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Let me tell you about the town of Basel in Switzerland. With a population of just over 170 000, it is actually the 3rd most populous city in Switzerland. Yet, prior to attending a work related course there this year, I had never actually heard of it!
As it turned out, Basel must surely be one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Switzerland. Not only does it boast a beautiful medieval town centre and an annual Carnival beginning the Monday following Ash Wednesday each year (known as Fasnacht), its location in the northwest corner of Switzerland with shared borders with France and Germany also make it a gateway to explore the nearby Swiss towns of Zurich, Bern and Lucerne, as well as the Alsace region of France and the Black Forest of Germany.
As I was going to be there for about a week, I decided to book a self contained apartment through airbnb. I really lucked out in finding this gem of an apartment, situated roughly midway between and easily accessible to both the train station and the centre of town.
Sven and Sandy are incredibly friendly and welcoming hosts who left no stone unturned when it came to making me feel comfortable. From picking me up at the train station, to a fully stocked kitchen including provision of bread, butter, milk, eggs, juice, fruit and even chocolate to get me started, an inviting balcony to sit and while away my time, and an extensive music and DVD collection, this spacious apartment with fast connection wifi, washing machine and dryer, 2 toilets, all bathroom supplies and an elevator truly did feel like a home away from home. Problem: it was so comfortable, I found it hard to leave and explore my surroundings!
If you’re short of time, Basel is a small enough town that you can walk the length and breadth of it in 1 day. The tourist board of Basel make it easy by providing this brochure, detailing a series of 5 colour coded walks, named after famous Basel residents, that take you to all of the main tourist sights. There are also corresponding coloured plaques all across town so you can be sure you’re heading in the right direction. Genius! It is possible to do all 5 walks in 1 day, especially as there is some overlap, but be aware that there are steep inclines in parts, and do allow yourself time as well to take lots of photos, for Basel really is a very picturesque town. Don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes!
As all the directions are provided in the brochure, I won’t repeat the details here but simply show you through photos just how cute of a town Basel is with its cobblestone streets, remnants of the old city wall, and riverside views. If I do have 2 pieces of advice that aren’t in the walking guide, though, they are:
1. Walk into the courtyard of the Culture Museum at 20 Munsterplatz. It’s like a secret garden moment!
2. Do yourself a favour and buy some chocolate from Laderach just opposite the large red Town Hall at Marktplatz 18. It’s a big call, but I do think it’s the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted! They’re open Mon-Wed 9am-6.30pm, Thurs 9am-8pm, Fri 9am-6.30pm, Sat 9am-6pm, closed Sundays.
St Alban Rheinweg, a lovely riverside walk that will take you to St Alban Tor, another of the remaining city gates, a paper mill and paper museum, and a remnant stretch of the old city wall – green Hans Holbein walk, nos. 51-53
Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, typical depicted with a shield and spear. A common essay topic for school children of Basel is to write about what Helvetia is thinking about as she rests here by the Rhine.
The pontoon in the distance near the Klingentalfahre and north of the Mittlerebrucke on the southwest bank of the river is where locals go to sunbathe and dip in the Rhine in summer. The Klingentalfahre is 1 of 4 small ferry boats at various points along the Rhine. They are attached to a steel rope and drawn by the current between the 2 banks. Each river crossing costs CHF1.60 for adults and CHF0.80 for children.
Have you been to Basel? If not, make sure you add it to your list the next time you’re in Switzerland!
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