Basel is the city at the most strategic location for starting/ending a visit to Switzerland during a western/central European trip. Situated at the crossroads of Switzerland, Germany, and France, it’s not hard to understand why.
From Basel, you can quickly visit lovely cities in Alsace (Strasbourg & Colmar), France. It is also the case for the fairytale towns and the enchanting natural attractions in the Black Forest, Germany. Most importantly, Basel is only a few hours away from Switzerland’s top attractions by train.
Indeed, beautiful places surround Basel. But it does not mean that Basel is just a transit hub or a jump-off location to France, Germany, and Switzerland. Basel is a beautiful city, and you’ll see in this post the most beautiful places you can see during your stay in Basel.
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The most beautiful places in Basel are:
- Basel Town Hall
- Basel Minster
- St. Paul’s Church
- Rhine River (Mittlere Bridge)
- Basel Messe Exhibition Center
- Tinguely Museum
- Vitra Design Museum
You’ll find their exact location, visiting information, and little details you might want to discover about them in this article. However, it is important to know that these beautiful places in Basel are just the tip of the iceberg of the overall experience in Basel.
Based on what I have discovered (in my opinion):
Basel is a beautiful city because it’s where the past and present times converge, as depicted by its charming medieval and stunning modern buildings. It is also Switzerland’s basket of culture and tradition because of the impressive artworks everywhere in Basel and the colorful festivals Basel has.
You’ll find Basel worth visiting for its museums and streets dotted with murals, sculptures, and beautiful buildings. Basel is a paradise for curious minds and museum lovers. There is a museum for history, culture, toys, contemporary & kinetic artworks, papers & printing, and more.
There are around 40 museums in Basel, and you can spend 3 days straight visiting museums!
You can find all the museums in Basel here. See the different activities/day trips/best things to do in Basel from this link. And if you need a place to stay in Basel, you can find the best hotel deals in Basel here.
Let’s say you plan to spend only a week or a few days in Switzerland and you really want to see Basel. I would suggest spending only a day or two in Basel. During your Switzerland trip, you must not miss and spend more time in:
- Lucerne for mountain & lake experiences, charming city, and unique landmarks. Learn more:
- Jungfrau Region for epic adventures, once-in-a-lifetime destinations, breathtaking scenery, serene countryside, and more. Discover:
- Zermatt for the Matterhorn, unparalleled alpine experience, scenic trains, and more. Check these out:
- Montreux for music, a fairytale castle, and gorgeous vineyards & special wines. See 10 reasons to visit Montreux.
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From Basel, you can have a day trip to the places mentioned. Here’s a list of day trips from Basel.
Lastly, here’s how you can spend 3 to 14 days in Switzerland (visiting different cities near the Swiss Alps and the most beautiful villages in the Swiss Alps). If you’re planning a week-long or longer Switzerland trip, you may use the Swiss Travel Pass to save money.
Without further ado! I’ll bring you to the middle ages to modern times through the 7 most beautiful places in Basel:
1. Basel Town Hall
For travelers wanting to be time-transported centuries back to the past, Marktplatz is the part of Basel that shouldn’t be missed. It is where you can find “Basler Rathaus” or Basel Town Hall—a 500-year-old masterpiece that is apparently one of the most beautiful places in Basel.
You’d find it easy to spot Basel Town Hall from Marktplatz (click this link to Google Maps to see the exact location). There is no doubt that with its eye-catching red color and tower that dominates the Marktplatz!
Basel Town Hall can already impress you when you arrive at Marktplatz. Its facade has trompe l’oeil murals, tricking your eyes into seeing three dimension embellishments and sculptures.
Don’t hesitate to enter the building. The attractive inner courtyard is even more worth seeing! The inner courtyard of Basel Town Hall has walls that are also painted with colorful murals.
As you marvel around the courtyard, you’ll also see the statue of the Roman general Lucius Munatius Plancus. Impressively, it’s one marvelous artwork in Basel that has survived the test of time. The statue dates back to the late 16th century.
You may climb the stairs in the courtyard to see up close the murals on the walls of the upper floors.
But overall, you’ll see murals depicting scenes of the Swiss confederation and different allegorical images of law.
You can check the official Basel Tourism website for Basel Town Hall’s Operating hours. In summary, it is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm from Monday to Friday.
