Basel Attractions and Activities
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In Basel you are surrounded by art and history - the city offers a number of galleries and museums, and plenty of interesting history. Basel, with its location in the Three-Countries-Corner also allows for numerous attractive excursions in northern and central Switzerland, as well as in nearby regions of France and Germany. We are presenting just a few of the many activities and tours that are possible in and around Basel.
Excursions: >> Mountain ExcursionsCity Excursionsother Excursions
Basel is not ideally situated for making "real" mountain excursions...; the "Wasserfallenbahn" (s. below) is the only aerial cable car in north-western Switzerland, and feasible are some one-day excursions to mountains of the Bernese Alps and in Central Switzerland.
Wasserfallen (925 m / 3,034 ft):
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 1 hour by train via Reigoldswil to the top). As the name suggests, at the Wasserfallen you will come across a waterfall and the magnificent Jura Mountains landscape with untouched nature. The Wasserfallen offers ten mountain restaurants and several relaxing or exciting activities. Adventurers have fun at the forest rope park and take a ride down on a rented trottinett, while hiking fans enjoy the well maintained hiking paths. During the winter months there are snow-shoe trekking paths, cross-country skiing trails and a 4 km (2.5 miles) sled run.
Mt. Pilatus (2,132 m / 6,993 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 2 1/4 hours by train and bus from Basel via Lucerne and Kriens to the top). Mt. Pilatus is easy to reach by public transport, and Lucerne's landmark is the perfect peak for everyone, large or small. Two gondolas, seven restaurants, the world's steepest cogwheel railway and Central Switzerland's biggest suspension rope park guarantee exciting excursions. All kinds of sports fans meet here for hiking, climbing and biking during summer months, and for hiking, snow-shoeing or sledding in winter time. Consider the "Golden Roundtrip" traveling by cogwheel railway, cable car and boat. Consider a stop over in Lucerne.
Mt. Rigi (1,797 m / 5,895 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 2 3/4 hours by train from Basel to the top). Follow the traces of Mark Twain and Queen Victoria, the first famous visitors of Mt. Rigi, the sun terrace above Lake Lucerne with views over the snow-capped Alps and 13 lakes. There are several possible itineraries to get to Mt. Rigi from Lucerne such as: by steamboat from Lucerne to Vitznau and then the cogwheel train up to "Rigi-Kulm"; a ride back to "Rigi-Kaltbad" and then with the gondola to Weggis and back to Lucerne by boat - or descending down to Goldau by cable car and then back to Lucerne by train. Detailed itineraries are available at the railway station in Lucerne. Consider a stop over in Lucerne.
Mt. Titlis (3,020 m / 9,906 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 3 1/2 hours by train from Basel to the top). Snow and Fun all year round; the Titlis is the highest alpine tourist destination in Central Switzerland, and the Titlis Rotair is the world's first revolving cable car. Visitors will be impressed by attractions such as the Ice Flyer chairlift or the Glacier Park. Consider a stop over in Lucerne.
Schilthorn - Piz Gloria (2,970 m / 9,742 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 3 1/2 hours by train from Basel to the top). The most spectacular 360° panorama in the Alps! Dine-and-wine in the world's first revolving restaurant at an altitude of nearly 3,000 metres. Impressive views embrace some 200 snow-capped peaks, ranging from the Bernese Alps to Mont Blanc in France and Germany's Black Forest. Consider a stop over in Interlaken.
Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe (3,454m / 11,330 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 4 1/2 hours by train from Basel to the top). Snow and ice 100% guaranteed! The UNESCO World Heritage offers the Sphinx observation hall, an impressive Ice Palace and a hiking plateau in the glacier - these are year-round attractions up on the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. Summer attractions include a skilift, husky-drawn sledging and adventure activities.
Consider a stop over in Interlaken.
Bern - Switzerland's captivating Capital:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 60 minutes by train from Basel). Founded in 1191, this is a city of medieval magic, listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage. Attractions of Bern include several historic sites such as the famous Clock Tower, the bearpits (home to the city's heraldic animals), the House of Parliament, the Paul Klee Center, the Swiss Alpine Museum, and excellent shopping arcades.
Lucerne - City of Lights:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 60 minutes by train from Basel). One of Switzerland's most popular excursion destinations is within just an hour traveling time from Basel. Lucerne is ideally situated in the historic and scenic heart of what many believe to be the "true" Switzerland - picture mountains, lakes, cowbells, alpine villages and meadows full of Edelweiss. Lucerne is renowned for its attractive townscape, historic Chapel Bridge and shopping facilities.
