You can enjoy Basel, Switzerland without waiting in long tourist lines, paying huge sums for a photo op, or speaking the language. The majority of Basel attractions are breathtaking architectural accomplishments that you can easily walk through or observe from afar. If you’re looking for what to do in Basel, these are my top 8 recommended attractions!
American Living in Germany: Know Before You Go
Basel is on the northwestern tip of Switzerland. It’s less than a 6-hour drive from Grafenwoehr, almost a 5-hour drive from Garmisch, and just 3 1/2 hours from Kaiserslautern.
If you drive, you’ll need a vignette. But unlike Czech Republic or Austria, Switzerland only sells annual vignettes. As of 2020, the annual vignette for Switzerland costs 40 Francs.
And speaking of Francs, you may want to pick up some currency! But some places will accept Euros, such as gas stations and tourist shops. You can easily withdraw cash from the ATMs in Switzerland, or pay by card wherever you go.
Last but not least, be sure to bring your tourist passport! Your SOFA passport and your military ID are not valid travel documents on their own.
What to Do in Basel Switzerland
You can easily explore Basel over a long weekend. Just make sure to bring a comfortable pair of shoes!
Basler Münster (Basel Minster)
This Romantic and Gothic style church is the most iconic structure in the Basel cityscape and a top attraction. You can climb the two towers (named after Saint George and Saint Martin) for a spectacular view of Basel.
Rheinfähre (Rhine Ferry)
These five Rhine ferries are pulled by ropes, using the natural current of the Rhine river to get from one side to the other. It’s the easiest (and possibly most scenic way) to get from Kleinbasel (small Basel) to Grossbasel (big Basel).
Mittlere Brücke (Middle Bridge)
For centuries, the Mittlere Brücke was the only bridge connecting the two sides of Basel. It may not be the original Middle Bridge from the 13th century, but it is still a busy location for locals and tourists alike. You can find people kayaking, grilling, and just laying out by the bridge.
But on a corner on top of Mittlere Brücke, you’ll find Bettina Eichin’s sculpture Helvetia on the Journey. Helvetia, named after the Helvetii tribe that inhabited the land before the Romans, is the personification of Switzerland. You may notice Swiss license plates or websites are identified by “CH”, which stands for the Latin Confœderatio Helvetica.
Spalentor (Gate of Spalen)
The Gate of Spalen is just one of three remaining Basel city gates, and considered one of the most beautiful gates of Switzerland. If you’re looking for a fairytale experience, just walk through the archway!
Designed by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, this fountain (also known as Carnival Fountain) has nine figures that play with the water and seem to interact with each other. And the performance aspect of it is fitting: it’s located where the stage of the old city theater used to be.
Tinguely was influenced by the Dada movement, and you can see more of his work at the Tinguely Museum.
Zivilstandsamt (General Register Office)
Anyone who gets married in Basel has been here, but you can visit without a fiancée. My local guide recommends it as a beautiful building to see.
Offene Kirche Elisabethen (Elisabeth Church)
Built in the 19th century, this church is more than just a holy place of worship. You can rent the space for events, attend a yoga class, or go to a concert to hear local musicians!
This building truly stands out, primarily because of its bright red exterior! You can walk through its corridors and enjoy the courtyard as if you’re a high noble in your favorite fairytale story.
You can also take a guided tour of the Basel Town Hall in English on Saturdays, and in German on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (only on Thursdays and Saturdays from November to March).
Frequently Asked Questions about Basel Old Town and Things to Do
We’ve answered some of the most common questions about visiting Basel. But if you still have questions, let me know in the comments!
It depends on what you want from your visit! If you want to stay in Basel Old Town, there are plenty of convenient hotels in the neighborhood. But if you want a quieter (and more affordable) hotel with a beautiful view of the Rhine, Hotel Maximilian is a great option.
Of course you can find fancy Swiss chocolates and local cuisines in Basel Old Town, but I recommend Markthalle for an assortment of authentic food from all over the world. Check out my local tips to learn more!
Visit Basel Switzerland
I highly recommend visiting Basel for a relaxing change of scenery. There is plenty to see and do in the small city, and it’s just a (relatively) short drive away. Experience the beauty of Switzerland!