is one of Switzerland’s more underrated tourist destinations. Yet, sharing a border with both France and Germany, it’s also one of the country’s most cosmopolitan cities. Find out what’s on offer with Ben West’s 24-hour guide.
0700-0900. Breakfast at the Grand Cafe Hugenin (Barfüsserplatz 6, 061 272 0550), a traditional café in the centre of Basel. It is a good spot for people-watching. Be sure to get a table on the first floor by the window overlooking the square. Another good option is the smart but cosy Confiserie Schiesser (Marktplatz 19, 061 261 6077), overlooking the market square and town hall, a Basel institution since 1870.
0900-1100. You’re spoilt for choice for a dose of culture in Basel. It has several world-class museums and galleries including the Kunstmuseum Basel (St Alban-Graben 16, 061 206 6262). This consistently has very high-quality exhibitions and an impressive permanent exhibition spanning artworks from the 15th century onwards. Contemporary works are at its Museum für Gegenwartskunst (St Alban-Rheinweg 60). Walking from one gallery to the other makes a nice little stroll through the Old Town, and the Kunstmuseum has a pleasant café too.
Basler Papiermühle (St Alban-Tal 37, 061 225 9090) is in the vicinity of the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, and is also a good place for lunch or a coffee. This Swiss museum for paper, writing and printing has workshops set within a paper mill from the Middle Ages, and the hammering of the stamping machine combined with the smell of fresh printer’s ink transport you back to that time.
Museum Tinguely (Paul Sacher-Anlage 2, 061 681 9320) is a quaint little excursion, a museum devoted to the work of this prominent Swiss painter and sculptor.
1100-1300. Basel is a great city to wander around. As well as a beautiful medieval old town centre, it has some excellent examples of contemporary architecture including art museums built by architects like Renzo Piano, Mario Botta and Herzog & de Meuron. Older architectural highlights include the Romanesque Münster (cathedral) and a Renaissance Rathaus (town hall). Another must for visitors is a trip on one of the four ferries crossing the Rhine River from the more industrialised Kleinbasel (‘Little Basel’) to the grand Grossbasel (‘Big Basel’).
1300-1500. Werkraum Warteck (Burgweg 7-15, 061 693 3439) has a very nice atmosphere and is a good spot for lunch. It is a workshop community with lots of art projects operating in the spaces of a former brewery. As well as seeing craftspeople, visual artists, dancers and artists at work, there is a restaurant and community space too. Werkraum Warteck has inspired and encouraged a lot of young Basel artists. The Cantina Don Camillo restaurant on the second floor of the former brewery is accessible via Burgweg 7 using the elevator, or Burgweg 15 taking the stairs to the second floor. The menu includes vegan options.
1500-1700. Shopping in Basel is a delight. Small boutiques, specialist shops and designer labels can be found especially around Spalenberg in the Old Town and the Matthäus neighbourhood, around Feldberg and Klybeckstrasse.
Basel’s most hip and stylish shops include Set and Sekt (Rümelinsplatz 5, 061 271 0765) with high fashion items for men and women. Seven Sisters (Spalenberg 38, 061 262 0980) has colourful, funky homewares, while Kleinbasel (Schneidergasse 24, 061 322 4482) and Komplott (rear of Klybeckstrasse 8, 061 321 7654) feature products by Basel clothes and accessories designers. Okay Art (Landskronstrasse 69, 061 361 4031) has a warehouse full of fabulous vintage furniture, although it is only open on Saturdays (10am-6pm).
1700-1900. The Cargobar (St Johanns-Rheinweg 46, 061 321 0072) on the Rhine is an ideal spot for a pre-dinner aperitif. It’s a popular meeting place for architects, writers, artists, musicians and the like. Later in the evening, DJs play until the early hours. Trendy young things flock to a relatively new bar on the scene, Garage Basel (Binningerstrasse 14), while the who’s who of Basel hit the Restaurant Kunsthalle and its Campari Bar (Steinenberg 7, 061 272 4233).
1900-2100. A younger, chic crowd enjoy the excellent Italian food at Acqua (Binningerstrasse 14, 061 564 6666), while Nordbahnhof Thai Restaurant (Mülhauserstrasse 123, 061 534 0872) is another cool eatery to be seen at in Basel. Visit cosy, traditional Restaurant Fischerstube (Rheingasse 45, 061 692 9200) and try the homemade Ueli beer, brewed at the restaurant’s own in-house microbrewery. A 30-minute guided tour of the brewery is possible, visiting the cellar dating back to the 15th century.
After 2100. Sip a delicious cocktail at the super stylish bar at five-star hotel Les Trois Rois (Blumenrain 8, 061 260 5050) – it is billed ‘the place where Basel meets’, and with good reason. Colourful Baragraph4 (Kohlenberg 10, 061 261 8864), one of the smallest yet coolest bars in the city, is a popular hangout for Basel DJs.
A popular destination for locals wanting a cosy and chilled night out is the intimate, vault-like Bird’s Eye Jazz Club (Kohlenberg 20, 061 263 3341), with a regular programme of live performances. For something more lively, head to The Ship (Westquaistrasse 19, 061 631 4240), a chic bar and club with live music and DJ sets providing a pulsating end to a perfect day.
Book now and make your own 24 hour adventure, with our flights from London to Basel.
Written by World Travel Guide.