Basel Travel Guide

Basel Switzerland

Switzerland’s third largest city, Basel, is situated on the Rhine River, close to the borders of Germany and France. Its location makes it a perfect hub from which to explore the rest of Switzerland as well as the neighbouring countries.

Known as the cultural capital of Switzerland, Basel is home to 40 museums, a lively art scene and buildings designed by 12 Pritzker prize winners.

The annual Basel Art Fair (officially called Art Basel) is world-renowned.

What to See in Basel

Start your visit to this lovely city with a wander around Basel Old Town (Altstadt).  Here you’ll find the top Basel attractions including the Gothic-style Cathedral (Münster), built between 1019 and 1500; the Town Hall; and Spalentor, one of three surviving medieval gates.

Also worth seeing is Mittlere Rheinbrücke, the oldest bridge in Basel, dating back to 1226.

Unique Experiences in Basel

Float down the Rhine with a Wickelfisch – during the summer, a favourite pastime of Basel residents is to float down the Rhine with a Wickelfisch. After putting their personal belongings in a fish-shaped waterproof bag called a Wickelfisch, the bag is then used as a pillow/flotation device.  

Enjoy an E-bike ride – rent an E-bike to explore Basel and surrounds. It is possible to cross the border three times in 1 hour!

Cross the Rhine by motor-less ferry boat – both locals and visitors alike can enjoy a river crossing in a ferry that uses the natural power of the river current to cross from one bank to the other.

Witness the official start of Basel Carnival – at 4am, thousands of lanterns light up the Old Town creating a scene that will give you goosebumps.

Basel Switzerland at Christmas time
The Christmas Market in Muensterplatz, Basel is believed to be the oldest in Switzerland. Image courtesy / Jan Geerk

Top Events in Basel

Basel ATP Swiss Indoor tournament – held in late October each year, the tournament attracts the world’s top tennis players including Basel’s favourite son, Roger Federer.

Basel Tattoo – A military music event, the Basel Tattoo attracts the best military bands from around the world. Featuring many music genres, light shows and dancing, the annual event is held during July (excluding 2020).

Art Basel – At the world’s biggest art fair around 300 galleries from around the world showcase both modern and contemporary works of art. Normally held in June, the 2020 Art Basel Switzerland edition will take place from 17 to 20 September.

Basel Christmas Market – From 28 November to 23 December, 180 wooden chalets are set up in Basel’s two main squares, creating an atmospheric Christmas Market.

Basel Carnival – The Basel Carnival is the biggest carnival in Switzerland and, as they have done for over 700 years, the majority of the city’s residents gets involved.  The Carnival always starts at 4am on the Monday after Ash Wednesday and lasts for exactly 72 hours.  Streets parades, music and general frivolity make the three days of Carnival a much-loved time of the year.

How to get to Basel

Many visitors to the city arrive by river cruise ship (usually on an Amsterdam to Basel river cruise) however, thanks to its proximity to neighbouring France and Germany, the city can also be easily reached by both road and rail from across Europe.

Below you’ll find a quick reference guide to travel times to/from Basel.

Basel – Zurich : train 1h:15 / car 1h

Basel – Bern : train 1h / car 1h

Basel – Lucerne : train 1h:15 / car 1h

Basel – Geneva: train 3h / car 2h:30

Basel – Paris : train 3h:10 / car 5h:15

Basel – Frankfurt : train 2h:45 / car 2h:55

Use our handy driving and Swiss Travel (rail) Pass guides to plan your visit to Basel.

Basel Info

Population: 180,000

Canton: Basel-Stadt

Average high temperatures: January –  4C / 40F; April – 15C / 59F; July – 25C / 77F; October – 15C / 59F

Christmas market dates:  28 November to 23 December, 2024.    (Click here to learn more).

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