Basel is the city that stole my heart. It has incredible historical sights and ancient traditions as well as modern architectural sights. Every visitor in Basel receives a Basal Card, which allows them to use public transport, surf free public wifi, and have some discounts while visiting selected museums and landmarks (learn more here)
You can also walk endlessly, spotting details and small things you haven’t noticed before. For instance, look for depiction of the Baselstab or basilisk (I’m talking about the creature below). So, let me show you what to plan to visit in Basel!
My trip was supported by the Basel Tourism Board.
1. Basel Münster
Basel Münster Cathedral in bright reddish colour is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It dates back to the 11th century, and has so many details and decorations you can observe forever.
Its facade was modified in the 15th century, and you can spot both Romanesque and Gothic architectural influences. It used to be a catholic cathedral, and now it’s a reformed protestant church. Philosopher Erasmus of Rotterdam and mathematician Jacob Bernoulli (after whom Bernoulli distribution was named) are buried there.
Don’t miss the cloisters next door to the cathedral’s main entrance – we almost missed it and discovered only upon our second visit to the landmark! This green space is absolutely magical and very photogenic. And moreover, one of the oldest streets of the city, Rittergasse, starts from it as well.
On the Munsterplatz near the cathedral you can also spot a metal sign on the pavement with the inscription of ‘römischer sodbrunnen“: it marks the site where a Roman well was located!
2. Pfalz Terrace
Pfalz Terrace is a must when you’re visiting the Basel Munster cathedral! Located right behind it on the shore of the Rhine, it’s a lovely observational point. It’s called ‘Pfalz,’ because the name comes from ‘Palatium’ in Latin, meaning ‘the Palace’: once the palace of the Bishop was situated nearby!
Don’t miss the Münster ferry when the boat is pulled across the waters by river powers and a cable – this is actually one of the most traditional activities you can see in Basel.
3. City Hall and the Marktplatz
Basel City Hall, or Rathaus, is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve seen in the whole of Europe! The original building was destroyed during the earthquake as well as many other things in the city.
A new building dating to the early 16th century has a signature red colour and many decorative details – pay special attention to those animals, both real and mythological chimeras, they look absolutely stunning.
In the inner courtyard you’ll find more paintings and a statue of Lucius Munatuis Plancus who founded a Roman city of Augusta Raurica in 44BC in 20 km from what we know as Basel.
The City Hall is located on the Market Square, or Marktplatz, where you can find a food market with all the local delicacies as well as the ones from neighboring countries such as France, Germany, and Italy.
Lällenkönig is one of the most unusual Basel symbols: that’s a king’s head that rolls his eyes and sticks out his tongue! You can find two of those (the stone version and the metal mechanical version) on the facade of the Coiffure-Rivoli beauty salon just across the bridge.
The Lällenkönig masque was used to be attached to the gates that divided two parts of Basel that didn’t like each other – and they were demolished in the 19th century. The original mask dates back to the 17th century and is kept in the Historical museum.
Martinskirche, or St Martin’s church, is the oldest church in the city, located on Cathedral Hill (you can see its roof from afar) not far from Lällenkönig: it already served as a parish church in 1101, and its bells were ringing for important festivities. Now it’s used as a concert hall because of its outstanding acoustics.
5. Käppelijoch Chapel and the Middle Bridge
If you’re traveling to Grossbasel old town from Kleinbasel, you’ve crossed Mittlere Brücke, or the Middle Bridge, at least once. In the middle of it, you can spot a small chapel called Käppelijoch Chapel (it was erected in wood in the 14th century and replaced with a stone one in the 15th).
This spot actually marks a place of public punishment, for instance, public drowning. The original bridge was rebuilt in 1903-1905 to allow more traffic, and the chapel was replaced with a true-to-original replica as well.
6. Spalentor Gate
The Spalentor, or the Gate of Spalen, is one of three remaining medieval gates. It was part of the city defensive wall dating to the 15th century after the major earthquake destroyed the city in the 14th century.
On the façade facing out of Old Town, you’ll find an image of Madonna and two prophets. This beautiful white tower with two adjacent smaller towers would make a perfect photography spot!
7. Holbeinbrunnen fountain
Basel is famous for its many fountains with drinkable water (although Bern is of course has more famous ones!).
And I wanted to attract your attention to this gorgeous one. The 16th-century Holbeinbrunnen, or the Holbein fountain, located nearby the Spalentor Medieval Gate (hence sometimes called Spalenbrunnen) on the corner of Spalenvorstadt and Schützenmattstrasse, is a real masterpiece.
It’s decorated with the characters of Holbein masterpieces, and the bagpiper on its top reminds us of some of Durer’s works.
8. Spielzeug Welten Museum
Are you visiting Basel with the kids? Don’t miss The Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel or Toy Worlds Museum! They have a large collection of over 6,000 exhibits spread over several floors with toys from all over the world.
Some installations are mechanized: you just press a button, and toys become animated with some lights and music turning on as well! The Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel also has a whole floor dedicated solely to teddy bears – probably the largest collection you’ve ever seen!
The museum also offers an interactive tour through the museum via the tablet.
9. Messe Basel
We were lucky to live literally in front of the Messe Basel located on the Messeplatz.
