Located on the border of Switzerland, France and Germany, this sophisticated city is a leader in the international arts and culture scene, writes Tatyana Leonov.
In Basel one wrong turn could lead to a remarkable historical discovery or perhaps even another country. The stunning metropolis is located at the frontier between France and Germany, tapping directly into the Rhine, and is one of the few places in the world where you can stand at the exact point where three countries meet. The unusual location gives the city an international ambience, one that entwines all three cultures to create an architectural and historical masterpiece.
You could spend hours, even days, wandering around the Old Town, where narrow laneways, regal squares and majestic medieval edifices transport you to another era. Münsterplatz is a good starting point for just about anything. The grand main square is a meeting place for locals and a thriving event location throughout the year. The famous red-walled Town Hall overlooks the square – so prestigious and prevailing in its central position – and it’s a striking building showcasing a mix of Gothic and Renaissance elements. The Basel Minster with its Romanesque features and stunning sandstone exterior is another architectural highlight, and particularly beautiful at dawn or dusk when the sun’s rays engulf its gothic towers.
Culture aficionados will appreciate Basel’s museum offerings. With more than 40 in an area of just 37 square kilometres, there really is something for everyone. The Vitra Design Museum is housed in a rambunctiously modern building by Californian architect Frank Gehry and is ranked as one of the world’s most important design museums. Home to the largest and most significant public art collection in Switzerland, with work dating from the early 15th century to the present, is the Kunstmuseum Basel. The quirky-cool Museum Tinguely is dedicated to the life and work of sculptor and artist Jean Tinguely and features all kinds of eclectic displays, including kinetic art sculptures. Basel is also home the world’s largest collection of charming teddy bears and china dolls in all shapes, sizes and forms – there are more than 6000 exhibits in all – displayed across four levels at the unusually spectacular Speilzeug Welten Museum Basel.
Basel is also a perpetually busy town when it comes to festivities, with a plethora of events showcasing everything the metropolis offers held throughout the year. From carnivals to football celebrations, jazz festivals to magical Christmas markets in the winter, Basel is a year-round destination. One of the most distinguished events, famous worldwide, is Art Basel. Held in June each year, this international art fair, with its modern and contemporary offerings, put the city on the global art map.
The beauty of Basel is that it can be whatever you wish. If all you want to do after a long day exploring is unwind with a coffee-teamed basler läckerli, a traditional hard spiced biscuit, or a good wine and a view, Basel astounds here too. The Rhine riverfront is a picturesque spot to kick back in one of the many waterfront cafes and restaurants and simply take it all in.
All about: Basel
• Basel is located in Switzerland’s north where it meets both the borders of France and Germany
• Population: 170,000
• The city is situated on the Rhine, and has Switzerland’s only cargo port
• When flying into Basel, you actually land in France
• Basel Minster, a church made of red sandstone, is one of the best examples of late Romanesque/early Gothic architecture in the region. It was built between 1019 and 1500
• In 1996, the city was awarded the Wakker Prize, which recognises a municipality’s development and preservation of its architectural heritage. You can see buildings by Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Alvaro Siza Vieira around the city