Best Things to Do in Basel, Switzerland: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Saad Backup
Best Things to Do in Basel
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Are you thinking about visiting Basel in Switzerland soon? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Basel. These cultural sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Welcome to Basel, one of my favorite places in Switzerland. It is a city where the Rhine River gently meanders, framed by the picturesque backdrop of the Swiss, French, and German borders. This vibrant metropolis, often overshadowed by its Swiss siblings like Zurich and Geneva, is a treasure trove of art, history, and culture. When it comes to things to do in Basel, you’ll discover a world of renowned museums, architectural marvels, delightful markets, and a rich tapestry of experiences that bridge the gaps between three distinct countries.

From its cobblestone streets echoing tales of yesteryears to the ultra-modern museums showcasing contemporary genius, Basel is a delightful blend of the old and the new. It’s not just a city; it’s an experience. An experience of discovering hidden alleyways, of sipping coffee in quaint cafes by the river, and of being awestruck by masterpieces in world-class galleries.

For the wanderlust-infused traveler, Basel promises more than just sights; it offers stories. Stories that intertwine the city’s rich past with its dynamic present, stories that make you want to delve deeper and explore every nook and cranny. So, if you’re pondering your next European escapade, let Basel be at the top of your list. Dive into this guide and let’s embark on a journey through Switzerland’s cultural powerhouse. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Basel.

The best things to do in Basel right now
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Best Places to Visit in Basel

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Switzerland? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this eclectic vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Basel to visit.

Are you looking to explore world-class art museums and galleries and stroll along the charming Old Town’s cobbled streets? Or would you prefer to indulge in a vibrant culinary scene and enjoy scenic boat rides on the Rhine? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Basel can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Basel that you should know about.

1. Kunstmuseum Basel

When you think of Basel, art inevitably comes to mind, and where better to start than the renowned Kunstmuseum Basel? As the oldest public art collection in the world, this museum is a testament to the city’s deep-rooted love for art. Best things to do in Basel to witness the evolution of art? A visit to this attraction has to be on top of the list.

From the Upper Rhine’s medieval masterpieces to the contemporary wonders of the 21st century, the museum’s vast collection is nothing short of mesmerizing. As you walk through its corridors, you’re taken on a journey, transcending time and space, meeting the likes of Picasso, Holbein, and Konrad Witz along the way.

The museum’s architecture, too, is a blend of the classic and the contemporary, with the old building housing the main collection and the new building showcasing more modern pieces. And if you’re wondering where to visit in Basel for a quiet moment of reflection, the museum’s tranquil courtyard is the perfect spot.

So, for art enthusiasts and curious souls alike, the Kunstmuseum Basel is a must-visit. After all, it’s not just about viewing art; it’s about experiencing the heartbeat of Basel’s artistic legacy.

Immerse yourself in a world of artistic wonders at Kunstmuseum Basel and experience the best things to do in
Immerse yourself in a world of artistic wonders at Kunstmuseum Basel and experience the best things to do in

2. Basel Minster

Ah, the Basel Minster! It’s not just a church; it’s an emblem of Basel’s rich history and architectural prowess. Where to visit in Basel when you’re keen on diving deep into the city’s past? The Basel Minster stands tall, both literally and figuratively.

This red sandstone cathedral, with its twin spires reaching for the sky, is a sight to behold. As you approach, the intricate façade detailing and the stunning rose window are bound to leave you in awe. Step inside, and the grandeur continues with its majestic nave and vibrant stained glass windows.

But it’s not all about what’s inside. The cathedral’s terrace offers some of the best places to go in Basel for panoramic views. Overlooking the Rhine, it’s the perfect spot to watch boats glide by and the city bustling below.

For those with a penchant for legends, the Minster has its share. From tales of emperors to mysterious crypts, there’s a story at every corner. So, if you’re wondering about Basel things to do, make sure a visit to the Basel Minster tops your list. It’s a blend of history, architecture, and sheer beauty.

