The Haven on the Rhine

It’s almost as though this pocket-sized metropolis was pulled from a fairy-tale. As the third-largest city in Switzerland and home to the country’s oldest University, this picturesque city is hugely underrated. I must admit, Basel was not a destination high on my bucket list; but this is the reason we moved to London - to explore every nook and cranny of Europe, as often as possible.

Basel, or as we quickly learned, pronounced ‘Bar-sul’, is a vibrant and culturally endowed city tucked away on the northern edge of Switzerland. It is tradition-conscious yet open-minded, a fact borne by several modern buildings in the city designed by architects such as Herzog & de Meuron, Mario Botta, Diener & Diener and Richard Meyer. The city straddles Europe’s greatest river, the Rhine, and lies at the meeting point of France, Germany and Switzerland. Despite the actual border point being beneath the Rhine River, visitors can still stand beneath the monumental meeting point with its three flags and enjoy the rare opportunity of being able to visit three countries in one day. You can’t do that every day!

One thing that will immediately stand out is the cities’ comprehensive method of transport. It is remarkably efficient and is easily accessible to all; which makes it even more appealing for a fleeting weekend visit. We spent our time wandering the Aldstadt, or Old Town, marvelling at the uniquely Swiss houses, stopping at cafés for a Swiss hot chocolate and multiple bars for Aperol, and browsing the boutique shops which were already stocked with Christmas decorations. Our aim for the weekend was to not have a set plan for sightseeing, but to simply relax and enjoy this charming city.

GET YOUR ART ON

As Switzerland’s cultural capital, you’re bound to get more than your average daily dose of culture. The city is rich in culture; boasting many historic landmarks, and is home to almost 40 museums, which makes it the city with the highest density of museums in Switzerland.

MY TIPS

  • The local language of the city is known to be Swiss German; however, we noticed more French being splashed around than German. 

  • Hop on board a Fähri (there are four wooden ferries) and gently glide across the river for a hefty Fr 1.60.

  • Be prepared for that Swiss Franc; it’ll get you.

  • A visit to the Läckerli Huus to try the traditional Basel honey cake is well worth your while. For the past 700 years or so, Basel has been famous for one product – Läckerli, a sort of hard gingerbread that initially was only made at New Year. The biscuit is a mix of honey, nuts, candied fruit and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Läckerli doesn’t exist in English, but roughly translates to ‘small and delicious’.

  • If you’re here on a weekend, you must visit Bar Rouge, located on the top two floors of the Basler Messeturm building. The place is buzzing with great music playing; not to mention the spectacular views. Even going to the toilet is fun, as each cubicle has its own window overlooking the surrounding areas.

  • If you find yourself in Basel during the summer, make sure you take the plunge and enjoy a swim in the Rhine River; and if you’re here in the winter months, do not forget that Basel has some of the best Christmas Markets in Europe.

  • If you’re a fellow chocolate lover, do not leave the city without testing and purchasing your fair share of it! You’ll regret it once you’re home and having those cravings.

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