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48 Hour Guide to Basel: 12 things to do in Basel

At the end of June me and my best friend Katie jumped on a plane from London, and headed to Switzerland for five days exploring a new country! We spent the five days in the country travelling between three cities: Basel, Lucerne and Zurich. All three cities were amazing and had so much to offer, check out my blog posts on 12 places to visit in Zurich, and 5 days in Switzerland Itinerary here. But for now, welcome to Zurich! 

 

 

things to do in Basel

48 Hour Guide to Basel

Basel, nestled on the Rhine river, is Switzerland’s third-largest town and, partly because of its proximity to France and Germany, has a strong sense of its own identity. You’ll see this in the city’s adoration of all things art and in its colourful, raucous yearly Fasnacht festival that is a must-see. Here are some of the reasons why everyone should visit the city at least once. I wasn’t sure at first if there would be enough for us to do in 48 Hours, espcially in the summer, as I had heard it was so great at Christmas.

But I was not dissapointed… this city has enough things to do for an entire week. Especially as you have also got great access to France and Germany too. The city of Basel is located on the northwestern border of Switzerland, and when you land you fly in to an airport which is shared with both France and Germany. This threw us off at first, but once we had worked out which side of the airport we needed to go through, it was all simple.

We jumped on a bus from the airport, to the city, for less then $5 each.If you’re a museum lover, you’ll be completely in your element in Basel, as the city is well known for its museums, but if not, there is so much more – here is my list of 12 things to do in Basel Switzerland, which includes a lot more than museums. It is, afterall, Switzerland’s 3rd largest city, and quite a cosmopolitan one too!

So, what are you waiting for, here’s my 48 Hour Guide to a weekend in Basel 

 

When to go to Basel

I visited Basel in the summer, so I’d say the best time to visit Basel is in the summer 100% as you can enjoy the hot weather, take up traditions such as swimming down The Rhine and river cruises. I’d recommend visiting between Mid May and End of June, or Mid August to End of October. April and May are often wet so best to avoid Basel then, unless the rain doesn’t bother you. However a lot of my friends have been in the winter season, especially around Christmas and they said “the best time to visit Basel is around the holidays. At this time of year, nearly every city in Europe decks itself out in its Christmas.” 

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How to get to Basel

Flying

Many London airports flying direct to Basel in Switzerland. We flew from London Luton with EasyJet on an early morning flight, with a near empty plane. It was super quick and easy! A direct flight from Basel to London usually takes around 1 hour, 30 minutes to cover the 427 mile distance. Other airlines fly there including SWISS, British Airways, and Eurowings. 

Train

If you didn;t fancy flying Switzerland is also accessible by train. All you have to do it jump on the Eurostar in London and then change at either Brussels, or Rotterdam. The average journey time by train between Basel and London is 8 hours and 25 minutes, with around 15 trains per day.

 

What’s the weather like in Basel?

Basel boasts a temperate climate and is a great place to be during summer. The banks of the Rhine become a popular destination to escape the heat, and you’ll see plenty of people swimming in its waters. The city is blessed with around 300 days of sunshine every single year, so even outside of summer you are likely to get a bit of sun.

 

READ MORE: Switzerland Itinerary: 15 places to visit in Zurich

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Where to stay in Basel: Hotel Basel

For our trip to Basel we decided to stay at the wonderfully traditional and modern Hotel Basel. The urban 4-star Hotel Basel boasts 73 bedrooms, including an array of suites, which were freshly renovated in 2018 and is situated in the heart of Basel’s old town on Spalenberg, one of the most beautiful and popular streets in the city.

Surrounded by historical buildings and romantic little streets above Marktplatz and the City Hall, the hotel is just a few steps away from other places of interest, the theatre, museums and a host of shops. Only a few steps away from the town hall and many sights and museums, this hotel offers a quiet location in the centre of the picturesque old town of Basel. 

The hotel boasts an amazing location making it perfect for business travellers and families alike. The nearby market square (Marktplatz) provides easy access to the city’s public transport network. You can also enjoy the famous Swiss cuisine in the Brasserie, the Boulevard outdoor restaurant (open in summer), or the Sperber Bar. 

Our bedroom was a standard sized room, with double bed, ensuite bathroom, stylish storage spaces, and desk. The room was the perfect size, with all the mod cons you could need for a weekend in Basel. 

BOOK HOTEL BASEL HERE

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What to do in Basel: 12 things to do in Basel in the summer

1. Go for a swim in The Rhine with your swim bag

One of my favourite experiences from our trip to Basel was swimming in The Rhine. As the weather was around 34 degrees when we visited the city, the river was our paradise, and proivided us with a place to relax, unwind and take a little dip. The thing you’ll see the most in the city when the locals go swimming are hundreds upon hundreds of the colourful Wickelfisch – a swim bag in the shape of a fish which was invented in Basel – will keep your clothes dry. And once you’ve done your exercise, after your swim, why not enjoy a drink at one of the outdoor bars on the sunny riverbank in Kleinbasel?

2. Basel at Christmas

During the festive season Basel spares no expense as the city is illuminated by fairy lights and its streets lined with over 100 Christmas trees. The famous Freie Strasse becomes one of Europe’s longest displays of decorations creating a truly magical shopping experience. While Basel’s incredibly popular market, spread over two squares in the historic old town, is one of the biggest and best in Switzerland. Christmas is a Basel experience that’s not to be missed.

