Things to Do in Basel

Cozy and pleasant to walk, Basel, located on the banks of the Rhine River, is located at the intersection of the Swiss, German and French borders. Basel’s art and culture put it on a par with other outstanding cities in the world.

Altstadt (Old Town) is a cluster of alleys and streets with monumental sights in Basel, such as the Cathedral and the 15th century Town Hall. However, the list of must-see sights of the city is not limited to these objects, and you will soon see this.

Basel art museum

In this superb museum, you can enjoy the largest and richest assortment of art in Switzerland. A number of names speak for themselves: since the Renaissance, paintings by Konrad Witz, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Hans Holbein are displayed here (the museum grew out of an early collection of his work).

In addition, here you will find Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Bruegel the Elder and Rubens. As for the 19th century, you can admire the works of Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne and Gauguin. In the Art Museum, an entire room is set aside for the work of Picasso. The works of Giacometti, Klee, Franz Marc, Braque and Chagall represent the collection of 20th century art.

Address: Kunstmuseum Basel, Sankt Alban-Graben, Basel, Switzerland.

Altstatt (Old Town)

Altstatt (Old Town) is home to many Swiss national monuments. If you check in at the Tourist Office, you will be offered several themed walks in Greater Basel on the left and Lesser Basel on the right bank of the Rhine. As can be seen from the available plaques, the oldest buildings in Altstadt date back to the 14th century.

Once upon a time such historical figures as Erasmus of Rotterdam, theologian and humanist of the 16th century, walked along these streets. Later we will tell about many of the iconic places of Altstadt. Particular attention should be paid to the Münsterplatz square, the unusual townhouses on Petersgasse and the fun fountain on Andreasplatz.

Address: Altstadt Grossbasel, Basel, Switzerland.

Basel Cathedral

Another outstanding asset of the city is the medieval Basel Cathedral and its 60-meter high Georgsturm and Martinsturm towers. The cathedral is a mesmerizing building with pink red sandstone walls and a beautifully patterned glazed roof. Most of the architecture of the cathedral dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

The cathedral was built after an earthquake in 1356, which destroyed the tall medieval Romanesque church that stood on the site. One of the earlier elements is the main gate, partially destroyed by the iconoclasts during the Reformation.

But there were still Gothic archivolts (the framing of the arched opening), which depicted: angels, prophets, roses, kings, images of Abraham. To his right is the “Seducer” caring for a young maiden. Snakes and toads behind him symbolize evil. For € 5, you can climb the tower’s narrow spiral staircase to explore Basel and the Rhine.

Address: Basel Minster, Münsterpl. 9, 4051 Basel, Switzerland.

Market Square

The best place to start exploring the delightful Old Town is Marktplatz, which is decorated with the bright red façade of the 16th century town hall. From here, climb 400 meters west along the Spalenberg, through the former artisans’ district, to the 600-year-old city gates of Spalentor, one of three that survived the collapse of the walls in 1866.

Check out the charming side streets of Spalenberg, Hoiberg and Leonardsberg, flanked by centuries-old immaculate houses.

Address: Marktplatz, Basel, Switzerland.

Basel town hall

The majestic City Hall fits perfectly into the city center. The Marktplatz directly in front of it serves as a link to Basel’s tram network, and residents and tourists alike flock to the square for their daily shopping. The huge red sandstone town hall on Marktplatz was built at the beginning of the 16th century.

Apparently, no expense was spared for its construction. The façade features many curious symbols: for example, the 12 coats of arms of the old Swiss Confederation (including the Basel one) adorning the battlements at the top of the building. Walking through the archway, you will see a beautiful courtyard with a 17th century fresco by Hans Bock and a statue of Basel’s Roman founder Lucius Munatius Planck, created in 1580.

Address: Rathaus Basel-Stadt, Marktplatz, Basel, Switzerland.

Tinguely Museum

The Solitude Park on the right bank of the Rhine houses the Museum of the 20th century kinetic sculptor Jean Tinguely. His strange, unnecessarily complex machines are constructed in the spirit of Dadaism. Tinguely uses them to ridicule mass production and materialism. These quirky cars, however, are quite entertaining and can be used for interactive games, so children will be interested here.

To start, you need to press various buttons and pull the levers. The exhibition explores Tinguely’s career from the 1950s to the 1980s. One of his most recent creations is the 1987 Grosse Méta Maxi-Maxi Utopia: a tangle of pulleys, wooden wheels and electric motors with steps.

Address: Museum Tinguely, Paul Sacher-Anlage, Basel, Switzerland.

Basel paper mill

Back in 1453, the Geverbe factory was engaged in the production of paper. Since 1980, the factory has been a working museum where you can learn about the historical methods of papermaking, printing and binding. Waterwheel-driven machines turn wood pulp into sheets of paper.

