Basel’s Old Town is best seen on foot. I know I could say this about a lot of European cities, but for Basel it’s true. This walk will take you through it, but you’ll see plenty of maroon-on-white, wonky buildings drawing you down alleys you’ll want to explore as well.
Starting at the Mittlere Brucke, or Middle Bridge. This used to be the only bridge in the city, originally built in 1226 but replaced in 1905 to accommodate the trams. The beautifully tiled tower in the middle of the bridge has a sinister past; it’s a replica of the old bridge chapel, where convicted criminals were sentenced to death.
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On the right is Les Trois Rois, a 5* hotel with amazing cocktails. Rumoured to sometimes sell its top rooms for up to €10,000 a night! Ben & I went in the summer and sat on their terrace in the roasting sun watching the swimmers in the Rhine. Downstairs are two temperature-controlled cellars, each packed full of wine and cigars.
The first taste of the old town comes when you turn left up a narrow hill. This takes you past some old university buildings, some of which are still in use today. The university was Switzerland’s first, founded in 1460.
Basel’s Old Town Munster
The end of this narrow street widens up to a square in front of the Minster. There’s a viewing platform at the top for a good view of the city.
There are a few cafes around it, and inside the doorway of one is a wooden city map surrounded by pictures of some of the city’s historic moments, including the plague in 1349 and the zoo opening in 1874.
Walking to the bottom of the hill and then turning right, although not the prettiest street, will take you past the Fine Art Museum and the Kunsthalle art museum.
As you continue on the route and look left, you’ll see my favourite part of the city, the Carnival Fountain by Tinguely Brunnen. Its abstract metal structures and faces are completely mesmerising in the moving water. Every time I looked at it, I saw something new.
I went back to it 3 or 4 times to show different people and just to see it again.
Next to it is an installation by Richard Serra, who made the freestanding metal structures in the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
Basel’s High Street
Taking a right onto Gerbergasse will take you through a busy high street with cafes, restaurants and shops including MSD Goldsmiths where I bought the charm for my bracelet. Although it’s full of modern shops and branding, this part of the old town still retains its character, with painted window frames, shutters and window boxes.
Basel is a little hilly, and you have to go uphill again to see the L’Unique Rock Bar’s mural. Its graffiti-style street art features artists like The Who, Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, Freddie Mercury and Pink to name just a few.
If you love walking medieval cities, check out this walk through Norwich’s historic city centre following the modern murals.
Basel’s Old Town Centre
Turning back toward Gerbergasse will take you through to the bright red Town Hall building behind the marketplace. It’s richly decorated inside. My favourite details, although simplistic, are the black on white flower patterns on the low roofs.
If you cross the busy tram lines, there’s a café called Schiesser opposite the Town Hall. The entrance is through a chocolate shop, the café itself is upstairs and serves delicious pastries and light lunches.
Left onto Sattelgasse will take you through one of my favourite streets. The shuttered windows and painted accents look so quaint. The buildings have their construction date above the doorways, what’s the oldest house you can find?
This street must have been a tourist hotspot for a long time because this one household got sick of people looking into their window, so they filled it with bits and pieces they had around the house. Now it’s Basel’s (possibly Europe’s?) smallest museum and the owners change the contents every few weeks.
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Although it doesn't have an official title, this is arguably Europe's smallest museum! . . The Hoosesagg Museum, or "Pants Pocket" museum. . . It's set into the door of a 600-year-old house that's in such a quaint street that the owners got tired of people looking into their property, so they turned it into a museum! . . The collection changes every few weeks. When I visited it was about holiday souvenirs! . . #basel #switzerland #visitswitzerland #travel #travelgram #citybreak #instapassport #traveldeeper #shetravels #museum #museums #europe
Finally, head to the final stop, the Spalentor, a gate to the city dating back to around 1400. At that time, it would have been visible for miles before traders got to the city walls. On the opposite side to where you approach from are figures of the Madonna and two prophets.
Inspired by Basel? Take a look at my other 4 Alternative City BreaksThis entry was posted in Walking Tours