Located in northwestern Switzerland on the Rhine River, Basel is the third most populous city. It has a triple border with Germany and France, some of its suburbs being located on the territory of these countries.
Although German is spoken in Basel (dialect, German of Basel), as an influence of the neighbors in the state of Baden-Württemberg, its inhabitants did not borrow the cold and calculated lifestyle of the Germans. They chose the bohemian style of their other neighbors, the French from Alsace, in terms of food, clothing, fashion, etc.
Founded during the Roman Empire (there are ruins of a castle here), it was destroyed by the Hungarians in the 10th century. With the foundation of the Basel Cathedral, during the German Emperor Heinrich II (beginning of the 11th century), the reconstruction of the city begins, it continues to develop, but it still goes through a difficult period as a result of the plague of 1347 and the earthquake of 1356. At the beginning of the 15th century it entered the Swiss Confederation as the 11th canton, today it is a major industrial and cultural center of Switzerland.
Visiting the city of Basel
Basel's main tourist attractions are located on the banks of the Rhine between the Schwarzwald and Dreirosen bridges in the historic old part of the city. Although most of them are located on the left bank, we started our visit from Dreirosenbrucke, on the right bank, as we were staying nearby.
Unlike the left bank where the buildings are built close to the river waters, on the right bank there is a promenade and then the buildings. Our walk through the city of Basel also began on this alley and I recommend it, especially for the most romantic among us.
After about 800 meters of walking along the alley, admiring the river and the buildings on the opposite bank, we reached the next bridge over the Rhine, the third oldest (1877), called the Johanniterbrücke. After strengthening in the ˙60s with concrete beams, it became the first major bridge in all of Switzerland.
Just after the bridge, on a black marble plinth, is a map of the sights of Basel. A well-detailed map of the old town where explanations were given in German and Braille.
Although crossed by numerous pedestrians, tourists, and locals, the alley is very clean, there are very frequent trash cans and each one had a bundle of plastic bags attached to it. The bags had various animal faces drawn on them and could be used for free to collect excrement.
The first building on our route that caught our attention was the Kleines Klingenthal museum. Built on the site of a former monastery, the museum building houses a rich collection of Gothic and Romanesque sculptures brought from the city's cathedral following its restoration. Historical objects of medieval Basel, a model of an old monastery, and a model of the city from the 16th century are also presented here.
After another 400 meters, we reached the oldest bridge (1225) crossing the Rhine in Basel, called Mittlere Brücke or Middle Bridge. Originally built of wood, due to the need to be able to transport goods and people more easily across the river, the bridge also served as a place of execution.
The most hardened criminals, but also pimps and immoral women, had certain weights tied to their bodies, and the bodies were thrown into the waters of the Rhine. The current bridge, the most beautiful of Basel's five, was rebuilt from granite stone at the beginning of the 20th century.
We walk another 800 meters and reach the next bridge, the second oldest (1843) (the fourth on our route), the Wettsteinbrücke. A road bridge on which the tram also runs and has two statues of mythological beings at the ends.
It should be noted that crossing the Rhine is also done at some points with the help of steamboats pulled on cables. From this bridge, we walk a little further and enter Solitudepark where we were going to visit a strange museum, Tinguely, named after the eccentric Swiss sculptor and painter, Jean Tinguely.
Just before entering the museum, a "monster" attracted our attention, with a tangle of old wheels and storms, called Tinguely's Fountain. The old gears of the "car" had some curious movements and made everyone onlookers laugh. And the entrance to the museum was a bit crazy: right in the middle of a store lined with all kinds of cheap goods (something like our store "all products for x lei").
The museum has several buildings on two floors and houses Tinguely's quirky works, some cheerful, some satirical, all enhanced with scraps like bicycle wheels, gears, clock mechanisms, etc. I was particularly impressed by the works "Greas Industry", "Mengele's Dance of Death" and "The Drawing Machine".
Some mechanisms were electrically operated and could be started by any of the tourists by foot pressing a button mounted on the floor and protected by a rubber ball. On the ground floor, a system of sliding walls formed in record time a conference room, living rooms, or work offices. These are only a few of Tinguely's "inventions" and if I were to describe them all I would do a separate review.
Arriving at the bridge over which the A3 highway passes, the Schwarzwaldbrücke, we passed on the left side of the Rhine, where the main tourist attractions of the city of Basel are. We went into the first grocery store to see some prices and when I saw how much a kg of red watermelon (SFr 6), which I had eaten at my niece's the night before, cost, my hat was about to jump off my head.
Next, we took St. Alban-Rheinweg, a street almost on the banks of the Rhine, and we arrived at one of the three entrance gates, remaining from the old medieval fortifications and called the Tower Gate of St. Alban. The gate tower, built of wood at the beginning of the 13th century, was partially damaged in the earthquake, then it was restored, structurally modified, and introduced into the tourist circuit.
Somewhere ahead, on the right, two other beautiful buildings attract attention, one houses the Museum of Contemporary Art and the other the Swiss Paper Museum. From this place we took a long left, on St. Alban-Graben, then on Elisabethenstrasse, to visit the church of St. Elisabeth (Elisabetenkirche), the oldest neo-Gothic church in Switzerland. It is closed to tourists, but you can climb the high tower, from where you can admire the panorama of the city.
