stained glass windows in the robe and head scarf provided for visitors

Today, the Blue Mosque still functions as a place of worship and Muslims from around the world come here to pray. I was struck by the serenity and beauty of this grand mosque. I especially loved the stained glass windows and immense, intricately tiled domes.

istanbul blue mosque dome

Within the mosque, there are Islamic information booths where visitors of any faiths are welcomed to ask questions about Islam. The poster outside the booth declares: “We respect different opinions. Our two principles from the Quran are ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ and ‘Over every possessor of knowledge is a Knower.’” In this day and age these statements are more important than ever, serving as a reminder of the true beliefs of Islam.

blue mosque islamic information

istanbul blue mosque

Photo of the Blue Mosque taken from a window in the Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia

Directly across from the Blue Mosque is the great Hagia Sophia. The history of Hagia Sophia (whose name means “holy wisdom” in Greek) is extremely interesting and reflects the many drastic changes Istanbul has undergone over the last millennia. If you have some time, read up on it! If not, here’s the short version: Built in 537 by a Byzantine emperor, it served as the focal point of the Greek Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years. In 1453, the city was conquered by the Ottomans and it was converted into a mosque. Then in 1935, Ataturk, the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, transformed the it into a museum.

hagia sophia

Today, Arabic calligraphic panes hang next to 6th century murals of Mary, Christ, and the Saints, resulting in a fascinating confluence of Christian and Islamic iconography. Although it’s currently undergoing extensive repairs, don’t let this deter you from visiting. Standing under Hagia Sophia’s 55 meter dome is a humbling experience unlike any other.

hagia sophia interior dome

Topkapi Palace

Our final site for the day was Topkapi Palace, the residence of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years. Perched on a hill overlooking the Golden Horn, Topkapi Palace was strategically built to have the best view of the Bosphorus and surrounding city. Allow some time here because there are four courtyards, a harem, mosques, a hospital, bakeries, a mint, and beautiful gardens to see. There are also several museums where you will find elaborate Ottoman weaponry, an extensive collection of Japanese, Chinese, and European porcelain, and many other imperial treasures.

topkapi palace entrance gate

Entrance to the palace

topkapi palace

For a blue and white lover like me, Topkapi Palace was a dream. The palace is covered in blue and white Iznik tiles with the most beautiful designs and I left with major design inspiration!

We visited Topkapi  in late afternoon and stayed until sunset. At golden hour, the palace was bathed in the most magnificent light, illuminating its tiled walls and the city below. Watching the sunset from the palace balcony, I couldn’t help but feel like an Ottoman princess. 😀

Dinner at Sunset

Saturday night we had dinner with friends at Sunset Grill & Bar in the posh neighborhood of Ulus. This classy restaurant sits on a hill with a fantastic view of the Bosphorus. In addition to a few Turkish dishes, Sunset serves international and Japanese cuisine and everything we tried was delicious.

sunset grill and bar restaurant istanbul

Sunday

Brunch along the Bosphorus 

Sunday morning we headed to brunch at Lokma, a local favorite along the Bosphorus. Luckily Zeynep persuaded the hostess to give us a window table so we could enjoy the view. I had been wanting to try a traditional Turkish breakfast and at Lokma I got everything I wanted and more. We feasted on countless varieties of cheese, eggs, savory Turkish pastries, fresh vegetables and juices. But my favorite was simit (the Turkish equivalent to a bagel) with honey, kaymak (Turkish clotted cream), and jam. I could eat that all day!

istanbul bosphorus

View of the Bosphorus from our table

Dolmabahce Palace

After a stroll along the Bosphorus, we set off for another palace. In 1856, the Ottomans abandoned Topkaki for Dolmabahce, a palace modeled after the great palaces of Europe. Dolmabahce is a clear example of the confluence of East and West in Istanbul. While the palace contains Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical elements, it also retains elements of traditional Ottoman palace life such as having separate living quarters for the men and women.

Dolmabahce Palace istanbul

Dolmabahce Palace istanbul gate

One of the palace’s ornate gates to the Bosphorus

Both Topkaki and Dolmabahce Palace are worth seeing because they are completely different stylistically and reflect very different eras. With 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths, and 68 toilets, Dolmabahce is extravagance personified. In fact, the exorbitant expense incurred by its construction contributed to the deteriorating financial situation of the Ottoman Empire and eventually its demise.