Entry to Basel Town Hall is free, but I suggest you visit with a guide for an insightful tour inside the building. You can book your tours in Basel from this link.
There are comprehensive tours, and they’ll introduce you to the art, history, and politics within Basel Town Hall. You’ll see where the officials meet, impressive rooms of parliament, centuries-old artifacts, and mesmerizing building ornamentations.
The fresco-decorated walls and wood-carved furniture inside Basel Town Hall show different scenes and symbolism. Some depict the unification of the cantons, the history of Basel, the basilisk (the symbol of Basel), and more.
Here are some of the scenes inside Basel Town Hall:
Do you think Basel Town Hall is an interesting place? If yes, you might also want to discover the town halls of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Munich, and Bamberg. Check them out here:
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber — it is one of the most charming places in Germany. The streets here are flanked by half-timber framed houses. Learn more: 7 Reasons to visit Rothenburg.
- Munich — it is the capital of Bavaria. In this city, you can find the BMW HQ, a few palaces, and architectural marvels (i.e., Neues Rathaus). Discover the 10 most beautiful places in Munich.
- Bamberg — it is a UNESCO heritage site/town in Franconia in South Germany, famous for smoked beers. It has a colorful town hall built in the middle of the river. See it here: 7 Reasons to visit Bamberg + 12 Things to do.
2. Basel Minster
Basel Minster is the second on my list of the most beautiful places in Basel. It is an icon of Basel stuck in the middle ages. And I think photographers would like to visit it.
For me, Basel Minster is the most picturesque place in Basel for two reasons:
- Architecture (primarily Gothic)
- Location (overlooking the Rhine river)
You can quickly spot Basel Minster along the banks of the Rhine river, between the Mittlere bridge and Wettstein bridge. With its two spires, Georgstrum and Martinstrum, 60+ meters high, you can easily tell “there’s Basel Minster!”
Basel Minster appears photogenic from afar from the Wettstein bridge. While on the Wettstein bridge, you can photograph Basel Minster with its beautiful colored tile roof included in the frame.
Here’s the exact location of Basel Minster in Google Maps. It takes around 5 minutes to reach Basel Minster from Wettstein Bridge. Travel time by foot is the same if you’re from Basel Town Hall.
By the time you reach Minster Cathedral Square, you’ll see Basel Minster. And I bet you will only be impressed a little. That is the case, especially when you have been to other European cities, which have more stunning churches.
The most picturesque spots in Basel Minster are in its cloister. There’s also no fee to enter Basel Minster. So, don’t forget to come inside the church!
The scenes in the Basel Minster cloister can be dramatic, especially when strong sunlight enters the arcades and windows. Basel Minster’s gothic architecture and the tablets hanging on the walls give the scene a magical vibe.
You should see an overlooking view of the Rhine river through the windows when you go to the farthest side of the cloister. Speaking of beautiful views, you can see an unobstructed panorama of Basel from Basel Minster’s tower.
Going to the vantage point can be challenging for a few. The way up involves climbing 230-step stairs (with narrow steps). There are parts where you have to hold onto a rope.
Don’t be discouraged, though. Of course, the view from the top is rewarding! You’ll also see a huge bell and its supporting timber there.
If you can’t climb Basel Minster’s towers, don’t worry! You can still see a panoramic view of Basel across the Rhine river from the platform behind the Basel Minster.
Besides the panoramic views and picturesque cloister, you might also want to see Basel Minster’s intricate artworks. I marvel at the pulpit, the sculptures of Saint George and the dragon, and the seducer & misguided virgin.
You can check the opening hours of Basel Minster from its official website. Here’s a link where you can find tours in Basel for an insightful visit to Basel Minster and other places in Basel.
See how picture-perfect Basel Minster is:
If you are interested in places like Basel Minster, you might also want to visit the below-mentioned places.
- Paris, France — you’ll marvel at Sainte-Chapelle’s stunning stained glass windows for sure! Check it out here: 10 Beautiful landmarks in Paris.
- Lyon, France — it has a church perched on a hill with stunning mosaic interiors. You’ll love to discover it: 14 Reasons to visit Lyon.
