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.
For a long time, it seemed as if Basel would never be a city known for its good food, yet in the last few years, the situation has improved dramatically. A range of factors, such as longer opening hours, have contributed to this change and anyone who has recently visited the city will no doubt testify that you will be able to find food and drink to satisfy even the most cultured of tastes.
Old Town Center
There are lots of corner watering holes with excellent snack menus. These are easily missed though and it has to be said that there are not as many as there once were. There has, however, been a distinct rise in demand for foreign cuisine. The area around the Central Train Station is home to many good restaurants, such as L'Escargot which, not surprisingly, is a French restaurant. Sakura in the train station has adopted traditional Japanese minimalist decor but its prices are anything but minimalist! Nonetheless, it's a case of "you get what you pay for" and it is without doubt the best place in Basel to sample Japanese cuisine.
A range of restaurants can also be found around the Barfüsserplatz; in fact, you may find it hard to decide what tickles your fancy most, such is the choice. The Kunsthalle-Restaurant is much-favored. Its menu is small but exquisite and in the summer you can sit outside, a practice that is particularly enjoyed by couples. If you are planning to eat at Bodega zum Strauss be prepared for a wait. This is, however, always worth it in the end because the food is mouth-watering. The Stoffero Café & Bar first brought the Italian coffee-culture to Basel and is a favorite with the local fashionable crowd. The French brasserie-inspired Birseckerhof near the Heuwaage is also popular.
The Gundeli area still has some catching up to do but if you do find yourself here, you could visit the Gundeldingerhof or the Wanderruh. Both serve good food and are increasingly booked-up in advance.
Go up the mountain a bit more and you will get to the Stucki, named after the district of the same name. Hans Stucki, one of Switzerland's most renowned chefs, worked his magic here for many years and the restaurant has managed to sustain its high standards since his death.
The surroundings of Leonhardskirche are home to the innovative cooking of the Teufelhof. Food is presented elegantly and is understated; connoisseurs and aspiring food buffs will feel right at home here! The restaurant also has an excellent wine list.
Those with a sweet tooth should definitely visit Confiserie Schiesser on the main market place. The cakes here are nothing short of divine and you can gaze upon the picturesque Rathaus. Café Pellmont, near Historisches Museum Basel, is also a good choice.
Seafood lovers are no strangers to Basel and people from all over this region of Switzerland flock to the Spitz restaurant, known for its expert handling of fish. The food here, which is already first-class, tastes even better when enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the beautiful River Rhine.
Exploring a city by foot can be tiring yet if you really want to get to know Basel, this is really the best method of exploration. The city center is relatively small and moreover, there is no other way to discover what lies behind many of the narrow medieval alleys.
This tour begins at the main market square (the Marktplatz). Thanks to the many stalls this part of town is alive from early in the morning. You can buy fruit and vegetables, tasty pastries and rolls. Before you venture any further, be sure to cast a glance at the red Rathaus (City Hall). The buildings that border it on either side are not all in their original condition and you will soon spot a few architectural crimes if you look closely. One other building that merits attention is the art-nouveau Globus. There are so many shops around the market place that one could easily succumb to a spot of retail therapy immediately but we are going to walk in the direction of the river Rhine, thereby passing the Lällekönig, a statue above the entrance of the Churrasco restaurant. It mocks those living on the other bank of the river by sticking its tongue out in their direction.
Rheinbrücke & Martinskirche
While walking across the bridge known as the Rheinbrücke, you will spot the small Käppelijoch chapel. Look in both directions from the bridge and you will soon notice what characterizes modern-day Basel. To one side, you will see many industrial plants, most of which belong to local Chemical factories. They still have enormous influence on the city's economics, and they stand in stark contrast to the landscape to the other side of the bridge, which is picturesque and hints at Basel's appearance in the Middle Ages. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that nothing here has changed for hundreds of years. If you're peckish after a walk along the river, stop in at the traditional Basel restaurant Spillman. Once you can see the Münsterhügel (Münster Hill) in front of you, you should begin to tackle the Rheinsprung. A set of steps on the right winds through the Elftausend Jungfern-Gässlein (Street of 1000 Virgins) and it will eventually take you to the Church of St. Martin. This is definitely worth seeing. Once you have reached the Rheinsprung again, carry on walking as you would have done. The university's former building, numbered 11 will soon come into view. The city's university was founded in 1460. Kleinbasel can be admired from the Weisses und Blaues Haus, located between the two bridges. The Natural History Museum a short walk away bears further testimony to the many museums in Basel, as does the Museum der Kulturen. Many years ago, there was an Augustinian Monastery in this area but regrettably, few traces of it can be seen in the present day.
