One of the largest cities in Switzerland, Basel is a uniquely multicultural city thanks to its location where the Swiss, French and German borders meet. Primarily German-speaking, the city is an important cultural centre in Switzerland and has a number of theatres, concert halls and museums.
One of the most important cultural centres in Basel is the highly-regarded Kunstmuseum (Fine Arts Museum), with a world-class collection of both modern art and old masters. Other excellent art museums include the Schaulager, the Fondation Beyeler, and the Kunsthalle Basel. The animated mechanical works at the Museum Jean Tinguely are also a must-see.
On a beautiful day, visitors can easily spend a pleasant morning strolling around the Old Town area, situated between the Basel Zoo and the Rhine River. The cobbled streets and Romanesque cathedrals are interspersed with market squares, shops, and cafés. A tour of the beautifully-renovated Rathaus (town hall) is essential.
While Basel is a lively city, it truly comes to life for three days each year during Basler Fasnacht, its version of Carnival. Costumed parades, concerts, fire shows and other events are on constant rotation, however the festival frowns on excessive drinking and lewd conduct, and is considered very family-friendly.
Situated on the Rhine River, Basel is very nearly a seaport, with large ships coming in from the Black Sea. River cruises are a popular pastime, and Basel is a great starting point for a week-long cruise through Germany and Amsterdam.
Basel is located in one of the warmest areas of Switzerland, with average temperatures two to three degrees higher than other parts of the country. Average temperatures are around 67°F (19°C) in the peak of summer (July and August), and hover around 35°F (2°C) in the winter months of December, January and February. Precipitation is fairly steady throughout the year, with an average of ten wet days per month. Snow is not common and rarely falls heavily enough to blanket the roads. The best time to visit Basel is in late spring (mid-May and June) and early autumn (mid-August and October).
Many visitors to Basel get around on foot, as the old city is fairly compact and many streets have been pedestrianised, with recommended colour-coded walking routes for tourists. Some parts of the city have steep inclines, however, so walking tours are only recommended for the moderately fit. Bicycles are also a common sight in Basel, and are available for hire.
Basel has an extensive bus and tram network, which is easy and convenient to use. Tickets are sold from machines at stops and stations. Single tickets start at CHF 2.30, and day passes are available.
All the pedestrians, trams, buses and bicycles add up to a city that can be confusing to drive in. Parking is scarce in Basel, although there are public garages available. Hiring a car is therefore only recommended for excursions out of the city.