Zurich - Switzerland's financial capital:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 60 minutes by train from Basel). Zurich is Switzerland's largest city, and with its famous "Bahnhofstrasse" (business and shopping street) is considered the country's most important financial, industrial and commercial center. It is also known to be the intellectual capital of the nation and particularly receptive to contemporary trends associated with younger generations. Zurich and the surrounding region is home to the biggest number of museums and exhibitions in Switzerland - the city offers a wealth of history, architecture, and culture, and is an absolutely charming, interesting and beautiful place to visit.
Thun - Gateway to the Bernese Alps:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 90 minutes by train from Basel). Thun (pronounced "Toon") is one of the most original towns in Switzerland. It occupies an admirable site with magnificent views of the Bernese Alps and is much overlooked by visitors pressing on to Interlaken. With its picturesque castle, the quaint medieval Old Town, and Lake Thun, one of the loveliest and largest lakes in Switzerland, Thun is well worth a visit.
Interlaken - in the Heart of the Swiss Alps:
Full-day excursion (approx. 110 minutes by train from Basel). Interlaken, the small town between the cristal-clear lakes of Thun and Brienz is surrounded by Alpine pearls such as sparkling streams, fantastic falls and extraordinary mountain scenery including the famous peaks of the Eiger, the Moench and the Jungfrau. Don't miss strolling along Interlaken's famous "Höheweg" promenade - it is one of the best locations in Switzerland for souvenir and watch shopping, and offers superbe views of the Jungfrau mountain range. Consider combining the excursion to Interlaken with visiting other sights of the Jungfrau region, such as the Jungfraujoch or the Schilthorn, the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum or the St. Beatus Caves.
Montreux - City of the Swiss Riviera:
Full-day excursion (approx. 2 1/2 hours by train from Basel). This attractive excursion crosses the "border" between German and French-speaking Switzerland and takes you to the shores of Lake Geneva. Enjoy the mild climate and the beautiful terraced vineyards of Lavaux that are part of the UNESCO world heritage. While in Montreux, you want to consider visiting one of the most beautiful historic buildings in Switzerland, the Chateau de Chillon: in the 13th century this castle was built in a unique setting on the shores of Lake Geneva, and today also serves as a typical postcard souvenir from Switzerland. There are various routes to get from Basel to Montreux, either via Lausanne or with the scenic Golden Pass train via Bern and Thun through the Simmental Valley via Gstaad (travel time approx. 4 1/2 hours).
Other Excursions / Sights:
With its red sandstone walls, multicolored roof tiles and twin towers, the Cathedral is a dominant feature of the city. The crypt, the choir, the tomb of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Galluspforte and the two cloisters are a testimony to the eventful history of its construction over a period of several centuries. The first discernible traces of a cathedral date from the Carolingian period. This building was destroyed in 917 when the town was attacked by the Hungarians. At the beginning of the 11th century, Emperor Henry II endowed Basel with a magnificent new cathedral. In the last quarter of the 12th century, Henry's cathedral was replaced by a late Romanesque building which was restored in the Gothic style after the devastating earthquake of 1356.
Basel's Old Town is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful in Europe with buildings dating back to the 15th century. The Old Town is divided in two sides by the Rhine: Grossbasel and Kleinbasel. Both parts of the city have their own individual charm.
Guided City Tour:
From the Tinguely Fountain across the Münster Hill, to the City Hall, along the narrow, romantic alleys of the well preserved Old Town. The two-hour walking tour is offered daily except on Sundays from May through October, and on Saturdays only from November through April. The tour starts at the Basel Tourist Office at 2:30 PM (cost: CHF 15.00 adults / CHF 7.50 kids). There also are self-guided tours, including audiovisual tours - get details and maps at the Basel Tourist Office.
The largest archaeological park in Switzerland offers more than thirty surprising, unique and exciting sights including the most impressive Roman theatre north of the Alps, the atmospheric Roman house and on display in the museum the largest collection of late antique silver.
The Basel Zoo was the first zoological garden in Switzerland, and is one of the most interesting and attractive zoos in Europe. The "Zolli" is home to some 6,000 well cared-for indigenous and exotic animals in an appropriately park-like setting. Many animals have indoor and outdoor enclosures, and there are several excellent themed houses such as the Vivarium, the Ape House, the Bird House and the Etoscha House, which explains life in the African savannah.
Rhine River Cruise:
On a lock cruise to Rheinfelden or during a harbour cruise with the white fleet of the “Basel Passenger Shipping Company”, the city and the region can be easily explored from the water. Or discover the Rhine in and around Basel by the "Rhytaxi". The company offers city and harbour tours with running commentary, trips to and from Rheinfelden, Mulhouse or Breisach, as well as personalised tours.