In the perimeter around the church, there are many sights to visit and I would list the Basel Theater, the Art Museum, the Toy World Museum, the Music Museum, the History Museum, etc. We visited them from the outside along with many other aristocratic buildings around.
I particularly liked the Cherry Orchard House (Haus zum Kirschgarten), a museum building built in the late 18th century from red brick. It is right across the street from the Elisabethenkirche and resembles a palace in size and architecture.
These were the objectives, which I visited, in the first phase, in the city of Basel. Tired after about 6 km on the banks of the Rhine (especially the ladies), we took a long break to return for the second stage of the visit.
After a well-deserved rest, at the end of a five-hour visit (see impressions), we returned to the center of the old town by crossing the Wettstein Bridge. From the Rittergasse we entered a large square paved with cubic stone, the Munsterplatz.
A beautiful square with a wide opening and is surrounded by luxurious buildings. Among them is the Munster Gymnasium, the oldest building of its kind in the city of Basel. On the eastern side of the square, close to the banks of the Rhine, there is a beautiful park shaded by numerous centuries-old chestnut trees.
The strong point of the market, and also the main attraction of the city, is the Basel Cathedral (Basler Munster in German). Built in the early 11th century in red sandstone and covered with tiles of the same color, the cathedral suffered damage both in the 1356 earthquake and during the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century. It was rebuilt every time, and in the 19th century, it was restored several times.
On the inside, the cathedral is not so rich in paintings or statuettes, but it impresses with its corridors, tall columns, two towers, and the big clock on the facade. At the back of the cathedral is a stone balcony from where you can see the most beautiful views of part of the city and the Rhine.
In the corridors of the cathedral, there are numerous bas-reliefs with different personalities, among them that of the martyred deacon Vicentiu. Also, the Dutch humanist writer Desiderius Erasmus, the mathematician James Bernoulli, and other important personalities of the city of Basel are buried here.
Past the Culture Museum, we went down a pedestrian street, paved with cubic stone, and arrived at another large and beautiful square, the Marktplatz. Here we encountered one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, the Basel Town Hall (Rathaus in German). More than five centuries old, the building impresses with the intense red of the sandstone from which it is built.
The facade, with its three arched entrances, contains numerous paintings and bas-reliefs of angels and warriors. Decorative elements on the exterior of the building include the clock, the Gothic tower with arched windows, a statue of justice, and the golden turret. Inside, right at the entrance, a modern statuary group attracts attention, and on the staircase to the right is the statue of the Roman senator Lucius Munatius Plancus. The interior walls are also painted with various religious scenes.
Very close to Marktplatz is Peterplatz, another square, rather a park with lots of vegetation. The most important sights in the area are the University of Basel, one of the most important in Switzerland, St. Peter's Church (Peterskirche), and Spalentor, the second (of three) entrance gates to the former fortified city.
The last objective visited, from the old town, was the Tower of St. Johann, the third medieval gate. After the (still) four hours of caroling, we headed home. Only my companions arrived home because I was curious to visit a "less historical" part of Basel.
I continued my way on Johanniterbrucke, then on Feldbergstrasse, and I came across another church (I think it was the one that always woke me up, the ringing of the bells, at 07 in the morning), St. Matthew's Church (Matthauskirche).
Built-in neo-Gothic style at the end of the 19th century, it is the tallest church in Basel. An impressive church with granite stone walls, sandstone walls, and a slate roof. The tower above the entrance is also built of sandstone and has four rectangular windows and four more small turrets.
From this church I wandered randomly on the streets on the right side of the Rhine, I also met some older apartment blocks, kind of like ours (surprising, isn't it?), but also new buildings, especially beautiful and with futuristic architecture. One of them with a huge dome, which particularly impressed me, I met in Ramada Square, surrounded by luxury shops.
Also by chance, less than 200 meters away, I came across a building with interesting old architecture, the Basel Badischer Bahnhof train station. For a long time, I thought I had visited Basel's main train station, but it was not so.
Although on Swiss territory, this station was managed by the German Railways. The main train station in Basel, the largest in Europe, is called Basel SBB Station, it is much nicer and is located in the center of the old town, close to the Elisabethenkirche.
As part of the Swiss territory, the city of Basel is an expensive destination. I was convinced of this right when I arrived in the city, when I had to pay 35 euros for the vignette (compulsory for one year). Apart from gasoline, which was cheaper than ours (1.37 euros vs. 1.41 euros), everything is more expensive here.
Parking in Basel (and probably in other cities as well) has some well-established rules and they are strictly followed. Outside the designated parking lots, on the street, even if there are free spaces, you can only park where there are paint markings. I found the traffic behavior of Swiss drivers to be particularly polite and civilized.
Although not a top tourist destination, the city of Basel is well worth a visit. Recommends it for the very beautiful medieval center, the many pedestrian alleys, and the world-class art museums. I also consider it an ideal place to stay for visiting northwest Switzerland.
Located on the corner of three countries, the city of Basel is a gateway to the Jura mountains and the cities of Zurich, Bern, and Luzern. Also, it is very easy to visit North-East France (Alsace) or North Germany (Baden-Württemberg and the Black Forest Mountains).
Thanks for reading and I wish you the most beautiful holidays!
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