Basel has a few surprises to offer the city break tourist
When most people think of Switzerland they probably have a vision of snowcapped mountains and glistening lakes. This is certainly an accurate impression of much of the country, but there are a few exceptions. The city of Basel lies in the northwest of Switzerland where the Swiss, French and German borders meet and it also has suburbs in France and Germany. The city lies on the River Rhine and is not surrounded by either mountains or lakes. It is, however, a city of modern and contemporary art and is home to Switzerland’s largest concentration of museums.
With over 40 museums, Basel is a city of art and culture par excellence. Four of the best known museums are the Fondation Beyeler, Kunstmuseum Basel, Tinguely Museum and Vitra Design Museum. These museums are also housed in impressive buildings designed by internationally acclaimed architects, such as Mario Botta, and Frank O. Gehry. During the run-up to Christmas Basel’s museums hold a number of special exhibitions and events. Basel is also very proud of its Christmas Market which is considered to be one of the prettiest and largest in Switzerland. Over 190 traders and artisans offer their goods for sale in small, rustic wooden chalets. Culinary specialities to be found include waffles, glühwein, genuine Basel Läckerli (a kind of gingerbread), raclette cheese and grilled sausages.
The visitor to Basel will want to get out and about in the city and no doubt this will include taking one of the city’s ferries. Four ferries run between Basel’s five bridges across the Rhine. The inhabitants of the city also regularly use this means of transport around the city.
Visitors to the city should also try to visit the Marktplatz in the city centre. When entering the Marktplatz the first thing that catches the eye is the colourful Town Hall (Rathaus). A market takes place here every day of the week. Lovers of good food can find delicious local produce on the market stalls, as well as many specialities from the wider region and indeed the whole of Switzerland.
Basel’s cathedral was built between the years 1019 and 1500 in Romantic and Gothic styles. The piazza in which the cathedral stands is today a popular meeting place and is often used for concerts and events. The Pfalz – the terrace offering wonderful views over the Rhine – is probably the best-loved viewpoint in the city. On one side of the viewing terrace are steps that lead down to the landing jetty of the Münster ferry. On the other side there is a small gateway leading to the quiet cloisters of the cathedral.
In addition to its own highlights, Basel also makes an excellent base for discovering other parts of Switzerland by rail using the highly efficient and impressive Swiss rail network ……….. but that’s a theme for another blog entirely.