A stunning view of Basel Minster, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture
A stunning view of Basel Minster, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture

3. Rathaus Basel

Upon entering the Marktplatz, a single building instantly seizes your gaze with its vivid red frontage and glistening gold embellishments. That’s the Rathaus Basel, or the Town Hall, an iconic symbol of the city’s civic pride. Coolest activities in Basel? Exploring this historic building is undoubtedly one of them.

Constructed in the 16th century, the Rathaus is more than just a seat of government. Its architecture is a testament to Basel’s rich Renaissance heritage. The frescoes, statues, and the grand council chamber inside are all a visual treat.

Basel attractions often have a story to tell, and the Rathaus is no exception. Its walls have witnessed countless historical events, from political debates to significant treaties. As you wander through its corridors, you can almost hear the echoes of the past.

And while you’re there, don’t miss the bustling market outside. From fresh produce to local crafts, it’s a lively spot that showcases the city’s vibrant spirit. So, when you’re thinking about what to do in Basel, make sure a visit to the Rathaus is on your list. It’s a blend of history, art, and local life that shouldn’t be missed.

Explore the magnificent Rathaus Basel, a testament to centuries of civic heritage
Explore the magnificent Rathaus Basel, a testament to centuries of civic heritage

4. Tinguely Fountain

Right in the heart of Basel, there’s a spectacle that captures the imagination of both young and old. The Tinguely Fountain, created by the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, is a mesmerizing display of kinetic art. Unique places in Basel often have a touch of the unexpected, and this fountain is a prime example.

As you approach, you’ll notice a series of playful metal sculptures, each with its own distinct character. They move, twirl, and spout water, creating a delightful water ballet. It’s easy to lose track of time watching these mechanical figures dance and play.

Things to do in Basel often revolve around its rich artistic heritage, and the Tinguely Fountain is a testament to the city’s commitment to public art. Installed in 1977 on the site of the old city theatre, it serves as both a tribute to Tinguely’s genius and a reminder of Basel’s theatrical past.

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For those looking for cool destinations in Basel, this fountain is a must-visit. Day or night, it offers a unique blend of art, history, and sheer joy. So, grab a coffee from a nearby café, take a seat, and let the Tinguely Fountain entertain you.

Kinetic sculpture in motion, Tinguely Fountain, a dance of metal and water
Kinetic sculpture in motion, Tinguely Fountain, a dance of metal and water

5. Zoo Basel

Best places to go in Basel? Ask any local, and they’ll likely point you towards Zoo Basel. Established in 1874, it’s not only Switzerland’s oldest zoo but also one of the most renowned in the world. With over 600 species calling it home, every visit promises a new adventure.

Imagine strolling through the Etosha themed area, where you can witness the majestic lions and playful meerkats. Or dive deep into the Ozeanium, an aquatic wonderland showcasing the mysteries of the deep blue. From the vibrant Amazonian rainforests to the chilly Antarctic habitats, the zoo offers a world tour without ever leaving Basel.

Coolest activities in Basel often involve immersing oneself in the city’s diverse offerings, and the zoo is no exception. It’s not just about observing animals; it’s about understanding their habitats, conservation efforts, and the delicate balance of our ecosystem.

For families, couples, or solo travelers, Zoo Basel is a must-see. It’s a place where memories are made, where children’s faces light up with wonder, and where adults rediscover their sense of curiosity. So, lace up your walking shoes and embark on a wildlife journey like no other.

Discover the diverse flora and fauna at Zoo Basel, dedicated to preserving wildlife and fostering understanding
Discover the diverse flora and fauna at Zoo Basel, dedicated to preserving wildlife and fostering understanding

6. Museum of Cultures

Walking into the Museum of Cultures is akin to opening a doorway into the varied civilizations of the world. Where to visit in Basel when you’re eager to explore the rich tapestries of human history? This museum is the answer. Located in the heart of the city, it boasts an impressive collection that spans continents and eras.

From the intricate masks of African tribes to the delicate pottery of ancient Europe, every exhibit tells a story. The museum doesn’t just display artifacts; it weaves narratives, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the cultures they represent.

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Interactive displays and multimedia installations further enhance the experience, making it both educational and engaging.

