You know those towns that steal your heart at first sight? Well, Switzerland is full of those towns, and Basel is among of the best ones. While it has become a cruise stop, it has so much depth and electric energy, that it deserves away more time than a day or two. But if you only have one day to explore this majestic town, then here is a list of things to do in Basel Switzerland in one day.
Switzerland is about more than stunning nature, but also good to satisfy your creative side (which surprisingly includes Swiss street art). Basel’s claim to fame is being the birthplace of Art Basel- and the city’s 30 museums make it really apparent that this town is made of art lovers. There is literally something for everyone here- from history to art to food and everything else in between.
HOW TO GET TO BASEL
If you’re coming from North America, we really recommend using Swiss International Air Lines as your airline of choice. Clean planes, wide seats, and good food make it a no-brainer.
Use Skyscanner to check rates, be flexible and utilize all other tricks to find the cheapest flights.
In-country options are a little more varied, although we recommend getting the Swiss Travel Pass if you’re going to be traveling around Switzerland. Basically functioning as an all-in-one ticket, this travel pass covers your train, bus or boat, plus offers extra perks. This includes free use of public transport in 90+ cities and free access to over 500 musea.
However, if you’re visiting a city of two, single train tickets might be the best option, as you can travel in comfort and style. Since Basel is only 2.5 hours away from Zurich, and only an hour away from Lucerne, the train system is an excellent way to explore different cities in a few days.
WHERE TO STAY IN BASEL
Der Teufelhof Basel – An absolute stunner, Der Teufelhof has two restaurants, a wine-shop, coffee-shop, bar, theatre, exhibitions – and I just ran out of breath listing these options. The hotel manages to mix minimalism with art installations, one room more impressive than the next. In the Arte-section, every hotel room is decorated by a different designer. A nice bonus is their free public transport pass, though a dozen sights are within minutes’ walk as the hotel is located within Basel’s old city centre.
THINGS TO DO IN BASEL
Art fanatics will love Basel, and it’s not hard to find things to do in Basel- especially in Basel’s Old Town. This city is home to over 30 museums and two major festivals in spring and summer. There’s Baselworld in March, a world fair for watches, and you can visit Art Basel around June, for art as the name suggests. We’ve listed these top things to do in Basel Switzerland to mix up and create your own perfect day.
MUSEUM HOP : With so many musea in town, let’s stick to the essentials. There’s the Jean Tinguely Museum, an architectural masterpiece of glass and metal sculptures and Fondation Beyeler, a modern building housing various art collections and special exhibitions. Most famous? The Kunstmuseum, housing both old masters and modern art.
TAKE A HIKE AROUND OLD TOWN: Many travelers visit Switzerland to enjoy long walks in Swiss nature, but its cities can be just as enjoyable. Basel is very walkable, especially if you go around the Old Town, and if you’re not sure of what to do in Basel, we suggest starting here. If you don’t want any hassle, there are many walking tours available with the benefit of a guide sharing the city’s history.
If you’re more of the DIY-type, start at any of the sights mentioned underneath and follow them in the order we’ve listed them. Add in your favorite museum and together, they create a logical itinerary. Don’t forget to stop at a few coffee shops in between! Eating cake is always essential.
RATHAUS: Spot the colorful, bright red Rathaus or Basel’s Town Hall and should be on top of every single Basel sightseeing list. Built in the 14th century, the colorfully painted facade dominates the main square and is been one of the city’s most notable buildings.
Marktplatz, a medieval historic center that dating back to the 1500s. On weekends it turns into an open-air farmer’s market that you must visit!
EXPLORE CONTEMPORARY ART AT KUNSTHALLE: Even if you don’t fancy going in, the Tinguely Brunnen outside is not to be missed. Also called Carnival Fountain, it’s shallow water shows ten mechanical figures that move to create an interesting – and dare we say hilarious – landmark in Basel.
CHECK OUT THE VIEWS FROM BASEL MUNSTER: It’s hard to find better views than the one from the city’s Gothic Romanesque cathedral. The square is a pedestrian zone and often busy with the city’s festivals and events. This ‘Munsterplatz’ offers a great view on the river Rhine. While climbing the Munster is an endurance activity, we recommend adding it to your things to do in Basel list.
CROSS THE MIDDLE BRIDGE: As the oldest and largest bridge crossing over the Rhine, it’s a great way to Wildt’sche House- basically what Instagram dreams are made of. End your walk with an absolute highlight at Spalentor, one of the most magical city gates in Switzerland and beyond. Towering over the city, we claim it’s one of the best things to do in Basel.
TIP: You can take the tram to both France and Germany. Be sure to check routes but your Swiss Pass will work just fine.
Almost unheard of, Basel borders three countries and actually has suburbs in France and Germany. Simply hop on a tram for a visit. We suggest a trip to the Vitra Design Museum in Germany with its exceptional architecture for a dose of industrial furniture designs, Frank Gehry and Eames. Alternatively, if you have more time, the city is only 45 miles away from the French city Mulhouse or German’s Freiburg.
WHERE TO EAT IN BASEL
1 | Restaurant Berower Park – The location beside Foundation Beyeler makes this an easy stop for lunch. Situated inside a stunning white villa with garden terrace, head here for their excellent baguettes, beef tartar or flammkuchen.
2 | Restaurant Kunsthalle – A famous meeting place in Basel, the elegant restaurant is located next to the art exhibition that shares its name. The wall paintings make it feel like you’ve become a central figure in a classical art scene. In summer, pick a table outside under the shade of their chestnut trees.
3 | Volkshaus Basel – A stunning interior is half the fun of eating, making this our favorite choice. This French brasserie and classic bar has taken a lot of care into the design and it shows. The same amount of care is seen in how beautiful the food is plated. Have some hummus in their courtyard beer garden or find a classical European dish on their ever-changing menu. Note that all three are luxury options.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT BASEL
High season in Switzerland tends to be between May and August when Europeans are on summer holidays. Our personal favorite is to travel in May or June when flowers start to pop and you can generally get by with only a vest on your hourly long strolls along Basel’s historical streets. Also, tourism is surprisingly low in spring and December, so this is when you can swoop in and find the best deals on hotels.
Europe is always at it’s finest during the holidays, but this season in Switzerland can’t be beaten. The Christmas market in Basel is generally listed as one of the most beautiful in Europe and offers the ultimate Charles Dickens’ vibe. There are many events happening all around the city this time of year and musea offer special exhibitions. Be aware the market starts late November, but already finishes one or two days before Christmas. If you do visit in winter, make sure you pack up warm, because temperatures can get just above freezing.
This post was created in partnership with Switzerland Tourism, but all opinions are our own.