A Long Weekend in Basel, Switzerland

Basel, Switzerland

Located in the centre of Europe on the border between Switzerland, France and Germany, with a rather big airport and a number of cheap incoming flights, Basel in Switzerland can be just the perfect spot for a spontaneous weekend trip. You can find pretty much everything here: great food, interesting museums, cultural events, farmers markets, architecture to admire on your walks, a zoo, a botanical garden and a river Rhein to swim in.

Here are some ideas on what to do in Basel, Switzerland to inspire and plan this trip.

Basel on a budget

I have seen many blogs, promising to teach you how to enjoy Basel on a budget. I will be honest with you here – your trip to Basel is going to cost you. Although you normally can snatch some cheap tickets to Basel from many European cities and towns, your stay in Basel is going to cost you an arm and a leg. There are some tips on how to reduce your costs, but unless you plan to sleep on a bench and brought a full supply of canned food with you, be prepared to spend some money.

Basel (and Switzerland on the whole) is a really expensive city, compared with the most other European capitals. The only places more expensive than that will probably be the Nordics. But for your money, you will normally get a very good quality of food and stay.

Best things to do on a weekend in Basel

Old town

Let’s start from the beginning. Stroll around at your pace or chose a guided tour to take you through all the key sights. Whichever you chose, the old town of Basel will not disappoint you. Make sure you visit the following sights:

  • TheTownhall – Rathaus Basel Stadt
  • Münster
  • Marktplatz square (make sure you visit the Farmers’ market, held there on Saturdays)
  • Spalentor City Gate
  • Spalenberg Street
  • Barfusserplatz

Modern Basel

If you like modern architecture, Basel certainly does have a lot to offer. Just plan your walk around visiting the following sights.

  • Admire Tinguely Water Fountain – Did you know that the inventor Jean Tinguely, the one who created the wide-known fountain near the Centre Pompidou in Paris comes from Basel? Check out his Tinguely Water Fountain
  • Messe Basel New Hall – one of the most impressive sights of modern architecture I’ve ever seen.
  • Messeturm – 105-meter high tower, which became the landmark of Basel’s skyline
  • Warteck – probably one of the most instagrammable buildings in Basel
  • Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein
  • BIZ building by Mario Botta
  • Head office of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS),
  • Markthalle (the Market Hall) – built in 1929, but renovated in 2014
  • Hammering Man on Aeschenplatz – 14-meter tall sculpture

Visit one of the Basel Museums

For a rainy day or just for a sip of culture, head to one of the Basel museums. Again, there will be enough options to chose from to satisfy pretty much any taste. Check out the following:

  • Fine Arts Museum Basel
  • Basel Historical Museum
  • Museum of Cultures
  • Foundation Beyeler
  • Museum Tinguely

Some more fun things to do on a weekend in Basel

This is actually my favourite part of the suggestions for your weekend in Basel.

Get yourself a Wickelfisch and float down the Rhine

Basel is home to the greatest invention ever – the Wickelfisch. It is a water-resistant bag in the shape of a fish, which you can get for 20 euro in Basel Tourist Centre. You then go to the river, undress and pack your clothes and money in the fish bag and roll it, so it doesn’t let the water through and also becomes inflated with the air.

And now comes the best part – you just throw the bag into the water while holding to the strap, and float down the river while holding on to it. When you’ve had enough, just get out, take your clothes back on and take a tram back home, to work or to some nice bar for a pint of local Basel brew.

It was so cool to watch all kind of floaters passing by – sporty men, groups of teenagers connecting their fishes into one big float and leisurely chatting with each other, older women and men, parents with kids. And in August Basel holds a swimming-in-the-Rhine Day, when there were around 4.000 people swimming (floating) at the same time.

Take a tram around the city of Basel

When you check in to your hotel or Airbnb, you will get your free pass for all public transport in Basel. Make use of it, because Basel is hilly and your feet will curse you at some point, no matter how sporty you may be. Get on an old train to save some strength and explore areas further away from the centre.

Cross the Rhine by boat

The river of Rhine divides the city into two parts. You can either boringly cross it by a bridge or take one of 4 ferries. The ferries are not included in your transport pass, but the ride will cost only a couple of euro.

Visit Basel Zoo

Depending on your attitude towards the zoos, consider visiting Basel Zoo, which also acts like an animal preservation organisation.

Shop at the Farmers market at Marktplatz

Pretend that you are a local resident for a moment. Get some food at the local farmers market, which is held on Saturday at Marktplatz right in the heart of the old town.

Drink from the Basilisk water fountains

Forget your water bottle, in Basel the water is accessible from one of the many basilisk water fountains. Careful with taking the photos though! Take a piece of advice from the one (me) who has drowned her camera in the fountain some years ago.

Go shopping

True, Basel may not be the most budget shopping location, but it does have a great selection of budget to high-end shops as well as a number of local designers (very expensive, but usually worth the price because of the design and sustainability).

Visit the 3 Country Corner

One of the few places in Europe, where you can have a coffee in one country, lunch in the other one and dinner in the third – all this on foot. But why stop there? Have a drink in all three countries at once by visiting a 3 Country corner (Dreilaendereck in German), where Germany, Switzerland and France meet.

Check out the plants and greenhouses at the Botanical Gardens of the University of Basel

On a rainy cold winter day, nothing is better than spending some time in a greenhouse, enjoying the warmth and the fragrance. And for sure during the warmer times of the year, you’ll love the outdoor gardens.

Have a nice dinner in a local restaurant

True, it can be pricey, but worth it! After all the exploring, find a place, which fits your taste. The most amazing meal I’ve had in Basel was in Volkshaus Restaurant.

Practical information

How to Get to Basel

With several airlines, some of them low costs, Basel is easy to reach through the main airport. It is not far away from the city and is accessible by public transport.

Please note that Basel Airport has two exits. One of them is to the Swiss side and the city of Basel, and another one to the French side. Make sure you take the correct one.

Getting Around in Basel

Bicycles in Basel
Bicycles in Basel

Basel is not very big, and you can see most of it just by walking around. If you want to move around quicker, consider renting a bike.

When you come to Basel and check in to your hotel or Airbnb, you will receive a Basel Tourist Card. This card gives you free access to public transport across the city of Basel as well as access to the Internet in several hotspots in town.

Where to stay in Basel

It all depends on your budget. Hotels in Basel are not cheap, but you can find some more budget-friendly options among the hostels and Airbnb. By the way, if you have never tried it, this might be the time – grab your 25 Euro discount code here to save you some costs for the trip.

Balcony, Basel, Switzerland
Balcony, Basel, Switzerland

As for me, I’ve stayed in East-West Hotel, and it was one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had. It is small and cosy and is located just next to the river and the main promenade, so even in your room you will feel like a part of the action.

Here are some more ideas for your accommodation:


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