Looking for Amazing Things to Do in Basel? You’ve Come to the Right Post!
This blog post was written in collaboration with Basel Tourism.
“Where are you, on the French or Swiss side?” This was the first sentence I overheard while exiting the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg. Like Basel itself, the city’s airport is at the crossroads between 3 countries: Switzerland, France and Germany.
I exited the airport on the Swiss side, but I could very well have gone down another corridor and ended up in France. This international theme was to characterize my stay in Basel.
Indeed, the sheer number of things to do in Basel attest to the city’s cultural heritage and pan-European flair. You’ll soon see why you should add a stop here to any Swiss itinerary.
Getting to and Around Basel
Getting to Basel from the airport is a piece of cake, and it costs nothing if you have an overnight booking at any of the city’s hotels.
From the airport, hop on Bus 50, which goes straight to the main train station. Once in Basel, you’ll be able to take advantage of an extensive network of buses and trams.
Upon check-in at your hotel, you’ll receive a free Basel Card, granting you unlimited access to Basel’s public transport network and wifi, as well as generous discounts on numerous attractions. You’ll be all set to explore the many things to do in Basel!
21 Unique Things to do in Basel
I must admit, I wasn’t expecting there to be so many things to do in Basel.
I was in town for the city’s famous Museums Night, an evening where over 200 exhibits ran till late, with public transport ferrying people between activities in France, Germany and Switzerland.
However, I soon realized that I would have to spend at least a week in Basel to take advantage of all of the city’s offerings.
Food & Coffee in Basel
Of all the things to do in Basel, dabbling in the city’s gastronomic scene should be at the top of any foodie’s list.
Join a Self-Guided Food Tour
The best way to become acquainted with Basel’s food scene is to join a self-guided food tour organized by the city.
You’ll discover 4 unique venues, from historic cafes to an international food market. At each spot, you’ll be given vouchers to sample a variety of dishes and drinks, so make sure to start with an empty stomach!
While the food tour conveniently crisscrosses the city center, you’ll be veering off the tourist track to experience venues that locals frequent – and speak highly of.
If you’re pressed for time, you can complete the tour in roughly 3 hours, but I opted for a more leisurely pace to soak up each spot’s atmosphere – and digest a bit.
Breakfast at Bäckerei KULT
If you love cute cafes, don’t skip Bäckerei KULT. This is the oldest bakery in town, first mentioned in local archives in 1726. Three centuries later, Bäckerei KULT is still adored by the community. A crowdfunding campaign allowed the bakery to expand and be modernized in 2016.
You’ll be able to sample freshly baked bread and pastries, including Basler Läckerli (a traditional spiced biscuit). Enjoy your refreshments in the bright, stylish indoor setting or out in the back garden.
Lunch at KLARA
Featuring 9 stalls serving international cuisine, KLARA is Basel’s indoor food market, doubling up as a creative space for locals to meet, work remotely, and hang out. At lunchtime, you can try a wide range of dishes, from Southeast Asian fare to Argentinian tapas.
The homey decor and relaxed atmosphere contribute to the impression that you aren’t just having lunch at a food market. Rather, you’re going about your day in a communal living room, with delicious food at your disposal.
Dinner at Don Camillo
When rolls around time for dinner, make your way to Don Camillo, a sleek restaurant housed within the former Warteck Brewery.
This eatery serves vegan and bio dishes with a creative twist, as well as organic wine and other drinks. Patrons can sit indoors or on the expansive terrace.
Pro tip: make sure you time your reservation to be able to watch the sunset over Basel’s rooftops.
Art & Culture in Basel
Did you know that Basel is Switzerland’s cultural capital? Well, it is, with nearly 40 museums to its name!
So don’t be surprised that many of the things to do in Basel revolve around art, architecture and history. In this next section, you’ll find a few highlights of mine, giving you a glimpse at just how diverse Basel’s cultural scene is.
Explore Basel with ARTour
One of the newest things to do in Basel, the self-guided ARTour harnesses the power of artificial reality to help you experience the city a bit differently. As you amble about, you’ll discover virtual works of art, including digital pieces hovering above the Rhine River and watching over buildings.
Learn about local and international artists and their connection to Basel as you let your imagination wander. The ARTour Basel app is free to use and available on both Apple and Android devices.
I really enjoyed visiting the Rappaz Museum, set within one of Basel’s oldest houses and paying tribute to the Swiss graphic artist Rolf Rappaz. Animated exhibits will send you into a psychedelic world. This small museum hosts a permanent collection as well as temporary works by contemporary artists. Entry is free of charge.
Museum Kleines Klingental
Not far from the Rappaz Museum, you’ll find Museum Kleines Klingental, a must for anyone interested in the region’s history.
The building was once a Dominican convent. Among other artifacts, visitors can view original sculptures that adorned the now 1000-year-old Basel Cathedral. You’ll also be able to learn about Basel across the ages.
Learn about one of Switzerland’s most famous sculptors and painters, Basel native Jean Tinguely, at the museum named after him.
