Basel was never firmly on my radar of travel destinations, but it popped up as a city that was easy to visit by train. Hielke and I love traveling by train, we find it the most relaxing way to travel and we love that it is one of the most sustainable ways to travel. After researching Basel we became really excited to visit this city and to take the train from Basel to explore more of Switzerland. Basel is the unofficial cultural capital of Switzerland as it offers an enormous variety in museums. We found it incredibly difficult to make a choice which museum to visit. A benefit of Switzerland is that is has a quality network of trains, which makes it super easy to do day trips to other parts of the country, which is exactly what we did.
From Düsseldorf you can take the train to Basel in about four hours. We paid € 75 per person for a first class return trip from Düsseldorf to Basel. In Düsseldorf there are many cheap parking garages near the train station (about € 6 per day). We stayed near the city center of Basel in the Ibis Budget Hotel, which cost us € 72 per night per room. When we arrived in Basel our hotel gifted us with a Basel Card, which gives access to free public transport in Basel and a 50% discount when visiting museums. And that is exactly where the affordability of our trip ended… When I visited Locarno during summertime I didn’t think Switzerland was that expensive, but I changed my opinion now. We found restaurants in Switzerland extremely expensive, expect to pay € 25 for a simple dish, € 40 for a fondue meal and € 50 for a good piece of meat. Drinks are also incredibly expensive, even though you can drink the tap water in Switzerland, we still had to pay € 5 for a small bottle of water and don’t even get started about alcohol. If you don’t have a Basel Card short distances by bus or tram are also quite expensive at € 4 per ride. With train tickets it does help to book in advance, as this is usually cheaper than buying a ticket on the spot. When booking a long distance train, it can help to check out the price of multiple train times, as prices fluctuate heavenly according to the time of day. I would also recommend avoiding taxis as we paid € 25 for a taxi ride of two kilometers, as the public transport had already shut down when we arrived in Basel late at night.
Historical city center
Basel has a compact historical city center which is located around the main churches and the Rhine. I loved roaming around the historical city center for a day. The Rathaus is a beautiful colorfully painted building, well worth a visit. The Rhine divides Basel in two parts and I definitely recommend visiting the river banks for a great view over the city. We also found super picturesque pastel-colored houses at the river banks, I can’t imagine that people actually live in this beautiful place. Even during winter time there was a nice crowd on the streets. I can imagine the river banks being a lot of fun in summer time, with lots of people having a drink at the stairs next to the Rhine. Despite of the high drinks prices, all the bars were pretty packed and offered a good atmosphere.
Basel is the cultural capital of Switzerland, and you can find many museums in Basel, of which most of them are located in the historical city center. We decided to visit the Natural History Museum, refer to below and the Vitra Museum, which is located out of the city center. Other options are amongst others Fondation Beyeler, Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum Tinguely and Kunsthalle. As Basel has a lovely historical center, many of the museums are located in old buildings with high ceilings adding a lot of grandeur to your museum experience.
Natural History Museum
Basel has an enormous offering of museums. Usually I choose to visit an art museum, but when we were wandering through Basel we discovered that the National Geographic Wildlife Photographer Exhibition was currently being on display in the Natural History Museum. Visiting that exhibition was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but somehow never came around to do, always being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Natural History Museum is open from Tuesday-Sunday and costs CHF 14. With your Basel Card you receive a discount of 50%, making this a very affordable activity in Basel. We loved the National Geographic Exhibition, unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures of the exhibition, but I was definitely getting inspired to start a new life as a wildlife photographer!
The Natural History Museum also has lots of impressive displays of animals as well as geology features. Unfortunately most of the explanations were in German, so we could only understand parts of the exhibitions. All in all we liked the museum itself as well, but it is best to visit if you speak German very well.
Basel has two train stations: Basel SSB, which is in the city center and Basel Bad, which is located out of the city center and where most of the trains to Germany arrive. Once you know that there are two train stations, it is quite easy to take a day trip by train. We decided on doing a day trip to Luzern, as I had heard it is one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland, while also being close to the Swiss Alps. Luzern can be reached in about 70 minutes by train, I will write a separate blogpost about our day in Luzern & the Swiss Alps. Other possible day trips are Zurich, Zug and the capital city Bern.