10 of The Prettiest Places in Basel

Basel is Switzerland’s little secret. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel is a mecca for architects.

One week before the world lockdown, I was gifted with the last chance to travel – not that anybody knew then what was coming, or the time it was going last. This week, Switzerland announced the opening up of museums and some business giving the rest of us Europeans a bit of hope.

Basel Tourismus and my friend Philipp Heer organised a short trip to this delightful area of Switzerland, where I could discover – for the first time – Basel’s many charms and architectural gems. A bit smaller than Zürich, Basel is more walkable, making it easier to connect the dots of an itinerary. Traditionally, the city has had an ancient kind of allure – Medieval Gates, grand cathedrals and historical palaces – but nowadays, contemporary architecture can be found everywhere. Herzog & de Meuron have consistently been building since the 90’s and one can find early (and stunning) examples by this firm across the entire city.

Today I decided to bring your attention to some gorgeous places of Basel so if you’re planning to visit the good old Basle (the once-preferred English spelling), I hope you go to these sights to delight your eyes. Needless to say is that if you love architecture, you’ll likely love all of these too.

So here are my top 10 prettiest and most photogenic places to visit in town.

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Don’t miss 10 of The Prettiest Places in Zürich

1. Basler Münster

© Philipp Heer

Together with the Mittlere Brücke, the Basler Münster (Cathedral) is probably the most famous landmark in Basel. The former episcopal church – Basel Minster – was built between the years 1019 and 1500 in the Romantic and Gothic styles. The crypt, the chancel, the tomb of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Gallus gate and the two cloisters are witness to a fascinating tale of construction over a period of several centuries. The piazza in which the Cathedral stands is today a popular meeting place and is often used for concerts and events. It is also a personal favourite to sketch!

Location: Münsterpl. 9, 4051 Basel (Google)

2. Messe Basel

Messe Basel© Roc Isern

Messe Basel, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, has become an icon of the city. The concentration of exhibition halls around the Messeplatz (Exhibition Square) is also an important urban planning matter for the development of the surrounding Kleinbasel neighbourhood, aimed at regaining outlying exhibition spaces on the present Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) area for apartments, offices and small businesses while simultaneously upgrading the Messeplatz as a focal point in Kleinbasel. The Messeplatz is a pedestrian and cyclist precinct so you can take your time to snap a photo.

Location: Messepl. 10, 4005 Basel (Google)

3. Werkraum Warteck

© Philipp Heer

Werkraum Warteck Brewery was originally built in 1891 and later extended by Suter & Burckhardt in 1933. As part of the recent conversion in 2013, a series of public spaces have been created over a total of nine floors. A metal staircase (designed by Stefan Eisele and Fabian Nichele), erected outside the building, provides access for the broader public. The lighting was not only to be designed to guarantee a feeling of safety after dark, but also to render the staircase the focus of attention in the space. The converted Warteck building now offers space for a variety of creative cultural activities and attracts large numbers of visitors, guests and young artists.

Location: Burgweg 7, 4058 Basel (Google)

4. Sankt Alban-Tal

© Virginia Duran

St. Alban quarter, an intensely romantic, quiet district shrouded in myth and mystery. With its millstream and riverside setting, traditional handicrafts and former industrial complexes interspersed with old timber-framed buildings and modern architecture, the mediaeval paper mill and Museum of Contemporary Arts, St. Alban is a fascinating mix of old and new. Don’t miss St. Alban­Tor (St.Alban’s Gate), dating back to ca. 1400. The old gateway to the city still has its large wooden door and the heavy paling that was let down in times of danger to bar the entrance to the city.

Location: St. Alban-Tal4052 Basel (Google)

5. Maurerhalle

© Philipp Heer

Hermann Baur was the designer of the General Trade School, now the Basel College of Art and Design and the Industrial Trade School. This good-looking structure was completed in 1961. The Maurer Halle is one of the four buildings grouped around a courtyard with a Hans Arp sculpture and its vaulted ceiling is spectacular: The walls of the Art College are raw concrete both exterior and interior. The General Trade School is one of Basel’s best pieces of late 1950s architecture.

Location: Vogelsangstrasse 154058 Basel (Google)

6. Kunstmuseum Basel

© Philipp Heer

The Kunstmuseum Basel’s new building redefines a prominent location in the heart of the Basel. The new and enlarged museum consists of two buildings that together form a unified presence in the urban space. They are in direct communication with each other across the street that runs between them. The new building’s roofline is leveled with that of the existing structure, so it meets its counterpart on an equal footing; its entrance looks out toward the main building’s arcades, which conversely enjoy an excellent view of its striking façade. The new building’s distinctive inverted corner is a symbolic response to the old Kunstmuseum’s no less distinctive projecting corner.

Location: St. Alban-Graben 16, 4051 Basel (Google)

7. Spalentor

© Philipp Heer

The Spalentor (Gate of Spalen) is the most magnificent and impressive of the three city gates still remaining from the city fortifications dating from 1400. Its square main tower, flanked on each side by two round towers, would have been seen long before arriving at the gates of the city. The façade facing away from the city is also decorated with three figures dating back to the 15th century – the Madonna and two prophets. The first city wall here was completed around 1080 under bishop Burkhard von Fenis. A newer wall was constructed around 1230, which is known as the Inner Wall.

Location: Spalenvorstadt, 4056 Basel (Google)

8. The Rhine River Bank & Kleinbasel

© Virginia Duran

Kleinbasel is a good example of the way public perception can change. What used to be referred to disparagingly as «das mindere Basel» («lesser Basel») is today a very popular district. Its cheap rents have enabled small independent businesses to set up shop, and the result is a range of eateries and boutiques that knock the socks off some of the tourist traps in better known central Basel. In summer, residents line the south-facing riverbank to soak up the sun.