3. Go for lunch at Urf7

As soon as we arrived in Basel, we checked in to Hotel Basel and then we headed straight out to to lunch to meet our friend. We decided to opt for a locals favourite Ufer 7 which is located right on the banks of the Rhine in Basel, and is only a stone’s throw from the Mittlere Brücke. Ufer7 has something for everyone, including an array of make-your-own salad bowls, burgers, and chicken dishes. The restaurant offers exclusive wines and beers, delicious drinks, tasty coffee specialities and creative cocktails

4. Visit one of Basel’s many museums, especially the Kunstmuseum

Across the city there are over 40 museums to choose from including the world’s largest collection of stuffed teddy bears, an all together unusual walk through the history of pharmacies and a top-notch natural history museum, just in case you didn’t get your fix at the zoo. They represent a broad spectrum of collections with a marked concentration in the fine arts and house numerous holdings of international significance. With at least three dozen institutions, not including the local history collections in the surrounding communities, the region offers an extraordinarily high density of museums. One of the most famous is the Kunstmuseum, which houses the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland, and is listed as a heritage site of national significance.

READ MORE: Wellness Zürich: B2 Boutique Hotel + Thermalbad Spa Review

things to do in Basel

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things to do in Basel

5. Visit some of their Markets

There are many great markets all across Basel, particularly at Marktplatz in the city’s historic old town where you can pick up all the fresh foods you desire or sample some local delicacies. If that doesn’t pique your appetite, the delightful odours of Basel’s Indoor Market may; specialities from all over the world are brought together under one, massive domed roof. There is also the Stadtmarkt is where you’ll find Basel’s regional producers hawking their meats, fruits, vegetables and flowers for good prices. It’s a lively market which has been in action for many decades. And for the foodies, head to Stadtmarkt’s sister “gourmet” market that takes place every Monday and is newly launched in 2017. It features an eclectic array of street-food vendors selling food that’ll get your taste buds going. 

6. Go for dinner at NOMAD

For dinner on our first evening we were looking for a restaurant with great food, and even better atmosphere and a friend of ours has recommend NOMAD. Here you can enjoy your favourite dishes from across the world – discovered by urban nomads on their travels. The kitchen team have clearly spent time and effort pulling together their amazing menu, through their own culinary travels, bringing the wanderlust from noon to night. And then after your meal, the amazing bartenders will mix you a cocktail at the bar!

7. Party at Basler Fascnacht (Switzerland’s biggest festival)

The three day carnival kicks off cold and early at 4 a.m. with masked musicians parading through the streets of Basel’s old town and continues in the same vein with parades, satirical poets and plenty of beer and food on offer. It falls on the first Monday after Ash Wednesday every year and I have been told is one of the best things to see in Basel. 

8. Explore Basel with a tour guide to find out more about the history and culture

One afternoon in Basel, we joined a lovely lady called Caroline, who took us on a culture tour of the city. She took us around the city for three hours, through some of the old town, up to some viewpoints, showed us where Roger Federer got married, and showed us the iconic Town Hall. The curiously red Rathaus (town hall) with its elaborately decorated inner courtyard will leave you puzzled, while the Basel Cathedral will leave you in awe, particularly when you gaze out across the city from the Pfalz, a terrace overlooking the Rhine river.

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9. Spend the afternoon on a food tour (FoodTour ICONIC) 

On our second day in Basel we booked in to join the self-guided FoodTour ICONIC. The tour lasts around three hours, and it takes you away from the usual tourist attractions and give you the opportunity to get to know “iconic Basel” at a slow pace. This food tour was right up my street, being able to enjoy the famous Swiss cuisine at our own pace, stopping and starting as we needed. During the tour you will visit five establishments in total and each one does something different. We ended up visiting an ice cream parlour, a chocolate shop, a food market, a sustainable DIY supermarket and coffee shop. Tip: Starting before 11am means you will arrive on time for lunch at the KLARA food court, where you can look forward to delicious lunchtime snacks (until 2 pm). The starting point is at Bäckerei KULT in St. Johann, Elsässerstrasse 43, 4056 Basel and the end point is Xocolatl, Marktgasse 6, 4051 Basel.

10. Explore Altstadt

Altstadt is the old city of Basel and it has all the makings of a typical pretty Swiss town. There are hundreds of colorful buildings, cobble-stoned streets, impressive views of the river, and beautiful city walls. The old Town has a lot of history and is definitely the place to head if you want to learn more about the city of Basel and Switzerland. If the weather’s good, it’s also a good idea to stop around here for a coffee or a bite to eat.

11. Go on the search for animals at Basel Zoo

Basel’s zoo first opened its doors in 1874 and is the oldest, and one of the largest, in Switzerland. Animals from all across the world can be seen, including many endangered ones The zoo is non-profit and funds go toward helping conservation and breeding programmes around the world. In 2024 the zoo aims to open the ‘Ozeanium’, a large aquarium dedicated to showcasing the world’s oceans and inspiring people to learn about their vital role in our planet’s health.

12. Jump aboard a boat for an evening river cruise

Through a recommendation from a friend, they told us the best thing to do was to jump onboard a river cruise for the evening. From April to October the company Basler Personenschifffahrt offers regular cruises on the Rhine. Enjoy the Rhine on a trip through the locks at Birsfelden on the way to Rheinfelden or discover the city and region from the water on a lunch cruise as far as the border triangle. From 19 April 2019, the evening cruise will offer relaxed dinner and sunset cruises. They also take you to the edge of Switzerland where you can also see France and Germany.

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Now you can see what I meant by there being a ton of things to do in Basel Switzerland and why I recommend a visit to Basel as much as I do. It would take you much more than a long weekend to cross all of these must-visit attractions in Basel off your list.  So get that flight booked and start exploring! 

Have you been to Basel? Let me know your favourite thing to do in Basel!

 

*Thank you to Basel Tourism, who helped source a hotel and activities for me and Katie whilst in the city. All opinions are my own, as always.

 

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The Best Weekend Trips in the UK

10 Things to do in Aberdeen

Thank you for reading and as always happy adventuring! 

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Sophie X