Basel is the 3rd largest city in Switzerland after Zurich and Geneva. It is located on the bank of the Rhine River, in the northwest part of Switzerland, right on the corner of Switzerland, France and Germany.
Some of the best things to do in Basel are exploring the Old Town and tourist attractions such as the Basel Minster, University of Basel, Kunstmuseum, and Fondation Beyeler. You can stroll along the Rhine river waterfront and enjoy vibrant nightlife.
Basel is nicknamed the cultural capital of Switzerland due to the high concentration of museums, theaters, and art galleries, including the world-famous museums such as the Kunstmuseum and Fondation Beyeler.
Basel is home to the well-preserved medieval old town with narrow cobblestone streets and well-known sights such as the Basel Minster, City Hall, and the Marktplatz.
The city is also home to the University of Basel, which is the oldest university in Switzerland. It is Switzerland ‘s center of the pharma industry with many pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
22 Best things to do in Basel, Switzerland
1. Altstadt (Old City)
The Basel Old Town is packed with the narrow alleyways, charming squares, and old buildings dating back to the 15th century, and tourist attractions such as the Town Hall, Kunstmuseum, and the Basel Cathedral.
The Old Town is divided by the Rhine river into two neighborhoods, Grossbasel and Kleinbasel. You can explore both areas by walking across the Mittlere Brücke, which is one of the longest and oldest bridges in the city connecting banks of river Rhine.
In Grossbasel, you can visit the vibrant red town hall and the 11th century Marktplatz, or Market Square, which hosts a daily market selling local products, as well as a location of the Christmas market in December.
Old City is the central location and is the best place to book a hotel in Basel if you are visiting the city for the first time. If you stay here, you will be located in the middle of the action, and surrounded by many restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions.
2. Kunstmuseum Basel
Kunstmuseum Basel is one of the best things to do in Basel because it is a world-renowned museum of fine arts that has a collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. If you love art and history, this is a place to visit.
Kunstmuseum has three buildings including:
- The Hauptbau has a collection of art from postwar modernism, Renaissance, and medieval times.
- The Gegenwart show contemporary art
- The Neubau is the newest building to show special exhibitions.
Apart from the permanent collection, the Kunstmuseum Basel also has some temporary exhibitions of contemporary and historical art.
Kunstmuseum is set in the city center, very close to the SBB train station, and Badischer Bahnhof train station by a short streetcar ride.
3. Basel Minster
Basel Minster (Cathedral) is one of the best free things to do in Basel. The Basler Münster, along with the Middle bridge, is perhaps Basel’s most iconic attraction.
The Basel Cathedral was completed in 1500, and built on the former episcopal church with the Romantic and Gothic styles. It has stunning architecture with red sandstone walls, twin towers, and colorful roof tiles.
The Cathedral’s piazza is a popular meeting place, often a location of concerts and events, while the Pfalz terrace provides stunning views over the city and the river.
The Basel Cathedral is located on a hill high above river Rhine, on its left shore, between Wettsteinbrücke and Mittlere Brücke. It is easy to reach by trams and foot.
4. Museum Tinguely
Museum Tinguely has a permanent collection of works by one of the most famous Swiss painters and sculptors of the 20th century, Jean Tinguely.
Museum Tinguely was opened in 1996, and designed by the Ticinese architect Mario Botta. It is located close to river Rhine, in Solitude Park.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions and events, and has a café and a shop
5. Basel Paper Mill
Basel Paper Mill is one of the unique things to do and see in Basel for families and children where you can learn about the history of papermaking and printing in Basel and join a workshop to make your own paper.
This museum is located in a medieval paper mill. Basel Paper Mill was founded in the 14th century and operated until the 19th century, making high-quality paper for printing books and documents.
The mill played a significant role in the development of the printing industry in Europe with its innovative techniques. You can get more information about the museum at their website.
6. Basel City Hall
Basel City Hall, or Rathaus, is the seat of the Basel government and parliament, situated on the main square of the Old Town, Marktplatz.
Basel City Hall was constructed from 1504 to 1514 to replace the former seat of government after the earthquake in 1356. The building has a red facade, the tower and frescoes.
Basel City Hall is known for its ornate exterior and interior decorations. The City Hall is often used as a location of events and ceremonies. You can take guided tours of its historic chambers and halls.
7. Basel Historical Museum
Basel Historical Museum is an important cultural history museum on the Rhine. Located in the Barfüsserkirche, the museum has a large collection of artifacts, documents, and works of art that shows Basel’s history from prehistoric period to the present days.
