Strategically located at the meeting point of Switzerland, France and Germany, Basel is a young and dynamic city.
It is situated on the Rhine River in the north-west of Switzerland and has a beautiful medieval old town. Its origins date back more than 2000 years.
With the highest museum density in Switzerland (as many as 40 museums!), Basel is considered the cultural capital of the country.
Moreover, it is a respectable destination for Christmas markets: around 180 exhibitors are hosted in the city’s main squares.
It really has nothing to envy the most popular destinations!
In this article you will find what to see in Basel and information with up-to-date dates if you plan to visit during the Christmas markets.
How to get to Basel
The city of Basel has an airport about ten kilometres from the centre.
From the airport, shuttle bus no. 50 takes you directly to the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) station, located one kilometre from the city centre.
It is also possible to reach Basel from various locations by train (the city has three stations). From Milan, the journey takes about 4 hours.
What to see in Basel
Strolling through the Old Town, you can see how old and modern blend to perfection.
You can admire the medieval gates, the remains of the ancient city walls, the Parliament Building and the magnificent Cathedral, alongside modern works by world-famous architects.
Also, Switzerland’s tallest building and headquarters of the well-known pharmaceutical company, the Roche Tower and the Vitra Campus, home to the Vitra Design Museum.
Every year in June, Art Basel, one of the most important modern and contemporary art fairs in the world, takes place.
Between one tour and the next, you can’t miss a snack in one of the many traditional pastry shops, where you can taste real Swiss chocolate.
Basel Cathedral was built in the 12th century and is the symbol of the city.
Located on the left bank of the Rhine, it has been rebuilt over the centuries in Romanesque, Gothic and Neo-Gothic styles.
It is characterised by two tow ers with high pinnacles: St. George’s Tower and St. Martin’s Tower. To get to the top, you have to climb 250 steps.
The effort is repaid by the fantastic view of the city, the Rhine, and even the Black Forest.
The interior of the cathedral houses the crypt that holds the remains of the Dutch philosopher Erasmus of Rotterdam.
Square surrounding the cathedral is Münsterplatz, one of the most beautiful in Europe.
A meeting place for citizens, Münsterplatz is one of two squares in Basel that hosts a Christmas market.
Information for visiting the Cathedral
Opening hours – Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 11.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on 24 December and 1 January.
What to see in Basel: Marktplatz and City Hall
The Marktplatz is the lively market square that is held on weekdays and displays traditional Swiss delicacies.
On the Marktplatz is the Town Hall, seat of the Basel government and parliament.
Impossible not to notice it with its red façade, decorated with trompe l’oeil by the German painter Hans Bock in 1609.
The Town Hall was built in the early 1500s by the Craftsmen’s Guild to show their independence from the bishop’s power.
On the battlements were placed the coats of arms of the 12 cantons that, together with Basel, formed the guild.
Inside the Town Hall, you can visit the Council Chambers, the portico, the tower and the inner courtyard.
Market: Tuesday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Town Hall: Monday to Friday 8:00-12:00 / 13:30-17:00.
What to see in Basel: Mittlere Brücke
The Mittlere Brücke is the most characteristic bridge in the city of Basel and is also the oldest bridge over the Rhine, built in 1226.
Together with the cathedral, the Mittlere Brücke is an important landmark of the city of Basel.
The medieval structure is made of granite quarried from the Gotthard and there is also a small Käppelijoch chapel (a copy made in 1905), where death sentences were carried out in the Middle Ages.
The suspended ferries on the Rhine
Rhine is the river that divides the city into two parts (Grossbasel, the old part, and Kleinbasel, the small Basel) and right on the Rhine, you can try one of the most authentic experiences , namely boarding one of the ‘suspended‘ boats.
These are four boats that continuously transport residents and tourists from one side of Basel to the other. They are called ‘suspended’ because they have no engine, they move thanks to a steel cable stretched between the two banks.
Of course, the journey is very quiet and, in true tradition, to call the ferryman, you have to ring the bell on the pontoon!
The first departure in the morning is around 7 a.m. and the last one in the evening is at 7 p.m. During the winter season, the hours are reduced.
Adults: 1.60 CHF (€1.35 approx.)
Children: 0.80 CHF (€0.67 approx.).
Basel Christmas Markets
Basel’s Christmas markets are the largest in Switzerland. The city hosts several markets during the Christmas season. Let’s see which ones.
Market at Münsterplatz
The market at Munsterplatz is one of the largest and most traditional Christmas markets in Basel.
It is located opposite the Basel Cathedral and its many wooden chalets display traditional Swiss Christmas items and sweets.
You can also find a variety of balls to decorate the Christmas tree!
On this very square, a huge Christmas tree is set up, decorated by the famous Christmas decoration shop Johann Wanner.
Market at Barfüsserplatz
Next to the Barfüsserkirche church is the Christmas market on Barfüsserplatz, a charming square in the centre of Basel’s old town.
Here, too, you will find dozens of wooden houses decorated in a Christmas theme selling handicrafts, Christmas decorations and jewellery.
Many stalls offer typical street food: frankfurters, waffles, Läkerli (typical Basel biscuits) and the inevitable mulled wine.
Timetable and current dates of the Basel Christmas Market 2023
The Basel Christmas Market is open daily from 23 November to 23 December 2023 with opening hours of 11:00-20:30.
On 23 December 2023, the Christmas market on Barfüsserplatz closes at 20:00 and that on Münsterplatz at 18:00.
What else to see in Basel
The Basel Zoo is a perfect destination at any time of year. The park is very well maintained and is full of animals living in wide open spaces.
Inaugurated in 1874, the zoo is home to numerous local and exotic animal species such as penguins, zebras, hippos, giraffes, elephants, monkeys and more.
In addition, for those who want to discover the underwater world, there is the Vivarium, the aquarium, with many marine species.
From the centre of Basel, it is just over one kilometre (15 minutes’ walk).
The zoo is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Ticket price for the Basel Zoo
Adults 20-65 years – CHF 22.00
Children 6-15 years – CHF 10.00 for the first 2 children, each additional child CHF 5.50
Youths 16-19 years – CHF 16.00
Disabled persons/seniors over 65 – CHF 20.00
What to see in Basel: Toy Museum
The Toy Museum is a fantastic place that exhibits 2500 antique teddy bears!
In addition to these, there are dolls, dolls’ houses dating from the late 19th and early 20th century, and various rides, some of which are faithful reproductions of the larger models.
Some original models can be admired at the traditional annual Basel Autumn Fair.
Opening Hours and Admission Fees
Tuesday to Sunday – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closures – Every Monday, 25 and 26 December, 01 January.
In December, also open on Mondays.
Admission fee – CHF 7, free up to 16 years.
Where to stay in Basel
Sorell Hotel Merian – Double, family rooms and suites with excellent breakfast included, in-house restaurant and private parking available at an additional cost of CHF 29 per day.
The Sorell has an excellent location on the banks of the Rhine with a beautiful terrace where you can dine in fine weather.
The room rate includes a mobility ticket with which you can travel free of charge on all public transport in the city – Book here.