48 Hours In: Basel - Europe - Travel - The Independent

48 Hours In: Basel

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As Switzerland's artistic hub prepares to host its renowned fair, Anthony Lambert explores a city rich in culture, cuisine and architecture

Travel Essentials

Why go now?

Ever since the city fathers bought 20 Holbeins in 1661, Basel has been proud of being a great centre for art. Art Basel (artbasel.com), founded in 1970, has become one of the world's most prestigious art fairs, with offshoots in Miami and Hong Kong.

This year, it's being held at the Exhibition Center (1) from 13 to 16 June, with 300 leading galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa showing work from masters, both modern and contemporary.

Touch down

The nearest airport is Basel-Mulhouse, which lies within France but is connected to Switzerland by a land corridor. The main airline is easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyJet.com), with flights from Edinburgh, Gatwick and Manchester. British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from Heathrow, and Swiss (0845 601 0956; swiss.com/uk) from London City. Bus 50 departs every 20 minutes to the railway station (2), for a fare of €3.80.

Get your bearings

Basel is unusual in straddling the borders of three countries, though there is little to indicate when you are moving between France, Germany or Switzerland, which has the largest portion.

The city spreads over a bend in the Rhine with industrial and more modern Kleinbasel to the north and most of the old city on the west bank. It is Switzerland's only port and also hosts many conferences and international exhibitions.

The historic heart is the Marktplatz (3), dominated by the red sandstone town hall which dates from 1504. Tourist information can be found at the Stadtcasino (4) in Barfüsserplatz (00 41 61 268 68 68; basel.com) and at the railway station (2); both are open daily.

Check in

Close to the railway station and named after the Basel mathematician who gave the world Sudoku, the Hotel Euler (5) at Centralbahnplatz 14, dates from the 1870s. Its 66 rooms and restaurant were recently renovated. The restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine and there's also a terrace (00 41 61 275 80 00; hoteleuler.ch). Doubles start at Sfr210 (£143), with breakfast.

From the outside, Der Teufelhof (6) (00 41 61 261 10 10; teufelhof.com) at Leonhardsgraben 49 is a large classical townhouse, but its minimalist bedrooms are decorated with modern art while the converted convent rooms have designer furniture. Some public spaces serve as showcases for artists' work. It also has a gourmet restaurant, café and a Weinstube (wine bar). Double rooms start at Sfr174 (£118), including breakfast.

In a quiet location near the university is the Neoclassical Hotel Rochat (7) at Petersgraben 23 (00 41 61 261 81 40; www.hotelrochat.ch), which has simple doubles from Sfr174 (£118), with breakfast. Its alcohol-free restaurant serves traditional dishes such as rolled veal in herbs with roast potatoes.

All hotel guests in Basel receive a Mobility Ticket upon check-in, conferring free use of public transport for the duration of their stay.

 

Day One

Take a view

The tree-shaded terrace beside the Münster (8) (cathedral), known as the Pfalz, offers a magnificent view over the Rhine bend, towards Germany.

Take a hike

From the Pfalz terrace, take Rittergasse, lined with beautiful patrician houses, to St Alban Graben. On the opposite corner is the Kunstmuseum (9) (00 41 61 206 62 62; kunstmuseumbasel.ch; 10am to 6pm daily except Monday; Sfr15/£10). Its collection of Holbeins has almost been eclipsed by its modern art – in particular Cubist and American paintings – but it still includes works by Rembrandt, Goya, Gauguin, Renoir, Chagall and Van Gogh.

Continue along St Alban-Vorstadt past rows of medieval houses. At the end is the 13th-century town gate of St Alban Tor (10), surrounded by a lovely garden. Head towards the river along St Alban-Tal to the Basler Papiermühle (11) (00 41 61 225 90 90; papiermuseum.ch), a working museum for the paper and printing industries. Open 11am-5pm Tuesday to Friday and 1-5pm on Saturday, Sfr15 (£10).

At the end of Letziplatz is Mühlegraben (12), a restored section of medieval wall-walk which survived the demolition of most of the city's fortifications in the 19th century. Walk along St Alban-Rheinweg to cross the Schwarzwaldbrücke (13) and turn left along the north bank of the river, with fine views of the Münster (8) and the old town.

