They named it twice
Visit Basel (or Basle) and you’ll and you’ll discover why it’s so good they named it twice. Sitting just inside Switzerland but on the border with both France and Germany, it’s a town with many faces – and many influences. Despite its modern role as a centre of commerce and transport, a system of quant ferryboats is still used to cross the Rhine, which splices the city in two.
Markets, independent shops and international favourites are all features of Basel’s varied shopping scene, which is largely focused on the city centre. The Old Town is a great place to hunt for unique items and vintage clothing – particularly the narrow alleyways of the Spalenberg. This area is also home to Johann Wanner (Spalenberg 14), which sells Christmas items year round. Designer boutiques are abundant along Freie Strasse, including Louis Vuitton (Freie Strasse 88) and Hermès (Freie Strasse 107). If you’re looking for antiques, head to the marketplace every Saturday in St Peter’s Square, or you may be lucky enough to time your visit with the flea market at Barfüsserplatz on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month.
Food & Drink
Basel boasts restaurants to suit all palates and budgets, from inexpensive Swiss eateries to Michelin-starred marvels. Restaurants don’t come more traditional than Löwenzorn (Gemsberg 2/4); with some parts dating back to 14th century, this cosy restaurant is clad with beautiful carved wood and offers good-value local fare. A lively night out can be had at Acqua (Binningerstrasse 14), a funky Italian restaurant that’s bejewelled with candlelit tables, log fires and loud music. Fine dining is the order of the day at Cheval Blanc (Blumenrain 8), an intimate and formal two Michelin-starred restaurant; while the more understated Restaurant Stucki (Bruderholzallee 42) also holds two stars for its colourful and inventive offerings.
The largest carnival in Switzerland, this confetti-strewn three-day extravaganza of colourful costumes, parades and performances has been celebrated in the city for centuries, starting on the Monday following Ash Wednesday.
Jazzfestival Basel Offbeat
Music lovers flock to this nine-day jazz fest each year as local performers, world-renowned artists and emerging talent take to the stages of various venues throughout Basel.
Showcasing new and established modern and contemporary artists, this annual show attracts tens of thousands of visitors who can attend talks and screenings and discover new artworks at first hand.
This open-air event provides a great chance to see military brass bands and formation teams display their prowess through music, dance and military might. All performances from the international troupes are, of course, timed to Swiss precision, with the week-long event culminating in a popular parade.
Basel Christmas Market
Split over two locations (Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz), the charming Christmas market focuses on traditional festivities, with produce and wares from local farmers and artisans, as well as food stalls serving warming mulled wine and piping-hot snacks.
Grand hotels, elegant boutique accommodation and family-run properties are juxtaposed in Basel’s central districts. Some of the best options are located along the pretty banks of the Rhine, including the character-filled mid-range Krafft Basel (Rheingasse 12) and the modern boutique Hotel D (Blumenrain 19). But for sheer opulence, splash out at the five-star Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (Blumenrain 8), an elegant and imposing building that has history seeping from its mid-19th-century walls. Away from the river, check in at Euler Hotel Basel (Centralbahnplatz 14), a convenient hotel next to Basel’s central train station. Alternatively, escape the crowds at the three-star Hotel Bildungszentrum 21 (Missionsstrasse 21), a former evangelical mission house in a pretty private park.