Dolmabahce Palace istanbul interior

You’re not allowed to take photos in the palace but I managed to snag a few 😉 But to get a real sense of the opulence of this palace you must see it for yourself!

Dolmabahce Palace istanbul ceremonial hall

The Ceremonial Hall with a 36 m (118 ft) high dome and a chandelier weighing 4.5 tons. You have to see it to believe it!

Spice Bazaar

From Dolmabahce, we hopped on the tram and headed to the famous Spice Bazaar in the Old City. The Spice Market was once the last stop for the camel caravans that travelled the Silk Road from China. Stepping into the covered market, I felt as though I’d walked into Ottoman-era Istanbul. There were hundreds of vendors selling fragrant, vividly colored spices alongside countless varieties of lokum, or Turkish Delight, and dried fruits. 

istanbul spice market

istanbul spice market

With the vendors competing for our attention, it was a bit overwhelming deciding where to take our business. Eventually, we walked into a stall that caught our eye and began sampling the spices. The vendors are happy to give you a pinch of their spices or a piece of lokum so don’t be shy to ask! After some deliberation, I decided on an assortment of spices and sweet treats to bring back to my family. We also picked up two bright-colored Turkish towels here which we absolutely love.

istanbul spice market dried fruit

istanbul spice market

istanbul turkish towel shop

Galata Tower

From the Spice Market, we walked along the Golden Horn, the primary inlet of the Bosphorus. At 6:30 pm, the docks were teeming with activity and we lingered to watch the fisherman and enjoy the warm, salty air. We then made our way across Galata Bridge to Galata Tower.

istanbul galata bridge fishing

Built by a Byzantine emperor in 528, Galata Tower is one of the oldest surviving towers in the world. Over the years, the tower has served many purposes and has witnessed even more changes. Originally built as a lighthouse, the tower later became a military stronghold, an astronomical observation point, and prison. An early aviator even used it as his launching pad to fly over the Bosphorus! Today, Galata Tower offers visitors a spectacular 360 degree view of the city. Though it’s definitely a tourist trap, I’m so glad we went. To grasp Istanbul’s immense size and beauty, you really must see it from the sky.

Football Mayhem

Heading back to our hotel, we heard a lot of commotion. People were whooping and singing, setting off firecrackers, and blaring their car horns. After a few minutes of confusion we realized Besiktas, one of Turkey’s favorite football teams, had just won the national league. Named after the Besiktas district of the city, the team’s stadium was located right next to our hotel and thousands of fans were flocking there to celebrate their team’s win. In Turkey, they clearly take their football very seriously!

Back at our hotel room in, we could see the ferries bringing in hundreds of more people to join in on the celebration. Though we had planned to go to Bebek for dinner, we soon realized taking a cab would be impossible. Instead, we decided to walk to a nearby seafood restaurant along the water. As we dined, the cacophony continued around us but we didn’t mind. It was fun to see people so elated over their team’s victory and their energy was contagious. Needless to say our last night in Istanbul was one we won’t soon forget!

 

 

 

 

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Have you been to Istanbul? If so, what was your favorite thing about the city? If not, would you like to go someday? Share your thoughts below!

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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

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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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When Julian and I moved to Basel, we found ourselves faced with a plethora of dining options. The only problem was, it was a bit of a struggle figuring out where to go. In Switzerland, eating out is outrageously expensive so we wanted to make sure that when we did eat out, it was worth the price. It took us several months to find those special places that we kept returning to time and time again. Now I want to pass our carefully curated list of favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and bars to you!

Where to get your caffeine fix 

where to eat in basel kaffe 1777 basel

Kaffe 1777– This cafe is tucked away in a beautiful cobblestoned courtyard right off of the city square. When the weather is nice, this is the perfect place to work outdoors. They model themselves after the Viennese coffee houses and and make a killer cappuccino. Bonus: They are attached to a great library so if the weather turns or it gets too busy, you can easily take refuge there. Extra bonus: On many days, you’ll be treated to the sound of a nearby orchestra.

where to eat in basel mitte cafe

Mitte– Located in what was once the Swiss National Bank, Mitte is a spacious establishment where you can hang out, work, have lunch and get coffee. But don’t feel obligated to buy anything, Mitte is a nonprofit with a mission to support the local community and culture so they are happy for you to just enjoy the space. They take their coffee seriously and make one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had.

