Things to do in Basel Switzerland

The best things to do in Basel: 18 tips!

Basel Switzerland is a fantastic city, where history, art, and architecture come together. These are the best things to do in Basel.

About Basel

Basel is located in northwestern Switzerland, near the borders of Germany and France. It is a city where modern architecture, history, and art come together. In fact, Basel has a beautiful historic city center as well as more than 40 museums and many architectural highlights.

The city is fun to visit in both winter and summer. In the winter months, you have the cozy Christmas markets and large exhibitions in the museums, in the summer you can take a nice refreshing dip in the Rhine and enjoy the delicious food on one of the many terraces.

Is visiting Basel on your bucket list? Keep on reading to discover the most beautiful Basel sights and the best things to do in Basel.

The best things to do in Basel

What to do in Basel? These are the most fun things to do and the most beautiful Basel sights.

Basel City Hall

The bright red Basler Rathaus is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. It is located on the historic Marktplatz, the city’s main square. The building originally dates from the 16th century but has been modified over the centuries.

The Rathaus stands out for its impressive facade with richly decorated ornaments and elegant arcades. The facade is decorated with colorful frescoes depicting historical events and symbolic figures. You can visit the town hall courtyard for free.

Basel's bright red city hall

Botanischer Garten der Universität Basel

The University of Basel Botanical Garden is perhaps my favorite place in the city. Although it is located at a busy intersection, it feels like an oasis of tranquility. This beautiful botanical garden is one of the oldest in the world and has an extensive collection of plants and flowers from all over the world.

You can go for a nice stroll through the various gardens and explore the various plants that are carefully arranged in thematic sections. From exotic tropical plants to native Swiss flora, there is always something new to discover. The greenhouses house rare and delicate plant species that thrive in different climate zones. Some greenhouses are more than a hundred years old!

Botanischer Garten der Universität Basel


Next to the botanical garden is the Spalentor, one of three remaining city gates (there were originally nine). The gate was originally built in the 14th century and has an imposing appearance with tall towers and sturdy defensive walls. The Spalentor is a beloved symbol of Basel.

The historic tower is a good starting point for a walking tour of the historic center. The street behind the tower (Spalenvorstadt) is really cute and has some nice restaurants, boutique stores, and bakeries.

Spalentor in Basel

Messe Basel

Messe Basel is an ultra-modern and versatile exhibition and conference venue in the heart of Basel, Switzerland. It is one of the most important exhibition complexes in Europe and a center for international events, fairs, exhibitions, and congresses.

Due to its special architecture, Messe Basel is one of the most photographed places in the city. The “hole” reminded me a bit of that of the Pantheon in Rome. But more like an ultra-modern version!

Messe Basel

Visit one of the interesting museums

Basel is one of the cities with the highest museum density in the world. The city has more than 40 of them! If you enjoy visiting museums, Basel is definitely the place to be. These are some of the most beautiful museums in Basel.

Kunstmuseum Basel

The Kunstmuseum Basel is one of the most important museums in Basel. The museum has an impressive collection of artworks that spans different periods and styles, from the early Middle Ages to contemporary art.

The museum is divided into three locations: the main location in downtown Basel, the Neubau, and the Gegenwart building, dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Together, these sites house a wealth of artwork, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and more.

Naturhistorisches Museum Basel

Another fun museum to visit is the Natural History Museum of Basel. This is a fascinating museum dedicated to the natural sciences and natural history

Inside the museum, you can enjoy a fascinating journey through the natural world. It houses extensive collections of minerals, rocks, and gemstones, giving you an insight into the earth’s geological history. You will also find an extensive collection of fossils and skeletons, including dinosaurs, that will give you a glimpse of prehistoric times.

The museum also has a rich collection of animals set up as dioramas, allowing you to experience the biodiversity of different ecosystems. A great place to visit!

Naturhistorisches Museum Basel

Museum Tinguely

Museum Tinguely is dedicated to the work of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, a pioneer of kinetic art. The museum building itself is already a work of art in itself, designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. It has a striking, modern look and perfectly matches the artistic atmosphere of the artworks on display inside.

Inside the Museum Tinguely, you will discover an impressive collection of Jean Tinguely’s kinetic art. His works often consist of moving parts and machines that playfully combine sound, light, and movement. Seeing his artwork in action and experiencing how it comes to life is fascinating.

Tinguely Brunnen

If you don’t feel like visiting a museum, you can still see some of Tinguely’swork! In the city center, you can check out the Tinguely Brunnen for free.