This modern landmark is not only an exhibition center (during our visit, they had Banksy on display) – the largest in the country – but also a modern architecture wonder by Herzog & de Meuron. It has a wide opening frequently called ‘A window to heaven’ and looks absolutely astonishing.
10. Church of St. Elisabeth
The open church of St. Elisabeth, Elisabethenkirche, is a beautiful location in the center of the city – you can see its 72-meter-high spire from afar.
It was constructed in the second part of the 19th century, but now it functions as an open church open for everyone, and – it can be hired as a venue! During our visit, there was some sort of wine-tasting / wine presentation activity. There is also a lovely cafe on the side of Elisabethenkirche.
11. Theater Basel
If you want to see more unusual architecture in Basel, pop into the Theater Basel, located on the slopes of the hill leading to Elisabethenkirche. There is a cafe on the top floor, and the auditorium flows down, growing into the stage area with no barriers or restrictions.
During our visit, there was some sort of rehearsal on the stage, with kids freely playing around the building whilst their parents had coffee in the cafe.
12. Tinguily Fountain
I bet that Tinguily Fountain is one of the most unusual fountains you’ve ever seen! The fountain was designed in 1977 by Jean Tinguely, a famous Swiss artist known for its kinetic machinery.
Tinguily Fountain consists of ten mechanical moving figures, each showcasing a distinctive play with water – and the fountain itself is located on the site of the old Base theatre stage, thus the theatricality of it!
13. Basel Zoo
Basel Zoo is one of the nicest zoos I’ve visited! It’s the oldest zoo in Switzerland, dating back to 1874, and also it has the largest number of animals and a vast program of breeding for endangered species.
Basel Zoo has a very well-organized territory with numerous baby-changing facilities, a cafe, and a couple of shops. All the animals look happy and well looked after; the enclosures represent different geographical regions, and the signs are pretty informative.
My favorites were the Afrikan animal enclosure, especially the hippos, and the vivarium! A must-visit whether you’re traveling with kids or you’re an animal lover.
14. St. Alban’s Gate
The St. Alban-Tor, or St. Alban’s Gate, is the 15th-century surviving part of the city’s old fortifications. Now this gate is one of the most picturesque landmarks of Basel, standing high over the green area around it.
You can also explore the St. Alban quarter, where St Alban’s gate is located: it’s nicknamed Basel Little Venice because of its waterways.
15. St Leonhard church
St Leonhard church sitting on an elevation, is a wonderful example of Late Gothic religious architecture. It was built in the 14-15th centuries after the earthquake, while the oldest parts of it are much older, dating to the 11-12th centuries.
Since the 16th century, it has become a Protestant church alongside other 3 protestant churches in Basel, and now it’s the French Reformed Church of Basel. Walk inside and have a look at its modest yet elegant interior – and have a look over Basel from the viewing platform in front of it!
Markthalle is another architectural gem of a more modern Basel featuring an impressive concrete dome in Brutalist style. It was created by Adolf Goenner and Hans Ryhiner, opened in 1929, and converted into a food market 10 years ago. Now it’s also used as a cultural venue as well! You can easily see it when walking from or to the Basel Train station!
17. Roche Towers
Roche Towers, or Roche-Turm, is another modern architectural landmark of Basel. The tallest office pair buildings in the country were designed by Herzog & de Meuron, with one tower being 178 m high and completed in 2025 and the second building 205 meters high and completed in 2022.
As the name suggests, they are built for the pharmaceutical company Hoffmann-La Roche. The skyscrapers are literally visible from different points of the city – look around and find them!
18. Rhine promenade
One of the nicest strolls in Basel you can have is along the Rhine promenade – and the best views over the city are guaranteed, especially if you’re there for sunset! There are many restaurant options too.
Gerbergasse and the area around including Gerbergasselein and Barfüsserplatz is a lovely part of Basel you have to visit! Pretty houses, lots of shops and cafes, street art such as the Rock star graffiti and of course – some old tales!
I’d suggest you look for the images of Basilisk up to the legends, the creature lived in the area, and now you can see his depiction on the fountain! The old tanning vats were also not far away, and sometimes the area is called Tanners district.
20. Jakob’s Basler Leckerly delicacies
If you’re in Basel, you have to try The Basler Läckerli, chewy, spicy biscuits! Try those from Jakob’s Basler Leckerly, one of Switzerland’s oldest cookie-making companies: it has been running since 1753. You can buy those not only in the bakery but throughout different shops in the city as well.
What else to see?
Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church) and Pauluskirche (St Paul’s Church); Kunstmuseum Basel with a collection of paintings from the 14th to the 20th century; Basel Historical Museum, The Three Country Corner, or Dreiländereck, where you can step between France, Germany, and Switzerland borders; Contemporary Art Museum of Foundation Beyeler; Papiermühle, or Basel Paper Mill Museum, and the Cartoon Museum Basel.
Where to stay in Basel?
We stayed in the Basel Marriott Hotel on Messeplatz, and to get to the Old City and to the Train station we used public transport: probably this was the most convenient way to travel with a pram ever (and as you know, we travel a lot!).
Hope you liked my new blog!