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Basel Travel Guide

About Basel

Rooted on the banks of the Rhine at the meeting point of France, Germany and Switzerland, Basel lays claim to one of the choicest crossroad locations in Europe. The city is customarily overshadowed by the likes of Zurich and Geneva, but a youthful, trend-conscious vibe and some handsome modern architecture make it more than worthy of a few days of exploration.

The success of annual art fair Art Basel – usually held in June – has helped bolster the city's reputation in recent decades. Much of the action happens at the Kunstmuseum Basel, which houses Switzerland's largest public art collection in a vast neo-Palladian building that dates from 1936. Works by Hans Holbein, Auguste Rodin (including the famous Burghers of Calais), and Lucas Cranach line its walls, as do pieces by Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Edouard Manet. Other galleries include Mitart, which showcases the work of contemporary artists, and the Ludwig Collection of sculpture, drawn from ancient Greece and Rome.

Comprehensive though the choice of galleries is, there's plenty more art to be found outside their walls. Sculptures are dotted around the city, as are classical and modern fountains, along with buildings designed by some of the most famous names in contemporary architecture, including Renzo Piano, Richard Meier and Frank Gehry. The period features aren't half bad either, with the cobbled streets and colourful facades of the historic old town proving enchanting.

Finest of all of these is the Rathaus (city hall) which has dominated the Marktplatz for more than 500 years and has an elaborate tower which has now been pressed into service as a viewing platform. From the top, you can see most of the city spread out below, straddling the icy blue waters of the Rhine.

The river, once the source of nearly all the wealth that flowed into Basel, remains a key part of city life. In the summer, Basel's inhabitants, whether students or bankers, flock to the river's banks to sunbathe, stroll or simply relax in the sunshine. Many jump in for a bracing dip, while every August, thousands of swimmers hop in for the annual Rheinschwimmen and simply float downstream.

In recent times, the city's most famous son is tennis maestro Roger Federer, and each October sees Basel host an international indoor men's competition that routinely draws some of the biggest players on the circuit. Federer himself, who was once a ball boy at the tournament, has won on seven occasions (and counting).

Key facts

Population:
190000
Latitude:
47.555446
Longitude:
7.589339

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Rheinfelderhof

A few minutes' walk from the city centre (and even closer to the Messe Basel trade fair venue), this is a well-priced hotel with almost 50 rooms. It's nothing fancy but has all the basics covered, from free wifi to satellite TV. There's a traditional restaurant on site.

Swissotel Le Plaza

The Swissotel Le Plaza, graded as four-star superior, is a stylish option a few minutes' walk from the Rhine and the Old Town. The hotel has 238 rooms and offers 24-hour room service, as well as a gym with a sauna and steam room. Its Grill25 restaurant serves up the classics in smart surroundings.

Les Trois Rois

One of the oldest city hotels in Europe, Les Trois Rois is Basel's grandest residence. Over the years, its luxurious rooms and suites on the banks of the Rhine in the Old Town have accommodated such luminaries as Napoleon, Charles Dickens, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Mann and Queen Elizabeth II. It also has a fitness centre and various top-notch restaurants and bars.

Courtyard Basel

Part of the Marriott Group – and consequently a reliable if rather vanilla option for an overnight stay – the Courtyard Basel Hotel is set on the southern outskirts of the city and has 175 rooms and suites with the usual amenities and plenty of meeting space.

Hotel Basel

Situated in the heart of the old city for the past four decades, this 4-star hotel has 70 rooms and three suites, all comfortably furnished and equipped with the standard mod cons. There are three restaurants, including a brasserie, and a couple of small meeting rooms.

Teufelhof (Devil's Court)

This enjoyably quirky establishment comprises two hotels: the Kunsthotel (Art Hotel), with nine rooms each designed by a local artist, and the larger Galeriehotel (Gallery Hotel), in which both the rooms and public spaces function as exhibition spaces for artists. Prices can vary greatly according to demand.