This is an interactive and moving fountain, consisting of various moving sculptures and objects that playfully spray and spin water. The sculptures are powered by water power and mechanical elements, making them move in unpredictable ways, giving a unique and vibrant look to the fountain. I could really watch this for hours, it’s so interesting!

Tinguely Brunnen

Vitra area

The Vitra area is actually not in Basel, but just outside the city in the German town of Weil am Rhein. From Basel you can get here very easily, it is only five kilometers away. It is a place for lovers of architecture and design, culminating in the Vitra Design Museum. This building was designed by architect Frank Gehry, who you may also know from the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

The Vitra Design Museum features an extensive collection of design objects and exhibitions that highlight the evolution of design and architecture over the years. The museum focuses on both historical designs and contemporary innovations, giving visitors a deep insight into the influence of design on our daily lives.

Mittlere Brücke

The Mittlere Brücke is one of the city’s oldest bridges and is a picture to behold. The original bridge was first built in the 13th century and has undergone several renovations since then. Today, the Mittlere Brücke is an important traffic artery connecting the two parts of Basel, namely Grossbasel on the southern bank of the Rhine and Kleinbasel on the northern bank.

Take a walk on the Mittlere Brücke and enjoy stunning views of the Rhine River and surrounding historic buildings.

Mittlere Brücke

Check out the street art

Although Basel is not exactly known for its large amount of street art, there are plenty of beautiful murals to discover! One of the most famous is the House of Rock Mural, which depicts various legends of the music industry. It is a work in progress, more can be added. Hidden in the mural is a box for donations, perhaps you can make a request for an addition.

If you pay attention, you will come across more beautiful murals while walking through the city, especially under the bridges near the Rhine River.

House of Rock Mural in Basel

Basler Münster

Basel’s Munster is a magnificent cathedral and one of Basel’s most notable landmarks. Construction of the Basel Munster began in the 11th century, but it took until the 16th century for the building to be completed.

The cathedral has an impressive facade with magnificent towers and sculptures, and the interior is richly decorated with works of art, stained glass windows, and sculptures. By the way, did you know that the world-famous Dutch philosopher Erasmus is buried here? Also, take a look at the Bischofshof next to the church. Here you will find a very impressive cloister.

Basler Münster on the Munsterplatz


The cathedral stands on Münsterplatz, also known as the Münsterplei. This picturesque square is a sight to behold and a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike. Münsterplatz is surrounded by charming old buildings, making it very atmospheric. A great place to take a break on a bench or enjoy a drink on one of the many terraces.

Münsterplatz regularly hosts events and festivals, including markets, concerts, and cultural festivities. In summer, the square is turned into an open-air cinema, a fun place for a night out!

Swimming in the Rhine

If you visit Basel in the summer, this is an activity you cannot miss! The great Rhine River flows right through the city and on hot days is full of people (especially after working hours). There is usually a strong current, so you don’t have to make a lot of effort to move forward. It is convenient to take a bus or streetcar to the east side of town (we started at a little beach behind Museum Tinguely) and then float back to the center of the city.

Swimming in the Rhine

If you look closely, you can see that almost everyone is using a Wickelfisch. This is a large dry bag in the shape of a fish which you can put all your clothes in. I tested it for you and everything does stay dry in the bag. I even put my camera and phone in the Wickelfisch.

While swimming, do stay a bit to the side (don’t go past the red buoys), then you will stay far from the big freighters. It is wise not to go beyond the Johanniterbrücke, otherwise, it will be difficult to get back out of the river. Have fun!

You can buy the Wickelfisch almost anywhere in Basel, but you can also buy it online.

Relax in a fountain

Besides swimming in the Rhine, there is another fun thing you can do to cool during a hot summer day: you can sit in a fountain. It sounds a bit weird, but it’s a very common thing to do in Basel. On hot days, you see almost everyone either sprawled out in bathing clothes in a fountain, or just with their feet in the water. A fun and refreshing place to take a break!

Relaxing in a fountain

Food Tour

A food tour is always a fun way to explore a city AND eat great food! I did this food tour during my visit to Basel and it was a great activity. We started with a drink and a delicious piece of cake and then visited a packaging-free store where we got a jar to fill with goods. I took some chocolate and nuts, it was so good!

We had lunch at one of the nicest places in Basel: KLARA. This is some kind of food court with various stalls. You can try appetizers from different cuisines. Then finish with a Basel Läckerli, a local cookie. You are sent all over the city, which makes it also some sort of sightseeing tour. Highly recommended and it has a great value!

Book your Basel food tour here.

Food tour in Basel


Basel is on the border with Germany and France, and the three countries meet at the Dreiländereck. This is a kind of peninsula with a large pillar in the Rhine River. The point is easily accessible, you can walk or bike there (a nice trip along the Rhine) or take Streetcar 8 and get off at Kleinhüningen. From there it is another 15-minute walk to the point.

