With its striking medieval buildings spread along the banks of the Rhine, riotous carnival celebrations and thriving art scene, Basel is deserving of its reputation as Switzerland's cultural capital. If you need any more persuading, here are eight great reasons to visit Basel.
It Hosts Switzerland's Biggest Festival
Basel's Fasnacht is Switzerland's biggest festival and one of the most famous folklore festivals in Switzerland, drawing huge crowds to the city each Easter. Held over three days in the week following Ash Wednesday, the carnival is most renowned for its vibrant parade, featuring up to 20,000 masked marchers, dancers and drummers, along with a series of elaborately decorated floats.
It's Switzerland's Cultural Capital
Basel has around 40 museums, from world-class institutions like the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Naturhistorisches Museum to quirky finds like the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel, a toy museum with an enormous collection of teddy bears and dolls. Art enthusiasts also have plenty of choices, including the Tinguely Museum, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Vitra Design Museum, Fondation Beyeler and Schaulager museum.
It's Full of Both Historic and Modern Architecture
A walk around Basel's historic center reveals a number of striking buildings, many dating back to medieval times. Check out the landmark Münster cathedral, red-painted Rathaus (Basel Town Hall) and Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, one of Europe's oldest hotels, before marveling over modernist masterpieces by famous architects like Herzog & de Meuron or Renzo Piano.
It's the Meeting Point of Three Countries
Basel lies at the meeting point of France, Germany and Switzerland, and a visit to the Three Countries Corner (Dreiländereck) is a unique experience. The actual border point lies beneath the Rhine River, but visitors can still stand beneath the monumental meeting point with its three flags, and enjoy the rare opportunity to visit three countries in one day.
It's a Festive Place to Spend the Holidays
Basel is a magical place to spend the holiday season with its dazzling light displays, more than 100 Christmas trees and one of Switzerland's most popular Christmas markets. Be sure to join the crowds for late-night shopping on Freie Strasse, famously Europe's longest street of festive illuminations; try hot mulled wine and traditional Läckerli biscuits at the Basel Christmas Market; and pick up unique hand-crafted decorations at the legendary Johann Wanner House.
It lies on the Rhine River
Cruising along the scenic Rhine River is a popular pastime for many visitors to Europe, and the continent's longest river runs right through the center of Basel. As well as taking a romantic dinner cruise or sightseeing boat tour around Basel, it's also possible to join a multi-day cruise to Strasbourg in France or the UNESCO-listed Rhine Valley in Germany.
It's Home to Switzerland's Oldest Zoo
Zoo Basel is the oldest and largest in the whole country, dating back to 1874, and home to hundreds of animal species from all over the world. As well as world-renowned breeding programs, the zoo's themed zones include an African safari area, an Australian outback park and an aquarium. Animals include Indian rhinoceros, cheetahs, kangaroos and king penguins.
It Hosts the World's Largest International Art Fair
We've already mentioned Basel's impressive selection of art museums and galleries, but there's another good reason for art lovers to add the city to their itinerary. Art Basel, the world's largest international art fair, is held in Basel each June, bringing with it a nonstop roster of exhibitions, gallery shows, parties and industry events, and featuring over 2,500 artists from all over the globe.
- Contributed by Zoe Smith for Viator
All photos courtesy of Viator