Basel attractions are numerous, but the Museum of Cultures stands out for its commitment to celebrating diversity. It’s a reminder of our shared humanity, of the traditions and beliefs that shape societies. For those with a passion for anthropology or simply a curiosity about the world, this museum is a treasure trove.

So, if you’re compiling a list of things to do in Basel, make sure the Museum of Cultures is at the top. Dive into the stories of civilizations past and present, and leave with a richer understanding of the world.

Unveiling the treasures of the world's heritage - step into the Museum of Cultures
Unveiling the treasures of the world’s heritage – step into the Museum of Cultures

7. Basel Paper Mill Museum

Dive into the fascinating world of paper at the Basel Paper Mill Museum. Coolest things to do in Basel often have a historical twist, and this museum is no exception. Situated in a historic paper mill, it offers visitors a hands-on experience of the age-old craft of papermaking.

From the moment you step in, the scent of fresh pulp and the gentle hum of machinery transport you back in time. Here, you can try your hand at creating your own sheet of paper, watching as the fibers meld and transform before your eyes. The museum also showcases the evolution of printing and writing, tracing the journey from ancient manuscripts to modern-day books.

Unique places in Basel are aplenty, but the Paper Mill Museum stands out for its interactive approach.

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It’s not just about observing; it’s about participating, feeling the wet pulp between your fingers, and marveling at the magic of transformation.

For those who appreciate the tactile beauty of paper and the stories it can hold, this museum is a must-visit. So, when you’re thinking where to go in Basel for a blend of history and hands-on fun, the Basel Paper Mill Museum should be on your list.

Explore the rich history of papermaking at the Basel Paper Mill Museum
Explore the rich history of papermaking at the Basel Paper Mill Museum

8. Spalentor

What to do in Basel when you’re a history enthusiast? Start with a visit to Spalentor, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. This grand medieval gate once served as a crucial defense point for Basel and is now a testament to the city’s rich past.

As you approach Spalentor, its imposing structure and ornate details immediately catch the eye. The tower, adorned with decorative tiles and a large clock, stands tall, reminding visitors of a time when city walls and gates were essential for protection. Walking through its archway, you can almost hear the echoes of horse hooves and the bustling sounds of medieval life.

Beyond its historical significance, the area around Spalentor is a delight to explore. Quaint streets lined with boutiques and cafes invite you to wander and discover. It’s one of those cool destinations in Basel where history seamlessly blends with the present.

For those keen on capturing the essence of Basel’s past, Spalentor offers a perfect starting point. It’s not just a gate; it’s a gateway to understanding the city’s soul and its centuries-old tales.

A view of the Spalentor, showcasing its intricate architectural details and historical significance
A view of the Spalentor, showcasing its intricate architectural details and historical significance

9. The Rhine River

When considering the coolest activities in Basel, taking a leisurely stroll or a boat ride along the Rhine River is an absolute must. The river, with its shimmering waters, has been the lifeblood of the city for centuries, providing both a means of transport and a serene backdrop for daily life.

Basel places to visit are numerous, but the Rhine offers a unique perspective. As you walk along its banks, you’ll encounter locals enjoying picnics, artists capturing the picturesque views, and tourists soaking in the ambiance. The Mittlere Brücke, a historic bridge spanning the river, offers panoramic views of Basel’s skyline, with its blend of modern architecture and timeless classics.

For a different experience, hop on one of the many boats that ply the river. These cruises provide a tranquil way to see Basel from the water, passing by historic landmarks and modern marvels alike.

In the evenings, the Rhine transforms into a magical realm. The city lights reflect on its calm waters, creating a mesmerizing tableau. It’s no wonder that when people ponder things to do in Basel, a visit to the Rhine always tops the list.

Golden sunset casting a serene glow on the tranquil waters of the Rhine River
Golden sunset casting a serene glow on the tranquil waters of the Rhine River

10. Marktplatz

Dive into the vibrant atmosphere of Basel by starting at Marktplatz, the city’s bustling main square. Where to visit in Basel? This square should be at the top of your list. Surrounded by colorful buildings and the iconic Rathaus with its striking red facade, Marktplatz is a feast for the eyes and the senses.

