Famed as the birthplace of Roger Federer, the beautiful Swiss city of Basel has all the hallmarks of a cosmopolitan city break destination, without the crowds.
Located on the mighty Rhine, at the border with France and Germany, Switzerland’s so-called cultural capital is home to a panoply of world class museums and galleries, a host of lively festivals and fairs (including Art Basel, Fasnacht and Weinmesse Basler) and one of Europe’s prettiest old towns.
Visit the stunning Rathaus (Town Hall) with its charming inner courtyard, marvel at the magnificent cathedral, wander the picturesque streets of the old town and admire the views over the city from the Wisenberg Tower, then take a break at one of the many riverside bars and cafes for a hot chocolate or a glass of Pinot Noir (known locally as Blauburgunder) from one of the wineries just outside of town. No trip to Basel would be complete without sampling the city’s signature sweet treat Basler Läckerli - a traditional hard spice biscuit made with honey, almonds, candied fruits - or without visiting the world renowned art museum Foundation Beyeler in the Riehen district northwest of the city. The collection here includes works by Cézanne, Monet and Warhol, to name but three, and the building itself was designed specifically for this exhibition by the acclaimed architect Renzo Piano.
One of the advantages of Basel being a less well known city break destination is that accommodation prices are generally favourable compared with other Swiss cities like Zürich and Lucerne. Quality though, and quantity of choice, are not compromised with the city offering everything from contemporary city boltholes to concept hotels and luxurious riverside apartments. Dating back centuries, the five star Les Trois Rois in the heart of the city offers elegant accommodation and first class service. It counts James Joyce and Pablo Picasso amongst its former guests and boasts Basel’s only three star Michelin restaurant, Cheval Blanc by Peter Knogl. Less grand but equally compelling is Der Teufelhof, a unique complex comprising two hotels intended to serve as a living work or art, two restaurants including Michelin starred Bel Etage, a theatre, coffee lounge and wine cellar.
Basel’s wining and dining scene is distinguished by its rich variety. Street food, market halls, traditional pubs and upmarket gourmet restaurants are all plentiful and as such the city offers something to suit all tastes and budgets. Food tours highlighting local culinary traditions are also becoming a popular activity for gastro-tourists here. As well as the aforementioned Michelin star eateries, Ackermannshof, close to the river, is notable for its award wining wine list, stylish bar area and modern, Mediterranean cuisine, whilst Roots - a two star Michelin restaurant directly on the Rhine - serves a seasonal menu showcasing the region’s finest ingredients. For wine lovers, Consum in multicultural Kleinbasel offers an extensive list of Swiss and International varieties along with platters of cured meats and cheeses.
Despite its under-the-radar status, Basel is an excellent and rewarding choice for a European city break. A vibrant and progressive city filled with amazing architecture, beautiful green spaces and a fabulous food and wine scene, it’s also one of very few places on Earth where you can stand in one spot and be in three different countries!
Blumenrain 8, Basel, 4001
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