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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.

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Around the Market Square

Detail of Basel Town HallDetail of Basel Town Hall View slideshow
Sights in Basel's market square include the Rathaus, a history of pharmacy museum and a fish market.

Town Hall

The red Town Hall in Basel.
The Mittlere Brücke leads into the Marktplatz (Market Square), which is dominated by the brightly painted Basle Rathaus (Council House). The main building, with arcades, is in Late Burgundian Gothic style (1504-21); the new wing to the left and the tall tower on the right are 19th C. additions.
The clock is the work of the Master Wilhelms (1511/1512). The wall-paintings in the attractive courtyard are in part the work of Hans Bock (1608-11; restored). The statue (1574) on the outer staircase represents the legendary founder of the town, Munatius Plancus. Visitors can see the two council chambers (the Regierungsratsaal with its impressive wood paneling and the Grossratsaal, which contains 15 coat-of-arms of the Swiss cantons).

Freie Strasse

At the corner of the Basle Marktplatz and Freie Strasse is the Renaissance Geltenzunfthaus (1578). In the same street (No. 25) the guild-house of the locksmiths (Ruman Faesch 1488), charmingly decorated in Baroque style in 1733, now houses a restaurant. The guild-house of the Hausgenossen (No. 34), has attractive wall-paintings.

Swiss Museum of the History of Pharmacy

The Swiss Museum of the History of Pharmacy is just a little way west of Freie Strasse, near the Basle Roccoco Stadthaus (Town House, 1771).
Address: Totengässlein 3, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

Fish market

Northwest of the Basle Marktplatz is the little Fischmarkt, with a Gothic fountain, (reproduction: original in Historical Museum).

Basel Minster

Basel MinsterBasel Minster View slideshow
Set atop the highest point on Minster Hill is Basel Minster which is identified by its prominent spires.
Highlights:

Around the Münsterplatz

Sights around the Basle Münsterplatz include the Museum of Natural History and Ethnography, the Swiss Folk Museum and St Martin's church.

Natural History and Ethnography Museum

In Basle's Augustinergasse, which runs northwest from the Münsterplatz, is a Neo-classical building (left) by Melchior Berri 1844-1849 which houses the Museum of Natural History and Ethnography (Natur- und Völkerkundemuseum). The Natural History Museum, situated at the front of the building, contains a display cabinet from the 18th C. At the rear is the Museum of Ethnography with exhibits from Melanesia and Oceania; the collections are the result of the museum's own expeditions.
Address: Münsterplatz 20, Postfach 4001, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

Swiss Folk Museum

The Swiss Folk Museum in Rollerhof, just a few yards away from the Natural History Museum in Basel, has interesting displays of textiles, traditional paintings and European masks.

From Münsterplatz to St Martin's Church

Leaving Basel's Münsterplatz, Augustinerstrasse joins the Rheinsprung, which descends to the Mittlere Brücke, passing the old University on the left. In Martinsgasse, which runs parallel to the Rheinsprung on the side away from the river, are two very elegant patrician houses, the Blaues Haus (Blue House) and Weisses Haus (White House), built between 1763 and 1770 for wealthy silk-merchants. At the west end of the Minster Hill, in a square with a fountain, stands St Martin's church (consecrated 1398), the oldest parish church in Basel.

Museum of Art

From the Basle Minster, Rittergasse, lined by handsome Rococo houses, runs southeast into St-Alban-Graben. At the corner of Dufourstrasse in a building designed by R. Christ and P. Bonatz (1932-36), is the Basle Public Art Collection or Museum of Art (Kunstmuseum), which contains the finest collection of pictures in Switzerland, including both old masters and modern art, and also a Print Cabinet.
Address: St Alban-Graben 16, Postfach 4010, CH-4010 Basel, Switzerland

Old Masters

On the first floor are the old masters, from Konrad Witz to Holbein the Younger (both well presented), and a collection of French and Dutch pictures presented by Professor Bachofen.
Items of particular importance include the Heilspiegel (Mirror of Salvation) Altar by Konrad Witz (d. ca. 1447), portraits by Holbein (16th C.), a "Crucifixion" by Mathias Grünewald (d. 1528), paintings by Niklaus Manuel-Deutsch (d. 1530) and Rembrandt ("David with Goliath's Head", 1627), Böcklin's "Island of the Dead" (earliest version).

Museum of Art - modern art

The second floor houses an outstanding collection of 19th and 20th C. art, including Impressionists, Expressionists and Surrealists (Gauguin, Van Gogh, Corot, Corinth, Cézanne, Braque, Kokoschka, Picasso, Kandinsky, Léger, Chagall, Paul Klee, Juan Gris, Dali, Max Ernst), together with 20th C. works and special exhibitions.
Items of particular importance include Böcklin's "Island of the Dead" (earliest version, 1880) and works by Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918).

