Cover image

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

🇨🇭Basel - Art, Christmas markets

I made my first post-Covid Europe trip in November last year and went to Madrid. Although I have visited many European cities since then, Paris-Prague-Amsterdam-Florence-Warsaw, these are the cities I have been to before. This time, I changed the route to a place I had never been before: Basel and Alsace villages. This is the first part of the trip that is about Basel. And I will write a second post for Colmar and other Alsace villages.

Accommodation

We stayed in two different places. Guesthouse Casa Esperanza and Basel Backpack. Our host was helpful in the guesthouse: he answered all our questions, informed us about the city, and provided us a spotless room and bathroom. There was no kitchen, but there was tea, coffee, and some kitchen equipment. What else could we ask for? Nothing, we were delighted.

I can’t say much about the latter because we checked in in the evening and left early the following day. But being in an old industrial factory, having stylish bars and restaurants around, and being 10 minutes walking to Basel SBB (and 2 stops by tram) are the advantages of this place.

Travel from/to Berlin

We preferred the train for transportation. You can go to Basel in 7–7.30 hours by direct train from Berlin. It’s convenient if you buy the ticket early. We purchased a round-way ticket for a price of 60 Euros. But when our return train was canceled, we panicked, of course. Fortunately, Deutsche Bahn told us that we could use any train that day, we didn’t need to buy extra tickets, and we returned to Berlin using another train without any problems. Interestingly, we learned about the cancellation on Saturday evening, and they answered us on Instagram. The call center and all other options were not available.

If you want to come by plane, you can use EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg. This airport is located very close to these three cities. I don’t know about ticket prices, but they can be pricy because Colmar and its surroundings are very tourist places at Christmas time. It is helpful to start looking for tickets in advance and purchase them.

Basel Card

The place you stay gives you a free Basel card, you can use public transportation for free, buy tickets to many museums and theaters at half price, and connect to free Wifi at many hotspots. The fact that this public transport is free includes going to your accommodation from the airport or train station. You can simply show your booking.com reservation confirmation. This is incredibly well thought out. Here are the places you can get in for half price:

  • Museums in Basel
  • Basel Zoo
  • Theater Basel (only applies to tickets purchased at the box office)
  • Sightseeing bus tour (please note the operating hours)
  • Public walking tour of the Old Town (reservation required)
  • Public boat trips offered by Basler Personenschifffahrt

The cathedral looks a bit scary when Christmas Markets are not open 😅

Basel was very satisfying in terms of art and peace. No siren alarms, no noise, no drunk people, no crowd. And no one in the city is in a hurry. The elderly population is too much in the center; however, when we stayed on the other side of the train station last night, we saw many more young people and many bars/restaurants, but we didn’t have time to try any except Tibits.

To visit the city, you can download the Basel City Guide application, where you can make your own tour. It has an audio guide feature. You can follow 5 different routes and learn a lot about Old Town. There are also guided tours, but we did not participate in such a thing as we could not find a reasonable hour during the week. By the way, in this link above, you can find much more information about Basel, for example, its architecture and art.

I don’t know if this is specific to the venues on the Old Town side, but the restaurants acted as bars at the same time. In other words, you sit somewhere and eat your dinner, then you continue to drink there.

Art Scene

There are more than 30 museums in Basel. We preferred to visit Kunstmuseum Basel and Fondation Beyeler.

Kuntsmuseum Basel

You can find art from the 15th century. It also means that you could observe many different art movements in this museum. I especially liked how the museum defines itself:

Hauptbau, Neubau, Gegenwart: three homes for the famous treasures of the world’s oldest municipally owned public art collection, comprising around four thousand paintings, sculptures, installations and videos, as well as three hundred thousand drawings and prints from seven centuries. A journey through the history of art.

Bride of the Wind / Kokoschka

We purchased the ticket for 13 euros, including the 3 museums mentioned above. The ticket is valid for one-day. However, we had time to visit only two of them: Hauptbau and Neubau. We started from Hauptbau, and it is hard to describe how it was. It was sensational, stunning. The art collection was a real show. You can find many masterpieces from Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, Renoir, Böcklin, Mondrian, Pissarro, Edgar Degas, and more! These are the names that came to my mind right now.