Location: Kleinbasel, 4057 Basel (Google)

9. University of Basel Botanical Garden

© Kim-Anh

The botanical gardens of the University of Basel have on display a wide variety of specimens from the plant kingdom and is a veritable oasis in the heart of the city. They are open all year round and boast picturesque grounds and four greenhouses. You will not only have the chance to see the famous collections of cacti and orchids, but the tropical house also whisks you away to the magical world of the rainforest. A colonial-style domed structure which was designed in 1897 is an iconic feature of the gardens.

Location: Spalengraben 8, 4051 Basel (Google)

10. Spalenberg & Marktplatz

© Virginia Duran

The market square is dominated by the impressive City Hall, the seat of government of the Canton of Basel-Stadt. During the week, the market on the square sells fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers. Additionally, the Spalenberg district in the Old Town – with its historic alleyways and beautifully adorned houses – is packed with seductive boutiques, attractive galleries and irresistible delicatessens.

Location: Marktpl.4001 Basel (Google)

[BONUS] Goetheanum

© Philipp Heer

Though technically not located in Basel, the Goetheanum is a sight near Basel you don’t want to miss. Located in Dornach, a little municipality near Basel, the first Goetheanum (completed in 1925), was burnt down by an unknown detractor. The one you see today was finished in 1928. The exposed concrete (still quite rare in the 20’s), huge and strange interior spaces, the curves and lack of any decoration are some of the features that make this building so impressive. Rudolf Steiner’s architecture is characterized by liberation from traditional architectural constraints, especially through the departure from the right-angle as a basis for the building plan.

Location: Rüttiweg 45, 4143 Dornach (Google)

Check these and other beautiful locations on the map below or download the Free Architecture Guide of Basel.

44 thoughts on “10 of The Prettiest Places in Basel

  1. Pingback: The Free Architecture Guide of Zürich (PDF) | Virginia Duran

  2. Pingback: 10 of The Prettiest Places in Zürich | Virginia Duran

  3. So amazing Virginia, thanks for sharing, you stopped in such wonderful places 🙂 will save your post for a future trip to Basel eheh stay safe and greetings from Lisbon, PedroL

    Liked by 1 person

      • Havent been there yet, but it looks a city I will love 🙂 oh well, I can’t wait to travel again Virginia… For now just in Portugal, hopefully abroad still in this summer… All the best, PedroL

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think everyone will stay in whatever country they happen to be and hopefully we can all contribute to the local economies.
          Any places in Portugal you have on your wish list? Ahh I wish I could go back again soon.


        • Portugal is a small country but there’s lot to see… I would love to explore more the interior of the country because, to be honest, haven’t been there that often lol let’s see how it goes, good luck Virginia 🙂 PedroL

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your places in Basel, Virginia! Usually I visit only the old Kunstmuseum: I think it is the most serious collection in the country. And interesting exhibitions. Or just go through the city to Beyeler. Now I know where to go next time in Basel. Greetings from canton Luzern

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Irina, lovely to see you around here. The Kunstmuseum has indeed an amazing collection. I think you’ll also love the newer part. This was my first time in Basel so everything seemed really amazing to me. What is your favourite location in this city?


      • Münster – to see the details of roman carving and the view of the river which is absolutely different from Bern; Tinguely Brunnen especially in winter. And everything concerning Burckhardt family: Jacob introduced Renaissance to study, Johann Ludwig/sheih Ibrahim opened Petra (in Jourdan)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Virginia, I saw a picture of Bath in your stories, but it is too small for me and I am not so quick to react and communicate there. So where is it? I worked for a year at the Bath University and lived at N 27 Royal Crescent (yes!). Have you been to the Botanical Garden? It should be a paradise at the moment!

        Liked by 1 person

        • You are a box of surprises, you’ve lived everywhere! That’s a very nice location. I am currently at Farmborough, a small village off the centre of Bath, do you know it?


  5. No, that’s why it is so flat! Bath is situated over seven hills, some of them are called Downs: the Uni is at the Combe Down. I’ve been to Keynsham, Marshfield – my friends locations, inevitably Bradford-upon-Avon, Dyhrum Park, 5-6 White Horses. My favorite place in Bath/Batheaston is The Little Solsbury Hill: with the clear skies you can see the sea. Highly recommended, at least 15 years ago it was a wonder.

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    • My favorite place in Bath is Great Pulteney Street ending with the Holborne Museum which proportions (10:1) reminded my hometown (Rossi street with the theatre in the end). I was born in Leningrad, then lived in St-Petersburg. Nearly one year of my life/work spent in Prague, two years in the UK. Now CH

      Liked by 1 person

        • Now I think I was happy everywhere and would like to return to the same places. The only exception: Sofia/Bulgaria – I worked there for a month, but after the first week had the impression that Life is elsewhere and I am somewhere at the backyard.
          As for CH – that was the choice of my daughter: after our University she went to Oxford, then worked in Google/London, then moved to Google/Zurich.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Ahhh that makes sense. I actually have a friend who also moved to Zürich for Google! Their offices are very cool and very well designed.
          Interesting what you mention about Sofia. What do you mean that life was elsewhere?


      • Nope. My last visit was in 2017. I intended to go back to EU this autumn. But the pandemic completely ruined my travel plan 😦
        In my opinion, you can add the Fondation Beyeler into the guide. Its architecture might be simple, but it matches so well with the surrounding landscape 🙂


  6. Pingback: The Free Architecture Guide of Basel (PDF) | Virginia Duran

  7. Pingback: 23 Spots You Shouldn’t Miss in Basel If You Love Architecture | Virginia Duran

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