Excursions in the Three-Countries-Corner Region:
Beautiful, lush landscapes, picturesque villages and many culinary enticements surround Basel. The neighboring Swiss Cantons of Basel-Landschaft and Solothurn, France's Alsace and Germany's southern Baden form an enormous nearby recreational area with endless leisure possibilities. In only a short time you can arrive by public transport in Alsace for a meal, or in one of the well-known wine cellars of southern Baden; following some options:
Colmar & Eguisheim: On a guided tour of the Old Town you get to know the picturesque Alsatian town of Colmar; visit the famous Unterlinden Museum and for lunch, we recommend a typical Alsatian restaurant to enjoy local specialities and delicacies. On the return journey, stop at the little medieval town of Eguisheim and visit a traditional wine cellar. On a guided tour followed by a wine-tasting, you can get to know the wines of the Alsace.
Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle: Sitting at an imposing 757 meters (2,483 ft) above the Alsace plain, the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle has all the necessary assets for a fortress. Its strategic position, relatively easy to defend in former times, now provides visitors with an exceptional panoramic view over the Alsace plain, the Vosges Mountains, the Black Forest and on a clear day even the snow-capped peaks of the Alps.
Ecomuseum Alsace, Ungersheim: This unique open-air museum comprises more than 70 typical farmhouses and half-timbered buildings, workshops and agricultural undertakings that have been re-erected on its site, and gives us a picture of the period from the 12th century to the present day
French National Car Museum, Mulhouse: The French national car museum houses more than 400 cars, from the very first models to those that are driven in today’s Grand Prix races. Most of the cars were originally collected by Fritz Schlumpf, a businessman who had a great passion for vintage cars such as Bugatti Royales (including the famous Coupé Napoléon), the 150 Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce, Maserati, Maybach, Mercedes and many more. With this unique collection, the "Cité de l’Automobile" sees itself as being to cars what the Louvre is to art.
Southern Baden, Germany:
Europa Park, Rust: Germany's largest leisure park with 13 European themed areas, more than 100 attractions and shows integrated into the architecture of the themed areas.
Black Forest: Through the Wehra Valley via Lörrach and Schopfheim to St. Blasien, a picturesque little town impressively dominated by Europe's third largest church dome. Then, continue the journey to the "Titisee" (Lake Titi), the largst natural lake of the Black Forest. The Titisee village is an attractive place to take a relaxed stroll. After a further 30-minute drive through the Glottertal (the home of the Black Forest Clinic of the famous German TV series) you reach the culturally interesting climatic health resort of St. Peter. The little town has a Baroque church (built by Peter Thumb in 1724) and a Rococo library in the former monastery.
Sports: >> Summer SportsWinter Sports
Throughout the summer months the River Rhine presents a tempting bathing opportunity. Once a year, the great Basel "Rheinschwimmen" (Rhine Swimming Event) is held when young and old alike dive en mass into the clean currents of the Rhine, and allow themselves to be carried downstream. There also are several public swimming pools (indoor and outdoor).
Indoor sports facilities are readily available in Basel, such as numerous tennis-, squash- and badminton-courts, swimming-pools, climbing walls, bowling-, billiard- and fitness-centers.
Other Summer Sports options are right outside the city: there are countless paths for walking, running, hiking, inline skating, cycling and mountain biking, horseback-riding and rocks for climbing. Numerous public sports facilities (indoor and outdoor) are popular meeting places for families and the general public: football pitches and gymnasiums, swimming pools, ice skating rinks, tennis facilities, go-cart tracks, bowling and billiard centers, mini-golf and golf courses, beach-volleyball courts, and more complement Basel's sports and leisure facilities.
Winter Sports within Basel's city limits mainly consists of indoor sports such as Swimming, Tennis, Squash, Badminton, Bowling and Fitness, and some outdoor activities such as Winter Hiking along the shores of the Rhein, and Ice-Skating (indoor- and outdoor facilities).
In Basel's surrounding regions there are some limited options of "real" winter sports such as cross-country skiing, snow-shoe trekking and sleding. However, winter sports enthusiasts travel from Basel to the Bernese Oberland with its reknown resorts such as Gstaad, Grindelwald, Wengen, and Muerren to name just a few. These ski-resorts are reached within approx. 2.5 to 3 hours by train (2 hours by car) and they offer all sorts of winter sports including Skiing, Snowboarding, Ice-Skating, Curling, Tobogganing, Cross-country Skiing, Snow-shoe Trekking, Ice-Climbing, and more. Some mountain resorts in Central Switzerland (e.g. Engelberg) are also reachable within 2 - 2.5 hours by train.
