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Basel Travel Guide
Get Your Bearings in BaselWhere to Stay
Sharing borders and the Rhine River with France and Germany, Basel hotels are fairly concentrated in one area on both sides of the Rhine. Even if a hotel is located out of the center, there is excellent transportation. On the left (west) bank of the river is the Central Bahnhof with The Teufelhof Hotel and the commercial and cultural center with the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and The Hotel Basel. The right bank is the conference area with Swissotel Le Plaza and Ramada Plaza Basel. There is also the Airport Hotel Basel at the EuroAirport near the French border.
Caution: Basel hosts many famous international conferences and exhibitions. Therefore, check hotel availability well in advance.
Hot Tips: All hotels in Basel give guests an unlimited tram and bus card during their stay.
What to Eat
Being at the crossroads of France, Germany and Switzerland, the diversity of authentic cuisine is unlimited and Basel offers about 300 restaurants. On the left bank in the center is romantic elegant dining at the Cheval Blanc, vegetarian at Tidbits and local, friendly dining at Stadthaus Café. The Krafft Basel on the right bank, recently renovated, has a terrace overlooking the Rhine and the cozy Fischerstube has Basel’s first microbrewery. South of the Center is the famous French restaurant, Stucki Bruderholz, near the Water Tower.
Caution: Look at menus that are usually posted outside of restaurants as prices can vary from about $20 to over $150 per person.
Be Sure to Sample: Swiss Basler Leckerli, spicy cookie squares with candied orange and lemon peels, nuts and kirsch.
Things to See
Sightseeing involves easy walking mostly on the left bank. The Muntser (Cathedral) is near the Rathaus (City Hall) and the Marktplatz (Market Place). St. Peter’s Church is close to the University, Botanical Gardens and the best remaining 11th c. city wall tower, Spalentor. There are numerous museums for cartoons, dolls/toys , paper and books, pharmacies, industry, gymnastics /sports, fire service, natural history and ethnography, Jewish religion, musical instruments, antiquities and art. The Zoo is further away. On the right bank is a futuristic conference center built by Swiss architects, Herzog & De Meuron.
Take It or Leave It: Basel is flat except for a slight incline up to the Cathedral.
Hot Tips: Climb the stairs up a Cathedral tower for a spectacular view.
Places to Party
Basel offers everything from pub crawls to classical concerts by the Neue Orchester Basel. Stroll in the city at night amongst the lit-up monuments or watch Open Air Cinema in the summer. The sophisticated right bank’s Bar Rouge is near the conference area as well as the trendy singles bar Adagio. The left bank offers cozy Atlantis bar with a beautiful roof-top terrace. Lounge bars include the sophisticated Campari Bar and unique 5-star Le Privé Bar Club. Enjoy live jazz at the Bird's Eye Club or chill at funky Café des Arts.
Caution: "Designer" cocktails are very trendy now. Be sure to check the prices beforehand.
Hot Tips: The Atlantis becomes a clubbers' destination on the weekends after 11:00 PM.
Where to Shop
The left bank center includes many shopping areas. In addition to many boutiques and some department stores, there are markets taking place at Petersplatz periodically. There are also many shops on the Freie Strasse. Around the Marktplatz, there are little winding streets with local crafts-makers and smaller shops. On the right bank, you find more ethnic and artistic type shops, reminders of generations of immigrants having lived in the neighborhood.
Caution: The Freie Strasse is known to be the main shopping street, but it's becoming filled with international chain brands.
Best Local Souvenir: Go to the Läckerli-Huus for those famous Basel spiced cookies (3 locations).
Ready for Your Dream Vacation?
Basel is a city of culture. The Renaissance humanist, Erasmus, and the German philosopher, Nietzsche, taught here. The University of Basel, which is was founded in 1460, is the oldest in Switzerland and still exerts a tremendous influence over the town. If that weren't proof enough, the city also boasts more than 30 museums and 150 art galleries. The city likes to have fun, too, as evidenced by the slew of annual fairs and festivals. The famous Basel Carnival (Baslar Fasnacht) is three days of non-stop partying. Despite a growing population that is pushing 200,000, Basel is quite intimate. Visitors should stroll through the charming Old Town, as well as Marktplatz, the town center. Popular sights include the Kunstmuseum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the medieval St. Martinskirch, and the old Basel Cathedral, which contains the tomb of Erasmus.