For a great finale to the journey, our train ride ends in beautiful Basel. Literally on the corner of France, Germany and Switzerland, this cosmopolitan, Swiss city (and the hometown of Roger Federer) is a great base as both France and Germany are just 10 minutes away and it’s only three hours by train to Paris.
While Switzerland is notoriously expensive, forward-thinking Basel helps you out with transport with their Mobility Ticket. With any stay in a hotel (or even a hostel) you receive a free ticket to ride on the public transport system during your entire stay. Love that.
The heart of Basel is one of the best-preserved old towns in Europe with charming medieval houses and squares. At the same time, the city is a showcase for modern design with several Pritzker-Prize winning architects such as Herzog & de Meuron and Renzo Piano.
Don’t miss the daily food market at the Marktplatz overlooked by colorful City Hall. Just up the street, duck into Café Confiserie Schiesser to sample some decadent Swiss chocolates and then head upstairs for a coffee break and old-world café atmosphere.
Drool over all the gourmet food at Globus, Switzerland’s famous upscale department store. Later on indulge in a meal in the garden at Kunstshalle Restaurant just beneath the art museum. For a great view of the city, head uphill to the Cathedral. After admiring the Gothic church, head behind it to the Pfalz, the terrace with one of the best vistas over of the Rhine and just take it all in.
My friend Maurits (who I’d met at a hostel in Berlin years ago and then got to see again more recently in Zurich) had raved to me about Basel. This city has a couple very unique attributes, neither of which I would get to experience here in October, but would love to come back for.
During the summer months, you will see heaps of locals swimming in the river. But not just swimming, many are drifting downstream from work to home or a bar and carry a “fish” bag with them—a waterproof satchel for their work stuff and clothes. I LOVE this and so want to go back for a dip. Each summer there is one official Rhine swim day as well. Whether young or old or somewhere in between, thousands brave the waves and join the big swim.
Basel’s famous carnival, Fasnacht, is the largest in Switzerland, lasting exactly three days, from 4:00a.m. Monday morning to 4:00 a.m. on Thursday.
At 4:00am on the first day, the city turns of all street lights in the Old Town and only the lanterns of the marchers are seen. Thousands of participants dress up in elaborate, colorful costumes and masks and remain incognito the entire time. There are two huge parades in which the participants throw candy and confetti bombs (all solid colors so if you get doused with mixed, you know it was on the ground!) while marching around playing the drums and the piccolo. Some restaurants and bars in the old town stay open the entire time, all day and all night for the three days. It sounds like quite the spectacle with a mixture of haunting mystique, fascinating medieval tradition and jovial celebration. Another reason to go back!
Up next, the food of Basel in images!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Eurail Group, KLM, and Basel Tourism, as always all writing and opinions are my own.