Are you looking for the hottest sights in Basel? With MyCityHighlight – Sightseeing like a local – you'll find the top sights in Basel from the point of view of our local City Manager. You also have the opportunity to contact our city managers directly if you have any questions.
In the centre of the market square, the town hall immediately stands out with its red façade. Construction work ran from 1504 to 1514 and the town hall is still today the seat of the Basel government and parliament.
After Basel joined the Swiss Confederation in 1501, they wanted to create a representative parliament building and spared no expense. Government buildings had already stood on the same site, but they were destroyed in 1356 during the Basel earthquake.
Basel Cathedral is one of the city's landmarks. The reddish colour of the sandstone, the colourful roof tiles and the two narrow towers, which can be seen from a large part of the city, have shaped Basel's cityscape since its foundation.
Even today, the cathedral is still a popular excursion destination. The Münsterplatz is surrounded by some of the most magnificent houses in the whole city. The square itself is a popular meeting place and there are many markets and open-air events.
But already before the today's cathedral found its place on the Palatinate, the cathedral hill was built on. The oldest buildings found date back to the 1st century BC. After that the predecessor building, the so-called Haito-Münster, was built around the 9th century. In the year 917, the building was affected by the so-called Hungarian Storm, but it is unclear how badly it was damaged.
The former bishop's church was built between 1019 and 1500 in Romanesque and Gothic style.
The so-called Heinrichs-Münster was then built on the foundations of the predecessor building from 1019. It got its name from the emperor at that time and promoter of the tree work Heinrich the II. The last remaining ruins of this cathedral form the lower part of the today's north tower.
The third building of the cathedral, the one that still stands today, probably began around 1180 and lasted until around 1500. During this time, new parts of the church were built again and again under completely different owners. It is interesting that the two towers of the cathedral are not the same height. The northern tower (Georgsturm) was built in 1428 by Ulrich von Ensingen and measures 67.3 metres. The Martinsturm, on the other hand, measures only 65.5 metres and was completed in 1500 by the builder Hans von Nussdorf.
The iconoclasm, which also raged through the view of the Swiss reformer Zwingli in Basel, destroyed many important works of art in Basel Cathedral. Zwingli was of the opinion that the worship of God in the form of pictures was an idolatry. So it came about that about 200 armed men stormed the cathedral and destroyed many of the paintings and sculptures.
The Tinguely Fountain (whose official name is actually Fasnachtsbrunnen) is one of the landmarks of the city of Basel and is very centrally located near the Theater Basel in the immediate vicinity of Barfüsserplatz in the heart of the city. The fountain was given its nickname by its builder Jean Tinguely, who plays an important role in the art history of the city of Basel.
Jean Tinguely was born in 1925 and grew up in Basel. He was a painter and sculptor of the Nouveau Realismé. Tinguely is regarded as the main representative of kinetic art. His work was influenced by a large number of well-known artists of his time. He was friends with Yves Klein and married the artist Niki de Saint Phalle in his second marriage. Especially together with his wife he realized many projects.
Above all, he became famous for his movable machine-like sculptures, which took on various forms and functions (for example, one he built for the garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York could destroy itself).
Many of Jean Tinguely's most important works can now be seen at the Tinguely Museum in Basel.
The Tinguely Fountain was created between 1975 and 1977, where the stage of the old, demolished Stadttheater stood. It consists of ten individual constructions that move mechanically through low-current motors and produce water fountains. The individual sculptures of the Tinguely Fountain partly consist of the former stage equipment of the old city theatre. The sculptures also have all names, such as "dr Theaterkopf" (theatre head), "d'Spinne" (spider), "s'Seechter" (sieve) or "dr Querpfyffer" (transverse flute).
The individual sculptures combine their water games to create a wonderful choreography reminiscent of playing together on a theatre stage.
When it gets particularly cold in winter, the water in the fountain can freeze and the sculptures can stand still for a few hours or days. This is also a wonderful spectacle to look at, as the shape of the sculptures and the different water courses create completely new works of art.
The Elisabethenkirche is the first Protestant church built in Basel. It was built between 1857 and 1864 on the basis of plans by Ferdinand Stadler, a Zurich architect. The Elisabethenkirche is considered the most important neo-Gothic church in Switzerland.
It was financed by Christoph Merian and his wife Margarethe Merian-Burckhardt, who were the richest citizens of Basel at the time. With the construction of the church he wanted to set "a memorial against the evil spirit of the time". In the evil spirit of the time he saw the increasing de-Christianization of society and state. The founders were then buried in the crypt of the church. Margarethe Merian-Burckhardt then handed over the church to the church and school commission in 1866.
The Elisabethenkirche has an impressive church tower, which can also be climbed as a visitor. From the tower you have a wonderful view over large parts of the city. But you have to earn the beautiful view first. The ascent into the church tower is very narrow and the steps are very high. But it is worth it. The tower has a total height of 70.5 metres, but the viewing platform is 52.5 metres high.
In the 1980s the church was to be demolished, but this could be prevented by interested citizens. Then it was renovated in the 19er years. Today Elisabethenkirche is run as an "open church Elisabethen" by the Reformed and Catholic churches Basel-Stadt and Basellands, as well as the Christianahtol Church. In addition to church services, the church is also used for concerts, parties, panel discussions and much more. The church is also home to a bar and a café. After the strenuous ascent and the wonderful view from the tower, you can take a break with both feet firmly on the ground.
The Elisabethenkirche is definitely worth a visit because of its beautiful architecture, its historical significance for Basel and the viewing platform on the church tower.
