Planning a trip to Basel, Switzerland

The Swiss answer to Four Corners, USA is Basel, a university city that features a pylon on the Rhine River where you can walk in a circle and move from Switzerland into Germany, then France, and back into Switzerland (the spot's called Dreiländereck).

Basel's sheer number of museums (27) makes it an art capital of Switzerland, and it claims Hans Holbein the Younger (along with thinker Friedrich Nietzche) among its famous past residents.

Non-art lovers needn't bother coming, but if you have a thing for paintings, give the city at least a day—two if you're a fan of modern and contemporary art.

The sights of Basel

Basel's compact, historic center lies mainly on the south bank of the Rhine River.
Although it has an impressive 14th-century Münster (cathedral), whose elaborately carved facade is the pride of Basel, this city is really about museums.

Top honors go to the eclectic collections of the Kunstmuseum (tel. 061/271-0828;, at St. Alban Graben 16. It has everything from Holbein the Younger and Konrad Witz to Van Gogh, Picasso, Klee, Chagall, Rodin, and Alexander Calder. Next-door is the Museum für Gegenwartskunst (tel. 061/272-8183), with contemporary art ranging from the 1960s to the present day by the likes of Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, and Donald Judd. Nearby you'll also find the Kunsthalle (tel. 061/272-4833), at Steinenberg 7, whose changing installations by contemporary artists are advertised on banners throughout town. Most museums are closed on Monday. There's also a world-renowned zoo (tel. 061/295-3535), at Binningerstrasse 40, a seven-minute stroll from the train station, with 600 species represented and a famous breeding program for endangered animals.

How to get to Basel

Half-hourly trains make the 60 to 75 minute trip from Bern and arrive at SBB Hauptbahnhof. There's a small branch of the tourist office in the train station, but the main office (tel. 061/268-6868, fax: 061/268-6870; is on the Rhine at Schiffla[um]nde 5, just past the Mittlere Bridge (take tram 1).

Where to stay in Basel

Art aficionados with shallow pockets will want to stay just across the river from the main part of town at the Hotel Krafft am Rhein (tel. 061/690-9130; fax 061/690-9131), over-looking the Rhine at Rheingasse 12. The setting is 19th century, and the rooms are modern and comfy. Rates are 194 to 295 SF ($129.35 to $196.65) for doubles.

Where to eat in Basel

The restaurant Zum Goldenen Sternen (tel. 061/272-1666), St. Albanrheinweg 70 (at the Rhine's edge), has served up a good, inexpensive medley of French-accented Swiss and continental dishes since 1421.

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in December 2011.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.