Back in May 2019 I jetted off to Basel in Switzerland. Basel is an incredibly unique city, not least because it’s county boundaries practically melt into the country boundaries of Germany and France – it’s basically a city in 3 countries which is pretty darn cool in my books! Basel is not a predominantly touristy city, making it a totally different experience to visiting the likes of Rome, Vienna, Copenhagen or Edinburgh and was much more like Oslo where tourists are perfectly welcome but will need to put in a little more effort to seek out the tourism treasures.
I thought I would share what I got up to during my weekend in the city, in case any of you are planning a visit!
As I arrived in the morning, and couldn’t check in until late afternoon, my first stop was to drop off my case at the hostel where I was staying. This actually turned out to be a bit more stressful than originally anticipated, but thankfully I learned later in the day that not all staff were quite so unwelcoming. I had also hoped that I might be able to collect my Basel Card at this point, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
The Basel Card is unlike any other tourist/travel pass that I have come across, in that it’s free for all tourists. The only stipulation is that you have to be staying for at least one night in Basel to qualify, and you get given one automatically when you check in to your accommodation – the city may not be a tourist haven, but they are trying really hard to let tourists know that they are welcome. The fact that it’s free does, of course, mean that you don’t get free entry to attractions but you do get a good discount…in fact if I had been able to collect mine when I dropped off my bag for storage then I would have saved 12 Euros on my next activity…
I made my way back to the main train station with the hopes of picking up Basel’s sightseeing bus. I ended up waiting longer than I had anticipated, but thankfully it was a nice day! This isn’t a red open-topped bus like most other sightseeing busses, it’s more like a mini bus, and while it says it is a hop on, hop off service you would need to plan your hops very carefully as there is only three or four tours a day so you could hop off the bus to look at something and be stuck there for a couple of hours!
The main reason that I wanted to use the sightseeing bus as soon as I arrived – apart from to get a feel for the city and learn more about what was on offer – was that it seemed like the best option for visiting the Dreilandereck. The Dreilandereck is a monument marking the area where the three countries meet, and if you’re visiting it’s definitely worth going to see since that’s probably the coolest thing about Basel. It may not look like much, but just the sheer scale of what you’re experiencing is pretty special. Thankfully, due to it’s popularity, the bus does actually stop here for 15-20 minutes so you won’t be stranded at the Dreilandereck monument for hours waiting for the next bus!
After the bus tour I couldn’t resist popping into Macdonalds for a bite to eat before heading back to the hostel for the night…
The first thing I did on my full day in Basel was visit Zoo Basel – I just can’t help myself, animals make me happy! Except in this instance, it din’t make me so happy…for one thing, my top kept moving exposing my bra (a problem I had never had before and have never had since, I think it must have been an omen). Worse than that though, was that this particular zoo just seemed to ooze…sadness? It was particularly quiet when I was there, and the lack of atmosphere which you normally feel at a zoo bustling with excited families was very apparent. A lot of the enclosures seemed particularly small, and the animals seemed to look right into your soul. I actually felt pretty uncomfortable walking around Zoo Basel, and there’s a reason that I made a video where I called Zoo Basel “the worst zoo” I’ve ever been to. It put a bit of a dampener on my adventure, and it also made me realise how lucky I was to live somewhere where the zoos and wildlife parks are all aimed at conservation and giving the animals a good life. On the other hand, I’ve seen other people call Zoo Basel the best zoo that they’ve ever been too, so do be aware that this is just my opinion.
I nipped back to the hostel to change my top and indulge in some snacks from a nearby corner shop before heading out for the afternoon.
The first place I hit up was Tinguely Fountain, which was one of the places I had seen during the bus tour that I knew I wanted to go back to. It’s super quirky and fun and it was nice to just chill there for a while enjoying watching all the different ‘characters’ of the fountain at work.
Naturally, when I tried to walk to my next location I accidentally took a couple of wrong turns and it ended up taking me a lot longer than the 5 minutes Google Maps had promised, but I got there eventually! Something I came to realise was that, due to it’s artistic nature, Basel is a city which has been designed for people to just…wander around.
I finally made it to BaselMunster, and let me tell you that from street level this church (which was originally built as a cathedral) is overwhelmingly tall. I don’t think I’ve ever stood outside a church or cathedral before and been aware of just how tall it is. The height was magnified all the more by the tiny dots of people on a viewing platform up one of the bell towers. Unfortunately I couldn’t go and see the view from on high because they had strict rules in place about only being able to go up in groups, and alas I was only one person. The beautiful interiors of the church more than made up for not being allowed to give myself jelly legs a million miles above street level though.
Having now done everything that I really wanted to, I felt at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. Checking the map, I discovered that the Museum De Kulturen – or Culture Museum – was just along the street a bit from the church and decided to use the remainder of my day to pop in there. This museum was actually deceptively big inside and I was impressed with some of the incredibly interesting exhibits!
I returned to the hostel to pack my case ready to fly home early the next morning, and spent the evening tucked up in bed with snacks watching Eurovision!