Basel, the city on the bend of the Rhine, is home to an impressive variety of sights. Top highlights in Basel: from modern architecture and historic churches to works of art in public spaces – the range is enormous.
The best way to discover Basel is on foot. This is particularly true of the Old Town, where many of the sights are in close proximity to each other.
Basel is a city full of contrasts and cultural diversity. The combination of historical sights and contemporary architecture creates a unique atmosphere that attracts visitors from all over the world.
1. Basel Minster – Basel landmark
The Basel Minster, an important landmark of the city, is one of Basel’s main sights. With its characteristic red sandstone design, the colorful roof tiles and the two slender church towers, it impressively shapes the cityscape. The former bishop’s church, now the Protestant Reformed Church, was built between 1019 and 1500 in Romanesque and Gothic styles.
The cathedral harmoniously combines two different architectural styles: Romanesque and Gothic. After it was severely damaged by the devastating earthquake of 1356, it was rebuilt in accordance with Gothic building rules, although the lower part was still built in the Romanesque style.
The light-colored sandstone blocks from the time before the earthquake have been preserved as clear traces of this reconstruction and contrast sharply with the predominantly pink sandstone.
2. Basel Town Hall – Basel landmark
The imposing Basel City Hall, located in the heart of the Old Town, is the seat of the Basel government and parliament. It impresses with its striking red façade, imposing tower and artistic façade paintings.
The facade paintings of Basel City Hall depict various historical scenes and symbolism. They tell stories from the history of Basel and Switzerland. For example, scenes from the Basel Dance of Death, an allegorical cycle of paintings, can be seen on the façades.
The Dance of Death shows death inviting people from different social classes to dance and reminding them of their transience. This depiction is an important artistic and historical element of the façade paintings of the town hall.
3. Basel old town
The old town of Basel is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful historic city centers in Europe. With its narrow alleyways and hidden squares adorned with more than 200 fountains, it delights visitors in equal measure. Here you will find a multitude of centuries-old buildings as well as impressive sights such as the imposing town hall and the impressive Basel Cathedral.
Basel’s old town impresses with its extraordinary architectural diversity. An outstanding example of this is the Mittlere Brücke, which has existed in its current form since 1905. An earlier version of the bridge stood on the same site as early as 1220. From here, you can enjoy an impressive view of the Basel skyline and the imposing Basel Minster.
Another highlight is the Pfalz, a terrace behind the cathedral that offers a fantastic vantage point. You should definitely take a break here and enjoy the view over Kleinbasel, the Rhine, the Black Forest and the Vosges mountains. The panoramic view from the Palatinate is simply breathtaking.
4. Zoo Basel
The Zoo Basel is one of the top highlights in Basel and is a green paradise in the middle of the city. With its unique park landscape and close proximity to the animals, such as the fascinating world of birds, it offers an inspiring and relaxing experience. The colorful diversity and melodic songs of the birds transport visitors into a sensual world.
Founded in 1874, Basel Zoo is not only the oldest zoo in Switzerland, but also the largest with over 7,000 animals and 600 species. Basel Zoo has earned an international reputation through successful breeding programs for endangered animal species such as the steer rhinoceros, the pygmy hippopotamus and the western lowland gorilla.
Despite its relatively small area of 13 hectares, it is one of the most renowned zoos in Europe. Here, visitors can explore the fascinating habitats of a wide variety of animal species.
Basel Zoo is constantly changing. New and expanded enclosures offer the animals more space, while new animal species find their way into the zoo.
The Spalentor, a former city gate of the city of Basel, is one of the most impressive and beautiful city gates in Switzerland. It is part of the outer city wall of Basel and corresponds to the former Spalenschwibbogen, which was located on the inner city wall. The Spalen Gate is one of only three remaining city gates and is a listed building.
The gate consists of an imposing gate tower 40.3 meters high with a square ground plan. It is flanked by two round towers that project into the moat. These towers are 28.15 meters high, octagonal at the top and crowned with battlements. The former flat tent roofs were destroyed in a storm in 1842.
