It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.
Basel is definitely, in my humble opinion, one of the most underrated cities in Europe. People don’t generally rave about Basel, but most know that it’s located in northwestern Switzerland on the river Rhine. It’s really a city bursting with an incredible amount of life, beautiful cathedrals and fine museums. It’s also famed as the city where humanist thinker Erasmus left his legacy.
Before we get into the highlights of the city centre itself, I’d like to recommed taking a little tour off the beaten path to hunt down a little historical gem tucked away in a small town just 20 minutes’ train ride away from Basel’s main railway station, Bahnhof Basel SSB.
The ancient ruins of the oldest Roman amphitheatre on the Rhine makes for a spectacular picnic spot and a wonderful morning stroll.
I was lucky enough to visit at a time with blue skies and plenty of sunshine, and it was so obscure that there were only a group of three other visitors there.
When they left, I had the whole place to myself, soaking up the peaceful sound of birds chirping, the gorgeous view and half imagining i’d returned to 44BC (yes, it’s that old) to the time of Julius Caesar when a Roman colony thrived there.
If you ask me, it’s well worth the 20-minute ride and leisurely 10-minute stroll to the archaeological compound. You can also enjoy the museum, guided tours and download an app that will take you back to the time when the place was alive with artistic performances! Pack a picnic basket with you for a lovely time with loved ones.
But for now, let’s head back to the main Basel station where all the city’s best offerings are a short walk away.
With its red sandstone architecture and coloured roof tiles, Basel’s Münster definitely stands out as one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Even though it was originally a Catholic cathedral built between 1019 and 1500 in Romanesque and Gothic styles, today it functions as a Protestant church.
But despite its national significance, I was more impressed with the Swiss Gothic Revival style of the Offene Kirche Elisabethen.
I absolutely loved every detail in its architecture. From its clean lines, to delicate details.
Even the stained glass and lighting was immaculate.
It was truly such a beautiful sight to behold. And just sitting there enjoying the quiet beauty of this 19th century building was truly sublime.
Basel, of course, boasts a myriad of museums. From fine arts to dollhouses, to toys and cartoon museums – there’s something for everyone to learn about in bustling Basel.
A real highlight for me was visiting the antique museum there.
The sheer number of antiques was such a treat! I’m a huge lover of history and art, and this is the only museum dedicated to the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean region. Just look at its extensive collection of art and antiques from Egyptian, Greek, Italic, Etruscan and Roman cultures! I was like a kid in a candy store.
This place is definitely worth a visit. You could spend hours in there ogling the spectacular collection up close.
The weather that day was just absolutely perfect for hours of strolling the streets of Basel. There’s always music in the air and so much excitement in the city squares. I loved just sitting by the sidewalk cafes and people watching. But some of the most stunning works of architecture I saw there (and there were plenty) was this next beauty.
Rathaus (Basel Town Hall)
How stunning are these colours of bright red sandstone in the middle of the Marktplatz?
I could barely take my eyes off of the stunning 500-year old building. It’s where council meetings of the Cantonal Parliament are held, and I loved watching the people go by there, some refreshing themselves or taking a quick sip from the glistening water fountains.
The Marktplatz itself was wide and sprawling, I can still smell the freshly-baked bread the air and the hot sausages sizzling on oiled pans. A beautiful contradiction of cheery bustle and weekend leisure.
After exploring the marketplace, I decided to take a slow walk by the river to the Paper Mill Museum which was definitely my favourite stop in the city. But first, check out the neat architecture of the Basel Theatre! Also, the slow walk by the river was incredibly invigorating. I was walking the whole day and barely felt in the least bit tired!
Basel Papermill (Basler Papiermühle)
If you’re ever in Basel, i highly recommend you stop by the Basel Paper Mill. Also known as the Swiss Museum for Paper, Writing and Printing. If you’re a lover of books, paper, calligraphy or writing, you will definitely find this place an absolute delight!
From the minute you step into the compound you’re welcomed by the melodious roar of gushing water, the gears powered by sheer force of cool green from the cold river. I loved how it almost takes you back five centuries ago when the mill first started operating. How quaint!
There are separate floors for paper making (where friendly guides will take you through the whole process), calligraphy and printing.
It was wonderfully eye-opening! First of all, we are a entering a digital age. So paper making is set to become a lost art. But I count myself lucky to be born in a time where we still grew to appreciate the feel of fingers on paper, pencils and pens were our mode of communication growing up. It felt oddly nostalgic and almost like i was revisiting not just the history of paper making, but also my own childhood.
It was a very interactive space. Great for children too! We were welcome to try our hand at calligraphy with feathered quills, print block letters and even paper making. It was a whole lot of fun.
And some of the most interesting parts of the museum has got to be the amazing collection of retro printing machines on the highest floor. Sleek, shiny and yet well-preserved from a no doubt colourful past. The paper museum was such a great way to end a perfect day in beautiful Basel! It’s definitely made its way into my heart as one of my favourite cities in the World.
If you’re headed there, or planning to, have the BEST time for me. And don’t forget to share all the places I missed out on! Would definitely love to return some day.