On the ground floor, you can create your own piece of paper. There are old printing presses upstairs, and with the pen you can perfect your calligraphy. The art of bookbinding and ebru is on display on the top floor.

Address: Basel Paper Mill, Sankt Alban-Tal, Basel, Switzerland.

Basel History Museum

Basel Historical Museum includes four buildings. Three of them are located inside the city, and one, the Horse and Transport Museum, is in Münchenstein in the southeast. The most interesting are the objects located in the converted Barfusserkirche and dating back to the late medieval period.

Inside, you can view works from the cathedral’s treasury, a collection of coins and stained glass windows, tapestries, altars, and Erasmus’ belongings. Perhaps the most interesting exhibit is the Danse Macabre fresco attributed to the 15th century artist Konrad Witz.

Address: Historisches Museum Basel – Barfüsserkirche, Barfüsserplatz, Basel, Switzerland.

Spalentor gate

Basel was once defended by two rows of city walls. The Inner Wall was built around 1230, and after an earthquake in 1356, a new Outer Wall with 40 towers was erected to house the growing city. Virtually all of these walls were torn down in the 19th to allow Basel to grow and provide a healthier urban environment.

Three gates remain, of which the Spalentor is the most impressive. They controlled the western approach to the city from France and were part of the outer wall that began to be built in the 1350s. Along with the two towers and a pattern on the façade, many decorations can be found, such as the Basel coat of arms framed by two lions.

Address: Spalentor, Spalenvorstadt, Basel, Switzerland.

Basel Zoo

Few zoos boast the same variety as Basel, where you can see over 640 species of animals, birds and fish. It is the largest and oldest zoo in the country, built in 1874, but with a very modern approach to aviary design. Expansions and renovations were carried out every year, and in 2016 a new elephant house was opened – over 5,000 square meters.

The aquarium (vivarium) is recognized as a constant favorite and has almost 500 species of fish, reptiles and amphibians, including king and subantarctic penguins. The most famous resident of the zoo is Goma, the first western lowland gorilla to be born in Europe. She turned 58 in 2017.

Address: Zoo Basel, Binningerstrasse, Basel, Switzerland.

Palatinate lookout

To get to the Palatinate observation deck, you need to go behind the cathedral, going around it from either side. The back of the cathedral offers a wonderful view of the Rhine and the rows of houses on the right bank in Little Basel.

These houses are located above the Münsterfachre pier, roughly on the site of the former episcopal palace in Basel. The observation deck has a telescope, and the benches are shaded by trees, perfect for light outdoor dining.

Address: Pfalz, Pfalz, 4051 Basel, Switzerland.

Basel Museum of Ancient Art

Basel is home to the only museum in the country dedicated exclusively to ancient civilizations. This applies to Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Middle Eastern and Roman objects dating back more than 3000 years to the 1st century AD. For the first time, the collections were collected in the 17th century.

In its current form, the museum was opened in 1986 after a major donation from the industrialist Peter Ludwig. One of the most notable items from Ancient Greece is the intact 6th century Laconian wine bottle, while Egyptian galleries are rich in jewels, sculptures and sarcophagi.

Address: Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, Sankt Alban-Graben, Basel, Switzerland.

Basel Museum of the History of Pharmaceuticals

The theme of this museum is based on the history of medicine in Altstadt. If you are still wondering what to see in Basel and if you are tired of cathedrals and squares, this option will certainly interest you. At the beginning of the 16th century, this building housed a publishing house partly owned by Johann Froben, a close friend of Erasmus who often visited here.

The number of artifacts here is really impressive. Floor-to-ceiling ceramic vessels make a lasting impression. In addition, you will see first-aid kits, laboratory instruments, entire pharmacy interiors (including offices), strange devices for practicing alchemy, and preserved remnants of historical medicines.

But perhaps the most fascinating are the 15th and 16th century books by physicians Johann de Cuba and Leonhart Fuchs.

Address: Pharmacy Museum of the University of Basel, Totengässlein, Basel, Switzerland.

Museum of dolls

The Barfusserplatz houses a museum that amazes the imagination of both adults and children.

The entrance to the five-story building is available to everyone. The museum houses over 6,000 dolls, miniatures and doll houses. An army of over 2,500 teddy bears will impress anyone.

Many of the exhibits are interactive, including miniature scenes that light up, play music, and have moving parts. And although it’s hard to believe, this cornucopia of toys was collected by only one person, the German-Swiss billionaire Gisela Oeri.

Address: Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel, Steinenvorstadt, Basel, Switzerland.

