Basel Travel Guide, Switzerland

Basel is Switzerland’s third city by population (180,000) after Zürich (409,000) and Geneva (201,000).
It has the big advantage for any city of being on a major river, in Basel’s case The Rhine, which rises in Switzerland and flows through Germany and Holland on its way to the North Sea.
Basel is in the northwest, German-speaking part of Switzerland, where the borders of France, Germany and Switzerland itself all meet. Basel is the second richest city per capita in Switzerland, and its economy is firmly based on the production of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, which account for over 90% of the city’s exports and 20% of the exports of the whole of Switzerland.
Basel was ranked among the top ten cities to live in in the world (2019) and has a reputation for humanism, neutrality and being a safe place at times of political unrest and war in Europe. Switzerland’s oldest university is here, and since Renaissance times Basel has been a centre of culture, art and knowledge.
The airport for Basel is Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, and there are direct flights in and out by many airlines. When you land at Basel Mulhouse Freiburg you don’t need a car: Switzerland is renowned for the efficiency of its public transport. If your hotel reservation is marked “Mobility Ticket”, it covers you for travel to the city from the airport, as does the “Swiss Travel Pass”, which also gives unlimited free transport on trains, buses, boats and city transport, and free entry to museums. Children travel free with the Swiss Family Card.
Bus line 50 takes you from the airport to the main Basel Railway Station in 15 minutes. From there you reach the town centre on foot or by tram.
Basel is the place to go if you are into museums and art galleries, since it has no fewer than forty, covering topics like painting in the region from 1400 – 1600 (Kunstmuseum, open 10am to 6pm, closed Mondays), and modern Swiss art (Jean Tinguely Museum, also closed Mondays but interesting for families.) Museum of Antiquities, Egyptian, Greek, Italian, Roman and Etruscan art from 4000 BC to 6th century AD; Greek vases, gold jewellery and bronze sculptures (open 11am to 5pm, closed Mondays).
Other places of interest include the Old Town near Middle Bridge, between the Rhine and Spalentor (Gate of Spalen, one of three city gates still standing from the 15th century city walls): this is an area of medieval architecture, old churches and stone-built houses. In Marktplatz stands the bright red Town Hall (Rathaus) dating from the early 1500s. Also gothic and also red is the Munster (cathedral) in Munsterplatz, on a small hill and affording a view over the city. (Main sights are the St Gallus doorway with interesting carving and the crypt, containing the tombs of bishops. You can also climb up to the top of the south tower. Open winter and summer: summer hours Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sundays 11.30am to 5pm.)
Basel is good for shoppers, with a nice mix of independent boutique-type shops and international designers. Head for Steinenvorstadt, Freie Strasse, Marktplatz and Spalenberg to see the finest selection of goods for sale. Maybe take a guided walking tour first to get your bearings, or best of all, watch my film of all that Basel has to offer!

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