Every morning, except Sundays, the square comes alive with the city’s main market. Locals and tourists alike flock here to buy fresh produce, flowers, and local specialties. The aromas of fresh bread, cheeses, and seasonal fruits fill the air, making a visit to Marktplatz one of the unique things to do in Basel for foodies.

Apart from the market, the square is also a hub for events and gatherings. From lively festivals to peaceful protests, Marktplatz has seen it all. The many cafes and restaurants around the square offer the perfect vantage point to sit back, enjoy a cup of Swiss coffee, and watch the world go by.

Basel attractions are many, but the charm and energy of Marktplatz make it a unique spot that captures the essence of the city’s spirit.

Discover a world of treasures at our vibrant Marktplatz
Discover a world of treasures at our vibrant Marktplatz

11. Basel Toy Museum

Things to do in Basel aren’t just about grand architecture or scenic views; sometimes, they’re about revisiting the joys of childhood. Enter the Basel Toy Museum, a delightful haven for both kids and adults. With over 6,000 toys and miniatures, this museum is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.

From antique dolls and teddy bears to intricate model trains, the collection spans centuries and continents. Each toy tells a story, reflecting the era and culture it comes from. The best things to do in Basel often involve diving into the city’s rich history, and this museum offers a different, more playful perspective.

Interactive displays engage visitors, allowing them to experience the toys firsthand. Remember those puppet shows, board games, or tin soldiers from your childhood? You’ll likely find them here, evoking a sense of nostalgia.

For those traveling with kids, the museum offers workshops and guided tours tailored for younger audiences. It’s one of the best places in Basel where families can bond over shared memories and create new ones. So, if you’re looking to relive those carefree days or introduce your little ones to the toys of yesteryears, the Basel Toy Museum is a must-visit.

Intricate dollhouse exhibit at Basel Toy Museum showcasing miniature life
Intricate dollhouse exhibit at Basel Toy Museum showcasing miniature life

12. Antikenmuseum Basel

Looking for more top things to do in Basel? Add this to the list!

Stepping into the Antikenmuseum Basel feels like embarking on a time-traveling adventure. Best places in Basel often revolve around its rich history, and this museum offers a unique chance to explore ancient civilizations from the Mediterranean. From the pharaohs of Egypt to the mighty rulers of Rome, the exhibits here span thousands of years and countless stories.

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Basel attractions are diverse, but the Antikenmuseum stands out with its impressive collection of artifacts.

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Marvel at the intricate jewelry from ancient Greece, decipher hieroglyphs on Egyptian sarcophagi, or stand in awe before Roman statues that have withstood the test of time. Every artifact has a tale to tell, and the museum does a fantastic job of narrating these stories through interactive displays and informative plaques.

Where to go in Basel for a dose of ancient history? The Antikenmuseum is your answer. Special exhibitions often grace the museum, offering deeper insights into specific eras or themes. And if you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love the hands-on activities tailored just for them.

In a city that seamlessly blends the old with the new, the Antikenmuseum Basel is a testament to the civilizations that laid the foundations for the world we know today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Basel

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Basel? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Basel:

What’s the best time to visit Basel?

Basel shines all year round, but many travelers prefer the spring and summer months when the city blooms in vibrant colors and outdoor activities are aplenty.

How do you spend a day in Basel?

Spending a day in Basel allows you to capture a glimpse of the city’s essence, though there’s always more to explore with more time. Here’s a suggested itinerary for a day in Basel:

Morning:

  1. Basel Minster: Begin your day by visiting this stunning Gothic cathedral made of red sandstone. Climb the tower for panoramic views of the city and the Rhine River.
  2. Old Town Exploration: Wander through the narrow streets of Basel’s Old Town. Marvel at the medieval gates, the half-timbered houses, and other historical landmarks. Don’t miss the Rathaus (Town Hall) with its vivid red façade and golden decorations.
  3. Tinguely Fountain: Located near the Old Town, this quirky and fun fountain created by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely is a joy to watch with its mechanical sculptures.

Lunch in Basel:

Choose a local restaurant in the Old Town. Indulge in some traditional Swiss or Alsatian cuisine, such as raclette, fondue, or tarte flambée.

