Situated in the heart of Europe, at the border with France and Germany, Basel is a Swiss city that has a multicultural population with a cosmopolitan vibe. Basel is divided in two by the Rhine River. To go from one side of the city to the other, you can cross one of the six bridges built over the river.
Basel’s architecture features picturesque and historic buildings in the Old Town. Here you can see many architectural masterpieces by renowned architects such as Frank O. Gehry and Renzo Piano.
The city’s cultural scene draws in many tourists who love to explore cultural attractions. Basel is considered the cultural capital of Switzerland and it definitely deserves this title. With 40 museums, beautiful buildings, and a great city landscape, Basel never ceases to impress visitors with its cultural attractions.
Now, without further ado, let’s see what are the top attractions to see in Basel.
The area situated between Rhine and the city’s old gate is perfect for walks and exploration. The atmospheric stone streets, beautiful old houses medieval churches and painted fountains offer a relaxing experience for travelers who love to enjoy this type of beauty. Here and there you will be able to spot modern interventions, like the whimsical fountain created by the by Jean Tinguely, a renowned Swiss sculptor.
After you explored this part of the city, head west and on the narrow streets and arrive at the old artisans’ neighborhood. Or walk along Freiestrasse to discover old houses built in the 15th century. Keep walking and discover another guild-house, this time the of the Hausgenossen that features many wall paintings.
Marktplatz is the heart of the Old Town where, even these days, local produce and local food specialties are sold. The market is dominated by Basel Rathaus. The arcade of this mesmerizing building is painted red in a Gothic style that dates from early 1500. The clock is the masterpiece of Master Wilhelms and was made between 1511 and 1512. The tower and new building were added in the 19th century.
These are not the only old wonders you can see here. Many others wait for you to discover their history. For the best experience, explore the Old Town with a city guide that can explain the history of the place and can tell you the stories behind many of the wonderful buildings and places you will see along the way.
Swiss Museum for Paper, Writing and Printing in Basel
Swiss Museum for Paper, Writing and Printing is situated on the medieval canal and it’s actually an paper mill that has been transformed into what it is today – a museum that shows visitors the process of papermaking and printing. The museum of writing, printing, and paper will show you all the secrets behind handmade paper – how it’s made with the actual working machinery used back in the day. Aside from that, you’ll be able to learn about the evolution of print from pictographs to modern typography.
Kunstmuseum Basel, also known as the art museum, exhibits the best selection of paintings in the country and features paintings from Swiss painters but also from international painters. Old and new paintings can be found under the roof of the Museum of Art – from the famous 15th-century painting, Mirror of Salvation Altar, to portraits from the 16th century, and collections of 19th and 20th-century art pieces.
Classic, impressionist, surrealist, and expressionist works of art are all in this place. If you want to discover the work of Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, Gauguin, and many others, the museum has many special exhibitions you shouldn’t miss.
Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Museum of Contemporary Art)
If the Museum of Art created an appetite for art and its wonderful manifestations, you should pay a visit to the Museum Of Contemporary Art as well. Here you’ll find paintings and sculptures of famous 20th-century artists but also from contemporary ones. The art of Dali, Klee, Jean Tinguely can be found here. This museum was the first in Europe to feature only 20th century and contemporary art.
And, for even more modern art, you should stop at the Fondation Beyeler. Opened in 1997, Fondation Beyeler was created by two collectors who wanted to allow the public to enjoy their extensive collection of classic modernist art. Drawing, paintings, and sculptures can be admired here, including an astounding number of Pablo Picasso’s works.
The museum itself is a work of art and was designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano.
Antikenmuseum and the Sammlung Ludwig (Museum of Antiquities and the Ludwig Collection)
Do you prefer old to new? Then visit Basel’s Museum of Antiquities and the Ludwig collection that features Egyptian, Etruscan, Italian, Greek, and Roman art. The museum covers antiquity from 4000 BC until 600 AD.
You’ll be able to see different exhibits here including gold jewelry exhibits, clay figures, sculptures made of bronze, and many other antique wonders. And if you are fascinated, consider paying a visit to Skulpturhalle Basel. This place is also operated by the museum and it showcases more than 2000 replicas of Roman and Greek sculptures and scale-size architectural sculptures.
Jean Tinguely Museum
If you want to discover the work of influential Swiss artists, pay a visit to Jean Tinguely Museum that contains the largest collection of Swiss artwork. Tinguely’s sculptures and drawings, documents, photographs, and many other works of Swiss artists are included in the museum’s collection.
Spielzeug Welten Museum (Toy Museum)
That’s right, Basel has a toy museum. A visit is definitely a must but, even from the outside, the museum is very beautiful to admire. The window display changes collections every season and can be spotted from the streets. However, once you enter the museum you’ll be impressed by the wonderful dolls, dollhouses, stuffed animals, and carousels. Some are historical and some are created by the current artists but all of them are mesmerizing and beautiful.
It is believed that the museum has the largest collection of teddy bears in the world. 2500 teddy bears are at the museum, in case you were wondering.
Built in the 14th-century and renovated in the 1970s, Barfüsserkirche currently houses the Historical Museum of Basel. Here can be found many collections that encompass the region’s history and cultural background. The church’s nave is the place where you can see gothic wall-hangings and 17th-century curiosities. In the aisle, there are furnished historical rooms and collections of weapons. The choir place features art with a religious theme and the crypt showcases the recovered treasury.
The fortified gate that guards the Old Town, Spalentor, dates from 1370. The gate is surrounded by other beautiful architectural masterpieces like the church that dates from the 14th century.
Haus zum Kirschgarten
Built in between 1775 and 1780, the Haus zum Kirschgarten is the most exquisite patrician houses in Basel. This house belonged to successful silk ribbon manufacturers in the past and today is the best museum in Switzerland that displays domestic life.
The 25 rooms of the house are furnished and display furniture from the 18th century alongside an extensive collection of decorative objects.