On the other hand, the Neubau has an art collection from 1950 and special exhibitions. Honestly, it didn’t astonish me after seeing the Hauptbau.

I’m going to share paintings from Hauptbau. But before that, if you like Symbolism, it is useful to know that there is a collection of Böcklin here. And his most famous artwork: Island of the Dead’s first version (there are 5 versions), is also here. Now, here are the paintings that I loved the most:

Woman in front of a Mirror / Marie-Louise Breslau

The Burning Giraffe / Salvador Dali

Seated Harlequin / Pablo Picasso

The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb / Hans Holbein the Younger

Fondation Beyeler

You can go there using the tram or bus from the city center. It’s very close to the German border, you can even have lunch in Germany in 15 minutes of walking. We bought tickets for 12,5 Euros. This museum is the most visited museum in Switzerland and has a collection of 400 artworks. Another interesting piece of information about it is that it’s open for 365 days!

They had a 25th-anniversary exhibition of 100 pieces of art from their collection when we were there. Additionally, Duane Hanson did installations for the exhibition. It was a good harmony of old and new paintings, sculptures, and installations. For example, there was a construction workers’ installation in front of a pyramid painting, an old lady sitting just next to Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair, a painter painting one wall of the museum, etc. The museum explains the exhibition like this:

…It features approximately 100 works by 31 artists — from classics of modern art to recent acquisitions of contemporary art.

… Major works by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Henri Rousseau will be shown alongside masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Louise Bourgeois.

…Amounting to an “exhibition within the exhibition”, 13 sculptures by distinguished American artist Duane Hanson are also on display. They engage in direct dialogue with works from the collection and with the museum’s architecture.

Le bassin aux nymphéas / Claude Monet

Three dancers / Edgar Degas

The rape of the Sabines / Pablo Picasso

This is another anti-war monochrome painting from Picasso. He was inspired by a Roman Mythological story. It’s just like Guernica: a timeless symbol of suffering caused by wars and violent oppression.

Note: An interesting article: Top 10 Art Works in Basel


Other notes from Basel:

  • There are 2 Christmas markets in the city. In the bigger one (Barfüsserplatz), most places accept payments by card; however, the other (Münsterplatz) accepts only cash. So, you might need some Swiss francs. One glass of glühwein (mulled wine) costs 5 Swiss francs + deposit.
  • In the Christmas markets, you can also find fondue hot dogs! They put melted Swiss cheese inside the bread and then add a Wiener sausage. It’s yummy.
  • Cheese fondue is one of their famous dishes. They serve in a pot that you could share with 2 people.

Christmas market in Barfüsserplatz

  • In all other restaurants, markets, and cafes, we paid by card and had no problem.
  • It’s free to enter Basel Minster. We couldn’t enter because it was time to pray, and they didn’t let in any visitors.
  • Next to the City Hall, there is one cafe called: ViCAFE Marktplatz. They make an excellent Americano 👌.
  • Transportation is a piece of cake. You can go everywhere by tram. And you don’t have to wear a mask inside of transportation vehicles.
  • Basel is an expensive city. If your budget is low, remember to check the menu before going to any restaurant or bar.
  • Everyone speaks English, and we had no problem communicating.
  • There are two train stations: Basel SBB and Basel Badischer Bahnhof. You can use a train or tram to go from one to another. They are not far away. In Basel SBB, supermarkets and an eatery serve hot/cold food and drinks. There are a few shops for souvenirs on one side of the train station. And some of the shops are also open on Sundays. We bought breakfast from Coop on Sunday at 8am.
  • There are trains to Colmar every 30 minutes. You should buy tickets from the office and show your passport because it’s an international train.
  • If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can check Tibits restaurants. It offers delicious open-buffet food. You pay for the grams of the plate you make. They have desserts and breakfast as well.
  • Hans Im Glück has an amazing interior and hamburger.

Hans Im Glück / Basel

  • It is irrelevant, but I’m a big fan :) This is the city of Roger Federer, where he was born and grew up.
  • If you’re not interested in the art scene in Basel, it’s more than enough to spend 2 days. If you’re interested in it, it’s entirely another story. You can spend many more days and visit many museums.

We will visit cute Alsace (French) villages in the second part of the post.

In the garden of Fondation Beyeler