The beautiful Rhine promenade invites you to take a walk and linger, especially in fine weather. You have a great view of the houses on the Grossbasel side. In the summer, the Rhine promenade is very lively, several buffets (seasonal restaurants) offer refreshing drinks and light meals.Read more
Basel's old town is one of the most intact and beautiful in Europe. Thanks to its manageable size, it can be easily discovered on foot. It stretches over both sides of the Rhine, i.e. both Grossbasel and Kleinbasel. It is the ideal starting point for a discovery tour of the city, as it is home to some of the city's most beautiful and famous attractions.
The old town of Grossbasel is oriented along the former city wall from 1200 and can be further divided into four districts.
The Burgviertel is the name of the region around Basel Münster (Cathedral) and St. Martin's Church. Both are important cornerstones of the city's history. While the cathedral is extremely visible from many parts of the city, St. Martin's Church hides a little more in the network of small alleys, yet it is an important part of the city's history and the place where the most important honours are held every year for the celebrations of the Dies Academicus of the University of Basel - the oldest university in Switzerland.
The business district comprises Marktplatz, Barfüsserplatz, Freie Strasse and Schifflände. Here, for example, the market square can serve as a starting point, where you can admire not only the beautiful architecture of the surrounding houses, but also the political heart of the city: the town hall, which houses the Great Council (Parliament). The imposing red building stands out from the surrounding buildings.
Further there is the district Leonhard, which includes the Leonhardskirche and the Heuberg.
And the last of the four districts of Grossbasel is "Peter", which comprises Nadelberg and Peterskirche and -graben.
The Old Town of Kleinbasel also has two districts, Klingental and Theodor. In the Old Town of Kleinbasel, the Rhine promenade is particularly worth mentioning, as are the Kaserne (barracks), the Kleines Klingental Museum, the Clara Church and Theodor Church. The two old town districts of Grossbasel and Kleinbasel are connected by the historic Mittlere Brücke and the four remaining Rhine ferries.
The middle bridge is the oldest existing Rhine crossing between Lake Constance and the North Sea. It is also the oldest bridge in Basel, its exact date of construction is not known, but it is assumed to have been built in 1255. The bridge as it stands today has existed since 1905.Read more
The Spalentor is one of the three city gates that were integrated into the former city wall and which still exist today. Especially beautiful is the green roof of the gate. The Spalentor is now a listed building and is considered one of the most beautiful city gates in Switzerland.
After the severe earthquake of 1356, which devastated the city of Basel, the people of Basel decided to protect the city with a city wall and defensive towers. The Spalentor was built at the end of the 14th century. Originally there were more than 40 such towers, seven of which were so-called gate towers, of which St. Johannstor and St. Albantor still exist today in addition to the Spalentor. As the town continued to expand in the 19th century and grew beyond the walls, these and most of the gates were removed.
At the end of the 19th century the city wall came more and more into conflict with the need of the city to expand and the rapid growth of the city population. It was therefore concluded that the city wall, and with it most of the fortified towers, had to give way. They were subsequently demolished. Only three city gates were spared and still shape the image of their respective quarters today.
The imposing appearance of the towers gives the viewer an idea of how imposing the city wall that surrounded the city of Basel must have been in the past.
It is interesting to know that the two round towers that flank the large tower had pyramid-shaped tent roofs until a strong storm around 1842. After the storm, however, they were not replaced or repaired, but removed.
Today the Spalentor stands free and the former passage under the gate is only passable for pedestrians.
The most beautiful way to reach the Spalentor is on foot over the Spalenberg, so you can still see one of Basel's most beautiful quarters. But one has the best view to the gate if one passes under the gate and on the place that offers itself there as much distance from the gate as possible, so it can unfold its whole impressive effect.
The statue on the banks of the Rhine in Kleinbasel was created by the Bernese artist Bettina Eichin. On a panel placed next to the bronze sculpture, the artist explains: "One day Helvetia leaves a piece of two francs, mixes herself with the people and undertakes a longer journey. On the way she also comes to Basel. After an exhausting walk through the city, she puts down her shield, spear and suitcase, puts her coat over the parapet and rests and looks thoughtfully down the Rhine".Read more
The new Messe Basel building, which was built in 2011, stands out above all for its futuristic façade. The atrium of the new trade fair building belongs to the so-called City Lounge of the trade fair and spans a large part of the trade fair square. The circular opening in the centre of the roofing, the so-called atrium, is particularly impressive in sunshine due to its special façade. The façade appears to be moving, giving the otherwise rather heavy building a certain lightness.
Depending on the weather conditions, the atrium creates a particularly special atmosphere, especially in rain or snow, interesting constellations can develop.
For the new construction of the fair, the old fair building "Messehalle 1" had to be constructed between 1924 and 1926 in the Art Deco style on the basis of plans by Hermann Herter. Hall 3, which was built in 1963 and 1965, also had to give way.
Together with the Messeplatz, the exhibition centre represents an important corner point between Grossbasel and the German border.
The special building was designed by the architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, headed by Basel star architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. They designed St. Jakob Park, the home of FC Basel, the Roche Tower, the Vitra Design Museum and many more. The duo has not only shaped Basel's cityscape for many years, they have also created important buildings all over the world, such as the Tate Gallery of Modern Art in London or the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.
Every year, the exhibition centre houses a large number of events and fairs, which also have a great significance far beyond the country's borders. For many years the Muba (Mustermesse Basel) took place here. But Messe Basel is also the most important point of view for important international trade fairs such as the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Fair and the Art Basel International Art Fair. There are also a number of hotels and restaurants where you can take a short break.