Go Out: (Dining / Entertainment / Nightlife)
Basel whets your appetite in the most varied and delightful ways. There is everything from regional specialties to haute cuisine. Thanks to the city’s unique location, its cuisine is both excellent and eclectic. Basel also offers the full night-life experience: visits to cosy bars, wild parties or clubbing until dawn.
Grand Casino Basel:
The Grand Casino Basel is located near the EuroAirport Basel, just 5 minutes from the city center. The casino offers more than 350 slot machines, 15 gambling tables (Back Jack, Poker, Roulette), 4 bars, 2 restaurants, an eventhall and a hotel.
Whether on traditional market squares or through conventional shopping tours through the retail stores, the shopping opportunities in Basel are limitless. There's an impressive variety of luxury brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton or Rolex; shoes, fashion, books and specialities; from small boutiques and old antique shops, to chic department stores. The main areas are "Freie Strasse" and "Steinenvorstadt". If you like to explore a city with shopping bags in hand, Basel is the place for you. It’s easy to combine shopping with sightseeing. One of the key advantages of shopping in the border region are the price differences between the three countries. Each country has its own price advantages – which adds to the fun of shopping in the region! For this reason the major shopping centres on the other side of the border in France and Germany are very popular amongst the residents of Basel, as well as tourists.
Opening hours for grocery stores and supermarkets are Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 6:30 PM, on Saturday from 8 AM to 5 PM. Several grocery stores are open until 10 PM, and in the city center, some shops are open after 6:30 PM every day. The major shopping centers on the edge of the city (M-Parc, St. Jakob-Park) also remain open until 8 PM during the week. Many petrol stations run a convenience store, and some of these stay open until midnight. Only very few stores open on Sundays (at the railway stations for example). There are no 24-hour stores in Basel.
In Basel, every day is Market Day !
City Market: (Mo, We & Fr 6 AM - 7 PM; Tu, Th & Sa 6 AM - 1:30 PM)
The market has an old tradition and is particularly attractive, because it is right in the middle of a busy shopping district. Fresh produce, regional delicacies and seasonal specialties can be bought every day, and there are also flowers, bread and some craft.
Trade Market: Every Thursday you will find all kinds of products on "Barfüsserplatz": jewellery, craft from all over the world, delicacies, clothes and good food for every taste.
Flea Markets: The flea market on "St. Petersplatz" is a popular hang out for aficionados of second hand stuff (on Saturday). There is also a Sunday flea market at the "Erlenmatt".
Christmas Market: (in December)
In the heart of the city center, nestled in the seasonally decorated historic Old Town, is the extremely attractive and atmospheric Christmas market. At around 140 brightly lit stalls and wooden houses, dealers and handicraft workers from across Switzerland and the region offer their wares or demonstrate their skills.
Basel Carnival: (in February)
On the Monday after Ash Wednesday, at 4 AM on the dot, the lights go out all over Basel and the city's Carnival is launched with the traditional "Morgenstraich". For three days, Basel is bathed in a truly unique atmosphere as during the "Fasnacht"-days life goes topsy-turvy to the sound of thousands of fifes and drums.
Wilson Badminton Swiss Open: (in March)
The elite of the badminton world meets in the St. Jakobshalle for a super-series tournament. Over 20,000 spectators get behind the world's top 30 badminton players and enjoy the unique dynamism and speed of the game.
Basel Blues Festival: (in March)
During the Blues Festival, Basel becomes a stronghold of the Blues. Headliners from the international scene ensure a varied programme and promise the very best blues.
BASELWORLD: (in March or April)
The world's most important specialist trade fair for the international watch and jewellery industry. This event is used by companies to present their very latest watch and jewellery creations. The monumental stands of the (prestige) brands fill the halls of the exhibition site, and many tens of thousands of visitors ensure that all hotels within a radius of 250 kilometers are booked out.
Art Basel: (in June)
The world's premier international art show for Modern and contemporary works, Art Basel features nearly 300 leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. More than 2,500 artists, ranging from the great masters of Modern art to the latest generation of emerging stars, are represented in the show's multiple sections. The exhibition includes the highest-quality paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, video and editioned works. Artists, art collectors and many VIPs from the worlds of art and culture meet during these days in Basel.
