Basel is well known for its museums, its location on the Rhein river, and its rich history. Follow this guide if you are spending 48 hours in Basel!
Here you can find a map of all the locations I suggest in this article.
The Lällekönig is a larger-than-life head outside of the restaurant the Alchemist wearing a crown, and with a mechanical mechanism sticking out his tongue and rolling his eyes.
"Lälli" in Basel German means "tongue" and "König" in German means "king." The exact date the Lällekönig was erected is unknown, but its first documentation is from 1658. While its original meaning is unknown, later interpretations say that he was sticking his tongue out at Kleinbasel (the half of the city on the opposite side of the Rhein). The original Lällekönig is housed at the Historical Museum in Basel.
2. Mittlere Brücke (Middle Bridge)
The Mittlere Brücke was built in 1226. It is Basel's oldest Rhein crossing. It was also the only bridge that crossed the Rhein in Basel until the opening of the Wettstein Bridge in 1879. It used to only be called the Rhein Bridge until more were built. The Mittlere Brücke was made of wood until it was replaced by a new one made entirely of stone between 1903 and 1905. In the middle of the Middle Bridge, there is a replica of the original bridge's chapel. Bridge chapels were widespread in the Middle Ages for the divine protection of bridges and travelers.
3. Marktplatz (Market square)
The Martplatz sits in front of Basel's Rathaus, or town hall. During the week you will find fresh vegetables, fruit, and flowers being sold at the Marketplatz. The square was once named "Kornmarkt" and until the 15th Century only grain, wine, wood, hay, and straw were traded here. Fruit, vegetables, eggs, butter, chickens, and geese were sold at Münsterplatz. The first documents mentioning Kornmarkt in Basel are from 1091, making Marktplatz nearly a millennia old!
4. Rathaus (Town Hall)
The Rathaus stands out with its red sandstone and distinctive tower. In the local Basel German dialect, it is pronounced, "Roothaus." This is a pun with reference to the literal meaning "council house" and "red house" in reference to its red color due to the sandstone. In 1501 Basel joined the Swiss Confederation prompting the canton's council to decide to build a new town hall. The city wanted to give a visible expression of this decision to join the Confederation. From 1504-1514, the main building was built.
5. Admire (or climb) Basler Münster
The Basler Münster characterizes the cityscape with its red sandstone and colorful roof tiles. Much of original cathedral that was built in 1019 was destroyed by the 1356 Basel earthquake. The Münster once housed many valuable works of art. During the Bilderstorm, the attack on religious images and statues during the Reformation movement of the 16th Century, many churches in Basel were stormed and held at gunpoint to destroy the paintings and statues. The Münster was no exception and its art was destroyed as well.
As you walk around the Münster, you can gaze upon the beautifully carved sandstone statues that decorate the exterior. The climb to the top of the Münster costs between 3-5 CHF. From the top of the Münster you get a beautiful view of Basel, the Rhein, France, and Germany. If you choose not to climb the Münster, at least spend some time on the Pfalz, the terrace behind the Cathedral. From Pfalz there is an excellent vantage point Klein Basel, the half of Basel on the opposite side of the Rhein from the Münster.
6. Kunstmuseum Basel (Fine Arts Museum Basel)
The Kunstmuseum Basel is internationally renowned. It is the world's oldest public art collection and is considered the most important museum of art in Switzerland.
On Mondays, the Kunstmuseum is closed. Admission to the collection is free at the Kunstmuseum on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 17:00 to 18:00 Wednesdays, Fridays from 17:00 to 20:00, and every first Sunday of the month.
7. Get brunch at Restaurant Café Papiermühle
Enjoy an internationally curated lunch or brunch in the heart of St. Alban. Every day, they serve two freshly prepared menus. One of which is a vegetarian option, and on Thursdays, they serve Indian food. Every Sunday there is a brunch of delicacies from the Basel region for 28 CHF and children up until the age of twelve pay one Swiss franc per year of age.
If you have time, the Papermill museum is just next door. At the museum, you can learn how hand-made paper and books are made.
8. St. Alban-tor (St. Alban City Gate)
The St. Alban-tor dates back to 1400. This old gateway to the city still has a large wooden door that used to be lowered in times of danger. Walking around the St. Alban quarter of the city will allow you to step back in history to Basel in the Middle Ages. It is part of what is today referred to as the "Outer City Wall."
9. Basler Stadtmauer (Basel's city wall)
The first wall was completed around 1080 under the bishop Burkhard von Fenis. In 1230, the wall was replaced with "Inner City Wall." If you take a stroll around the Basel Stadtmauer, you will stumble across Basel's "Little Venice." It gets this name from the small streams and artificial canals dug by monks.
The Mediterranean Buvette is located in St. Alban-Tal from 11:00-22:00 from April to September when the weather is nice. They serve pinsa, a variation of pizza.
1. Fasnachts-Brunnen/Tinguely Brunnen (Fasnacht/Tinguely fountain)
This fountain was created by the artist Jean Tinguely. The ten mechanical sculptures are partially made of set pieces from the former Basel shows. Jean Tinguely is a world renowned sculptor and painter who is from Basel.
2. Grab a donut and a coffee at Mystifry
Mystifry is Switzerland's first vegan donut shop. Each month their menu of fresh artisanal donuts changes.
3. Münster-Fähre, Leu (Rhein Ferry, Leu)
There are four Rhein river ferries; "Wild Maa," "Leu," "Vogel Gryff," and "Ueli" that link Grossbasel to Kleinbasel. They don't use a motor! Instead, they are attached to a wire cable above the river and are pulled across by the current of the water alone.
The Leu has the best view of the Basler Münster. Many say they feel that the relaxing journey on the ferry makes time stand still. I recommend taking the ferry from Münster to Kleinbasel to continue the tour.
The Tinguely museum has a permanent exhibition of the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely's, works. Outside the museum in Solitudepark, you can also enjoy Tinguely's wife's, Niki de Saint Phalle's, sculptures. Niki de Saint Phalle is also a world-renowned artist in her own right. She donated 55 sculptures to the museum.
5. Float down the Rhein
From the beach near the Tinguely Museum, you can easily enter the Rhein for a swim. I recommend buying a Wickelfisch to help your float along the Rhein. A Wickelfish is a waterproof swim bag and floatation device that keeps your clothes and valuables dry, and you afloat. Here is an instructional video of how to use a Wickelfisch. You can purchase one at Bider & Tanner, Basel Tourism office, or by visiting wickelfisch.ch.
6. Enjoy hand-made gelato at Bruno Lorenzo — gelato lab
Exit your Rhein Swim before the Mittlere Brücke to be able to walk to Bruno Lorenzo to enjoy their gourmet quality homemade gelato and sorbet. They are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 13:00-22:00. They also always offer a vegan option!
I hope you have a wonderful time in Basel!
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