The Münsterplatz, which you should now have come to is a rather odd square. It is always full of vehicles and was once described as "Europe's most beautiful parking lot!" The Zum Isaak, famous for its huge cups of caffè latte and delicious chocolate cake, is always a good place to stop and have a break. By now you may feel rather tired but this tour would not be complete without the Münster. Erasmus of Rotterdam, the famous scholar was buried here and the stations of the cross hung here are true masterpieces. The two Münster Towers are worth the climb but if you don't feel like walking up all those steps you can still admire the view of the Pfalz from behind the building. If you descend at the Pfalz you can take the Basler Fähren to Kleinbasel.
One of the locals' favorite meeting places is Tinguely-Brunnen. Its mysterious figures and the interplay of water and light will make even the longest wait seem short, and you can get the story on its creation and maintenance at the Tinguely Museum nearby. Art lovers can head to Kunsthalle from here and cinema buffs can go to the Stadtkino. Excellent plays are staged at the City Theater. In other words, different cultural outings can be embarked upon from the fountain! In the summer, the courtyard of the Kunsthalle-Restaurant is delightful, and the Campari Bar here is very popular. You can easily while away an hour or two here. A visit to the Puppenhausmuseum near the Barfüsserplatz is rewarding for the old and the young alike. After all, where else does it become more apparent how much childhood has changed? To catch the latest Hollywood import, go to the suburb of Steinen, where many of the city's cinemas are.
Historisches Museum Basel
The Historisches Museum Basel, which is situated in what used to be the Barfüsser Church, is full of curiosities. Many of the trendiest bars and cafes can also be found in the Barfüsser Square. If you like tradition, the Grand Café Huguenin is the one for you. You can buy cigars and smoke them in Bar Cafe Des Art's and lovers of Italian cuisine will go to culinary seventh heaven at Bodega zum Strauss. The trendiest watering hole around here is the crowded Rio Bar.
Church of St. Peter
Every Saturday, at the Church of St. Peter a Fleamarket is held on the church square. The university's main building, known as the Kollegiengebäude, is also on the square. Pass the university buildings and walk on–one of Switzerland's loveliest city gates, the Spalentor, will soon catch your eye. The university's Botanical Garden, which has over 8000 different species of plants is also within walking distance from the gate. You may want to relax here for a while!
The Kunstmuseum's (Museum of Art) collection is renowned and art lovers will certainly enjoy visiting it. Cross over the busy road in front of you. You are now in the district of St. Alban, where the Karikatur & Cartoon Museum Basel is located. Most of the buildings are very bourgeois and baroque and the gothic features are characteristic in their architecture.
The Museum für Gegenwartskunst, opened in 1980, is dedicated to modernity. It is also housed in a former factory and visitors can enjoy one masterpiece after the other. The Basler Papiermühle is also nearby. Its home is a former paper mill and since 1980, its permanent exhibition has also dealt with the history of work. Paper is also made on the premises in the same way as it would have been in the past. After your visit, stop in at the lovely Gasthof zum Goldenen Sternen with its breathtaking views of the Rhein for a bite.
Basel Tourismus ( +41 0 61 268 6868/ http://www.basel.com/ )
Basel's Old Town ( +41 0 61 268 6868/ http://www.basel.com/ )
Basel Tourismus ( +41 0 61 268 6868/ http://www.basel.com/ )
Scylla Tours ( +41 61 638 8181/ http://scylla-tours.com/ )
Basler Personenschiffahrt ( + 41 0 61 261 7550/ http://www.bpg.ch/ )
History & Culture Tours
Roman Town of August Raurica ( +41 0 61 268 6868/ http://www.basel.com/ )
Visit Switzerland Tours ( +1 800 255 3537/ http://www.visitswitzerlandtours.com/ )
Switzerland is Yours ( +41 21 331 4848/ http:www.switzerland.isyours.com/ )