Cheap flights to Basel
World-class food, unforgettable festivals and a capital of culture – Basel is a city that likes to impress. Folklore, medieval customs, world-class museums and a hodgepodge of different cultures best sums up Switzerland’s second largest city, Basel.
Sat on the border with Germany and France, this city used to be an important trade route back in the 14th and 15th centuries. Today it’s a tourist Mecca of medieval buildings, Gothic churches and bucket loads of charm. The old town is the usual Swiss mix of riverside views, leafy courtyards, Romanesque cathedrals and enough chic boutiques to leave your credit card trembling.
Basel Fasnacht: Basel Carnival kicks off at a brutal 4am on Monday 18th February, but it's worth setting an alarm for. Known as Basel's most wonderful three days of the year, Fasnacht' has highlights including the lamplit Morgenstreich' procession, and the Cortège', a clanging, jangling parade of out-of-tune Gugge brass bands and some 12,000 costume-clad merrymakers.
Christmas Market (Do)
With over 180 artisanal and food stalls, Basel's Christmas market is among Switzerland's largest: at snowflake-decorated Münsterplatz, delight in the huge Christmas tree done out by local designer Johann Wanner, then slurp fondue at lively Barfüsserplatz before crossing the river to Claraplatz in trendy Kleinbasel. It runs from 24th November to 23rd December.
(Münsterplatz, Barfüsserplatz and Claraplatz, 4051 Basel, baslerweihnacht.ch)
Make like the locals and spend an afternoon floating down the Rhine. Change at one of two Art Nouveau bathing houses in the city, then pack your clothes into a waterproof bag (available from the tourist office on Barfüsserplatz) and climb in. Minimal effort is required: the current carries you to the next bathing house.
Monet at Fondation Beyeler
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, this iconic Basel gallery set in pretty grounds is presenting 62 masterpieces by Claude Monet until 28th May. Gathered from private collections and national museums, the works include Atlantic coastal scenes, haystacks, bridges and, of course, water lilies. Anniversary offers include free admission to anyone under 25.
Lovingly dubbed Zolli' by locals, Basel Zoo is Switzerland's oldest. And, home to an impressive 600 species, it merits a visit any time of the year.
The 'Sculpture on the Move' inaugural exhibition at recently (and spectacularly) renovated Kunstmuseum Basel reads like an A to Z of art since 1946. Adorning the vast polished concrete gallery until 18 September are sculptures by artists including Hans Arp, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso and Jean Tinguely.
Rhine river cruise
While it's still a bit chilly for outdoor swimming, get out on the water on a river cruise. One of the best is the two-and-a-half hour journey to Rheinfelden, a spa and wellness town with venerable facades, riverside restaurants, lovely strolls and an excellent thermal baths.
This oriental hammam is an unexpected delight, with its sumptuous interiors perfect for grey days. Complete the warming ritual as many times as you like for CHF 32, and enjoy complimentary spiced tea, Aesop toiletries and gold-threaded pestemals along the way.
(Vogesenplatz 1, 4056 Basel, +41 61 322 15 05)