You can also find a library and archive that contain a wealth of material on the history of Basel and the surrounding region.
8. Spalentor, old city gates of Basel
Spalentor, or Gate of Spalen, is one of the three city gates still remaining from the 15th century city fortifications. Other two gates are the St. Alban-Tor and the St. Johanns-Tor.
It is located in the Spalen quarter of the city, on the west side of the Rhine river. It was built in the 15th century and has served as a fortification and as a symbol of the city’s independence.
9. Basel Zoo
Basel Zoological Garden is one of the best things to do and see in Basel for families and kids because it is home to a wide variety of animals, including lions, gorillas, elephants, and polar bears.
The zoo is also known for its conservation efforts and its focus on research and education. It is a popular tourist destination in Switzerland and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Basel Pfalz is a viewing platform above the Rhine river in the Old Town of Basel, and behind the Basel Minster.
Pfalz offers stunning views of the old town and the river, and on a clear day you can view the Border Triangle, the meeting place of three countries.
11. Antikenmuseum Basel
Antikenmuseum Basel is the Basel Antiquities Museum, part of the Swiss National Museum, located in Basel city center.
The Antikenmuseum Basel displays a collection of ancient Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art and artifacts with a range of objects from daily life, such as pottery, coins, and jewelry, as well as sculptures and other decorative objects.
The museum also has a library with a large collection of books and manuscripts related to classical archaeology.
The museum is open to the public, and offers a variety of educational programs and events.
12. Pharmazie-Historisches Museum
The Pharmazie-Historisches Museum is the Museum of the History of Pharmacy that is dedicated to the history of pharmacy and medicine.
The Pharmacy museum is housed in a beautiful 16th-century building called Zum Vorderen Sessel, in the center of the old town.
Visiting the museum, you can learn the history of pharmacy and medicine, as well as the history of the University of Basel’s Faculty of Medicine.
The museum also has a library with a large collection of rare books on pharmacy and medicine.
13. Spielzeug Welten Museum
Spielzeug Welten Museum is the Toy Worlds Museum Basel, home to the world’s biggest collection of antique teddy bears, as well as antique dolls, doll houses.
The museum is suitable for all ages and is a popular destination for families and children.
The museum covers 1,000 square m of space, and is located at the heart of downtown, in Barfüss Platz. Spielzeug Welten Museum is the largest of its kind in Europe.
Some of the highlights of the museum include a miniature toy town, a model train exhibit, and a collection of vintage board games.
14. Fondation Beyeler
Fondation Beyeler is an art museum in Riehen, near Basel. The museum was opened in 1997, and founded by Ernst Beyeler, art collector and dealer, and his wife Hildy.
The museum was designed by the world-renowned architect Renzo Piano in an idyllic park.
Fondation Beyeler is internationally known for its collection of modern and contemporary art of famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Vincent van Gogh.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions of work by contemporary artists.
15. The Rhine River
Rhine River Basel runs through the city of Base and it is the iconic landmark of the city. There are plenty of things to do and see around the Rhine River including:
- You can walk or cycle along Rhine promenade and the bridges connecting two banks of the river
- Take the river ferries, or boat tour along the river and see the sights of the city from a different perspective.
- Swimming in the Rhine especially in summer
- Try stand-up paddling in the middle of the Rhine
- Try some of the local food and drink, such as Swiss chocolate, cheese, and beer.
- Visit the Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe, which is located just a short distance from Basel.
16. Dreiländereck (Three Country Corner)
Dreiländereck is the meeting point of France, Germany and Switzerland. The Three Country Corner is a popular tourist destination, as it allows visitors to stand in three countries at the same time.
Dreiländereck is easily accessible from the city center of Basel by taking a short train ride from the Basel SBB train station to the Dreiländereck station. From there, it is just a short walk to the actual tripoint, which is marked by a monument.
The area around the Dreiländereck is also home to several hiking trails, so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the region while exploring the tripoint.
17. The Rehberger-Weg
The Rehberger-Weg, or Rehberger Way, is a 5km path connecting the Fondation Beyeler in the Swiss’ village of Riehen to the Vitra Campus in Germany’s village of Weil am Rhein.
You can take a guided tour with 24 stops by the artist Tobias Rehberger. To reach the Fondation Beyeler, you can take tram no.2 from Bahnhof Basel SBB to Badischer Bahnhof tram stop, and change to tram no. 6 to reach the Fondation Beyeler tram stop.
