Basel, is truly a hidden gem in Europe. Usually when people think about Switzerland they picture Zurich, Geneva, Zermatt or Lugano. Basel seems to be a bit neglected. If you will read my article then you will find out why Basel should be on your weekend getaways agenda for 2021.
Before I visited Basel I knew it only thanks to Basel World and Art Basel. When I went to these fairs, I just enjoyed dinner in the city and after headed back straight to my home in Geneva. The year 2021 changed it all. With more restrictions to travel abroad, uncertainty and COVID tests, I decided to visit this beautiful city instead of travelling abroad. I have already visited Basel 2 times this year and I can tell you that this city is the perfect getaway. Not only for attendees of these famous fairs. In my article below I will tell you 5 reasons why it’s worth visiting Basel. It’s a short city guide, ideal for travelers who will stay in Basel for a weekend or a short break.
Basel- Hidden Gem with a beautiful history
Basel is located in northwest Switzerland, just close to France and Germany. This makes this city so unique and multicultural. It’s also an international headquarter of pharmaceutical companies, like Roche and Novartis, a city with the largest number of museums in Switzerland (40). A place with the most charming old town, Rhine River and fabulous food. I had a feeling that Basel shows a mixture of modern, urban style, small-town vibes, but also historical and cultural parts. I was astonished by its beauty while walking by the river and discovering world-class buildings, famous fountains and trying the most delicious food. In Basel there is also the oldest zoo in Switzerland, which is 150 years old, this is really impressive. They have a great wildlife range, and also an advanced breeding program and aquarium. So it’s definitely something interesting for nature and animals lovers and families.
How to get to Basel?
This city is easily reached:
By Plane– There is an airport in Basel, (BSL) Euro Airport is only 15 min from the city centre, or nearby Zurich, which is located only 75 km away.
Train– Switzerland has amazing and frequent trains going in and out of Basel, so it’s also very convenient to use this way of transport. There are many connections to other Swiss cities.
By Car – Switzerland has nice and smooth roads, so it’s a great way to get to the city and it’s a budget-friendly option. Most of the hotels have parking lots so parking will not be an issue, but it’s better to check it in advance.
How to get around in Basel
By Walking – Basel is a very easy city to walk, especially on warmer days. There is a lot of beautiful architecture to admire, I personally mostly walked in Basel.
Public Transport – Most of the hotels offer Basel card, which allows using public transport for free. It’s very convenient and reliable.
Car, Taxi, Uber– It’s the most costly transport, but also recommended for travellers, who prefer not to walk a lot or like this way of transportation.
Ferries- The most exciting way to move around and cross the Rhine river. They use the steel cable and the current of water.
World class art and a must-see Museum
I am art historian by profession, so for me, Basel is a paradise, with many museums (40) and world-class artists exhibited. Not to mention the famous Art Basel. It’s not possible to visit all the museums during the weekend, but here are 3 of them that are a must.
Fondation Beyeler – it’s one of the fines museums worldwide, located a little bit outside of Basel. The founders Ernst and Hildy Beyeler had the vision to create an open, active museum that inspires an appreciation for art in a wide audience. It’s dedicated to modern and contemporary art. They have many exhibitions, currently, there is Auguste Rodin and Hans Arp – Sculpture exhibition, but please check the website to see current ones.
Museum Tinguely – there are masterpieces from Swiss painter and sculptor Jean Tinguely, there is also a wonderful magnificent collection presented.
Kunstmuseum, – The Kunstmuseum Basel known as Fine Arts Museum holds the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland and is listed as a heritage site of national significance. It has a beautiful courtyard where you can rest after visiting the three buildings. Some of the artists that work you can admire are: Hans Holbein, Eugène Delacroix, Salvador Dalí, Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso and Andy Warhol.
Currently, in Basel, there is a famous exhibition of Banksy This exhibition brings together more than 100 original works and objects by the British artist known as Banksy. This collection showcase most of his artistic journey, which is over 20 years, including his most famous pieces. Girl with Balloon, Love Rat up to recent Dismaland, among them. This exhibition is open until 05.09.2021.
Old Town wonders
Basel showcases a charming mishmash of buildings from different historic times. It’s very interesting to walk and see all the different buildings and well-preserved old town, that is dated to the 15th century. It’s full of narrow cobblestone streets, small buildings, charming boutiques and bicycles parked everywhere. You can start your tour by charming Marktplatz courtyard, then move to the red building of City Hall. From there you can walk up and down and admire views of Rhine River. You can’t miss the iconic-century Mittlere Brücke bridge. There are canton flags and locks all over and it looks very Swiss and reminds us about the history. The main point of any trip is the historic Basel Minster, a cathedral, a building originally built in 1019 and 1500 filled with stained-glass windows.
Where to Eat in Basel
Unfortunately, when I arrived in Basel, due to restrictions all restaurants were closed, but luckily I was able to enjoy delicious food in the hotels that I was staying and it was a delightful experience.
