Basel – it may not be top of your list of places to go, but for under one hundred pounds for a return flight from the UK, then I would encourage you all to think again. Basel is the third-largest town in Switzerland. Nestled on the river Rhine, the city hosts a vibrant, cultural scene with a range of art galleries, museums and theatres, as well as a Mediterranean climate with around 300 days of sunshine every year.
In this article, I am going to share with you 10 good reasons why you need to pay a visit and what better place to start, than a trip to the world of chocolate…
1. Xocolatl – Whether you want to buy a handmade bar of chocolate, or sit down and have a freshly prepared chocolate drink Xocolatl, at the Basel Schifflände is a must. The shop stocks every type of chocolate you could ever dream of, from over 40 manufacturers, drinking chocolate, pralines, and much, much more! I like to come here when I visit, pretend I am buying gifts for my family and friends, and then return to my hotel room and enjoy them at my leisure.
2. Basel Zoo – To avoid returning home from a trip to Basel much heavier, my second recommendation has to be a leisurely stroll around Basel Zoo. It is the most visited, and oldest zoo in Switzerland, just a short walk from the Basel SBB train station. The zoo is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It hosts breeding programs for endangered species such as the Indian rhinoceros, the snow leopard and the South African cheetah. If you are there in the winter months, make sure you join the Penguin walk – but remember the King Penguins go first!
3. Basel Old Town – If you need a longer walk, then why not proceed on foot and discover Basel Old Town. The views from both sides of the Rhine are iconic, and you can even rest a while on the banks of the Rhine and watch the world pass by. If architecture is your thing, then why not pay a trip to City Hall – the seat of the Basel government. The building hosts a red façade, an iconic tower and some breathtaking mural paintings (frescoes).
4. Museum Tinguely – If you continue to walk along the north side of the river Rhine from the Old Town, you will eventually reach the Museum Tinguely. If you think art is not your bag, then think again, Jean Tinguely’s work is surprisingly interactive – and you can easily spend a couple of hours looking around the various exhibits. The museum is also home to many other exhibits from his friends and contemporaries, as well as some more modern artists such as Yves Klein and Bernhard Luginbühl.
On a hot summer’s day, rather than walking back to the city from the Museum Tinguely, then why not do what the locals do and take the river. It’s free and there is no queuing for a boat. No, you just simply get in between the Wettsteinbrücke and Johanniterbrücke bridges, relax, and let the current take you downstream.
5. The locals call this Rhine Swimming. I took a while to be convinced – I mean if someone asked me to swim in the River Thames, I would probably think they had lost the plot but in Basel, they invested heavily in sewage treatment facilitates and methods to divert domestic wastewater away from the river, so it is a surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable experience.
Whilst there is nowhere to store belongings, even that is not a problem for the Swiss. You simply buy a Wickelfisch. These are brightly coloured, fish-shaped swim-bags, sold all over the city, and guarantee to keep your clothes and possessions dry for the duration of your swim in the Rhine. Sadly, despite my best attempts it also kept my work laptop dry!
6. After a swim, I always feel a little hungry and you can pick up some great seasonal dishes and snacks from the Ristorante La Sosta at the Toy Worlds Museum. As the name suggests, it is also a museum boasting over 6000 teddy bears, dolls and carousels and is a must for all those, like me, that remain young at heart (even if some of the dolls did give me the creeps!).
Do not forget to visit the gift shop, they sell a range of mementoes and yes you’ve guessed it – more Swiss Chocolate…
7. If you want to buy yourself an extravagant treat or in my case, pretend that I have the money for such extravagance, then make sure you stop by at Mezger Watches and Jewellery, located on Freie Strasse. It is a local company, where the watches have pride of place, and so they should for some of those prices!
8. If you want to adventure outside of Basel, just under one hour away located in Rheinfelden, you can wind down at Sole Uno Wellness. It is a therma-spa, boasting three types of saltwater pool, a fire and ice pool and many different shower and sauna options. There is an outdoor whirlpool, easy to enter, but harder to get out – I ended up grabbing the arm of a stranger in order to leave the whirlpool. I felt a little embarrassed at the time, but I quickly realised the chances of meeting this person again would be quite slim! For a small additional cost, you can also get a massage, cosmetic or beauty treatment and a perfect pick-me-up.
9. Another great place to go and just a short train ride from Basel is the small town of Lucerne. The mountain views are simply spectacular and there are many famous attractions to see – such as the wooden chapel bridge, named after the nearby St Peter’s Chapel. This bridge hosts a number of interior paintings dating back to the seventeenth century, which had to be painstakingly restored after a devastating fire back in 1993. Whilst in Lucerne, I recommend taking a guided tour of the old town, and a short cruise around the lake, you won’t be disappointed.
10. My final reason for visiting Basel is the Christmas Market at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. I mean what is not to love about a Christmas Market – with nearly 200 wooden chalets, there really is something for everyone. Offerings range from regional products, handmade gifts to culinary delights…waffles, mulled wine, Swiss raclette – oh and plenty of Swiss Chocolate.