Why Basel, Switzerland should be on your radar

If anyone were to whisper, Switzerland in my ear there are a few things which may run through my mind: blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, astonishing scenery. It’s the picture-perfect destination one cannot forget. Switzerland, of course, is all of these things. However, there are also the big cities filled with culture, cuisine and history. Basel, for example, with transport links to UK and Europe, is the perfect city break. With quaint neighbourhoods, beautiful architecture and connection to art it’s the underrated Swiss city we all need to visit in 2019. Here are a few handy tips to know before you visit Basel, Switzerland:

  1. Basel is the culture capital of Switzerland and has 40 museums in an area of 37 square kilometres.
  2. Given the city’s proximity to the borders of France and Germany the food influences here are wonderful. From high end dining options to an array of international cuisine the city deserves an honourable mention for its food.
  3. Basel SBB train station is Europe’s busiest international border train station linking the city to domestic destinations as well as Italy, Germany and France.
  4. All public transport within Basel is free for visitors. Yep, that’s trains, trams and buses for anyone staying in the city for one night or more.
  5. A city pass known as Basel Card can be collected at the reception of every hotel and offers 50% discounted admission to museums, Basel Zoo and Theatre Basel amongst others.
  6. Tourists also have free guest wifi in the city’s wifi network.

Where to spend the perfect weekend in Basel, Switzerland

Carpeted ornate staircase of Les Trois Rois five star hotel

Where to stay: Hotel Krafft Basel is where I stayed and loved. Their river view rooms are all you could wish for. As the hotel sits on the bank of the Rhine there are undisturbed views. The gleaming green water carries boats and swimmers across Basel in all weather and you’ll be privy to it from the balcony of your room. The location couldn’t be more perfect for a short stay. It’s within walking distance from the Old Town and tram stops. This utterly beautiful hotel was awarded the City Historic Hotel Award (2017) by Historic Hotels of Europe.

Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois is part of The Leading Hotels of the World and is as magnificent as you can imagine. It too stands on the bank of the Rhine as it has done since 1681. As you can expect from a heritage hotel the rooms are lavishly decorated and the service is faultless. There is a restaurant and bar open to all and you do not need to be a guest of the hotel. However, I recommend reserving your table at the restaurant as preference is given to hotel guests.

Where to eat

Volkshaus Basel is an easily accessible French brasserie and bar serving great classic dishes with seasonal produce. The extensive menu covers anything from foie gras terrine to sirloin steak and fries with an impressive wine list. There is also a beautiful courtyard and beer garden to enjoy in the summer months in particular. Please note that Volkshaus is closed on Sundays.

Nomad Eatery, as the name suggests, serves breakfast, brunch and dinner with travellers in mind. You can enjoy a menu of world cuisine and great cocktails. The menu changes weekly to keep things exciting. Breakfast is served daily from 7am and dinner until 11pm.

Walliser Kanne is a great place to enjoy a refined Swiss dining experience. The restaurant is located in the Old City of Basel and serves Swiss classics of cheese fondue, raclette and Wiener schnitzel. The menu is accompanied by an incredible wine list including the best of Swiss, Italian, Spanish and French wines. Please note that Walliser Kanne is also closed on Sundays and public holidays.

People seated around cosy bar of Les Trois Rois five star hotel

Where to drink

Bar Rouge sits 105 meters above the city offering panoramic views as the sun goes down. With an impressive cocktail list, bar menu of light snacks and late opening until 4am this is a great place to enjoy the city’s night life.

Consum is the cosy, atmospheric wine bar attached to hotel Krafft Basel. With live music on selected days and an authentic tavern feel it’s the place for a quick drink. A menu curated for light drinking offers cured meats and cheeses with over 100 labels of wine. The bar is popular with locals and gets packed very quickly so get there early or be prepared to wait for a table.

Les Trois Rois Bar offers the ultimate drinking experience in a five star setting and impeccable service. Enjoy a refined whisky or smooth cocktail overlooking the Rhine in a lavish setting here. It was awarded the Swiss Bar of the Year in 2015 and is also the winner of the Mixology Bar Award in the same year. You’ll be in good hands.


Things to do

Take a guided walking tour – I highly recommend a guided walking tour of the city to really get under its skin. Basel is rich in history and is home to Switzerland’s oldest university, an Old Town and a labyrinth of old canals which make for a rich heritage. Cities with old ports often have the most interesting history connected to trading routes and Basel is certainly one. Both group tours and private tours are available and I couldn’t recommend my private tour enough. I learned that Basel’s wealth, in the past, came from the most unlikely commodity. Take the Old Town Tour and find out more.