Hotel Der Teufelhof
This is a hotel with a history and a charm. Situated on a hill not far from the Old Town. To be honest for me this hotel looks more like an old mansion than a hotel, it’s actually two 18th century mansions combined together, with a private brewery bar, theatre and a charming courtyard. You can definitely feel that you are in the most Art inspired city when you walk through the door of Teufelhof. Each room is a different work of art. There is a famous art suite on the top floor in the Kunsthotel (part of the hotel), called: Sleeping in a Question and it was designed by American artist Joseph Egan. There are also exhibition galleries in all common spaces of the hotel including a beautiful and charming restaurant. The Hotel has 2 restaurants: Bel Etage gourmet restaurant and the Atelier restaurant. I had a chance to eat in the Atelier Restaurant, which offers traditional cuisine, a la carte menu and daily specialities. Their most famous dish is a veal cutlet with meat supplied by traditional butchers from Arlesheim. It’s a very rare meal and not easily found in Basel. Served with fried potatoes and jus of wild peppers. The restaurant also has an impressive wine list that covers over 400 wines to choose from, with the majority being European wines. The atmosphere is lovely, tradition combined with modern interiors. There are candle lights to create a more relaxed atmosphere. The hotel manager comes every evening to speak with their precious guest. I recommend it for people who would like to experience a more traditional atmosphere and cuisine and who love art and culture.
Art House Basel
Art House Basel is a recently opened hotel that is part of the Design Hotels group. It’s a completely new hotel, with beautiful modern interiors, art pieces exhibited and a rooftop bar. The hotel is perfectly located nearby the old town and train station. It offers a modern, stylish, urban atmosphere. Rooms are beautifully designed, with comfortable beds, bathrooms and some of them have balconies. I felt wonderful in this hotel, the staff was extremely helpful and accommodating. Before I speak about the food I would like to also recommend you visit their top floor bar called Mirador by Art House. It offers a lovely panoramic view of Basel rooftops and the cathedral. They offer absolutely wonderful choices of cocktails, mocktails and other beverages. I think it’s better to book it in advance, as it is a busy venue on the Basel map.
Food on the other side is served in the Souvenir Restaurant on the ground floor there is restaurant space, but also a private area with few tables. It’s darker, with some statement art pieces and it offers a more intimate experience. The whole space is so Instagramable and the place to be when in Basel. The menu is more modern, features some classics but also more exotic dishes and delicious desserts. I recommend it for people who like to eat in a very modern, Instagram worthy place, art lovers, but also families with children too. It offers a delicious and modern experience.
Where to stay in Basel
An ideal place for travellers, people who come for weekend getaways, to visit fairs and museums, but also families and business people. It offers a quality stay, unforgettable experience in a good 4 stars hotel for an affordable price. Art House features 33 designers rooms. Architects who created the space were Diener & Diener and the Italian designer Andrea Caputo. Room rates start from 160 CHF for a double room. They offer a variety of rooms and suites, for example, ART HOUSE Club Suite or Junior Suite with a terrace. All rooms have Japanese influence in their interiors, they are specious in natural colours that make us feel comfortable and relaxed. The whole hotel is an open space that has beautiful and interesting art pieces features, that challenges our creativity. On the 1st floor, you can also find a space with books, games, comfy sofas and a small bar where it’s possible to make coffee and read about art. I loved this area and I must say I discovered it too late.
Fun things to do in Basel
Drinks by the River
Basel is a city that has so much to offer when it comes to culture and art, but let’s face it we also are searching for some relaxing moments during the getaways. First, have a drink by the Rhine. In the summertime, it’s super busy and lively over there. It reminds me a bit of Copenhagen. Everyone is tanned and relaxed, but you can also see people coming from work who just want to chill after a busy day. Particularly on the East bank of the river close to the Mittlere Brücke bridge.
Switzerland is famous for its chocolate and it’s truly one of the best chocolate I have had in my life. Of course in Geneva, we have all the amazing places, so I decided to try a local place located on the Markplatz, Confiserie Schiesser. If you are a chocolate lover, just like me then you must try it too. It’s one of the oldest chocolatiers in Basel and it’s been owned for 5 generations. They have delicious hot chocolate, but also fabulous chocolate bars, truffles and more. All served in an old fashioned place that takes the experience to another level.
Try Basler Läckerli
It is a traditional, gingerbread-like pastry that was created in Basel in 1904. These famous sweets are baked with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied orange and lemon peel, but the recipe is a secret. The Läckerli Huus also offers other sweets, for example, crispy Flûtes de Bâle, which are filled with wafer rolls, that I love too. The flagship bakery is situated at Gerberstrasse 57 in Basel and is a special place, where you can see their impressive 100-year past on the walls.
Water Fountains – Basel has so many beautiful water fountains, that you can find all over the city. They feature different sizes and sculptures. You can play a game and see how many fountains you can spot during your walk in the city.
Ferry Boats– These will be a great experience especially when the weather is nice. These ferries have no motor, just a wire that holds the boat, that is pushed by the current and it’s done the same way for centuries. It’s surely one of the most interesting boat rides in Switzerland. Click here to find out more.
Basel is a wonderful place for a weekend getaway and it has much to offer for people in different walks of lives. It’s easy to reach, has beautiful architecture, great hotels, food and museums. A hidden gem in Switzerland that needs more publicity. Please let me know below if you have been already in Basel, if you planning on going, or if you like my tips for an unforgettable weekend in this beautiful city.
My 5 Top Reasons why it’s worth visiting Basel
- Old town
- Museums and galleries
- Delicious Cuisine, Chocolateries and other sweets.
- Ferry Boats
Please let me know below which is your reason to come to Basel…
Special thank you to the
Hotel Influencer for organizing hotels and restaurants for me.
To my partners in crime AnnaSwissMermaid and Valentina.
If you would like to see my other trips then please see here.
As always with love
Bella Zofia xx
Your Fashion, Beauty and Travel Blogger from Geneva