Continue beyond Wettsteinbrücke to the Mittlere Brücke and cross the river. In the centre of the bridge is a 15th-century chapel. Take Eisengasse to reach Marktplatz (3) and visit the courtyards of the town hall to see the huge historical murals, painted in 1504 to 1514 and 1903, about moments in the city's past.

Lunch on the run

A selection of fresh open sandwiches from Sfr3.20 (£2) can be found at the café-style Brötli-Bar (14), a Basel institution in the Hotel Stadthof at Gerbergasse 84.

Window shopping

Most of the narrower streets of the old town are full of boutiques, with bland chains being confined to the broader streets around Marktplatz (3).

Läckerli-Huus (15) (00 41 61 264 23 20; laeckerli-huus.ch) at Gerbergasse 57 sells a variety of Läckerli, the traditional biscuit made from gingerbread with nougat, honey and almonds.

For Swiss-made clothes, textiles and toys, try Heimatwerk (16) at Schneidergasse 2 (00 41 61 261 91 78; heimatwerk.ch).

An aperitif

Well-known Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron recently renovated the Volkshaus Bar (17) (00 41 61 690 93 10; volkshaus-basel.ch) at Rebgasse 12 to create a venue for cultural and musical events coupled with innovative gastronomy. Try an Aperol spritz – prosecco, Aperol, soda water and a slice of orange – for Sfr12 (£8) in the chic black and chrome interior.

Dining with the locals

Ueli beer has been slaking the thirst of Baslers for more than 30 years, and its two brewery restaurants at Rheingasse 43/45 (18) have several varieties on tap.

The Fischerstube (00 41 61 692 92 00; restaurant-fischerstube.ch) serves hearty German food in an informal pub-like setting with brewers sometimes at work in the background.

Meanwhile, Restaurant Linde (00 61 683 34 00; ueli-bier.ch) is quieter with a garden terrace and serves regional cuisine, including a beer fondue. Expect to pay about Sfr120 (£82) for a three-course meal with wine or beer for two people.

 

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

Standing on the site of a Roman settlement, today's Münster (8) was consecrated in 1019. It was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1356 and rebuilt to a larger plan. The Reformation deprived the building of many of its artworks, but the pulpit is ornately carved and the Fröwler chapel has a 12th-century relief of six Apostles.

In the Schaler chapel is a floor stone marking the 1928 reburial of Erasmus, the Dutch humanist scholar who came to Basel to see his books being printed but liked the city so much he stayed. Sunday services are at 10am and 7.30pm.

Take a ride

Boat trips along the Rhine are popular (00 41 61 639 95 00; bpg.ch). Leaving from Schifflände (19) , boats stop at the Roman site Augusta Raurica and the attractive town of Rheinfelden; departures Tuesday-Sunday at 11.30am; Sfr35/£23.

Out to brunch

Gourmet brunch cruises also leave from Schifflände (19) at 10.15am and 1.30pm. Tickets cost Sfr20 (£14) and the brunch Sfr70 (£48).

Cultural afternoon

The Vitra Design Museum (20) at Charles-Eames-Strasse 1 across the German border in Weil am Rhein (00 49 7621 702 3200; design-museum.de; 10am to 6pm daily; €9) is an outstanding site. The main museum was designed by Frank Gehry, the next door Vitra Factory by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and both are adjacent to Zaha Hadid's Vitra Fire Station. The museum's focus is on industrial furniture design, complemented by temporary exhibitions. It can be reached by tram 2 to Badischer Bahnhof followed by Bus 55 to Vitra.

A walk in the park

The largest park in Switzerland inspired by the English landscape garden is on tram route 10 in Arlesheim (direction Dornach Bahnhof); follow the footpath signs to Ermitage (21) and Castle Birseck.

The wooded valley incorporates caves and grottos, ponds, a stream and watermills. Paths form a delightful circular walk, returning via the 17th-century cathedral in Arlesheim, with the prospect of tea and cakes at Confiserie Brändli (00 41 61 703 01 03; braendli-basel.ch) on the square at Dorfplatz 9, before catching the tram back.

Icing on the cake

The Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely grew up in Basel. In 1977, he placed some of his metal sculptures in a shallow pool near the theatre (22), but the greatest collection is at the Tinguely Museum (23) (00 41 61 681 93 20; tinguely.ch; 11am to 6pm Tuesday-Sunday, Sfr15/£10).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week