Basel Tattoo: (in July)
Unique in Switzerland, the Basel Tattoo is one of the world‘s largest and most successful open-air tattoos. It‘s a dazzling spectacle of color and light presented before the grand backdrop of the Basel barracks. Since its premiere in 2006, no fewer than 360,000 spectators have enjoyed the sights and sounds of the Tattoo. The Basel Tattoo tells the story of different cultures, of tradition and innovation, of being Swiss and cool – served up with a healthy dash of humour. The march music presented at the Basel Tattoo is anything but outmoded: whether it‘s hits from Michael Jackson, Queen, the Beatles or Elvis Presley, the Basel Tattoo represents a headlong rush through several hundred years of musical history – and an exposé of contemporary sounds and exotic sensations. Top musicians parade complex choreographies, drumming virtuosos display breathtaking synchronicity, while the Massed Pipes & Drums transform the inner courtyard of the barracks into a musical version of the Scottish Highlands.
"Em Bebbi sy Jazz": (in August)
The end of the summer holidays is heralded by the traditional «Em Bebbi sy Jazz» Jazz Festival. Dozens of jazz groups play on several stages in the city center, and enthral tens of thousands of visitors.
Davidoff Swiss Indoors Tennis Tournament: (in October / November)
As one of the most important indoor tournaments in the world, the Davidoff Swiss Indoors is Switzerland's largest sporting event. This tennis tournament traditionally takes place in Basel and always forms part of the end-of-season run-up to the World Finals. Each year the magnificent St. Jakobshalle is the setting for this annual gathering of the elite of the tennis world including world-class player Roger Federer who has a special relations with his home tournament and tries to be there whenever possible.
AVO Session Basel: (in October/November)
When international stars like Sir Elton John, Zucchero or P!nk come to Basel, the AVO SESSION Basel is sure to be the reason. Each autumn, major stars make their way to this popular Swiss lifestyle-music festival, where they leave the festival audiences with concert memories they will never forget. Visitors are not only thrilled by the big stars, but also often by the many newcomers at the festival. With pop, rock, singer-songwriter, soul, funk, blues, jazz and world music, the richly diverse programme offers a range of music styles that appeals to all of its approx. 20,000 visitors.
Link to other current Basel events
Kunstmuseum Basel (Art Museum):
The main focus is on paintings and drawings by artists active in the Upper Rhine region between 1400 and 1600 and on the art of the 19th, 20th and 21st century. The Basel Art Museum houses the oldest public art collection in the world and the museum owns the world’s largest collection of works by the Holbein family. The Renaissance is represented with works by Witz, Cranach the Elder, Grünewald, and others. Highlights of the 19th century are paintings by Böcklin, van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne. In the 20th century, the main focuses are on cubism (Picasso, Braque, Léger), German Expressionism and American art since 1950. Contemporary art from the 1960s onwards is exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The Museum Tinguely, built after plans by the famous Swiss architect Mario Botta, houses the greatest collection of works by Jean Tinguely (1925-1991), one of the most innovative and important Swiss artists of the 20th century. This museum is unlike others: here, things rattle, squeak, crash and thump. Colourful scrap rotates, multi-coloured lights flicker. It is a place full of vitality, laughter, amazement and discovery; a place that sets the feelings in motion and where art reaches across to the spectator. A museum that arouses in children and adults alike a need to experiment, to play and to think about art. Special exhibitions show a wide range of artists and subjects including Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters who influenced Tinguely significantly, companions such as Arman, Niki de Saint Phalle, Yves Klein as well as current art trends along Tinguely's ideas.
Beyeler Foundation, Riehen:
The Fondation Beyeler is one of the most famous private collections in the world, with top works of the classical modern period . Over a period of fifty years, in parallel to their successful activity as gallery owners, Hildy and Ernst Beyeler built up an exceptional collection of works by modern masters such as van Gogh, Klee, Miró, Warhol or Rothko. The Beyeler Collection documents a very personal view of modern art and an unerring ability to recognize quality. The permanent collection exhibition is regularly supplemented with spectacular and attractive special exhibitions.
Museum der Kulturen Basel: (Museum of Ethnology)
The Museum der Kulturen was founded in 1849 to provide a home for all the treasures brought to Basel from around the world by scientists, travelers and merchants. With some 300,000 objects plus 300,000 photographs, this museum houses one of Europe's largest collections on European and non-European cultural life. The museum's exhibits on the South Seas, Ancient America, Tibet and Bali are world-famous, as are its textiles. The exhibitions and a full program of events make the museum's treasures accessible to a wide audience. The carved lintels from Tikal, which are the museum's most valuable treasure, provide unique testimony to the high level of culture attained by the Maya civilization.
For a complete list of all museums in Basel, please visit Museen-Basel.