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Bern may be Switzerland's capital and Zurich the largest and Geneva the most international city, but Basel is the country's most relaxed city. With over thirty museums, a large variety of top-class restaurants and lively subcultures, Basel offers something for everyone. The city is situated in the north of Switzerland near the place where the country meets with France and Germany. Basel has a charming, historic center, where you can easily spend a few days.
A good starting point for exploring the city is the Minster, the cathedral of which especially the outside is of interest: Red, sandstone spires and a colorful roof. You should also take a look at the beautifully decorated Galluspforte on the church's west side.
Not far from the church lies the Barfüsserplatz, Basel's main social meeting place. The square is surrounded by galleries, shopping streets, cafés and restaurants.
On the other side of the Rhine, in what is called Kleinbasel, lies one of the city's main museums, Fondation Beyler. It houses a fascinating collection of modern art, brought together by Hildy and Ernst Beyeler.
The Museum für Gegenwartskunst is also dedicated to modern art. It is affiliated with the neighboring Kunstmuseum Basel, which contains an impressive collection of works from the 19th and 20th centuries, including a hall with only works by Picasso.
The Museum Jean Tinguely has collected the remarkable installations by the Swiss artist Tinguely. Here everything moves, there's tinkling everywhere, you hear rattling sounds and water sprinkles. The Fasnachtsbrunnen (Carnival Fountain) will entrance many children.
Speaking of carnival: Basel's carnival differs a lot from the way it is celebrated in many other countries. The locals take carnival very seriously; they work all year round putting together their costume and learning to play traditional instruments. Carnival in Basel is not about 'acting like a fool', but the carnival parades are particularly beautiful. Tourists are heartily welcome, but spectators should not dress up in 'crazy' costumes!
Modern art lovers should definitely not miss the annual Art Basel exhibition; it is the world's largest exhibition for modern art. Over 300 exhibitors (selected from the world's leading galleries) exhibit their collections here.
Another highlight is the annual Basel World exhibition in April. Here you can see the latest creations from watchmakers and jewelers from around the world.
Swimming in the Rhine? Sure, it's possible, although it is recommended only doing so at the height of summer when the water temperature is pleasant. You can enter the Rhine at different spots and let yourself be carried by the current, for example near the Rheinbad Breite bathhouse. Every year in August it is an official event, Rheinschwimmen when thousands of people enter the water at the same time.
You can easily reach other Swiss cities from Basel. The capital Bern for example is located only 95 kilometers south of Basel. Bern has an attractive, medieval center. You can also easily reach Zurich; this city is located 80 kilometers east of Basel. Zurich is situated on the lake of the same name and is Switzerland's commercial capital. Here you can indulge yourself in shopping, although you need to bring a hefty wallet. Oh well, just looking at all the luxury and wandering around Zurich's charming old center is also fun...
Basel offers a good range of accommodation, but many hotels are mainly geared towards business travelers. Budget travelers will have a hard time finding a room in this city, unless you want to stay in a hostel or the only 'backpacker's hotel'. Also keep in mind that most hotels are fully booked during carnival or the large Basel World and Art Basel exhibitions.
In Basel, street parking is significantly more expensive than parking your rental car in a parking garage. So the choice is easy: opt for one of the parking garages around the center. A dynamic information system guides you to a garage that has availability.
Basel Airport is unique: EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is operated jointly by France and Switzerland. It is entirely located on French territory, but the airport itself has a French (Schengen area) and a Swiss part. The airport is located eight kilometers northwest of Basel and can easily be reached by rental car from the city via the Flughafenstrasse.