Have you heard of Basel? I hadn’t heard much before I was invited on a press trip there last year. It’s such a extraordinary city that deserves a place on everyone’s city break list. So to encourage more people to visit, here is my ultimate guide for the best things to do on a weekend in Basel, Switzerland.
Basel is a small city in Switzerland, near to both the French and German borders. It’s filled with equal parts history and Switzerland’s modern technology and business. Whether its quirky city entertainment, delicious food or history and culture you’re after, Basel offers something for everyone.
Switzerland has a reputation for being more expensive than its neighbours, and though it’s not my top option for a budget getaway there is still lots you can do without spending much money when you’re there.
Whatever your budget when visiting Switzerland here are my favourite things to do in this beautiful city…
The 20 best things to do in Basel, Switzerland
1. Swim in the River Rhine
Swim in the river you say? Yes you can swim in the river in the middle of the city. Only in Switzerland! I for one certainly wouldn’t want to swim in The Thames in London, but the river Rhine in Basel was so inviting on a warm August day I couldn’t refuse.
The river becomes particularly busy after work on sunny days where people will meet up for a swim (or float) down the river, followed by a beer or two when they get out. It can get quite crowded and rubber rings and floats aren’t allowed.
However you do see everyone with their Wickelfisch, a waterproof bag that doubles up as a float where everyone puts their clothes and belongings to keep dry as they float along the river.
I was quite nervous floating down the river with my camera and phone inside, but everything survived and came out dry at the other end.
Floating down the Rhine in Basel turned out to be one of my most memorable holiday experiences. It felt so surreal, peaceful and fun and I highly recommend it to anyone in Basel in the summer months.
2. Enjoy cocktails on top of the city at Bar Rouge
We headed to Bar Rouge on our first evening. If you’re after creative cocktails and views across the city then this is place to be. It was quiet when we arrived at around 6pm but I imagine it gets busier as the night goes on.
3. Candlelit courtyard dinner at Volkshaus Basel
Our first dinner in Basel was as delicious as the venue was cute. I imagine this being the perfect spot for a candlelit date at night as you sip delicious wine looking into the eyes of your love.
I was there with 4 other bloggers, but I seem to remember the waiter was quite cute, the food was yum too!
4. Try baking traditional Lackerli at Confiserie Bachmann
Lackerli is the local delicacy, a hard spiced biscuit made from honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied peel and Kirsch. We had a go at making our own, dipping them in rich dark chocolate before enjoying a biscuit (or two or three) with a hot chocolate or tea.
They felt quite Christmassy being filled with spices, but that didn’t stop us enjoying them in the middle of August.
5. Eat ALL the chocolate!
So let’s just talk about the chocolate available in Switzerland. We all know Belgium is known for its chocolate, but having recently visited Belgium I can confirm that Switzerland is still top of my list.
If you’re lucky you might get some free samples if you linger in the chocolate shops looking interested long enough, however though the prices are definitely on the more expensive side I can promise you it is worth every Franc.
6. Buy more chocolate to take home
You just can’t get enough, let me tell you! The chocolate I bought from Läderach was quite simply the best chocolate I have EVER tasted. They have numerous truffles or big slabs of different flavours, from white chocolate with strawberry, to rich dark chocolate or roasted almond. They can break off little bits of the slabs so you can try every type without going too overboard with the spending.
Though I wanted to devour every last little bit in a matter of minutes I instead chose to savour each mouthful eating tiny bits at a time. The flavour is so rich and delicious a small amount can stay in your mouth for a while. Mmm if anyone wants to ever buy me any chocolate, Läderach would be my top choice!
7. Find the oldest house in Basel
We had a walking tour around Basel including the Old Town which has many buildings dating back as far as the 15th Century. See which is the oldest building you can find as you enjoy the town on foot.
8. Stop for post swim cocktails at Klybeckquai…
Beyond the end of the swimming point is the Kylbeckquai area, where there are a few bars and restaurants that have sprung up in a newly renovated industrial part of town.
