Visit Switzerland, Germany, and France (In One Week)

Basel, Switzerland
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Basel, Rhine River, Switzerland
Basel lights up the Rhine River at night (Werner Dieterich/Getty)

Basel, Switzerland
Basel streetcars are as reliable as Swiss trains, like the one that delivered me from Zurich Airport to Basel in 90 relaxing minutes. But I didn't take many streetcars because Basel's city center is small enough to be comfortably covered on foot—just as they proved to be in the corner's other cities. These historic hubs evolved long before the automobile, which is given little space, with many streets, alleys, and squares not even allowing cars.

The result is a city energized by pedestrian traffic from its bustling train station to the promenades along the Rhine. Forgoing the crutch of a street map, I joined this stream of humanity on my first afternoon and soon discovered riverside restaurants, the theater district, and, in the museum district, a Van Gogh exhibit at the Kunstmuseum, where even the permanent collection includes Rodin sculptures and many abstracts by Picasso, Dali, Braque, Chagall, and Kandinsky.

I spent more time wandering the city the next day. A steep climb from the Rhine lifted me into the Old Town, where many buildings boast completion dates on their exterior walls: 1376, 1390, and, at the Alte Universitat (Old University), 1460, the year the University of Basel was founded. This oldest university in Switzerland, where Nietzsche once taught, has been relocated, but its influence is seen in a lively music scene and the popularity of a riverside festival the day I visited.

Basel's dozens of churches and museums range from the majesty of the red-sandstone cathedral, dating to 1019, to the playful displays at the Puppenhausmuseum, with its world's largest collection of teddy bears. But the hour I enjoyed most was spent sipping European coffee outside a brasserie on Marktplatz square, where the city's streetcar lines and pedestrian throngs converge. In the middle of it all, schoolboys played street soccer on the cobblestones, with netting preventing the ball from flying over the portable goal and breaking the windows of the ornate, 16th-century Rathaus (city hall). The scene couldn't have captured Basel's charming mix of youth and tradition any better.

WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Rochat is a 50-room hotel on a quiet street in central Basel, where a breakfast buffet and—like all Basel hotels—an unlimited streetcar pass are included.

WHERE TO EAT
Safran-Zunft serves Swiss cuisine such as fondue and venison in a medieval stone building in the city center.


Published: 10 Jan 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Basel-Land

$98-$153
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Hotel Rochat
$151-$234
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Hotel City Inn
$143-$257
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Ramada Plaza Basel Conference Center
$176
Average/night*
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BEST WESTERN Hotel Merian am Rhein

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