- Rome, Italy — Come here to see ageless landmarks, including the holiest and most beautiful churches in the world! You should not miss the Sistine Chapel. Learn more: 10 Beautiful places in Rome.
- Venice, Italy — it has a church that combines three architectural styles: Byzantine, Islamic, and early Gothic. Discover the 10 Most beautiful buildings in Venice.
- Milan, Italy — its cathedral is one of the best you can ever behold! Its flying buttresses, intricate facade, and pointy spires will fill you with awe. Learn more: 10 Reasons to visit Milan.
- Florence, Italy — this city has a picturesque church made up of white, green, and red marble. It possesses the largest masonry dome in the world. Check it out: 10 Most beautiful places in Florence.
3. Saint Paul’s Church
Another beautiful place in Basel is also a church. And it is called Saint Paul’s Church.
Saint Paul’s Church is an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of Basel, 1 tram ride away from Basel Train Station or a few-minute walk from Basel Zoo. Here’s its exact location in Google Maps.
And let’s say you’re currently in Marktplatz or Basel Town Hall. You’d need to walk for 15 minutes or ride the tram (number 8) to get to Saint Paul’s Church.
For me, Saint Paul’s Church is a beautiful place in Basel. Why? Because of its gorgeous neo-classical architecture and the area’s overall tranquility—thanks to the trees and lawned garden surrounding the church.
Saint Paul Church may also be a nice place in Basel to visit if you like relaxing and listening to concerts. You can check the blog of Saint Paul’s Church to see their next concerts.
4. Rhine River and Mittlere Bridge
If you plan to stay in Basel, you wouldn’t like to miss the golden hour in the city. It is the hour when the city scenery becomes more beautiful—thanks to the setting sun, painting the buildings in the city with a golden hue.
Where’s the best place to watch the golden hour and sunrise/sunset in Basel? There’s none other than the banks of the Rhine river and Mittlere Bridge. They’re also Basel’s most beautiful places because:
- They have beautiful panoramic views of the city.
- Also, romantic scenery.
- Lastly, there are fascinating artworks to discover as you explore the area.
I’ll show you a view of the golden hour in Basel later, but in the meantime, here’s how Mittlere Bridge looks like (see below)
Besides the beautiful views, you might want to visit Mittlere bridge because it has historical/cultural value.
Did you know that the Mittlere bridge (or the Middle bridge) stands on the oldest existing bridge site across the Rhine River? Also, this 192-meter-long bridge is made of Swiss materials. It’s made up of granite that came from Saint-Gotthard Massif.
Mittlere Bridge connects the two parts of the old districts of Basel, Grossbasel (Greater Basel) and Kleinbasel (Small Basel). Grossbasel is in the southwest of the Rhine River, while Kleinbasel is in the northeast.
Anyway, if you’re an early bird and you want to see the golden hour in Basel, you should go to the banks of the Rhine river in Kleinbasel. Obviously, it’s the part of Basel where you’ll be facing the Grossbasel, including Basel Minster.
If the weather is in your favor (clear skies and sunny), you can see Basel’s gorgeous old-world buildings glow with warm light during the sunrise!
The riverbank in Kleinbasel is like a mini park. There are a few benches, shops, and trees. With the panoramic view awaiting you there, I think you’ll like hanging out here and having a little morning picnic.
Don’t miss having a short stroll on the riverbank in Kleinbasel! You can find two cute, fascinating artworks in the middle of the riverbank’s length.
If you start from the Mittlere bridge, the first artwork you’ll find is the miniature sculpture of the Grossbasel. The location where you can find the miniature is also the vantage point of Grossbasel.
Then, continue a little further, and you’ll encounter the cute basilisk fountain.
For those who want to see the golden hour in Basel and the Rhine River before sunset, the viewing platform behind Basel Minster is the best place to go. You can see medieval houses from there and a few modern buildings dominating the skyline.
Below are some of the things and views you can see while sightseeing at the Mittlere Bridge and the Rhine River.
If you are interested in going to places like Basel with panoramic views of the river and historic old towns, I suggest you also check Avignon and Verona.
- Avignon, France — it’s here you can find the largest gothic palace in Europe. From its bridge, you can see a panorama of a fortified medieval town to transport you back to when the Papacy was moved to France. Learn more about Avignon: 10 Reasons to visit Avignon.