Afternoon:

  1. Kunstmuseum (Fine Arts Museum): Dive into the world of art by visiting Switzerland’s most significant art museum. Explore the vast collection of artworks, including pieces by Picasso, Holbein, and more.
  2. Rhine River Walk: Take a leisurely stroll along the Rhine, enjoying the serene views. If you’re up for it, hop on one of the small passenger ferries to cross the river using only the river’s current.
  3. Museum Tinguely: If you enjoyed the Tinguely Fountain, consider visiting this museum dedicated to the artist. It showcases his kinetic artworks in an interactive setting.

Evening in Basel:

  1. Dining and Nightlife: Head to the Kleinbasel area, known for its vibrant nightlife and dining scene. Enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants offering international cuisine or local Swiss dishes.
  2. Rhine River Cruise: If available, consider ending your day with a short evening cruise on the Rhine. The city lights reflecting on the water offer a romantic and serene experience.

Is Basel expensive to visit?

Like many Swiss cities, Basel can be on the pricier side. However, with a bit of planning and taking advantage of city passes, you can make the most of your trip without breaking the bank.

Experience the Rhine River Magic in Basel's Twilight
Experience the Rhine River Magic in Basel’s Twilight

How many days should I spend in Basel?

While you can get a feel for Basel in a day or two, spending three to four days allows you to truly immerse yourself in all the coolest activities in Basel and explore its hidden gems.

Can I get by speaking English?

Absolutely! While German is the official language, many Basel residents speak English, especially in tourist areas.

Is Basel Switzerland worth a visit?

Absolutely! Basel, Switzerland, is a captivating blend of rich history, vibrant culture, and modern marvels, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a unique European experience. Here are some reasons why Basel is worth considering as a destination:

  1. Art and Museums: Basel boasts an impressive array of museums. The Kunstmuseum (Fine Arts Museum) is the oldest public art collection in the world and holds a vast collection of artworks, including pieces by Picasso, Holbein, and other renowned artists. The Fondation Beyeler, designed by Renzo Piano, showcases works of modern and contemporary art.
  2. The Rhine River: The Rhine flows gracefully through the city, providing scenic views and opportunities for boat rides. A stroll along the Rhine riverbanks or crossing the river with one of the small passenger ferries is a must.
  3. Historic Old Town: The Basel Old Town, with its medieval gates, narrow alleys, and centuries-old buildings, is a journey back in time. The Basel Minster, a stunning red sandstone cathedral with Gothic spires, and the Rathaus (Town Hall) with its vibrant red façade are iconic landmarks.
  4. Cultural Events: Basel is home to Art Basel, one of the world’s premier art shows for modern and contemporary works. The city also hosts the Basel Carnival, a three-day event filled with parades, music, and festivities.
  5. Multinational Flair: Thanks to its location near the borders, Basel has a cosmopolitan atmosphere. The city is also home to various international corporations and organizations, adding to its global character.
  6. Easy Day Trips: Basel’s location makes it easy for travelers to take day trips to the nearby Black Forest in Germany or the Alsace region in France.
  7. Gastronomy: The city offers a diverse culinary scene, with a mix of Swiss, German, and French cuisine. You can indulge in gourmet dining or sample traditional dishes at local taverns.

What is Basel Switzerland known for?

Basel, Switzerland, is renowned for its world-class art museums, including the Kunstmuseum, vibrant cultural events like Art Basel, and its picturesque location along the Rhine River, blending both historical charm and contemporary flair. Additionally, it’s a hub for pharmaceutical and chemical industries, earning it the moniker “Pharma City”.

Concluding Thoughts on Visiting Basel

Ah, Basel! A city where the past and present dance in harmonious rhythm, offering visitors a symphony of experiences. From its unique places that whisper tales of ancient times to the modern marvels that showcase Swiss ingenuity, Basel is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or simply someone looking for the best places to go in Basel, this city promises memories that will last a lifetime. So, pack your bags, set your spirit of adventure free, and get ready to be enchanted by the myriad things to do in Basel. Your Swiss escapade awaits!

The best things to do in Basel for all types of travelers
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