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Basel is one of the important cities of Switzerland.
One of Switzerland's underrated tourist destinations, Basel has a beautiful medieval old town centre, a vibrant Carnival, and several world class art museums built by architects like Renzo Piano, Mario Botta and Herzog & De Meuron.
Located in the Dreiländereck (three countries' corner), Basel is a gateway to the Swiss Jura mountains and nearby cities of Zürich and Lucerne, as well as the neighbouring French region of Alsace and the German Black Forest. If interested in a trip to the country side visit Sissach a nice little town about 20 minutes from Basel. There are a number of things to see and do if you have a few days to spend.
Basel is a cosmopolitan city because of its university and industry and its proximity to the borders of France and Germany. The official language of the city is German, but the majority of the population speaks Baseldytsch, an Alemannic dialect, as their mother tongue.
The Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is the only tri-national airport in the world. Built on French soil about 4km from Basel, it is connected with the city by a customs-free road. Several major airlines, including Swiss, Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa, serve the airport.
In the arrival hall you can choose to go through the Swiss customs and take the customs-free road to Basel or to go through French customs. Some flights to the EuroAiport are described with Basel (BSL, Switzerland) as the destination, while flights from France or other Schengen airports usually indicate Mulhouse (MLH, France) as their destination, although it is the same airport.
From the airport, visitors can rent a car, though the most comfortable ways of getting into centre is the bus.
Basel has two main train stations. The Basel SBB station is south of the city centre and the Basel Badischer Bahnhof (abbreviated Basel Bad Bf) are to the north in Kleinbasel. All trains call at Basel SBB with Deutsche Bahn trains also calling at Badischer Bahnhof.
Swiss SBB trains depart from Zurich (53min), the Swiss capital Bern (55min) and Geneve (2½h) every half-hour. Slower regional trains connects with most major Swiss cities, there is at least one departure every second hour.
Basel is one of only two places on earth where you can cross an international border on a streetcar, or tram. Tram route 10 crosses the Swiss-French border twice, passing into and out of French territory. So it is possible to travel to Basel by tram from the French commune of Leymen. Unfortunately, Leymen station is not connected to the rest of the French railway network. The international tram line is operated by BLT, public transport company.
The Rhine is navigable to Basel, and in the summer cruise ships operate on from Amsterdam to Basel, with intermediate stops.
This is the standard mode of travel for many within the city. Old Basel isn't very large and there are many narrow and winding side streets with incredible slopes.
The shopping streets in the old city are closed to car traffic. Tourists will walk a lot - and be pleased and impressed at every turn. Walking around Basel can be a real cardiovascular workout for some if you wander off the main streets - but it's the best way to experience the city.
What to see
Old Town Attractions
Most of the "old town" attractions in Basel are in a walkable area between the Basel Zoo and the Rhine. Since most stores are closed on Sundays, it is a good day to plan to see one of the many museums, which are usually open. Basel and surroundings have over 20 museums, and many of these have a free opening hour at the end of the day.
Münster and Pfalz.
Walk up cobbled streets and alleys from Marktplatz or Mittlere Brücke to Münsterplatz to see Basel's Münster, built 1019-1500 in Romanesque and Gothic style, and the medieval buildings lining the square. The Münster is open to the public.
Its highlight is the Galluspforte on the western façade, considered the most important Romanesque sculptural work in Switzerland. The main façade also features numerous figures, including St. George slaying the Dragon.
Enjoy spectacular views over the Rhine, the city and Alsace and Black Forest in the distance. However, you must be accompanied in order to be allowed entrance. Views from the Pfalz north of the the Münster and overlooking the Rhine are some of the best Basel has to offer. This is a nice place to have a picnic.
Right on Marktplatz, this beautifully renovated Renaissance palace is still in official use, but you can enter the courtyard on your own, or join a guided tour organized by Basel Tourismus.
Other Worthwhile Sights and Discoveries
Basel Zoo, Binningerstrasse 40. Basel's most visited paid tourism attraction. It is the oldest and largest zoo in Switzerland, with easy access by walking or tram from the central SBB station. For a zoo located in the center of a city it is big with great variety. Have lunch watching the elephants and take some time to see the monkeys solving problems for food in the Monkey House.
Rhine river. In warm weather, be sure to spend some time in the afternoon enjoying the sun by the Rhine, walking along the 2 mile/ 3 km promenade on the Kleinbasel board, or take a dip in it if it's really hot, as many locals do.
Walk over the bridges: they offer excellent vantage points to see river - and river bank - life. Even better - cross the Rhine by Faehri. See Getting Around, By Boat.
The world-class construction projects at Voltaplatz. The first is the building of a tunnel under the city streets for traffic entering and leaving France. This traffic has been using surface routes to the bridge over the Rhine for decades.
What to do
Events and Festivals
This is Basel's version of Carnival, and a premier event during the year, lasting for three straight days, beginning on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. Don't confuse it with the more raucous festivals in traditionally Catholic areas, such as the German Rhineland (Karneval) and Munich (Fasching), or Carnival in Rio or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Other Fairs and Markets
BaselWorld International Watch and Jewelry fair. Late March-Early April. The world's biggest watch and jewelry trade show. The city's population more than doubles during this convention. The watch displays are particularly elaborate, with the exhibition space set up like an indoor version of New York's 5th Avenue.
Basel Herbstmesse. Two weeks beginning on the last Saturday of October every year. Rides, booths, shooting alleys and lots of food in several locations all over the city, including Messeplatz, Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz.