Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Basel
Basel (German Basel, French Bâle), Switzerland's second largest city, lies close to the French and German frontier. The city is built on both sides of the Rhine, which here takes a sharp turn northward between the Swiss Jura and the Black Forest to enter the Upper Rhine plain; upstream from Basle the river is known as the High Rhine (Hochrhein). Gross-Basel (Great Basle), the city's commercial and cultural center, lies on the higher left bank; Klein-Basel (Little Basel), where most of its industry is situated, on the flat right bank.
Description of the Town
Gross-Basel (Great Basel) and Klein-Basel (Little Basel) are linked by six bridges over the Rhine. From the Mittlere Rheinbrücke (Middle Rhine Bridge, 1905), on the position of the first bridge in Basle, built in 1225, there is a fine view of the Minster. Upstream from this bridge are the busy Wettsteinbrücke (built 1879, widened 1937), the Schwarzwaldbrücke (Black Forest Bridge, 1973), which is designed for through traffic and the Eisenbahnbrücke (Railroad Bridge), together with the dam of the Birsfelden hydroelectric power station. Downstream are the Johanniterbrücke (built 1882, rebuilt 1934). There are also three ferries, driven by the current, with no motors. Gross-Basel, on the left bank of the Rhine, still preserves in the central area some features reminiscent of an old Imperial city, in spite of its many modern buildings and its busy commercial activity.
Situated on the Swiss frontier and at an important river crossing, Basle soon developed into an important commercial town. Its heavy commercial traffic is now served by two large railroad stations and the Rhine harbor (Rheinhafen) at Kleinhüningen, 3km/2mi north of the city on the right bank of the river (shipping exhibition, "Our Way to the Sea"; viewing terrace on the grain elevator, 55km/180ft high). At St Louis, 9.5km/6mi northwest in French territory, is the Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg International Airport, which is to be expanded into an International-European airport.
The city's main industries are the manufacture of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, machinery and electrical equipment, textiles and foodstuffs; it also has numerous banks including the head office of the Bank of International Settlements.
In the second half of the first century B.C. the hill on which the Minster now stands was occupied by a Celtic settlement, remains of the ramparts of which have been found in the Rittergasse. The proximity of the Roman town of Augusta Raurica, founded in 44 B.C., led to the establishment of a Roman military station on the hill in 15 B.C. The name Basilia ("royal fortress") first appears in the records in A.D. 374, and soon after that date there is a reference to Basel as the see of a bishop. In the 10th C. the town belonged to Burgundy, and in 1025 it became part of the German Empire. A long history of conflict with the house of Habsburg ended in 1501 when the town joined the Swiss Confederation. In 1529 it went over to the reformed faith. The university, founded by Pope Pius II in 1460, became, thanks to the presence of Erasmus from 1521 onwards, the principal center of humanism, and its fame was maintained by a series of distinguished scholars and teachers in later periods: the physician Paracelsus lived in Basle in 1527-28, the mathematicians Jakob and Johann Bernoulli taught in the university in the 17th and 18th C., the cultural and art historian Jakob Burckhardt from 1844 to 1893, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche from 1869-1879. Among the artists connected with Basel were Hans Holbein the Younger (b. 1497 in Augsburg, d. 1543 in London), who spent many years in Basel between 1515 and 1538, and the 19th C. painter Arnold Böcklin (b. Basle 1827, d. Fiesole 1901).