Where to Eat

Brunch

where to eat in basel les garecons restaurant

Les Garecons– It took us a while to find a good brunch place that didn’t break the bank. But once we tried Les Garecons in the Badischer Bahnhoff railway station, we knew we’d discovered our new go-to brunch spot. They have everything you could want, from inventive egg dishes to waffles, meat and cheese plates, and fresh juices.

where to eat in basel zum kuss

Zum Kuss– When it’s too beautiful to be indoors, head to Zum Kuss. It’s located on a great little park and you can sit outside and enjoy their mouth-watering cakes and coffee in the sunshine.  

Lunch

where to eat in basel kaffe 1777

Kaffe 1777– In addition to being a great work spot, Kaffe 1777 is also one of my favorite places for lunch. Their build-your-own baguette and salad menus are full of yummy options. All of the ingredients are fresh and local and their bread is to die for. Don’t skip their iced tea!

Kombüse– In the summer, Kombuse opens as part of the Mitte establishment. They serve regional, seasonal and organic lunches such as paninis, pizza, salads and a special of the day. Sit outside and people watch as you enjoy your lunch. Get there early or you’ll miss out!

where to eat in basel marktplatz piadina

Piadina Stand– Every weekday Marktplatz (the city square) is transformed into a market full of fresh produce, flowers, meats and cheeses, and food stands. Piadina is one of these stands. They serve up their namesake, Piadina, a thin Italian flatbread with cheese, meat and vegetables. A prosciutto Piadina (my favorite) will run you about $15 but that’s about the cheapest lunch you’ll find in Basel.

where to eat in basel rhine bicycles

View from Zum Schmale Wurf

Zum Schmale Wurf– Located right on the Rhine, this restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy the view of the water on a nice day. They serve delicious pastas and salads on a pleasant terrace.

noohn restaurant where to eat in basel

Photo courtesy of Noohn

Noohn– If you’re craving Asian, Noohn is the place for you. Noohn is a swanky, beautifully designed space with a bar, lounge, sushi bar, restaurant garden, and a roof terrace. They have a large selection of Asian fusion dishes, from sushi to flavorful curries, and their portions are generous. It also makes for a quick lunch as you pick up your food at the counter as soon as it’s ready.

Dinner

cheval blanc Les Trois Rois where to eat in basel

Cheval Blanc – Dining at this three-Michelin-star restaurant in the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois was such an incredible culinary experience, I wrote a whole post on it! Cheval Blanc is one of my all-time favorite restaurants but it should definitely be reserved for special occasions.

Les Trois Rois la brasserie where to eat in basel

Photo courtesy of Les Trois Rois

La Brasserie – Also located in Les Trois Rois, La Brasserie is a little more low-key than Cheval Blanc but is still a special fine dining experience. This romantic restaurants offers incredible dishes and a view of the Rhine at night. Their pork dish is simply sublime.

walliser kanne wiener schnitzel where to eat in basel

Wiener Schnitzel with egg noodles. My mouth is watering just looking at this!

Walliser Kanne– Our local friend took us here promising the best Wiener Schnitzel in Switzerland and this traditional Swiss restaurant certainly delivered. FYI their Wiener Schnitzel is absolutely enormous so I’d recommend splitting with a friend.

krafft restaurant where to eat in basel

Photo courtesy of Krafft Basel

Krafft Basel – On summer nights, Krafft is the most popular restaurant along the Rhine. With their perfectly cooked filets, flavorful pasta, and extensive wine list, it’s easy to see why. Their large also terrace offers great people watching on the promenade and a breathtaking view of the river.

acqua restaurant where to eat in basel

Acqua– This trendy Italian restaurant in a renovated old water plant is the place to see and be seen in Basel. The rustic brick walls, opulent chandeliers, and slick modern furnitures create a posh and romantic space and the food does not disappoint.

bon vivant restaurant where to eat in basel

Photo courtesy of Bon Vivant

Bon Vivant – The concept of Bon Vivant is simple: a constantly changing daily menu offers the best seasonal ingredients of the region. The food is prepared in an open kitchen so you feel as though you’re being cooked for in your home. Take a date here or go with friends and sit back and relax. Word of advice: Go with the restaurant’s recommended wine pairings, you won’t regret it.

bottmingen castle switzerland where to eat in basel

Restaurant Schloss Bottmingen– A quick tram ride outside of Basel is Bottmingen Castle. Dating from the 13th century, it is one of the few such buildings in Switzerland that are still intact. For my last meal in Switzerland Julian and I went here because what’s more romantic than dining in a castle?? Though I assumed the castle would be a tourist trap, I was pleasantly surprised to find I was mistaken. It’s an intimate, upscale locals spot serving creative and inspired French cuisine.