18. Vitra Design Museum
The Vitra Design Museum is one of the most prominent museums of design in the world. It is located in Germany in Weil am Rhein, dedicated to modern furniture design and architecture.
The Design Museum is managed by the Swiss company Vitra, which produces furniture and home accessories. The has a collection of works of Charles and Ray Eames, Verner Panton, and Jean Prouvé, as well as contemporary designers such as Jasper Morrison and the Campana Brothers.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions on a variety of design-related topics. The building that houses the museum was designed by the architect Frank Gehry and is itself considered a work of architectural design.
19. St. Alban neighborhood
Saint-Alban district is conveniently located close to the Old Town and the River Rhine, and close to attractions such as the the Basel Zoo, St. Alban Church, and the St. Jakob Park.
The neighborhood is packed with townhouses, villas, and countless of Gothic architecture, and green space such as the Merian Gärten, and Park im Grünen.
20. Bottmingen Castle
Bottmingen Castle is a 15th century castle located in Bottmingen, south of Basel. The castle is surrounded by water in a beautiful park, and was owned by a number of different noble families throughout centuries.
Today, the castle is open to the public, a popular place for tourists, weddings, and banquets. Visitors can take guided tours of the castle and learn about its history, as well as explore the castle grounds and gardens.
Spalenberg is an area located in Basel’s Old Town, close to the Spalen Gate. The area is packed with its alleyways, 13th and 14th centuries buildings, quirky boutiques, cafes,art galleries, and gift shops.
Spalenberg is a great place to do shopping and window shopping along with Freie Strasse.
22. Basel Chocolate Shops
There are many chocolate shops in the city of Basel, known for its high-quality chocolate and chocolate-making tradition. Some of the most popular chocolate shops in Basel include:
- Lindt Chocolate Shop Basel
- Confiserie Schiesser
- Confiserie Bachmann
- Confiserie Brändli
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Basel best known for?
Basel is one of the oldest cities in Switzerland best known for its medieval old town, picturesque Rhine river, with cultural and historic landmarks such as the Basel Minster, Fondation Beyeler, and Kunstmuseum. It is also home to the oldest university of the country and many pharmaceutical & biotech companies, making it the pharmaceutical hub of Switzerland.
What is there to do in Basel?
There are many things to do in Basel including exploring the ancient Old Town, taking a stroll along the Rhine waterfront, visiting the city’s many museums, art galleries, and theaters such as Kunstmuseum and Fondation Beyeler. The city also offers lively nightlife with many bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
Is Basel Switzerland worth a visit?
Basel is well worth a visit because the city has rich cultural history, many museums & galleries, and vibrant nightlife. Basel also provides a unique blend of Swiss, German, and French influences because it is ideally located on the corner of Switzerland, Germany, and France.
How many days do you need in Basel?
It really depends on your interests and what you want to do in Basel. Two or three days is a good amount of time to see the major main attractions. There is plenty to do and see, including visiting museums, exploring the Old Town, and taking a stroll along the Rhine river.
What are the free things to do in Basel?
Some of the free things to do in Basel, including taking a free walking tour or free bike tour of the city, exploring the Old Town, Rhine riverfront, gardens & parks, and attending music festivals and art exhibitions.
What to see in Basel in one day?
Some of the best things to do in Basel for a day are visiting the Old Town, Basel Minster, Rhine riverfront & bridges, as well as museums such as the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Fondation Beyeler. You can enjoy lively nightlife, with many bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
What are the unusual things to do in Basel?
Some unique things to do in Basel include having a party at the Elizabethan Church, visiting the Tinguely Fountain, and the oldest university in Switzerland, touring Basel City Hall, and exploring a medieval paper workshop at Basel Paper Mill Museum.
What to see in Basel in 2 days?
In just two days, visitors to Basel can see top attractions like the Rhine river, the Basel Minster, the Fondation Beyeler art museum, and the Old Town, featuring charming medieval streets and squares. There are also several renowned festivals and events held in the city, such as the Basel Tattoo and the Art Basel fair.
What are the best things to do in Basel in winter?
Some of the best things to do in Basel in winter are visiting the Christmas markets, ice skating at the Rhine Promenade, visiting the historic Old Town and its museums and art galleries. You can also enjoy nightlife with numerous bar & restaurant options.
What are the best things to do in Basel at night?
Some of the best things to do include enjoying a drink at one of the many trendy bars and clubs, seeing a live performance at the theater, or taking a stroll along the Rhine river to admire the stunning illuminated bridges.
So there you have it, the best things to do in Basel, Switzerland for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.