Here, you’ll discover a variety of Tinguely’s kinetic art sculptures in the permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibits paying homage to his contemporaries. To understand Tinguely’s fantastical avant-garde creations more thoroughly, take a guided tour.
If you’d like a glimpse at Tinguely’s world but are pressed for time, you’ll be able to see one of his most famous works for free, right in the center of town.
The Tinguely Fountain consists of 10 iron figures in constant motion, seemingly interacting with each other and playing in the water. The piece is said to represent “daily nonsense”.
Of all the things to do in Basel, this might just be the most unique. How about visiting the smallest museum in the world? Indeed, the Hoosesaggmuseum consists of a single display case.
The name stems from the concept that each object displayed can fit into one’s pant pockets. The exhibit’s theme changes on a regular basis, with featured items contributed by Basel locals.
Save the Date: Museums Night
As mentioned, one of my reasons to visit Basel was to attend the city’s Museums Night. This was a fabulous chance to experience many cultural activities in a short amount of time.
Exceptionally, numerous government buildings (like the city archives) and museums had an open door policy from 6 PM to 2 AM. Visitors could peek behind the scenes at spots the public doesn’t normally have access to. Each venue also had special performances, lectures or culinary events planned.
The next Museums Night will take place on January 23rd, 2023, with many activities offered in English.
A Millenium of Architecture in Basel
Strolling around Basel, you’ll notice an impressive range of architectural masterpieces spanning the centuries.
One of the top things to do in Basel, even if you only have one day in the city, is to pay a visit to the Basel Münster. Construction of this cathedral started over 1000 years ago.
Since then, it has played host to many historic events, including the election of a pope. Still today, the characteristic twin spires define Old Basel’s landscape.
Basel Town Hall
Basel’s impressive town hall was built 500 years ago. An important part of the city’s heritage, the red sandstone building offers much for visitors to take in, including a stately inner courtyard, arcade, and original frescoes painted by Hans Bock the Elder at the start of the 17th century.
Next, let’s fast-forward 4 centuries. Welcome to Messeplatz! Basel may have its fair share of history and heritage, but this square is thoroughly modern, even futuristic. Look up to admire the giant skylight, which reminded me significantly of a UFO.
Basel’s Beautiful Old Lanes
Basel has no shortage of picturesque lanes, some leading to charming courtyards. A few of the most beautiful are listed below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
In fact, one of the best things to do in Basel is simply to wander about the Old Town. Chances are, you’ll find plenty of quaint nooks on your own.
Attesting to Basel’s merchant past, Imbergässlein, or Ginger Lane, was once inhabited by spice merchants who sailed the world to bring back their precious goods. As you stroll around, it won’t be hard to imagine that you’ve stepped back a few centuries in time.
Pfeffergässlein shares a similar story to the neighbouring Imbergässlein – it was a hub for medieval pepper merchants and is equally well-preserved and picturesque.
As the name would suggest, this cobblestone lane is just steps from the Rhine. On one side, you’ll be able to see some traditional half-timbered houses. On the other, you’ll get glimpses of the river.
This street is perhaps a bit more well-known than the others mentioned here, so it might make sense to visit earlier in the day to avoid the crowds.
Uniquely Basel Experiences
What makes Basel, Basel? The below things to do in Basel are unique to the city and will give you a glimpse of local life to remember your holiday by.
The Basel Riviera
On sunny summer days, Basel’s youth congregates on the banks of the Rhine River near historic Middle Bridge, affectionately called the Basel Riviera.
Do as the locals and soak up the rays as you enjoy a drink with friends. If you don’t bring your own refreshments, you can purchase some from the little rolling stands called buvettes (a term taken from the French).
Float Down the Rhine on a Wickelfisch
During the summer, it gets hot and locals love to jump in the Rhine. So don’t be surprised if you see people floating in the water with a colourful, plastic fish!
These “Wickelfisch” keep your belongings dry – and close by – as you’re swimming. Wickelfisch were invented in Basel and have become a summer staple.
You can purchase one of these brightly coloured fish at the tourism office.
Cross the Rhine in a Current-Powered Ferry
Basel’s bridges over the Rhine are few and far between, so locals came up with a handy solution. Since the 19th century, four ferries have been connecting the left and right bank in central locations, powered by the current alone.
These boats are used by both locals and tourists, with seasonal tickets available for frequent commuters. A single ride costs 2 CHF.
Fill Your Water Bottle At Any of the City Fountains
Alright, this one isn’t a uniquely Basel experience, but rather a Swiss must! All of Basel’s public fountains provide high-quality, fresh drinking water. This is perfect for refilling your bottle as you go about exploring the city, so I’m going this as one of the top things to do in Basel!
The Things to Do in Basel Are Almost Endless
As you know by now, Switzerland’s cultural capital has so much going for it. You’ll find endless things to do in Basel, from exploring the art world and delving into a rich history to experiencing a thriving food and coffee scene. If any of the above calls to you, make sure to add Basel to your next Swiss getaway!