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Basel: the second largest city in Switzerland

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Basel is the second largest urban area in Switzerland (166,000 inhabitants, 700,000 the urban area) and is also the capital of the canton of the same name. Located along a bend in the Rhine River in northwestern Switzerland, bordering France and Germany. Basel is an important commercial city, home to banks and financial institutions, and industrial (chemical and pharmaceutical sector). The city has an active river port which is the last river port along the Rhine accessible to large ships, as the Rhine Falls of Schaffhausen (Schaffhausen) are located upstream of Basel. It houses the oldest university of the Helvetic Confederation founded in 1460.

Basel was originally an ancient oppurum of the Rauraci. Later it became a Roman city (Basilia), and then since the seventh century Episcopal principality. The city became the center of western Christianity in the 15th century thanks to the Council of Basel (1431-1449). In 1501 it became independent and became part of the Swiss Confederation.


Most of the tourist spots are located in the southern part of the city where the historic center of Basel is located. This area is best explored on foot, here the main tourist attractions are concentrated. Among these, the Marktplatz (Market Square), the true heart of Basel, hosts the colorful fruit, vegetable and flower market which is held every day except Sunday. The square is dominated by the imposing 14th century Rathaus (town hall). Inside it is worth visiting the Council Chambers (Ratszimmer), the inner courtyard (Innenhof), the romantic arcades and the high tower.


Among the most valuable buildings in the city is certainly the Basel Cathedral (Basler Münster), a red sandstone building built between the 11th and 15th centuries. This church is located on a hill overlooking the river, its facade is dominated by two irregular Gothic towers. The most important structure of the cathedral is undoubtedly the Galluspforte (1150/70) located at the entrance of the northern transept. This is one of the major sculptures of the Romanesque era in Switzerland. In recent years, many of the original sculptures have been brought to a museum and replaced by copies.

The interior of the cathedral has three naves, with important side chapels, equipped with a crypt, preserves the remains of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the two cloisters complete the church. From the cloister of the cathedral you can access the panoramic terrace of the Pfalz from which you can enjoy a splendid view of the historic center.

The Mittlere Brücke (Middle Bridge) dating back to 1226 was the first bridge over the Rhine, it was built on the initiative of the Bishop-Prince Heinrich von Thun. To defend the bridge, the fortified citadel of Kleinbasel was built on the right bank of the river. In 1905 the ancient bridge was replaced by the current Mittlere Brücke. Of the medieval walls that once surrounded the city, demolished in the nineteenth century, today only three towers remain: St. Albantor, Letziturm and Spalentor. The latter is the most impressive, dating back to the 14th century. There are also numerous late Gothic public buildings as well as baroque palaces and rococo and neoclassical bourgeois houses.


Basel has seen rise numerous interesting modern architecture buildings in recent years. In fact, there are works by famous architects including Renzo Piano (Beyeler Foundation Palace), Mario Botta (Jean Tinguely Museum and the International Payments Bank (Verwaltungsgebäude der BIZ)), Herzog & de Meuron (Stadium), and finally the Vitra complex at Weil am Rhein consisting of three buildings designed by Zaha Hadid (fire station), Frank Gehry (design museum), Tadao Ando (convention center). One of the symbols of modern Basel is the Tinguely fountain, built in 1977 by Jean Tinguely.

A short distance from Basel (10 km east) is the Augusta Raurica archaeological area, the largest archaeological park in Switzerland. The city of Basel is the ideal base for exploring the Black Forest as well as the Jura and Vosges mountains.



Basel is home to over 30 different museums. The most important museum in the city is the Kunstmuseum Basel (Art Museum). The museum is mainly dedicated to the painting and drawing of artists from the Upper Rhine area from 1400 to 1600. It houses works by Holbein, Goya and Rubens. But there are also works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The nineteenth century has its exponents in the paintings of Böcklin, van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne, while the twentieth century finds its apogee in Cubism (Picasso, Braque, Léger), in German Expressionism and in American art from 1950 .

Another important collection of 20th century art is found in the Fondation Beyeler (Beyeler Foundation) which is located in the museum designed by Renzo Piano. Here are exhibited works by artists such as Monet, Cézanne, van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, Liechtenstein and Bacon.


The Antikenmuseum Basel (Museum of Antiquities) is a museum focused on the art and ancient cultures of the Mediterranean basin from the 4th millennium BC. until the seventh century AD. Here are exhibited objects of Egyptian, Greek, Italic and Roman art to which are added individual pieces from the Near East and Cyprus.

The Historisches Museum Basel is the most important museum of cultural history in the Upper Rhine. Among the major collections on display is the Amerbach cabinet. Other important pieces are the treasure of the cathedral of Basel, which presents extraordinary examples of medieval goldsmithery. Then there are late Gothic tapestries, the macabre dance of Basel, the treasures of the Basel corporations, the numismatic cabinet, the figurative works from the Upper Rhine area, and examples of late Gothic and Renaissance glass painting, finally sacred art and furniture.


The Musikmuseum (Music Museum) houses the most important collection of musical instruments in Switzerland. The Museum der Kulturen Basel exhibits one of the largest collections in Europe on life in European and non-European cultures. There are also important collections dedicated to the South Seas, pre-Columbian America, Tibet, etc.


The Pharmazie-Historisches Museum der Universität Basel is one of the largest collections in the world on the history of the pharmacy, exhibiting pottery and pharmacy furniture, an alchemist’s laboratory, mortars, itinerant pharmacies, books.


A very particular museum, probably unique in its kind, is the Puppenhausmuseum. It is the main museum of teddy bears in Europe, over 6,000 pieces are exhibited on four floors. The museum also houses dolls, toy shops, doll houses and miniatures.

The Skulpturhalle houses one of the largest collections of molds of ancient sculptures. The only one of its kind in the world is the complete collection of Parthenon sculptures. The Tinguely Museum is dedicated to the life and works of Jean Tinguely, the imposing building was built by the famous Swiss architect Mario Botta. Interesting and ultra modern is the Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rhein, just across the border in Germany, which is located in a building designed by the Californian architect Frank Gehry and is one of the most important museums of architecture and industrial design in the world.



The Basel airport (EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg) is located only 3 km from the urban area of the city, in French territory. The airport, which is the only binational airport in the world, is served by numerous international connections. To reach the city there is a public bus service (bus no. 50) every 15 minutes between EuroAirport and the exhibition center, in the center of Basel and the Badischer Bahnhof (Basel German railway station), through the railway station. Central Switzerland (Bahnhof SBB).


The city is an important railway junction. In Basel there are three railway stations, all located in the center: the Swiss, French and German stations.


Basel is served by a large and dense public transport network that connects the city to the surrounding suburbs even outside the Swiss borders in France and Germany.

Basel’s tram and bus network is operated by the BVB (Basler Verkehrs-Betriebe) and BLT (Baselland Transport). Trams are powered electrically and buses are powered electrically or with fuel.

The climate of Basel.



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