Basel is situated right at the top of Switzerland and perhaps due to this central European location, it thrived during the Renaissance as a center of learning. Today, it has more than 40 museums in just 14 square miles as well as a reputation for creative theater, world-class football and a lively arts scene.
Given the wide variety of things to do both in and around the city, if you're only visiting Basel for a short time, the key thing is to plan. To give you some ideas, here’s a sample itinerary for how to spend a fast-paced weekend break in the Swiss city.
Begin your weekend with a show at the Theater Basel, a convenient five minute walk from our Radisson Blu Hotel, Basel. The venue is known for its spectacular productions of classical opera, like Mozart’s spirited Cosi fan tutte, as well as new, innovative work. The modern building has three main stages: Grosse Bühne, ideal for opera and ballet, Schauspielhaus, used for drama, and Kleine Bühne, for smaller scale productions.
If possible, book your tickets in advance and head for a pre-show meal at nearby Kohlmann's restaurant. House specialties here include a unique Kohlmann's Steak Tartare and the Rustic Vespers platter, which features smoked hams, a seasonal terrine, and a selection of local cheeses.
If you prefer delicious Italian, there is no reason to leave the hotel. Enjoy fresh, Italian meals and exceptional wine by a cosy fire at Filini Restaurant.
In the morning, visit one or two of Basel’s most notable museums; namely the Fondation Beyeler, Museum Tinguely, Kunstmuseum or Vitra Design Museum. Fondation Beyeler is a unique collection of 20th century art, showing work from Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne. It’s a great space to relax, with huge windows overlooking the beautifully kept grounds. At Museum Tinguely, you can interpret Jean Tinguely’s abstract sculptures, made from electric motors, wires and rubber belts.
If you prefer classic art, Kunstmuseum Basel houses work stretching back to the Renaissance, including oils by Holbein and Lucas Cranach. Inside the Vitra Design Museum, changing exhibitions outline developments in the design industry as well as work by iconic designers and architects such as Alvar Aalto.
Spend your afternoon in the atmospheric old town, lined with half-timbered buildings, antique shop signs and cobbled lanes. As you wander you’ll stumble across boutiques like Schritt für Schritt (Step for Step), selling finely-stitched leather and suede footwear. Other shopping highlights include eclectic fashion boutique Tonja and opulent family-run jewelry store Bucherer, which sells intricate gold and silver designs from old-fashioned red display cases. After working up an appetite, swing by Confiserie Bachmann for a bite of Läckerli, which lives up to its name, meaning small and scrumptious. It's a sweet local treat with dried fruit, almonds, honey and spices, and can be dipped in creamy Swiss chocolate.
Follow the sounds of cheering to find St. Jakob Park, the largest stadium in Switzerland. It hosts Fussball Club Basel 1893 (FC Basel), who are nicknamed Bebbis, slang for a Basel native. They’re one of the most successful Swiss clubs in history, boasting 17 league titles and 11 wins of the Swiss Cup. If there isn’t a match on, check to see if tours of the huge stadium are being organized during your visit.
Alternatively, visit the popular Basel Zoo, which works to preserve natural habitats and associated wildlife. It first opened on July 3, 1874 and has five outdoor enclosures for chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, as well as other animals like antelopes and elephants. A children's zoo houses domestic animals, where older children can enjoy being apprentice farmers for the day.