Bruglingen Mill Museum

The Bruglingen Mill Museum has an interesting garden.
Address: Verwaltung, St Alban-Vorstadt 5, Postfach 4002, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland

St Alben Graben to Theaterstrasse

The route between St-Alben-Graben and Theaterstrasse takes in the Art Gallery, the Municipal Theater of Basel, and the Museum of Antiquities.

Museum of Antiquities and Ludwig Collection

Basle's Museum of Antiquities (Antikenmuseum) and Ludwig collection presents Greek works of art from 2500 to 100 B.C. and Roman and other Italian art from 1000 B.C. to A.D. 300 (including some items on loan) and an educational department. The growing collection made the creation of a "museum island" necessary between St-Alban-Graben and Luftgässlein. Four buildings and annexes different in style, function and date of origin surround a picturesque courtyard in the shade of a mighty lime tree. In 1988 the collection, comprising over 2,000 items, was put on view in its new setting.
Address: St Alben Graben 5, Postfach, CH-4010 Basel, Switzerland

Art Gallery

To the west of the Basle Museum of Art, on the left-hand side of the street called Steinenberg, stands the Art Gallery (Kunsthalle), used for special exhibitions.
Address: Klostergasse 5, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

Municipal Theater

The Basle Municipal Theater (Stadttheater, 1975) with its "state-of-the-art" technology dominates Theaterstrasse. The irregular-shaped building with its curved roof enjoys a high reputation among German-speaking theaters. There is an unusual "Carnival Fountain" (Fasnachtsbrunnen) 1977 by Jean Tinguely.

Haus zum Kirschgarten

In Elisabethenstrasse, to the east of the Theatre, one of the finest of Basle's patrician houses, the Haus zum Kirschgarten (No. 27, 1777-1780, built in early Classical style by J. U. Büchel) contains 25 rooms furnished in 18th C. style (including toys, porcelain, etc.).
Address: Elisabethenstrasse 27/29, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

Barfüsserplatz

Sights around Basle's Barfüsserplatz include the Barfüsserkirche and St Leonard's church.

Historical Museum

In Basle's busy Barfüsserplatz is the 14th C. Barfüsserkirche (church of the barefoot friars), which now houses the Historical Museum, with an important collection on the history of culture and art (renovated 1975-81); cellars constructed and reconstruction of the rood screen). Notable exhibits in the nave of the church are the Late Gothic tapestries and the "Lällenkönig" ("Babbling King"), a crowned head with a movable tongue and eyes, once the emblem of Gross-Basel (17th C.). In the aisles are weapons and furnished rooms, in the choir religious art, in the crypt the Minster treasury.
Changing exhibitions on the lower level reflect the history of the city of Basle. One of the most important textile productions in the late 18th and throughout the 19th C. was that of silk ribbons.
Address: Steinenberg 4, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

St Leonard's Church

Above the west side of Barfüsserkirche rises St Leonard's church (Leonhardskirche), rebuilt between 1480 and 1512 and restored in 1965. The crypt is Romanesque; the choir dates from the 13th-14th C. The former monastery adjoining the church, known as the Lohnhof, is now occupied by the police. In the Gasthaus Teufelhof can be seen an exhibition of the civic fortifications in the height of the Middle Ages.

Architectural Museum

The exhibition program is grouped around three principal themes: Swiss architecture of the classical Modern period. Exhibitions on Hermann Baur, Hans Bernoulli, Le Corbusier, Hannes Meyer or Hans Wittwer analyze the contribution made by Swiss architecture to Neues Bauen. A second theme is contemporary architecture in the international field. Exhibitions on Wiel Arets, Hermann Czech, Frank O. Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron, Rem Koolhaas, Rafael Moneo, Luigi Snozzi or Livio Vacchini provide insights into major contemporary attitudes. Thirdly, various themes from the architectural periphery are featured. Wide-ranging exhibitions cast light on the links between fine art and architecture and address specific themes such as architectural photography, children's toys, tents or the historical development of models. The Architekturmuseum Basel is the only institution in Switzerland to examine architecture so comprehensively.
Address: Pfluggässlein 3, Postfach 4001, CH-4001 Basel, Switzerland

Collection of Musical Instruments

A collection of old musical instruments can be viewed on Leonhardsstrasse 8 in Basle.

Spalenvorstadt

Spalentor GateSpalentor Gate
Sights in the Spalenvorstadt area include the Jewish Museum, the Industrial Museum, the University and St Peter's Church.