On the tip is a great bar called Sandoase, where you can enjoy the view with a drink in a beach-like atmosphere.

Discover Basel by bicycle

The most fun (and fastest) way to explore the city is by bike. Upon presentation of your Basel Card (you get it for free with your stay), you can rent an electric bike at the train station for 20CHF. With the bike you can explore almost the entire city in a day.

Basel is a very bike-friendly city and has many bike lanes. Especially along the Rhine River, it is a pleasure to cycle, the biking routes are well-marked here. Fun places to visit by bike include the Dreiländereck and the Vitra area.

Discover Basel by bicycle

Cafes & restaurants in Basel

Did you know that Basel is filled with great restaurants and cafes? These are some of the city’s most best places to eat or for a drink.

  • Amber Bar – A cocktail bar on the Rhine with a 1970s vibe. From the rooftop terrace, you have a great view of the city. They also have delicious non-alcoholic cocktails.
  • Ufer7 – Cozy terrace on the Rhine. Great for lunch, they have an affordable (and tasty) lunch menu.
  • Don Camillo – Fusion restaurant in a former brewery. Fantastic building with a grand staircase that looks like a work of art. The food is also very good and there are many vegetarian options.
  • Löwenzorn – One of the oldest restaurants in town. Here they serve mostly Swiss specialties.
  • Nomad Eatery & Bar – This restaurant is part of a hotel, but you can eat really awesome food here. So much flavor!

As I currently don’t drink alcohol or eat meat, Basel was a delight to visit. They have many non-alcoholic and vegetarian options.

Mocktail at Amber Bar Basel

Great places to stay in Basel

Because Basel has so much to offer, spending a night or two is highly recommended. These are some great hotels in Basel:

  • Der Teufelhof (3⭐) is the hotel where I myself slept during my stay in Basel. This hotel consists of several buildings and they each have a different atmosphere. I slept in a very special art room. The breakfast is absolutely amazing.
  • Hotel Märthof Basel (4⭐) is a beautiful hotel that looks a bit like a castle. It is in a great location in Old Town.
  • Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (5⭐) is an iconic hotel in Basel. It has a history dating back to the seventeenth century and is one of the oldest hotels in Europe. It is in a beautiful location in the center of Basel on the banks of the Rhine River. Over the years, the hotel has had several famous guests, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen Elizabeth II, and Bill & Hillary Clinton.

Check out for more options, availability, and prices.

Artful hotel room at Der Teufelhof in Basel

Free public transport in Basel

As in many other Swiss cities, when you spent a night in Basel, you get a special pass that allows you to use public transportation for free. Check Google Maps for schedules and stops. You get in the back doors of the bus or tram and don’t have to show anything or check in or out. Only when checked you have to show your pass.

Book a Basel city break

Would you like to visit Basel? Then book your trip now!

🚆 Travel to Basel by train – Basel is easily accessible by train from all over Europe. Check Rail Europe to find itineraries and train tickets.

✈️ Travel to Basel by Plane – Close to Basel lies the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, which is an international airport. Check WayAway to find the best deal on plane tickets.

💊Travel insurance – Having good travel insurance will give you peace of mind. Check Insubuy (general) or Safetywing (for nomads) to find the best travel insurance that fits your needs.

🎡 Tours and Activities – Would you like to learn more about the history of Basel or do you want to go on a fun day trip? Check Get Your Guide.

🚂 Swiss Travel Pass – Would you like to see more beautiful places in Switzerland during your holiday? Make it easy on yourself and purchase a Swiss Travel Pass. This gives you unlimited access to trains (including panoramic trains!), buses, and boats, and you can also visit more than 500 museums. Buy your Swiss Travel Pass now!

Read more about Basel and Switzerland

Want to read more about Basel and other beautiful places in Switzerland? Here are some great travel guides full of tips:

Lonely Planet Switzerland

Rick Steves Switzerland

You can also read more about a vacation in Switzerland on this website. Other articles you might like to read are:

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I visited Basel at the invitation of Switzerland Tourism. I always give my honest opinion about a destination. Read more about working with Travel with Co on this page. This article also contains some affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links it costs you nothing extra, but I get a small commission. This allows me to improve this website. Support Travel with Co.

The best things to do in Basel Switzerland

As a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, I always dreamed of traveling. I thought it would always be a dream, but nowadays, I travel 6 to 8 months a year and I hike thousands of miles on the most beautiful hiking trails. On this website you can read all about my favorite destinations.

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