Where to Drink

werk 8 bar where to drink in basel

Werk 8– Located in an old machine factory, this cool restaurant and bar is super spacious both inside and out and is a great place for a group. The bartenders are true experts at their craft and they mix up the best cocktails in town. Go for sunset and climb the old factory stairs up, up, up for an awesome view of the city. The food is also delish.

sandoase where to drink in basel

Sandoase– As a beach girl, I was a bit skeptical of a tropical beach bar in Basel but it totally works! At Sandoase, enjoy the chill beach vibes with a tropical drink in your hand and your feet in the sand. You’ll immediately feel transported to the tropics.

landestelle where to drink in basel

Landestelle– This open-air restaurant and bar is Basel’s happening spot in the summer. Located in the industrial part of the city, it’s off of the main thoroughfare but well worth the trek. Food and beer are served in little wooden sheds by the river and the vibe is hip and relaxed. Get the regional plate full of fresh local veggies, hummus and meat to share with a friend and leave feeling happy and satisfied.

Flora Buvette where to drink in basel

Flora Buvette, one of our favorites!

Buvettes along the Rhine– The buvettes, or refreshment stalls, open up for the summer season to serve Baselers enjoying the Rhine. They always have a few local beers on tap and some serve bar food such as burgers and fries. A warning, when the weather is nice the lines can get very long so we soon learned to BYOB!

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where to eat and drink in basel

where to eat and drink in basel

If you find this guide helpful or have something to add, I’d love to hear from you! Also, read my top 10 things to do in Basel here!

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gumm mountain swiss alps

Sunday morning, Julian and I woke up at the crack of dawn to visit our friend Linda Bach at her home in the Swiss Alps. Linda grew up in a village called Feutersoey in the mountains outside of the posh ski resort town of Gstaad. Her family owns a dairy farm there, making Linda a real-life cowgirl. We met Linda in college at the University of Virginia. Since moving to Switzerland, we had hoped our paths would cross. Last weekend, the stars finally aligned. Linda was home from Oxford for the weekend and she invited us to spend the day at her home. Though she’s currently busy writing her thesis, she generously offered to show us the wonders of life in the Swiss Alps. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity!

Cheese please!

First on the day’s agenda was cheesemaking. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we hopped in the car and headed towards Gstaad. As we grew nearer, the scenery became more and more majestic. I especially loved the traditional Alpine chalets with sloped roofs and intricate woodwork dotting the lush, green mountains. Two hours later, we had arrived in Gstaad. We met Linda outside of town and followed her car up the steep, winding roads to the Bach’s mountain house.

gstaad alps countryside

Annual Move to the Mountain House

During the summer months, the Bach family moves from their chalet in the valley to their mountain house for the cheese-making season. Summer is considered the best season for cheese production because temperatures allow cows to graze on flowers, herbs, and clover, producing a milk of excellent quality which makes for very flavorful cheese. In keeping with Alpine tradition, this move is made with much pomp and circumstance. With the arrival of summer, the Bach’s strap elaborate ceremonial bells on their 130 cows and take them up the mountain. These big bells cost upwards of $1000 apiece and they are Linda’s father’s pride and joy. When the cows arrive at their summer home, the bells are proudly displayed under the eaves.

swiss mountain chalet cow bells

The Bach’s prized cowbells proudly hung under the eaves of their mountain house

swiss mountain chalet

Linda, her mother, and their dog Suki outside of their mountain house

Cheese Making Process

The cheese making process begins with an early wake up call to milk the cows. Afterwards, the fresh morning milk is mixed with the milk from the evening before and poured into a large stainless steel cheese vat. Next, enzymes are mixed in with the milk to cause it to curdle. After about 30 to 40 minutes, a jelly-like mass appears and the milk has curdled. The curdled milk is then broken up into small pieces using a cheese harp.  These pieces are then heated slowly and stirred constantly. Once the desired temperature has been reached, the vat is switched off and a cheesecloth is dipped in the vat to separate the curdled milk from the whey, or the watery part (Photo 1). Next, the curdled milk is lifted out of the vat (Photo 2) and pressed into molds (Photo 3). After a day, the cheese is taken out of the mold and stored during which time the cheese ferments and gets its distinctive flavor (Photo 4).