Jewish Museum of Switzerland

To reach the Jewish Museum of Switzerland (Basle) from the Steinenberg, follow Kohlenberg northwest to Leonhardsgraben. The Jewish Museum is to the left.
Farther on is the Spalenvorstadt, which can also be reached from the Marktplatz up a picturesque flight of steps.
Address: Kornhausgasse 8, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

Industrial Museum

The Industrial Museum in Basle is located at the near end of the Spalenvorstadt. Farther along on the left is the Spalenbrunnen, a fountain also known as the Holbein fountain (after Holbein and Dürer: original in Historical Museum).
Address: Spalenvorstadt 2, CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

Petersplatz

Basle's Petersplatz is a tree-shaded square surrounded by St Peter's Church on the east side, Wild'sches Haus on the north side, and the Botanic Garden of the Library on the west side.

St Peter's Church

St Peter's church (Peterskirche) was rebuilt at the time of the Council of Basle (15th C.). The gallery runs around the nave, and reticulated vaulting in the choir is from an earlier building (14th C.). Of interest are the frescoes in the Eberler chapel and the nave. In front of the church is a bronze bust of the poet J. P. Hebel (b. Basle 1760).

Basel University

On the south side of Basle's Petersplatz stands the new university building (1938-46) by the Zurich architect Roland Rohn. At the entrance is a mosaic by Walter Eglin depicting scenes from daily life and in the corridors are pictures and busts of famous personalities and scientists, including one of Pope Pius II who founded the university in 1460. The great hall (Aula) contains 10 stained glass windows and its beautiful courtyard has a waterlily pond.

University Library

Beyond the botanic gardens of Petersplatz in Basel a concrete building (1965) houses the rich University Library. Its collection includes numerous incunabula and manuscripts dating from the time of the Council of Basel (1431-87).
Address: Schönbeinstrasse 18-20, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

University Botanical Gardens

The University Botanical Gardens were established in 1589.
Address: Schönbeinstrasse 6, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland

Sculpture Gallery

Basle's Sculpture Gallery is found on Mittlere Strasse 17.
The collection of plaster casts has one of the largest assemblies of casts of sculptural antiquities from museums all over the world.
Address: Antikenmuseum, St Alban Graben 5, Postfach, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland

Exhibition on the Basel Mission

The Basle Mission Exhibition is found on Missionsstrasse.
It illustrates the Mission's partnership with churches on other continents.
Address: Missionsstrasse 21a, CH-4055 Basel, Switzerland

Spalentor

To the west of Basle's University is the Spalentor (1370), a fortified gate which marks the end of the old town. The town gate, once part of the old town walls, has stood alone since their destruction in the 19th C. On the left there is an old letter box by M. Berri (1801-1854) with the emblem of the Basle pigeon.

Museum of Gymnastics and Sport

At 28 Missionsstrasse in Basle is the Swiss Museum of Gymnastics and Sport with exhibits relating to different sports, including the Olympic Games and the Swiss sports of "Hornussen" and "Schwingen".
Address: Missionsstrasse 28, Postfach 813, CH-4055 Basel, Switzerland

Dominician Church

At the foot of Petersgraben in Basle, which runs down to the Rhine from Petersplatz, is the Predigerkirche (Dominician church), a long building of the 14th-15th C. with a graceful roof turret. Opposite is the house in which the poet Johann Peter Hebel (1760-1826) was born (plaque).

St Anthony's Church

In the northwest of Basle, St Anthony's church (St Antoniuskirche) was in its day a pioneering example of concrete architecture (fine windows).

South of the Old Town

African Elephants at Basel ZooAfrican Elephants at Basel Zoo Tambako The Jaguar
Sights in the area south of Basle's Old Town include the railroad station and the zoo.

Main Railroad Station

On the south side of Basel's old town, behind the Elisabethenschanze with the Strasbourg monument of F. A. Bertholdi, is the main railroad station (Bahnhof SBB), built 1905-1909 by Emil Faesch and Emanuel La Roche. The imposing Neo-baroque facade with its high concourse is framed between domed towers. Adjoining it is the Centralbahnplatz (underground passage with shops, information bureau and cafe) surrounded by big hotels.

BIZ (Bank for International Settlements)

Nearby the main Basle railroad station stands the circular tower block (architect Burckhardt; 1977) of the Bank for International Settlements (Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich, BIZ). It was founded in 1930 at the Hague Conference and today is at the center of the international gold and currency markets as well as the European money market.