6. St. Alban Quarter
The St. Alban quarter is characterized by its exquisite charm and lush green spaces, which is why it is considered one of the most distinguished and greenest areas in Basel. There are numerous villa districts here, which were once and still are inhabited by prestigious and wealthy Basel families.
This district is a place of romance, amazement, mystery and legendary stories. The lovingly restored streets and buildings are criss-crossed by small canals and are a real insider tip.
History and the present, traditional crafts and early industrial buildings, old half-timbered houses and modern architecture are combined here. The medieval paper mill and the renowned Museum of Contemporary Art are located here. The St. Alban quarter offers you the opportunity to experience life in the city, both in the past and today, in a unique way.
7. Basel Art Museum
The Basel Art Museum, which was voted the fifth best museum in the world by the Times of London in 2013, is known worldwide and is home to the oldest public art collection in the world. The extension, which is connected underground to the main building and was designed by Basel architects Christ & Gantenbein, was recently opened. As a result, the museum now has around a third more exhibition space in an impressive architectural setting.
The main building on St. Alban-Graben houses works of art from the period between the 15th century and 1960. In future, special exhibitions will be presented in the spacious rooms of the extension, and works from the years between 1960 and 1990 will also be on display here.
Together, the three buildings of the Basel Art Museum offer an exhibition space of around 10,000 square meters.
The art museum’s collection, known as the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, comprises around four thousand paintings, sculptures, installations and videos as well as three hundred thousand drawings and prints spanning seven centuries. This makes it the largest public art collection in Switzerland.
8. Museum Fondation Beyeler
The Fondation Beyeler was founded in 1997, and since then the museum has developed into a prestigious institution. It is housed in an architecturally impressive building designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano. The museum is surrounded by an idyllic park landscape and offers an inspiring environment for the presentation of works of art.
The Fondation Beyeler’s collection includes an impressive selection of masterpieces by important artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Wassily Kandinsky and many others. The works cover a period from classical modernism to contemporary art and give visitors a comprehensive insight into the development of art across different eras.
The museum is known for its high-caliber exhibitions, in which important artists and major art movements are presented. These exhibitions regularly attract an international audience and contribute to the Fondation Beyeler’s reputation as a leading art institution.
9. Museum Tinguely
The Museum Tinguely is one of the top highlights in Basel and is a renowned art museum dedicated to the life and works of the artist Jean Tinguely. It was opened on October 3, 1996 and is located in Solitudepark on the right bank of the Rhine.
The museum was presented to the city and region of Basel by F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG as a gift to mark the company’s 100th anniversary. It houses an impressive collection of Tinguely’s artworks and presents both a permanent exhibition and changing guest exhibitions curated by Tinguely’s friends and other well-known artists.
The museum building was designed by renowned architect Mario Botta and is a work of art in its own right. The central hall offers space for up to twenty works by Tinguely and is an impressive space. A special architectural feature of the museum is the elongated, elevated building on the south side, which appears separate from the main part of the museum. This area serves as a kind of promenade over the banks of the Rhine, which visitors have to cross, offering them a fascinating view of the river.
The Museum Tinguely houses the world’s largest collection of Jean Tinguely’s works, making it the central point of contact for anyone interested in his life and work.
10. Binningen Castle
The Binningen Castle is now a castle that houses a restaurant with an adjoining hotel. The complex was originally designed as a moated castle, but the surrounding pond was filled in in 1772.
Binningen Castle is located in a picturesque little park, directly alongside the streetcar line to Basel. It is a rectangular building with a charming inner courtyard. A small round tower rises on the south-eastern corner, while the restaurant’s magnificent outdoor terrace is located on the eastern side.
The exterior façade of the castle is bright white and the windows are framed by red sandstone, giving the building a unique charm.
Video BASEL SWITZERLAND: Top 10 Things to Do | Tourist attractions + Tour of the City | Museums, Rhine +
Hi Guys! We’re so excited to give you our Basel travel guide! Join us on our walking tour of the city, hitting all of the major tourist attractions along the way – we’ll check out the Kunstmuseum, float down the Rhine & more!