Fondation Beyeler – No visit to Basel is complete without visiting at least two of its utterly impressive museums and art galleries. Switzerland is a traditional society and many shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays making it the perfect day to visit museums which remain open throughout the year. Fondation Beyeler was my favourite and I was lucky enough to view the spectacular Balthus exhibition during my visit. With an equally impressive calendar of Picasso, Rudolf Stingel and an autumn exhibition of Resonating Spaces it’s an unmissable experience.

Kunstmuseum Basel – If you only have time for one museum in Basel I recommend Kunstmuseum. It’s Basel’s fine art offering and will astonish you as it did me. From the current exhibition of Fuseli (until 17th February 2019) to Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse the museum is a joy. They were my best hours spent in Basel.

Theatre Basel – Make Theatre Basel the highlight of your stay by watching one of its productions. I watched the ballet Carmen and was wowed by the energetic and passionate performance. It was a wonderful way to immerse myself in the cultural capital of Switzerland and the perfect end to my stay.

I was a guest of Basel Tourism. All opinions expressed are my own. Find out more at: www.basel.com

Niederhorn Mountain – Switzerland

The small town of Thun located in west-central Switzerland is quite possibly my favourite place in the world. Just when you think that a place on earth with so many blessings which include accurate time keeping, cheese and chocolate couldn’t get any better, it does. A mountain range of the Alps, known as the Bernese Alps (Berner Oberland), is located here. As such, this extremely mountainous region is noted for its incredible beauty. Despite the name, “Bernese Alps”, suggesting that they are located in Bern, the range runs through the cantons of Bern, Valais, Fribourg and Vaud. The astonishing surrounding Alpine scenery has helped establish the nearby resorts of Interlaken, Thun, Meiringen, Grindelwald, Mürren  and Kandersteg.

Many of the peaks in the range rise to more than 3660m. Jungfraujoch railway station at the top of Jungfraujoch peak is the highest point of Europe. On my last visit to Thun I took the Niesenbahn funicular  to the top of Niesen, which lies at the southern shore of Lake Thun and peaks at 2,366m. The Niesenbahn is a bright yellow tram on rails connected to a cable that carries people up and down the steel slope. It really needs to be experienced to be believed! We reached the top of this perfectly pyramid shaped mountain only to find clouds surrounding the peak. Visibility was so poor that I couldn’t see past my outstretched arm. I consoled myself with hot chocolate.

This time however, I got lucky. On a cold November morning, a few of us packed into a car and drove up the winding roads to the village of Beatenberg. The route to Beatenberg from Thun by road is so scenic that if heaven was a place I’m sure this is where it would be. Steep cliffs overlook lush green valleys. Traditional wooden farmhouses dot the entire landscape. Sheep and cows graze lazily close to narrow roads snaking up the mountains. And  then, there is this lake!

This lake of Thun that glistens, shining under the sun, all shades of turquoise and blue. It’s elegance takes total command of your view; Clear as a crystal, captivating like a Goddess, a Venus emerging from the earth instead of the sea.

Beatenberg sits high above Lake Thun and offers the most magnificent views. *It is from here that you can also catch the cable car or begin your hike to the summit of  Niederhorn. If you take the cable car they will stop half way should you wish to hike the rest of the way up. If you don’t want to just remain in your car. It is a relatively easy hike and a well travelled path. However, if you plan to do that in winter make sure you are appropriately dressed and have the right equipment for the weather as it can get windier and snowy the higher up you go.

Let the cable cars carry you to the top while you take in this Alpine scenery.

I’ve always believed that reaching the top of any mountain you have climbed undoubtedly brings you closer to God. This certainly felt true at the peak of Neiderhorn. A little snow had fallen overnight making everything look brand new. In the distance I could see clouds cascading down between two peaks like a waterfall. All around me snow capped peaks glistened against a brilliantly blue sky under the sun. The light so incredibly intense bouncing against the snow and blinding you with its glare. On this clear day it was possible to follow the ridge and see the peaks of Stockhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. What a treat! Looking down, forests running wild against the mountains covering everything in their path. To the right, snow had covered all but the road which was ribbonning against the snow.

These highlands are also home to Ibex. In summer hikers regularly spot them.

Blinding beauty surrounds you from all angles.
A little snow had begun to cover the valley.
Lush green Alpine forests are home to Ibex.
View of lake Thun from Niederhorn. Stockhorn stands out in the distance.

