Destination Guides. Basel.

Conservatively classical yet contemporarily cool, the cobbled streets of Rhine-straddling Basel marry modernism to a medieval core with consummate ease. Mark Stratton’s 24-hour guide provides a low-down on the Swiss city’s highlights. 
0700-0900. Blow the cobwebs away at Pane con Carne (Sternengasse 18, 061 281 5011), a lively espresso bar with hanging hams and a funky décor. Slightly more sedate, Confiserie Schiesser (Marktplatz 19, 061 261 6077) has been a Basel institution for coffee and cake since 1870, while Confiserie Bachmann (Blumenrain 1, 061 260 9999) offers a sumptuous selection of breakfast patisserie.
0900-1100. Basel is ripe for exploring on foot; particularly early morning as many museums don’t open until later. As well as a beautiful medieval town centre, Basel offers excellent examples of contemporary design from stellar architects such as Renzo Piano, Mario Botta, and Herzog & de Meuron. Get a feel for the city by following well-marked historic trails using either a downloaded app or hired iPad from the tourist office on Barfüsserplatz. The 30-minute Erasmus trail (marked red) visits the famous landmarks of the Romanesque Münster (cathedral) and Renaissance Rathaus (town hall). The longer Hans Holbein trail (marked green) passes through the former industrial canals of St Alban-Tal before crossing the Rhine by wooden fahre (ferry) from Grossbasel (‘Big Basel’) to Kleinbasel (‘Little Basel’). On Kleinbasel, it’s a short riverside stroll to the magnificently eccentric Museum Tinguely (Paul Sacher-Anlage 2, 061 681 9320), devoted to the work of the prominent Swiss painter and sculptor. 
1100-1300. With world-class museums and galleries, culture vultures are spoilt for choice in Basel. The city’s artistic cornerstone is the Kunstmuseum (St Alban-Graben 16, 061 206 6262) with its impressive permanent collection spanning artworks from the 15th century onwards. But don’t leave without hopping onto tram 6 to possibly Europe’s finest modern art collection – everything from Bacon to Giacometti – at Foundation Beyeler (Baselstrasse 101, 061 645 9700). The Cartoon Museum (St Alban-Vorstadt 28, 061 226 3360) has ever-changing exhibitions, while Museum für Musik (Lohnhof 9, 061 205 8600) lovingly preserves 500 years’ worth of instruments inside an ancient former jail. Ethnological exhibits from Amazonia and Africa are sexily presented in the revamped Museum der Kulturen (Münsterplatz 20, 061 266 5600), and if a temporary exhibition is taking place at the iconically modern Schaulager building (Ruchfeldstrasse 19, 061 335 3232), don’t miss it.
1300-1500. A good spot for lunch is Les Gareçons (Schwarzwaldallee 200, 061 681 8488), which serves posh burgers and pasta in a bistro-like setting at German Basel’s Badischer Bahnhof railway station. The old station dates back to 1912. Alternatively, enjoy a sunny courtyard luncheon beneath chestnut trees at Restaurant Kunsthalle’s Campari Bar (Steinenberg 7, 061 272 4233) while listening to the manic whirring of Tinguely’s outlandish fountain. 
1500-1700. Expensive and exclusive defines Basel shopping in a nutshell. Small boutiques, specialist shops and designer labels are focused around historic Spalenberg in the Old Town where it’s best for time’s sake to concentrate your purchasing power. For exclusive clothing, try erfolg (Spalenberg 36, 061 262 2255) or Boutique süd-wind (Gerbergässlein 18, 061 261 9019), where local designers Duttle and Dürig’s winter scarves and summer foulards make perfect buys. Add accessories with home-fashioned leather belts and handbags at 37 Format Brigitte Hürzeler (Nadelberg 37, 061 261 1504) or individually designed jewellery at Elia Gilli (Rümelinsplatz, 061 261 0303), beautifully presented among crystal displays. Sevensisters (Spalenberg 38, 061 262 0980) has colourful, funky homewares that make unique gifts. For excellent chocolates, head to Xocolatl (Blumengasse 3, 061 262 0105).
1700-1900. Kleinbasel has a varied bar scene for pre-dinner drinks. The revamped Volkshaus Basel’s N°1 Bar (Rebgasse 12-14, 061 690 9311) is talk of the town for revolutionary interior design duo Herzog & de Meuron’s stylish reinvention of a 1920s bar and brasserie. Nearby, Consum (Rheingasse 19, 061 690 9135) is the popular wine bar with no name (opposite Krafft Hotel) with over 100 wines to choose from. In summertime, locals head to the Rhine for a plethora of riverside lounging spots. Serving drinks out of a cargo container is Buvette Kaserne (Unterer Rheinweg, 061 272 2323), while equally informal and blindingly hip back on Grossbasel is Cargobar (Sankt Johanns-Rheinweg 41, 061 321 0072). Classiest of all for pre-dinner cocktails is the well-healed elegance of five-star Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois’ bar (Blumenrain 8, 061 260 5135).
1900-2100. Restaurant Atlantis (Klosterberg 13, 061 228 9696) is a mass of contradictions and all of them good. It offers creative fusion fine dining on the second floor before transmogrifying after 11pm when the hottest DJ sets in town thrill youthful revellers. A younger, chic crowd enjoy excellent Italian food at Acqua (Binningerstrasse 14, 061 564 6666) in contrast to the more wholesome cuckoo clock and rösti ambience at Restaurant zum Gifthüttli (Schneidergasse 11, 061 261 1656). Assorted Asian offerings from NOOHN (Henric Petri-Strasse 12, 061 281 1414) include a sushi bar.
After 2100. Outdoors contemporary arts and theatre is regularly performed on the bar-surrounded park green of Kaserne Basel (Klybeckstrasse 1B, 061 666 6000). Skyline cocktails lead to DJ sets on the 31st floor of Ramada Plaza at the swish Bar Rouge (Messeplatz 10, 061 361 3031). Plastic is the new chrome at trendy Baragraph (Kohlenberg 10, 061 261 8864), both cramped yet achingly cool, while Kuppel (Binningerstrasse 14, 061 564 6604) delivers harder-core clubbing at its Tardis location near Acqua restaurant. More chilled is the intimate, vault-like Bird’s Eye Jazz Club (Kohlenberg 20, 061 263 3341), with regular toe-tapping live performances.
Book now and make your own 24 hour adventure, with our flights from London to Basel.

Written by World Travel Guide.


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