Basel is divided into Greater Basel and Basel Proper (Gross Basel und Kleinbasel). The reasons for this division are historic but the differences between the areas within it may not be immediately apparent.
This district is scattered with many beautiful villas but its main attraction is the Wasserturm (Water Tower). Anyone who climbs to the top on a clear day can enjoy magnificent views of both Germany and France. The city's most famous restaurant, the
The Gundeldinger District has suffered from its proximity to the Central Train Station (Bahnhof Basel SBB), but slowly and surely it is attracting attention. Basel's newest brewery, Unser Bier (meaning, "Our Beer") has recently moved into the area, and you can sample its delicious beer in its very own watering-hole. The
The area surrounding the Rathaus (City Hall) is where many locals eat out. Traditional Swiss cuisine, such as Rösti (shredded fried potato with various other ingredients) can be found on the menu at the
One of the city's main squares, the Münsterplatz, is also near the Town Hall. In the past, it has been described as Europe's most beautiful parking lot. The houses that flank it are very impressive and you can easily walk to the scenic Pfalz, which is behind the
The many fast food joints, cinemas, cafes, reasonably priced clothes and music stores around the Barfüsserplatz make it especially attractive to teenagers and the Music Center claims to have the biggest selection in all of Switzerland. The Barfüsserplatz is also the site of many markets, with these varying depending on the day of the week and the time of year. Bars such as the
The Heuwaage area, neglected for a long time, has recently seen an upturn in fortune. Developments such as the new Kino-Kind cinema, the
If you plan to venture to the St. Alban district you will inevitably pass the
The area around the Central Train Station, also known as the Bahnhofsareal, is dominated by a number of big hotels. And the station itself is rapidly becoming a completely service-orientated building, with restaurants and shops opening up all the time. Many of the locals make use of the extended opening hours to do some post-work shopping. For coffee and cake,
This is the city's most multi-cultural area. There are lots of different shops, especially Turkish ones, most of which are family owned. The mix of different cultures has also given rise to much creativity, which can be experienced firsthand at the
The Fischerstube restaurant brews its own beer, known as Ueli-beer; here, only a glass wall separates the eating area from the brewery, so although it can be noisy at times, you gain a unique insight into what is going on behind the scenes. The best thing to do is sit back and enjoy your beer as if you haven't a care in the world - a signature behavioral pattern the locals!
Many opportunities for entertainment and culture can be found in the city center and this trend has been intensified since increased pedestrianization took hold. On a warm summer's eve, Basel's center can get rather crowded and you may find your patience tested as you wind through a never-ending stream of people.
Bohemian types and those that want to get away from what the city-center has to offer often go to Kleinbasel. There are quite a few trendy bars here, but they are not always easily found. Wherever you end up, you will be sure to find yourself amongst a good mix of people and there are plenty of places in which to eat. Kleinbasel's multicultural character adds to its charm. There are lots of Turkish coffee houses, vendors selling kebabs and peculiar little watering holes; there is a noticeable village feeling about the place.
The world of art is no stranger to Basel and every year, the world's biggest and most influential art fair, the "ART" is held here. If you browse through the phone book, you will also find more than 100 galleries listed. Since opening a few years ago, Fondation Beyeler has become extremely popular and it houses an enviable private art collection. The pieces in the Kunstmuseum Basel are equally impressive and masters such as Holbein are well-represented. Modern art buffs will enjoy the Museum für Gegenwartskunst and the Kunsthalle also specializes in modern art. Switzerland's famous sculptor Tinguely and his works are celebrated in the Museum Tinguely and his bizarre iron creations have been admired by many a visitor.
Most of the city's movie theaters can be found in the Steinen suburb near Barfüsser Square. They all show mainstream films but the enormous Küchlin, a listed building, is the most architecturally impressive. Most of the films produced in a foreign language have subtitles. You will, however, find that some children's films are dubbed.
Independent and small-budget films are usually screened in sometimes less central locations. Camera often shows films made in less developed countries and the Stadtkino specializes in older movies. The Filmpalast, which is the newest cinema in the city, has acquired a reputation for showing all things weird and wonderful.