Between April – October Restaurant Niederhorn at the top serves food with spectacular views. There is seating for around 240 inside and outside. Deck chairs are provided so you can take in the views while you sip drinks. As we were there on a cold Sunday in November much of the restaurant was closed but the kitchen was still open and a limited menu available. Stop here. Refresh yourself, take in the view, exchange stories and breathe before you make your way back down.

Restaurant Niederhorn overlooking Berner Oberland

These mountains? They will leave you breathless. If you do at least one good thing for yourself in your lifetime, let it be to arrive here. Witness this gift of wonder that has been bestowed upon us. Swiss ingenuity means the Bernese Alps are accessible to people of all ages. It is  common to see young families hiking up with grandparents.

The various mountains in the range are closed to the public at different times of the year (mostly in the winter months before the skiing season begins). Whilst this allows maintenance and repair of facilities to be carried out what this must also do is allow wildlife and ecosystems here to flourish. This fine balance of sustainability and mass tourism allows for a unique experience – one that is echoed in the mountains.

See it for yourself.


Demi xx

*Adult return fare for Niederhorn cable car is CHF40pp. 

How to spend 3 hours in Basel

Having previously only ever passed through Basel, to catch an onward bus, tram or train, I had given this city little thought. Switzerland’s second largest city, with such great transport links – Basel SBB (Europe’s busiest international border train station), bus and tram stations conveniently located next to each other, it had seemed to me that people arrived in Basel only to be carried away from here.

Basel BSS Station

Basel is RICH in history. Basel BSS train station has been here since 1854 and was rebuilt in the 1900s. Switzerland’s oldest University, founded in 1460, is also here. There is a medieval Old Town dating back to the 1500s complete with moat, alleys, houses, fountains and courtyards. This city has no less than SIX bridges connecting one side to the other.

When I found myself with three hours to spare in Basel I was determined to make even a small connection with this enormous city. Whilst sitting in a restaurant, looking for the wine list, I found, “A Journey Back in History”. This leaflet, published by Basel Culture Unlimited, detailed 5 walking tours to discover the Old Town. Each tour named after the town’s famous residents past, could be completed from 30 – 90 minutes. Excited by what I had just discovered, I downed my wine, dropped off my bags in a locker, bought a travel pass and headed out to discover the fascinating medieval Old Town.

Tram NO.8 towards Kleinhuningen takes you to Marktplatz where the walking tours begin. Marktplatz translates to Market Place. And, yes, there is a market here, selling local produce, on weekdays. The bright red Rathaus or Town Hall dominates the square. This 500 year old building is used for local government meetings in the Canton of Basel. The dramatic black arch gated entrance opens out into a magically colourful space. A tiny courtyard is surrounded by walls covered in frescoes restored from 1608-11 originals. Brightly coloured wooden doors lead to council chambers. A staircase guarded by a 1574 statue of Munatius Planks, founder of the town, carries you up to the mezzanine. All of it is simply magnificent.

Directly across the road, at the corner of Sattelgasse, a tiny street between two restaurants, is the starting point of the 5 walking tours. I began the Thomas Platter tour but the signs disappeared 5 mins into the walk and I found myself walking around in circles. However, I was happy that I had this guide, as without it I might have never discovered the Old Town at all.

So, I did what I always do – put away the guidebook and followed my senses. The Old Town is contained in such a way that it’s not possible to lose your way.

I found the Theater Fauteuil, an independent, local theatre – an absolute gem to discover. It’s miniature in size with an interesting schedule of German/Swiss German plays. In my opinion, worth visiting if you have an evening to spend in Basel.

There were medieval alleyways, houses, streets and fountains to be discovered at every little corner of this breath taking Old Town. Having attempted to re-start the walking tours three times, I had lost too much time and did not get to see many of it’s highlights. If you attempt to take the walking tours, try the Thomas Platter walk or simply see the University of Basel (founded 1460) which is the oldest university in Switzerland. The Hans Holbein walk, on the opposite side, should take you to the banks of the Rhine river which runs through Basel. You can also take a ferry across the Rhine from Grossbasel to Kleinbasel, provided you have time. As always, bear in mind that times stated on guide books are not exact but meant merely to guide you. “A Journey Back in History” is a free leaflet available at most restaurants and hotels around Basel BSS train station. It is well worth following as a rough guide (even if you can’t see everything). It highlights all the things you should definitely see; offering an incredible experience for the price of a tram ticket. Absolutely worth your time if you only have a short while to spare.

Whenever I find myself with a more than an hour to spare, whether in a little town or big city, I always try to connect with it. If travelling has taught me anything, it is that there is always more. Nothing is ever as it appears to be. Something interesting has always happened. It’s just waiting to be discovered.


Demi xx