Food and Drink in Basel
Considering its location in Switzerland's Dreilandereck (Three Countries' Corner), it's hardly surprising that Basel offers a great range of cuisine from Europe and further afield, alongside traditional Swiss specialities, cheese and chocolate (and, of course, the ingenious fondue sets that were designed to make the most of both).
Basel specialities include Cakech, a tasty flour-based soup traditionally served during the city's Lenten Carnival period (Fasnacht), with cheese and onion tart.
Even tastier options include Fire Bread -- a French take on pizza, with a deliciously light, crisp base and a variety of toppings -- and Zurcher Geschnetzeltes, thin strips of veal in a creamy mushroom sauce, usually served with another Swiss specialty, rosti potatoes.
Sweet tooth? Pick up a bag of Massmogge, colorful long sweets filled with a chocolate and hazelnut mixture. You'll find them in shops year-round, but the greatest varieties are sold during Basel's Autumn Fair (Basler Herbstmesse), which takes place at the end of October.
As for restaurants, you'll be spoiled for choice. Stroll along the Rhine riverbanks at lunchtime, check out the menus and simply take your pick (although be prepared for sticker stock; the U.S. dollar does not fare well against the Swiss franc).
Italian Dishes: Restaurant Schmaler Wurf dishes up steaming bowls of aromatic soup and offers a good range of fresh antipasti and homemade pasta, including a knockout potato gnocchi in tomato sauce. (Rheingasse 10, 4058; +41 (0)61 683 33 25; open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday)
Asian Fare: Lily's Stomach Supply might be a slightly odd name for a restaurant (or perhaps it loses something in translation), but the freshly prepared food is tasty and affordable, and recipes are drawn from across Asia. A garden terrace is open during the summer months. (Rebgasse 1 CH-4058; +41 (0)61 683 11 11; open 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday)
Traditional Swiss: Restaurant Walliser offers classic fondues, Wiener schnitzel prepared at the table and specialities from the Valais region, including a platter of dry-cured meat, bacon, cheese shavings and Huus wurscht (house sausage). (Kanne Gerbergasse 50, CH-4051; +41 (0)61 261 70 17; open 11:30 a.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday, closed Sundays and public holidays, hot meals served 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.)
For a Splurge: Restaurant Stucki is an architect-designed modern restaurant with a varied cuisine that has earned it a Michelin star. (Bruderholzallee 42, 4059; +41 (0)61 361 82 22; open noon to 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday, except during Basel Carnival and fairs)
Best Cocktail in Basel
Ueli beer is a fresh-tasting tipple. It's brewed in Basel at Fischerstube Microbrewery in the Old Town of Little Basel and has a restaurant attached from which you can watch the brewers at work. It also has an atmospheric, 15th century vaulted cellar -- the Antoniterkeller -- which somehow makes the beer taste even more authentic. (Rheingasse 45, 4058; +41(0)61 692 92 00)
Don't Miss in Basel
Fondation Beyeler: This museum houses a glorious collection of 20th century art -- including works by Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Bacon.. This is a sight to behold. Tram 6 stops right outside -- and it's open on Mondays, too! (Baselstrasse 101 CH-4125 Riehen; +41 (0)61 645 97 00; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Sunday, except10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; CHF 25 adults, CH6 to CHF20 children, concessions)
Munster: Take a stroll around Basel's Romanesque church that was built between the 12th and 15th centuries. The former Episcopal building contains a wonderfully spooky Gothic cloister, as well as the tomb of Erasmus, the Renaissance humanist, theologian and reformer, who died in Basel in 1536. The square surrounding this former cathedral is home to pleasant restaurants and is often used for outdoor events, including Basel's annual film festival, while the Pfaltz (a leafy area behind the church) is a popular picnic spot that offers spectacular views across the Rhine to Kleinbasel and (on a clear day) the Black Forest and the Vosges. Street musicians, including an excellent harpist, often perform there, so people get to enjoy music with their lunch. Tram routes 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 15 and 16, to Barfusserplatz or 2 and 15 to Kunstmuseum bring you there. (Rittergasse 3, CH-4051; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays and bank holidays; free, though donations are welcome)
Rathaus: A look at Basel's beautiful City Hall reveals a stunning example of Renaissance architecture. Built between 1509 and 1514, it's located at the heart of Old Town, and you can't miss its red and gold exterior and distinctive tower. Its main courtyard (yes, walk right in!) is impressive, with historic frescoes and a statue of Munatius Plancus, who founded the first Roman settlement in the Basel region. Basel Tourism offers regular free tours of the building, particularly on Saturdays, but schedules vary (check at the tourist office) The Rathaus is at Marktplatz, served by tram routes 6, 8, 11, 14, 15, 16. (9 CH-4001; +41 (0)61 267 86 54; open 7 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; free entry).
Ferry (Fahrimaa) ride: Four little ferry boats -- secured and pulled soundlessly by tow line across the Rhine's powerful currents -- zip back and forth between Big Basel and Little Basel, and you'll see one near each of the river's bridges. Traditionally, you summon them by ringing a bell at the landing stage, but it's just as effective, if less fun, to wait until the boatman spots you. Return fare is about CHF3.5 (roughly 2 euros). A ride on one of these little boats is a great experience and is a nice "fix" if you've disembarked at Basel and are missing life on your riverboat.
Tinguely Fountain: Watch the whirrs (and the world) go by at this delightful edifice designed by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, whose work also inspired a museum (see below). Wacky robotic components push the fountain's gushing waters in summer. In winters, with temperatures cold enough to freeze it, the fountain becomes a fabulous ice sculpture. It's certainly a favorite spot for Basel residents and another place they come to enjoy lunch. (Steinenberg 7 4051, in the city center, tram routes 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 15 and 16 to Barfusserplatz)
Tinguely Museum: If you love the fountain, go inside this museum celebrates the iron sculptor Jean Tinguely's offbeat work more extensively than his fountain. The museum also showcases the work of his contemporaries and other modern artists. (Paul Sacher-Anlage 1, CH-4002; +41 (0)61 681 93 20; open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday; CHF18 adults, CHF12 children, concessions)
Basel Zoo: Talk to the animals at this delightful stretch of green parkland near Basel's city center. Highlights include a vivarium containing critters that live underwater and a redesigned lion enclosure and monkey house. (Binningerstrasse 40, CH-4054; +41 (0)61 295 35 35; open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in winter, to 6 p.m. in spring and autumn and to 6:30 p.m. in July and August; CHF 18 adults, CHF 16 seniors, CHF 12 younger than 25, CHF7 younger than 16 and CHF39 for a family ticket)
Kunstmuseum Basel: The world's largest collection of artworks by the Holbein family houses fine Renaissance artworks and more pieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and Picasso. Tram No. 2 stops right outside. (St. Alban-Graben 16 CH-4010; +41 (0)61 206 62 62; CHF12 adults, CHF5 children, first Sunday of every month is a "Happy Day," with free admission)