- Verona, Italy — it is a romantic city in northern Italy where the story of Romeo and Juliet is set. It’s a city with 2000+ years of history and panoramic views! Discover more about Verona here: 12 Reasons to visit Verona.
5. Basel Messe Exhibition Center
Suppose sightseeing on Mittlere Bridge is the first thing you will do in Basel. In that case, you might get the first impression that Basel also has “modern” tourist attractions. The modern skyscrapers behind the traditional houses will give you a hint.
Of the modern buildings in Basel, the one which impressed me the most is the Basel Messe Exhibition Center. For me, it is the most beautiful modern place in Basel (although I am not really a fan of Modern architecture).
Here’s the exact location of the Basel Messe Exhibition Center in Google Maps.
From the outside, Basel Messe Exhibition Center exhibits an architectural design that looks like a woven facade. I bet its textured aluminum cladding exteriors will also catch your eye!
The most marvelous part of the Basel Messe Exhibition Center is the prominent hole in Messeplatz (only a part of the entire building). You can see the hole right after you disembark the tram at the Messeplatz station.
Architects call the giant hole in Basel Messe Exhibition Center “Fenster zum Himmel” or “Window to Heaven.” Its texture is similar to the exteriors of the exhibition center but looks more spectacular because of its circular shape.
Every time I stare at the sky (daytime) through Fenster zum Himmel, I always see it make an optical illusion. It seems I’m being pulled up or the woven-appearing aluminum moving toward me.
Minimalist photographers may find Fenster zum Himmel a beautiful subject for their photos.
As its names suggest, Basel Messe Exhibition Center conducts exhibitions and conferences. Sometimes, there are music festivals, food festivals, and exhibits like “Van Gogh Alive.” You can check the events list from the official website of the Basel Messe Exhibition Center.
Basel Messe Exhibition Center is a huge, interesting building. But I think a visit to Basel Messe Exhibition Center would be quick if there’s no event or an exhibit to attend. Also, it is worth seeing only if you plan to have a lengthy stay in Basel.
6. Tinguely Fountain & Museum
Tinguely Museum is the most fascinating of all the tourist attractions and beautiful places in Basel. Why? Because:
- Tinguely Museum is an art museum that exhibits genius creativity! You’ll love the kinetic artwork. Do you have kids? They’ll surely marvel at the moving exhibitions inside.
- It has an Instagrammable gallery overlooking the Rhine river (near Schwarzwaldbrücke).
- The museum has a garden in front of the entrance, and it looks pleasant with lawned grass and kinetic artwork.
See the exact location of Tinguely Museum on Google Maps.
In a nutshell, Tinguely Museum is dedicated to exhibiting the works of Jean Tinguely. He is a Swiss sculptor known for kinetic art sculptural machines, also known as Métamatics.
Here’s a video to give you a glimpse of what’s inside the museum:
By the way, there are two places where you can find his works in Basel. Most of Tinguely’s artworks are in the museum, but you can also find a few in the Tinguely fountain in front of the Theater Basel.
As an engineer, I appreciate the works of Jean Tinguely very much. He was able to combine creativity with different concepts of engineering. His art is simply amazing.
Inside the museum, you can find a wide range of kinetic art. For example, moving minimalist boards, a bicycle that draws abstract art when a person pushes the pedals, and more.
The way Tinguely calculated the length and movement of each part of his mechanical masterpieces and how they can produce a new artwork is fascinating. It seems that Tinguely has put life into his creations.
Tinguely is also an interactive museum. You can expect the museum to stimulate all your senses. Like the Basel tourism office says, Tingley Museum is where discovery, laughter, and amazement are packed into one.
You may check the official website of the Tinguely Museum to see the visiting information. You may use the link to book your visit to the Museum.
You may enter the Tinguely Museum for free if you have a Swiss Travel Pass. Swiss Travel Pass lets you use the trains, buses, and boats in Switzerland for unlimited times. It also lets you access hundreds of museums in Switzerland, not only Tinguely Museum.
7. Vitra Design Museum
The last in this list of beautiful places to visit from Basel is Vitra Campus & Design Museum. It is one of the places in the world to house the most extensive collections of modern furniture designs.