Museums & Galleries
Given the city's size, it is surprising to find so many different museums here and it seems as if new museums are always opening their doors to the public. The Anatomisches Museum is not for the squeamish and the Museum of Architecture is small but informative. The exhibitions change on a regular basis. The young and young at heart will no doubt enjoy the Puppenhausmuseum, which boasts a collection of more that 6000 dolls and teddy bears. The Basler Papiermühle sticks to its roots and is housed in a former paper mill. If you cross the border to Weil in Germany you can visit the Vitra-Design-Museum, which showcases information about popular culture and has an exquisite collection of contemporary furniture on display. These are only a few of the many museums in Basel. Whatever your tastes, you will be sure to find one to suit your interests.
Classical music is popular the whole city over. The Academy of Music, the Chamber Orchestra, the Basler Sinfonietta and the Basler Symphonieorchester treat their audiences to first-rate performances time and time again. They perform in various locations, but one is of particular note: the City Casino. Its great hall is well suited to classical music and provides a beautiful backdrop for beautiful music. Concerts in the Münster and the Martinskirche are also very popular.
In the last few years rock, pop and jazz have become increasingly popular in Basel, perhaps more so than ever before. The main venue for anything non-classical at the moment is the Atlantis. Lesser known bands sometimes perform at the Kuppel, and the Kaserne Basel is the main showplace the alternative scene. Jazz lovers flock to Bird's Eye Jazz Club.
Once upon a time, Basel had a ballet company with an impeccable reputation but recently dance has not seemed to have had too many followers in the city. Funding has been drastically reduced, and as far as the subsidized city ballet, drama and opera companies were concerned, the former never managed to compete with the other two. Consequently, attention was focused on modern dance. The change was much favored by critics but not on the part of the general public and directors changed as often as the weather!
Opera, Theater & Musicals
The city's main theater company, the Schauspiel, and the opera have managed to overcome the immense financial difficulties they faced in the past. Opera and dance performances take place in the Stadttheater in front of which there is a wonderful sculpture by Serra.
Musicals are shown in the Musical Theatre Basel, with the main attraction being The Phantom of the Opera. Visiting opera companies also perform here, and sometimes lesser known musicals also get their 15 minutes of fame. There are many smaller stages such as the Fauteuil, the Theater in the Teufelhof, the Baseldytschi Bihni (all performances held in dialect!) and the Basler Marionetten Theater; these do much for the city's cultural landscape.
Whilst Basel's nightclubs cannot be compared to those in places such as Berlin or London, they are nonetheless extremely popular. The city's most coveted venue is the Babalabar. It has been around forever, and generation after generation of party lovers have come here to let their hair down. Those looking for a good time also visit the Kuppel to dance the night away to live music. The Italian-influenced Bordello is a similarly busy haunt and over-30s are catered for at Mad Max.
Archaeologists believe that the Celts were the first people to settle the area now known as Basel, in the pre-Christian era. The Roman city of Augusta Raurica, situated nearby was, however, the first that was historically significant. A military fortress on what is today known as the Münsterhügel (Münster hill) was built by the Romans, thus taking advantage of its strategically beneficial position above the River Rhine. Their rivals often attempted to take over their position here. Indeed, it was temporarily conquered by the Alemans.
The name Basilia (King's Castle), was first mentioned in documentation in 374, and when the area converted to Christianity, soon afterwards Basel became an important seat for bishops.
Between 917-918 the Hungarians attacked the city. Consequently it became a part of Burgundy until 1025, when Basel was incorporated into the German Empire. Slowly but surely, the town became increasingly important as a trading city, especially after the Rhein Bridge was built in 1226.
The 14th Century is a dark chapter in municipal history. Plague ravished the city, and those infected were covered in festering boils. The Jews were blamed for the disaster and much of their community was locked in a large wooden house, which was subsequently set alight. In 1356 an earthquake raged through the city and ensuing fires destroyed many buildings.
