I’ve wanted to visit Switzerland for a while but the cost of doing so had put me off booking a trip until the end of last year, when I came across some cheap flights to Basel (£50 return from Manchester) and managed to find a reasonably priced hotel.
I didn’t know much about Basel, except for what I’d read in a few posts from travel bloggers that I follow, but once I started looking in to it, I decided that I needed to book a trip! The pretty cobbled streets and gorgeous buildings were exactly what I imagined a Swiss city to be, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I saw them in real life.
Basel sits on the Rhine river in the north west of Switzerland, right by the French and German borders. It’s the third biggest city in Switzerland and is well-known for its art and culture.
I only visited for the weekend, so am by no means an expert, but still wanted to share my tips on visiting the city, with some extra recommendations for solo travellers!
Basel (Mulhouse Freiburg) airport is a funny one in that it serves three countries; France, Germany and Switzerland. Make sure you follow signs for Switzerland when leaving the airport, otherwise you could end up in the wrong country haha!
I flew with Easyjet from Manchester but there are quite a few options from around the UK and in Europe.
Travelling from the airport to the city
As always, you can jump in a taxi outside the airport but this will be your most expensive option.
Public transport in Basel is straightforward and inexpensive, so I’d recommend making use of one of the buses from the airport. I took a bus then a tram, and it took less than 30 minutes to get to my hotel. A quick look on Google maps will tell you the best route.
There is an extensive tram system operating in Basel, which makes it super easy to get around. If you’re staying in a hotel in the city, you will be given a Basel Pass, which entitles you to free public transport for the duration of your stay, as well as discounted entrance to a number of museums and attractions. Not bad for free!
The city is also really walkable as it’s quite small and it’s definitely the kind of place where you’ll want to just wander and get lost down the pretty cobbled streets.
Switzerland is notoriously expensive and although there’s plenty of accommodation choice in Basel, it can be quite pricey. I stayed at the Dorint De Masse hotel as it was cheap but I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to be honest. The staff were friendly and the location was ok but the beds were uncomfortable and it was a bit of a faceless, corporate place.
Booking.com and Expedia have loads of options. I wouldn’t worry too much about spending loads to stay right by the old town, as I said the city is really compact and its super easy to get around.
How long to stay
To be honest, one day would be fine; two is definitely enough. Given the size of the city, you can cover the main sights easily in a day or two. I was there for just under 48 hours and I did struggle to fill my second day a little bit. If you’re heading there in summer, two days would be perfect as you can spend plenty of time outside (it was January and very cold when I visited!).
Things to see and do
Marktplatz and Rathaus (Basel Town Hall)
Basel’s market place is dominated by the impressive Town Hall, known as Rathaus. The striking red/brown coloured building is 100 years old and the name Rathaus literally translates as “council house”.
It’s well worth seeing; it’s certainly one of the most impressive Town Halls I’ve ever seen!
I wandered inside to have a nosey after admiring the façade but you can take a guided tour for just under £4 per person. The tour is in German most of the time, you’ll need to take the Saturday tour if you require it to be English speaking. More information here.
The market square itself is bustling and there was a really cool market on when I visited on a Saturday.
The beautiful Munster (cathedral) seems to be the main focal point of the old town. It’s open all week and entry is free. Be sure to exit at the back of the building for some amazing views over the Rhine and Basel.
Get lost in the Old Town
One of my favourite things about visiting European cities are the Old Towns, you can’t beat them for just wandering around and admiring your surroundings. Basel’s Old Town is super pretty, I spent quite a while just wandering the cobbled streets taking photos and just enjoying the views.
I visited in January and I have to say that I was shocked by how little people there were, especially in the mornings! It was so nice to explore without crowds and crowds of other tourists.
Be sure to include the Spalentor City Gate on your walk around the Old Town.
Walk along the Rhine
Another part of European city breaks I really enjoy is wandering along a river and taking in the views. Wander along the Rhine for wonderful views; especially across from the Old Town on the opposite side of the river.
My Swiss Alps have put together a great walking route, you can check it out here.
Visit one of Basel’s many museums
For such a compact city, Basel has a lot of museums. Almost 40 to be precise!
I visited Kunstmuseum, which houses the largest collection of art in Switzerland. There’s lots of interesting art and admission was really affordable, at just 8 CHF (around £6) with your Basel Card.
Check out some street art
I have to say that when I planned my trip to Basel, seeing street art did not spring to mind. In fact, I hadn’t realised that Basel had street art and it was only when I was wandering in the city centre that I came across Gerbergasslein, one of the best know street art installations in the city (apparently!).
Commissioned by nearby bar L’ Unique, the installation is pretty amazing, with everything from sea creatures to famous musicians.
Where to eat and drink
As with pretty much everything else, food is pretty expensive in Basel but there are some great places to eat and grab a cocktail. I only visited a few places but so this list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully it’ll be a good start for a weekend break in the city.
An indoor street food market and bar, Klara is a great place to grab a bite to eat. There’s a number of different food stalls, delicious cocktails and plenty of seating. The vibe’s really cool too, and I’d highly recommend it for solo travellers, as I didn’t feel at all out of place there on my own.
Prices aren’t cheap, in fact I was a little surprised but the food is great. I opted for the dumplings at Mister Momo and they were so delicious!
I’d highly recommend Tibits, a vegetarian restaurant, even if you’re a meat eater. It’s essentially a high quality buffet and you pay for your food by weight, which helps stop you overeating.
I really enjoyed the plate of food I had for lunch and washed it down with a delicious Mint Lemonade.
Bread’s free/doesn’t get weighed, so pile it up if you’re really hungry. There’s a brunch option too!
This is also a good choice for solo travellers, as there’s many different types of tables including long benches and the atmosphere is pretty relaxed.
Right opposite Tibits, Union Diner serves amazing burgers with rosemary salted chips. Again, prices aren’t cheap and this is essentially a fast food restaurant, but the quality’s really good!
It costs around £17-£20 for a burger, fries and drink. The portions are pretty big though, so it’s definitely fill you up.
Again I felt like this was a good choice for solo travellers, as well as for couples and groups.
Solo travel in Basel
I felt really safe in the city as a solo traveller, even at night time. I was approached by three different groups of religious speakers/missionaries during the day time but they weren’t at all pushy, we just had a nice chat.
Just be sure to take the usual precautions when travelling alone and you should have a straightforward and safe trip.
You could join a free walking tour. They’re always a great way to see the city, meet other travellers and just generally enjoy being in the company of others when you’re travelling solo.
- Sunday seems to be a super quiet day in the city and all of the shops (including supermarkets and convenience stores) are closed! Be sure to do any shopping and stock up on snacks on a Saturday if you’re in Basel for the weekend.
- There are plenty of ATMs around the city, should you need to withdraw cash to get some Swiss Francs (CHF).
- There’s often a service charge added to bills, so you’re not required to leave a tip. If you’re really pleased with the service, you can round up to the nearest Franc to leave a little extra.