It’s a bit of a walk from the centre but its got a great atmosphere, especially after work, post swim when everyone is watching the sun go down by the river with a beer in hand!
9. …or a tasty dinner at Landestelle
We stopped at Landestelle restaurant and bar where they serve big platter of meats, cheeses, dips and more to share with your friends. Not to mention the massive beers or tasty cocktails.
Really good food that doesn’t break the bank (in Swiss terms).
10. Visit the Christmas shop (whatever time of year)
When I think of Switzerland, Austria and Germany I think of Christmas. Not sure if it’s the Gluhwein, the proximity to skiing or the cute old buildings the towns are filled with.
Even though it was August when I visited Switzerland we couldn’t help but at least have a peep in the window of the 24/7, 365 days a year Johann Wanner Christmas shop in the centre of town.
Got your baubles ready for this year?
11. Drink from one of the cities 314 fountains
The water in Switzerland is fresh from natural springs and ground water and you can get it from the tap or from one of over 300 water fountains around the city.
There are so many are beautiful ornate fountains, including over 30 in the shape of mythical creatures looking out over the city. So fill your boots (or your water bottle) with as much fresh water as you need.
12. Stop for lunch at 1777…
On our last day before it was time to head home we stopped for lunch at 1777. A modern cafe in a courtyard just off from the centre of town.
Everyone was given a paper menu and pencil where you tick off what you want in your uniquely made salad or sandwich. The list was endless with different salad leaves, dressings, meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts and anything else you can think of you might need in your salad.
13. …or Markethalle
We stopped at Markethalle the first day for lunch where many locals were on their lunch breaks filling up before returning to the office.
There were numerous food stalls with different delicacies from around the world and so being spoilt for choice I got some nibbles from a couple of different stands, including some Pad Thai and dumplings. All delicious.
Some of the food stalls don’t take card so bring cash to make sure you aren’t restricted on choice.
14. Have a date night at the open air cinema by Cathedral (Münsterplatz)
The Basel open air cinema is only open throughout August in one of the big old squares. Different films are played each evening with VIP seating (extra comfy) available and various pop up market stalls and bars nearby too.
Make sure you bring a blanket as it can still get chilly in the evening.
15. Enjoy the cities captivating architecture
There is a real mix of modern architectural masterpieces alongside incredible old 15th century buildings. Look up and admire the different views from different angles.
16. Get your art fix at the Fondation Beyeler
I really enjoyed the art at Fondation Beyeler because lots of it was alive! From a couple kissing in the middle of the gallery (I promise this was the art installation) to a lady who sang a different line of a song to everyone who walked past.
There was also some more traditional art on the walls, some crazy photography and huge sculptures. The garden is beautiful to walk around too and though small I spent a fair while looking in the gallery shop too. Definitely worth the trip on a tram out from the centre of town.
17. Be in three countries at once at 3 country corner
We didn’t make it to the border triangle but it isn’t far out of town if you fancy being in three places at once. Though the middle point is technically under water you can get pretty close to being in Switzerland, Germany and France all at the same time!
18. Visit Tinguely Fountain
Possibly the best fountain in Basel though probably the only one you don’t want to drink from the Tinguely Fountain can keep you mesmerised as you watch the different old machines at work.
The nine iron figures built by Jean Tinguely are constantly moving and spurting water and sit where the stage of the old city theatre used to be.
19. Visit Basel Marketplace
The Marketplace in Basel’s Old Town is a great place to pick up your fresh fruit and veg every week day or just come for a wander, catch the tram and admire the great City Hall.
The 500 year building is still where Basel’s local government sit today.
20. Did I mention the chocolate?
Sooo chocolate anyone? Honestly do not go to Basel without visiting the chocolate shops and eating all the chocolate! I mean it!
I really recommend Basel for a city break especially in the summer when you can float down the river, enjoy a wine or beer in the sun and enjoy the stunning architecture and art the city is filled with.
I visited Basel as part of a press trip with the Basel Tourism board but as always all words and opinions are 100% true and all mine 🙂