In 1444, there was significant and successful opposition to Basel becoming part of the territory administered by the Dauphin of France. The University of Basel was founded shortly afterward and it did much to contribute to Basel's position as a place in which the nascent printing trade and humanism flourished. Individuals, such as Erasmus of Rotterdam lived and worked during this epoch.
In 1523, Johann Oekolampad acquainted the city with the ideals of the Reformation. This was soon accepted and the conversion from Catholicism reached its climax during the so-called "Bildersturm." Many precious works of art were vandalized but at the same time, the city began to attract protestants from France and the Netherlands, who were no longer welcome in their countries of birth. Their most important contribution to the nature of the city was the introduction of silk-weaving and fabric dying industries, both of which led to a renewed interest in trade.
Peter Ochs brought his revolutionary opinions with him in 1798 and although these were short lived, they served to ignite the discontent that many felt. What followed was violent unrest as city and country dwellers tried to outwit each other. By 1833, the Canton of Basel-Stadt and Baselland were created and this division has remained to the present day. Basel-Stadt (The city canton) became a small state in itself and faced many financial difficulties as a result of the separation.
As was the case throughout Europe, the 19th Century changed Basel irreversibly. In 1844, the first train line to and from the city was inaugurated and the old city-walls were torn down for good so that new areas could claim to be part of Basel.
During the course of the 20th Century, many chemical and pharmaceutical industries flourished in Basel and their influence can still be felt today as they are important aspects of the city's economy. It was here in Sandoz Laboratories where Albert Hoffman synthesized LSD for the first time in 1938. Furthermore, Basel has become an important exhibition city - one need only mention the ART Fair, the world's largest and most important art exhibition. The city's affinity with art is also reflected in the 100 plus galleries that are at home here.
Basel's geographic location often results in the city being underestimated, yet its population now numbers one million (if you include the suburbs). It is a tantalizing mix of the old and the new and architecturally, its medieval city center and modern architecture elsewhere complement each other perfectly. The city's former reputation as a breeding ground for humanism has also been maintained, a heritage attested to by the numerous museums of international standing that are situated here.
Basel offers a wide range of places to stay. Whether you want an inexpensive hotel or unrivaled luxury, Basel has it all. When it comes to views though, the hotels that border the Rhine remain unrivaled.
Grossbasel is on the south bank of the Rhine and has great historic gems. Accommodations is this neighborhood can vastly range in price and luxury. Located on the Rhine, Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois is one of the oldest and most elegant hotels in the city. The five star hotel has had such distinguished guests as Napolean and Queen Elizabeth II. The uniquely decorated Teufelhof Basel is a great find, where rooms are all individually designed by various artists. The moderately priced Rochat is located in a quiet section of Basel Old Town. Other reasonably priced hotels include Hotel Brasserie au violon and Stadthof.
Known for its creativity and shops, Kleinbasel has a lot of great hotel options. The spacious Swissôtel Le Plaza Basel and Rheinfelderhof provides modern accommodations. Another hotel with modern luxuries is the royal hotel which also contains the delicious Minamoto, Japanese Restaurant. For a relaxing and moderately priced stay, the Mercure Hotel Europe Basel is a nice choice. The elegent Krafft Basel offers great views. Located near the Rhine, Hotel Merian has charming rooms. Münchnerhof is a quaint hotel that will make you feel right at home. Hotel Basilisk Basel offers nicely priced rooms.
St Alban is an attractive district, which has some of the most deluxe hotels. The luxurious Hotel Victoria Basel and Hotel Euler Basel are a few of the options in this neighborhood. The stylish Hilton Basel Hotel pampers its guests. The Hotel St. Gotthard is a luxurious retreat for both tourists of business travelers. Styles from different time periods are elegantly combined at Schweizerhof. Central Hotel and Hotel Metropol offers comfortable rooms. The small, but cute Hotel Helvetia has a simple decor.
Vorstadte doesn't have as many hotels as the other districts, but it has some great choices. Radisson Blue Hotel have rooms that are decorated with Scandinavianor or art deco designs. Close to the Convention Center, Hotel Spalentor offers beautiful rooms. Hotel Drachen, Hotel Bildungszentrum 21 and Steinengraben are moderately priced accommodations.