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 1

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 2

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 3

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 4

The Bach’s recommend eating their cheese after it’s been stored for a year. Their personal favorite, however, is three year old cheese. The cheese they produce is known simply as Swiss Mountain Cheese and it tastes similar to Parmesan. Each summer, the Bach’s produce about 8 tons of it. In the fall, they sell it and make a seriously good profit.

Farm-to-Table Lunch

Once the cheese was taken care of, Linda’s mother graciously invited us for lunch. The meal consisted of ham from a local pig, fresh bread baked by a neighbor, salad from their garden, and, of course, their cheese. Everything was, in the truest sense, farm to table. In Switzerland, almost all of the food you buy is certified organic and hormone-free but this was on another level. After lunch came dessert— an almond cake with Linda’s favorite treat, fresh, homemade cream. I had never tasted cream like that before. It was thick and less sweet than I’m accustomed to but absolutely delicious.

Hike up Gumm Mountain

After lunch, it was time for a hike. The forecast was (once again) calling for thunderstorms in the afternoon and so we decided on a relatively short hike. Linda led the way with her beloved, and extremely photogenic, dog Suki by her side. We hiked through her family’s property, ascending Gumm mountain until we reached the top. At the top, there is a low rock wall marking the entrance into French-speaking Switzerland. I found it fascinating that on the same mountain there are two different communities, languages, and customs with little interaction between the two.

gumm mountain swiss alps dog

gumm mountain swiss alps dog

Suki is always ready for her close-up

gumm mountain swiss alps

gumm mountain swiss alps sign wall

Wall between French speaking and German speaking Switzerland

The view from the top was stunning and we stopped for a few minutes just to take it all in. As we stood there, the sun came out and illuminated the valley below. Once again, the weather gods had looked kindly upon us and we thanked our lucky stars!!

gumm mountain swiss alps

gumm mountain swiss alps panorama

 

Getting Cozy with the Cows

On the way down, we took a different route to visit the cows grazing in a nearby field. As we approached, the cows eyed us warily. But gradually, curiosity overcame them and they edged nearer. The feeling was mutual as I was a little apprehensive of their horns, not to mention the sheer size of them (I swear they’re bigger than American cows), but Linda assured me they wouldn’t hurt a fly. With her encouragement, I reached out and let them sniff and lick my hand.

gumm mountain swiss alps cows

gumm mountain swiss alps cows

gumm mountain swiss alps cows dog

gumm mountain swiss alps wildflowers

Back at the mountain house, we peeked in the barn to see the pregnant cows. They were absolutely mammoth! I would not want to mess with one of them.

swiss alps cows pregnant

The Bach’s give every cow a name reflecting their distinctive personalities

Mountains Goats and Marmots

Hearing that there were Steinbock mountain goats on the adjacent mountain, we grabbed the binoculars for a closer look. With the binoculars, we could make out about a half dozen of them and their imposing horns on the apex of the mountain. We also saw some marmots, a small animal similar to a groundhog, and their pups running to and from their dens. Julian decided to fly his drone for an even closer look. While he couldn’t get close enough to take a good picture of the wildlife, he did get some great shots of the lush green mountains and valleys.

gumm mountain swiss alps aerial drone

gumm mountain swiss alps aerial drone chalet

The Bach’s mountain house from above

gumm mountain swiss alps aerial drone

Gstaad — Ski Resort of the Rich & Famous 

After saying goodbye to Linda’s parents, we headed down the mountain to the town of Gstaad. Since the 60s, Gstaad has been a popular destination for the rich and famous to ski and vacation away from the spotlight. Madonna, Kofi Annan, Valentino, Prince Charles and Princess Diana are just a few who have frequented Gstaad over the years. Today, Gstaad is more popular than ever among international jetsetters and it’s easy to see why. In Gstaad, we walked through the charming streets and I couldn’t get over the fact that the banks, restaurants, and stores are all housed in the most adorable chalets.

gstaad palace hotel

Famous Gstaad Palace hotel in the background

gstaad bank chalet

gstaad louis vuitton chalet

gstaad church

I would’ve loved to have spent more time in this town. Unfortunately, Julian and I needed to get on the road. Our weekend in the Swiss Alps had come to an end all too soon. However, our short time there opened my eyes to just how stunning Switzerland is. I can’t believe it took me until the end of my stay to discover the natural wonders of Switzerland! But I leave eager to return one day to see more of this beautiful country.

If you missed Part 1 of the Discovering the Swiss Alps Series about our day trip to beautiful Interlaken and Adelboden, you can read it here!

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