Arriving in Basel we checked into our rooms at the conveniently located Swissotel Le Plaza Basel which is “the largest and most contemporary 5 star hotel in the city and the greater Basel area.” We did not have a chance to really engage in any relaxation right away in this very sleek hotel with its modern underpinnings because we had plans, big plans for the day and not a moment to spare.
After depositing our luggage in the room and eying our enticing comfortable looking queen size bed and crisp linens as well as an impressive “pillow menu” to accommodate our sleeping comfort, we hurriedly made our way back down to the lobby. We were on the move and had to meet our guide from the tourism office, Margit Gotz. Margit, A sturdy middle aged women with swept up hair and a kind expression came armed with maps to lead our eager group of handpicked American journalists.
We began our walking journey around the city of Basel beginning with the modern aspects of the city and then continuing on to the medieval areas and its ancient city gate.
Basel is one of the most important locations for trade fairs and congresses in Switzerland and its 200,00 residents enjoy one of the cities with the highest quality of life in the world.
As we ventured into the city we became aware of Basel’s sophistication and the dedication to a high standard of living. From the lovely Rhine River, to the pristine cafés and picturesque baroque residences, we were enchanted with this city’s ambiance.
Our guide drew our attention to the architectural “Halo” of swirling interlacing steel framing the building known as the “City Lounge.”
This building developed by Herzog and de Meuron, is a covered public space that is the entrance to exhibitions combined with an open air meeting place and tram station. As we gazed upward, marveling at this interesting modern building we had to hasten our gaze downward and outward as we were to make our way from this ultra-modern”City Lounge” to the City Hall which is the seat of Basel government and its parliament. We would continue to experience this diverse cultural integration as we embarked upon the medieval Old Town in the heart of Basel.
Dominating the horizon was the stunning red roof of the 16th century Rathaus (town hall). Jutting up through the historical buildings, looming large, and giving us an anchoring landmark, this building is a guiding presence. As we proceeded through the Marktplatz through the former artisans’ district along Spalenberg we continued to the 600-year-old Spalentor city gate, one of only three to survive the walls’ demolition in 1866.
The narrow cobble stoned hillside between Marktplatz and the Spalentor form the most captivating part of old Basel. Weaving our way through the narrow cobblestones from ancient Roman times through the well maintained buildings with dates posted going back to the 1300’s, we felt history towering all around us. Today these buildings magnificently maintained, contain many apartments, shops, artists’ studios, and charming courtyards.
As we walked south of Marktplatz we found Barfüsserplatz, “named after the eponymous church that was deconsecrated in the 18th century and long the seat of the Historisches Museum Basel.” This area also has a myriad of shops and restaurants that were bustling with everyday life.
One of our favorite finds was the Butcher Shop where we sampled sumptuous speck and charcuterie that left us wanting to return again and again. Again, as old mingles with new, the city has maintained its historical and modern day elements with grace and ease. Tourist and locals alike can come together to embrace modern conveniences with great respect for the past and great relish for the present.
Just south of Barfüsserplatz is the Tinguely Fountain, with its comical and whimsical water machines. After walking most of day, we appreciated the reprieve as we watched these delightful artistic water sculptures expelling their whimsy splashes.
As captivating as these water wonders were, we now arrived in front of our final destination, the restaurant, Atlanis, where we met with Christine Waelti our Basel tourism representative. After enjoying deliciously prepared seafood pasta paired with a lighter style Swiss Merlot, we bid our goodbyes and headed for cocktails at one of the many open air cafes that are so prevalent throughout this charming town.
Light rain drops started falling from the sky, but that did not dampen our enthusiastic conversation about all the wonderful sights , sounds and smells of city of Basel. We boarded the tram to our awaiting bed and drifted off to sleep thinking of what new adventures were in store for us in the lovely city of Basel on our next visit.
On any excursion to Switzerland we highly recommend a few days in Basel. Enjoy great food , Meander into a museum, take a cruise on the historic River Rhine or stroll down the many ancient narrow cobble stone streets and make your own Basel adventure.