Beyeler Foundation Museum

This museum is located six kilometers from the city on the border with Germany and is worth every second of the journey. A stunning collection of contemporary art from 20th century dealers Ernst Beyeler and Hilda Kunz awaits you. In the 1990s, the museum became home to a collection of 200 works by Renzo Piano’s project.

Enjoy 23 works by Picasso and paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Lichtenstein, Pollock, Warhol, Monet and Cezanne.

Address: Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse, Basel, Switzerland.

Rhine River

The Rhine flows so quickly through Basel that ferries do not need any engines other than a river flow. Four ferries operate between the bridges across the Rhine. This is public transport. There is also “Badhisli” on the river, a place for swimming, where strong swimmers resist the current, and everyone who wants to rest in shallow water.

In summer, these places are characterized by a resort atmosphere, people relax in the sun and socialize on the terraces of the café. Outside the city, the Rhine replaces the sea for holidaymakers. In summer there are beaches, water sports and a barbecue area.

Address: Wettsteinbrücke, Wettsteinbrücke, Basel, Switzerland.

Modern Art Museum

The Basel Museum of Modern Art, housed in an old paper mill, contains many outstanding works from 1960 to the present. Here you will find paintings and sculptures by artists such as Chagall, de Chirico, Dali, Braque, Mondrian, Klee, Giacometti, Moore and the Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely.

It was the first public museum in Europe dedicated exclusively to works of art created at the end of the 20th century.

Address: Kunstmuseum Basel | Gegenwart, Sankt Alban-Rheinweg, Basel, Switzerland.

Cherry Orchard House

The Cherry Orchard House, one of Basel’s finest patrician houses, was built between 1775 and 1780 in an early classical style. The building was the home and office of a thriving silk ribbon manufacturer in Basel, and ranks among the finest museums of domestic life in Switzerland.

All 25 furnished rooms showcase furnishings from a wealthy 18th century family, as well as world-renowned collections of arts and crafts. The collection of porcelain from the Pauls-Eisenbeiss Foundation, a significant collection of wall and wrist clocks, as well as various types of Basel silver and scientific instruments are presented.

Address: Basel Historical Museum – Haus zum Kirschgarten, Elizabetenstrasse, Basel, Switzerland.

Vitra Design Museum

Since Basel is right on the international border, some of its suburbs extend to Germany and France. The same can be said for the Vitra Design Museum, which, although considered a Basel institution, is a five-minute train ride from Basel city center across the German border.

By any measure, this is one of the most important museums in the world for design. The building itself is a landmark designed by Canadian architect Frank O. Gehry. Inside, various exhibitions are held – two or three a year – exploring current and historical trends and themes in design. The museum is renowned for stunning, provocative displays.

Address: Vitra Design Museum, Charles-Eames-Straße, Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Basel Museum of Natural History

The fund of this museum contains almost eight million items and artifacts related to zoology, anthropology and archeology. Its mission is to maintain an archive of human and animal life in the region.

The museum features a variety of life-size exhibits and hands-on activities that educate and entertain curious children and adults.

Address: Naturhistorisches Museum Basel, Augustinergasse, Basel, Switzerland.

Mittler Brücke Bridge

It is hard to believe that this bridge, the symbol of Basel, crosses the fast-paced Rhine, connecting the sublime Grossbasel (Greater Basel) with the unassuming Kleinbasel (Lesser Basel) since 1226. Walking along it invariably leaves a lot of impressions.

Address: Mittlere Brücke, Mittlere Brücke, Basel, Switzerland.

Botanical Garden Merian Gerten

Merian Gerten is one of Basel’s most beautiful parks on the outskirts of the city – a place to relax and unwind. Highlights include the largest collection of irises in Europe (over 1,500 species), the English garden and the not to be missed rhododendron valley.

Address: Merian Gerten, Merian Gärten, Vorder Brüglingen, Basel, Switzerland.

Feldschlösschen Brewery

In Rheinfelden you will find the Feldschlösschen brewery, located 18 km east of Basel in a 19th century building whose name means “little castle in the field”. It organizes two-hour guided tours in German with beer tasting. The brewery is a 10-minute walk from Rheinfelden Train Station.

Address: Brauerei Feldschlösschen, Theophil Roniger-Strasse, Rheinfelden, Switzerland.

Roman theater of Augustus-Rauric

About 17 km east of Basel, on the south bank of the Rhine, are Switzerland’s largest Roman ruins. These are the last remnants of a colony founded in 43 BC. By the 2nd century A.D. its population was 20,000. Today, visitors can stroll through the scattered ruins that house one of the best-preserved Roman theaters in Central Europe.

When visiting the ruins, be sure to check out the Museum of the Romans (Römermuseum), where you will see an authentically restored Roman house and a unique collection of 270 pieces of antique silver.

Address: Augusta Raurica, Giebenacherstrasse, Augst, Switzerland.