Did you know? Vitra isn’t only an ordinary museum, but it’s also one of the world’s leading museums of design. They examine the relationship between design and architecture.
And if you love styling your home, you won’t regret coming here!
You can find a wide range of furniture in the Vitra Design Museum. Some designs even date back to the 19th century.
What makes Vitra Campus a beautiful place is the overall architecture of the place.
It’s a paradise for minimalists. The scene everywhere is neat and pretty futuristic. I love the landscaping, though.
You need not enter the museum to see interesting things, though. The museum building itself is an architectural attraction. It is made with a deconstructivist design, and it seems Doctor Strange from Marvel Comics bent its parts.
Below are some of the beautiful scenes that await you in Vitra.
It’s beautiful, right?
Don’t worry about transportation because Basel and Vitra Design Museum are in different countries. Buses and trams are servicing Basel and Weil am Rhein. Learn the exact details from the visiting information page of Vitra.
Vitra Campus & Design Museum is only one of the many beautiful places awaiting you outside Switzerland. From Basel, you can get to other nearby cities in France and Germany with fascinating attractions and picturesque historic town centers.
Below are some of the places you might like to discover in France and Germany (sorted: nearest to farthest from Basel).
- The Black Forest (Germany) — It is where the world’s most famous fairy tales originated. With how this place looks (thick forest, half-timber framed houses, and scenic rolling hills), traveling to the Black Forest can be one of the most magical trips ever. Learn more about the Black Forest and the special things about it.
- Colmar (France) — It’s the most fairytale town in France. The dense half-timber framed houses, cobblestone streets, and castles around Colmar can explain why. Discover Colmar and the 10 reasons why you should visit Colmar.
- Strasbourg (France) — It is similar to Colmar but larger and has more diverse experiences. The attractions in Strasbourg will time-transport you to the middle, industrial, and modern age. Discover Strasbourg, the capital of Europe, and the 22 reasons you should visit Strasbourg.
- Stuttgart (Germany) — It is the largest city closest to the Black Forest, famous for the Porsche and Mercedes Benz museums in the city. Here are more reasons why you should visit Stuttgart.
But before you leave Switzerland, you might also want to spend time in other cities in Switzerland.
- Zurich. Highlights: Epic nightlife, luxurious streets, and great museums & art galleries. Check out the 15 reasons to visit Zurich.
- Geneva. Highlights: International organizations, historical landmarks, and day trips to the French/Swiss Alps. See the 10 reasons to visit Geneva.
- Bern. Highlights: Charming UNESCO heritage site historic center, cute fountains, and Einstein’s house. See the 22 things to do in Bern.
If you are planning to see the Swiss Alps yet also want to explore a city, I recommend you try checking the cities below. These cities are nearest to the Swiss Alps and are a great home base for visiting different attractions in the Alps.
- Montreux. Highlights: The magical Chillon Castle, unique wines from UNESCO Lavaux vineyard, and the music industry. Here are the 10 reasons why you should visit Montreux.
- Sion. Highlights: Picturesque landscape, wines, hilltop castle, and church. Discover the best things to do in Sion.
- Brig. Highlights: Simplon Pass, Stockalper Palace, and World Nature Forum. See the best things to do in Brig.
- Thun. Highlights: Cruise in Lake Thun, Oberhofen Castle, and Thun Castle. Check out the best things to do in Thun.
- Lucerne. Highlights: Chapel Bridge, Lion Monument, and Mount Pilatus. Learn more about Lucerne and the 15 reasons why you should visit Lucerne.
From the cities listed above, you can have a day trip to Switzerland’s best destinations (mentioned earlier) and to the places below.
- Kandersteg — it is one of the most beautiful villages in the Swiss Alps, closest to Oeschinensee, which is one of the most stunning lakes in the Alps. See all the best things to do in Kandersteg.
- Gruyeres — a preserved medieval city in the Swiss Prealps. Come here to see a castle, visit unique museums, and taste the unique Gruyeres cheese. Learn more about Gruyeres and the 10 reasons why Gruyeres is worth visiting.
If you need more ideas about where to go in Switzerland check out these articles:
- Swiss Countryside Photos to Inspire you to visit Switzerland
- 14 Special Things About The Swiss Alps That Make It Famous
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