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So you’ve decided to head to Basel, Switzerland’s third biggest city. Read on to discover the top 20 Basel tourist attractions that you should make sure to visit during your time in the city.
Basel’s cathedral dominates the skyline of the old town and is one of the city’s main landmarks. Discover the cathedral’s fascinating history and take in splendid views of Basel from the Pfalz, its perfectly placed terrace.
Basel’s infamous 3-day carnival is the biggest in Switzerland and starts on the Monday after Ash Wednesday. Over the 3 days, masked musicians march through the streets of the city’s old town, pounding on drums and blowing on piccolos. It’s a riotous, dark and funny time to be in Basel, when everyone’s focus is simply on having a good time.
Noted as a site of national significance in Switzerland, the Kunstmuseum is the largest public art collection in the entire country, testament to the city’s devotion to the arts. Explore the fascinating exhibitions that the museum is currently running here.
Basel’s zoo, known by locals as “Zolli” is one of the the oldest in Switzerland and first opened its doors in 1874. Animals from all over the world are kept there, many of them incredibly endangered. The zoo is non-profit and gives proceeds to conservation programmes working to save animals in the wild.
The Museum Tingeuly is dedicated to Jean Tingeuly, the Swiss sculptor and painter. Aside from the largest collection of Tingeuly’s work, the museum also hosts a wide variety of music and art exhibitions.
Basel’s Museum of Cultures brings together the cultures of the world alongside exhibitions dedicated to the history and life of the Swiss people.
With one of the world’s largest collections of stuffed bears (they have over 6,000 teddy bears), the Basel Toy Museum in Basel is certainly an impressive collection of all things toys. Across its four floors there are toys that’ll take you back to your childhood and plenty more to keep you intrigued.
Like many of the natural history museums across Switzerland, Basel’s is well maintained and well-stocked with curiosities, as well as bigger showpiece specimens that make it a great way to spend a couple of hours. There are exhibitions that guide you through all of the natural sciences and include fascinating rocks and minerals all the way to extinct flora and fauna that died out long ago.
Fittingly for a city devoted to the arts and culture, Basel is home to the Swiss Architecture Museum which in turn is focused on showcasing the best of contemporary art from Switzerland and beyond.
Satire and pastiches finds their home in Basel’s cartoon and caricature, the only museum in Switzerland devoted entirely to this art fun and humorous form. Be sure to pass through the museum shop and browse the cartoon books.
Nearby to Basel is Augusta Raurica, the site of the best preserved Roman theatre in the northern Alps. Every year Switzerland’s biggest Roman festival kicks off in August, complete with gladiator fighting and music using ancient instruments.
Head to the Marktplatz in the centre of Basel and you’ll be confronted with the 500-year-old Town Hall that dominates the square, in part because of its strikingly red hue. Within the building sits the canton’s government and you’ll see the city’s coat of arms in pride of place from in front of the building.
Basel’s landmark bridge across the Rhine first opened way back in 1226 and has been a symbol of the city ever since, as well as a historically important feature for trade in the country. Today it as a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, particularly to snap photos of it lit up at night.
The Spalentor, as it is also known, dates back to the 1400s when the city was defended by a string of fortifications. Through the Gate of Spalen flowed traffic from the important market of Alsace and today, you can climb the ramparts to take advantage of views across the city’s old town to the mountains beyond.
You should eat at Basel’s popular Markthalle at least once during your time in the city. It’s packed full of so many food stalls cooking up dishes from around the world that you’ll probably struggle deciding what to choose.
The biggest and best art exhibition in Europe is hosted by Basel every year. 291 art galleries showcase over 4,000 pieces each year in an event that brings the art world to Switzerland to admire the very best of the world’s contemporary art.
Learn the historic art of paper making at the Basel Paper Mill where you can also see old techniques like book-binding on fully functioning machines, or try your hand out at it.
One of Basel’s most beautiful parks on the outskirts of the city, the Merian Gärten is the place to go to for a spot of relaxing. Highlights include Europe’s largest collection of irises (over 1,500 species), an English garden and the not-to-be-missed rhododendron valley.
Spread across two of the city’s main squares in the old town, the Basel Christmas Market is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland as the city’s streets are turned into a glorious blaze of fairy lights and Christmas trees. The market opens in late November until late December.
Walking through the Gate of Saint Alban and beneath its well-preserved tower takes you into the winding streets of the St. Alban district, the heart of Basel’s historic centre. The gate is part of the same fortifications as the Gate of Spalen, also dating back to the 1400s.
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