A port of embarkation and disembarkation for Rhine River cruises, Basel, Switzerland, encompasses a charming South Bank Old Town with cobblestone streets, timbered houses, frescoed courtyards, and floral gardens. Discover quaint and quirky bars, gastronomic eateries, unique boutiques, antique flea markets, and a wealth of culture — scores of museums, galleries, and outdoor spaces, and established and boundary-pushing theater, dance, and music.
What We Love
Rathaus: Few town halls anywhere can match the razzle-dazzle of Rathaus, a grand, red-hued structure, parts of which date back to the 16th century. In 1900, neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance, and Art Nouveau sections were added. The sum of the parts? A true architectural gem.
Marktplatz: This expansive square bustles with musicians and artists, as well as vendors selling food, crafts, and flowers. This is an ideal spot to people-watch while eating hand-dipped artisanal chocolates, purchased from nearby candy stores.
Münster Cathedral: The red-sandstone Münster Cathedral, built between 1019 and 1500, is Basel’s most distinctive landmark.
Fashionable Finds: Got extra time? Zip north across the Rhine, to Basel’s Kleinbasel neighborhood, for one-of-a-kind clothing and accessory stores. Many cafés and cool lounges serve sparkling panaché, made with lemon soda and lager.
Green Spaces: A eco-minded city, Basel features lovely botanical gardens, leafy parks, and tree-dotted promenades that run along the river.
Best Known For
Art Basel: This annual fair held in June launched in 1970 and draws throngs of visitors from around the world. It's on the circuit with two other world-class arts events in Hong Kong and Miami Beach that showcase the best of Modern and contemporary work.
Outdoor Festivals: Winter Carnival, dating back to the 14th century, is Basel’s biggest al fresco celebration. The city gets decked out in lanterns and banners, and hundreds of costumed trumpeters, piccolo players, and drummers march in the streets. In the summer, enjoy concerts under the stars and buvettes, riverside refreshment stalls open for drinks and snacks. In autumn, a traveling fair swoops into seven of the city’s plazas, with rides, food stalls, and specialty pop-up shops.
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Who It's Best For
Art and Architecture Aficionados: With approximately 40 museums, Basel boasts visual delights galore. The vast range of centuries-old buildings contrasting with cutting-edge new architecture simply inspires.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Many Places Are Closed on Sundays: Most of Basel’s stores and other tourist diversions are closed on Sunday. Churches are open, of course, but if shopping therapy is on your agenda, rethink your day’s goals.
Laura Manske is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Redbook, InStyle, and Cosmopolitan.