Zoo

In the Birsig valley is Basle's large and interesting zoo (Zoologischer Garten; restaurant), affectionately known as the Zolli by the people of Basle. Founded in 1874 with 510 European animals it contains mainly exotic species. It comprises a vivarium (fish, penguins, reptiles), a bear enclosure with different species, an excellent monkey house (1970 orangutans, gorillas, proboscis monkeys, etc.), an aviary (1927) with indigenous and exotic birds, birds of prey, an antelope house and children's zoo. The zoo has been particularly successful in breeding rhinoceros. The elephants put on a performance in a special arena and give rides to children.
Address: Binningerstrasse 40, CH-4011 Basel, Switzerland

St-Alban-Vorstadt

St-Alban-Vorstadt is located to the east of Basle's old town. Sights in this area include the Collection of Caricatures and Cartoons, the Basle paper mill, and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

St-Alban-Tor

A stroll east through Basle's old town brings you to the square St-Alban-Tor, with its lower part finished in bulging stone blocks. An old town gate, it dates from the 13th C. when it was part of the fortifications. It was altered in 1871 with the addition of the watch house on the side facing the Rhine, being completely restored in 1976.

Caricature and Cartoon Collection

Basle's constantly changing collection of caricatures and cartoons by famous artists is a source of amusement.
Address: Verwaltung, St Alban-Vorstadt 5, Postfach 4002, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland

St Alban's Monastery

The Mühlenberg runs down to Basle's old St Alban's monastery under the town walls. Part of its Romanesque cloister is preserved in a neighboring house.

Paper Mill Museum

To the east of St Alban's Monastery in Basle, on the Gewerbebach, an old Gallician paper mill has been turned into the Museum of Writing, Printing and Paper demonstrating the individual processes.
Address: St Alban-Tal 37, CH-4052 Basel, Switzerland

Museum of Contemporary Art

Basle's Museum of Contemporary Art (Museum für Gegenwartskunst) is housed in an old paper mill with modern extensions (1980 Katharina and Wilfried Steib). Works on display range from ca. 1960 and the contemporary part of the Emanuel Hoffmann collection. Especially noteworthy are works by Stella, Beuys, Chagall, de Chirico, Dali, Braque, Mondrian, Klee, Arp, Pevsner, Giacometti, Moore and Tinguely. There is an attractive trip across the Rhine to Klein-Basel by ferry.
Address: St Alban-Rheinweg 60, CH-4010 Basel, Switzerland

Klein-Basel

In Klein-Basel a tree-lined promenade runs along the bank of the Rhein, affording fine views of the old town. Sights in this area include the City and Minster Museum, St Clara Church, St Theodore's Church and the European World Trade and Congress Center.

City and Cathedral Museum

The Basle City and Minster Museum (Stadt- und Münster Museum) is located a little way northwest of the Mittlere Brück. The museum is notable particularly for its collection of sculpture from the Minster.
Address: St Alban Tal 35-37, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland

St Clara Church

In Claraplatz stands the Roman Catholic St Clara Kirche, a light-colored roughcast building with a small turret. The Gothic nave has 19th C. additions by Amadeus Merian. The choir contains the Sunday Cross from Basle Minster.

St Theodore's Church

Near the Wettstein bridge in Basle is the St-Theodor-Kirchplatz, in which is the Late Gothic St Theodore's church (14th C.). Noteworthy are the sandstone font (ca. 1500), the choir with a wall tabernacle (16th C.) and the old choir windows (ca. 1375).
Between the square and the river we find the old Carthusian monastery which has served as a monastery since 1669.

Swiss Trade Fair (European World Trade and Congress Center)

One of the main traffic arteries of Klein-Basel is the Riehenring, along which extend the buildings of the Swiss Trade Fair (Schweizer Mustermesse) and the European World Trade and Congress Center (EWTCC). Swiss trade fairs have a long history. Some of the most important international fairs include ART (20th C. art fair), the Swiss Trade Fair, Basle Autumn Fair, EUSM (European Clock and Watch Fair) and Nuclex, an international trade fair for the nuclear industry.

Baden Railroad Station

Northeast of Basle's Technical College is the art nouveau building of the Baden Railroad Station (Badischer Bahnhof), the German Railways (DB) terminus. The allegorical statues above the entrance are by C. Burckhardt.
The Technical College (Gewerbeschule, 1961) has a column by Hans Arp in the courtyard.

Village and Toy Museum

In Riehen, a desirable residential area of Basle, are the Village and Toy Museum (400 Teddy bears) and probably the only Cat museum.

Museum Jean Tinguely

The Jean Tinguely Museum features work from all periods and work groups. They offer an overview of the artist's work.
Address: Grenzacherstrasse/Solitudepark, Postfach 3255, CH-4002 Basel, Switzerland

Vogel Gryff

Vogel Gryff takes place in late January. The day long event highlights the ancient rivalry between Kleinbasel and Grossbasel, or Greater Basel.

Basel Autumn Fair

Ferris Wheel at the Herbschtmaess (Autumn Fair) in Basel.
This two-week festival runs from late October to early November.

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