Basel is a magical world nestled neatly between France and Germany. With majestic mountains and cultural class, it’s a city worth visiting every time you’re in this region of Europe. Boasting the highest concentration of museums in the country, there are endless ways to spend your days.
One of the best ways to cap off each afternoon is a visit to Old Town. Make sure you sip on a zesty glass of mulled wine as you contemplate the myriad of mysteries you just took in. When you arise the next morning, you’re free to board any number of trains to any number of nearby cities. There are quite a few that absolutely must make your list. Let’s go through some of the best day trips from Basel:
1. Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne is a bit of a cousin to Basel because it’s also a mysterious combination of history and modernity. Make absolutely sure you strut your stuff across Kapellbrücke Bridge. It was built in 1333 and, as if that wasn’t enough, this priceless link to the past has been bedazzled with more than one hundred 17th-century pictures - all hanging from the rafters.
Then, make your way to Old Town (just like Basel) to bask in the glory of timber-framed buildings aligned with pretty stone squares and softly flowing fountains. Don’t be afraid to venture down some of those interesting little side streets. They always seem to hold the sweetest treats.
Finally, on the north side of Old Town, there exists a wall built sometime between 1350 and 1408. Pretty specific dates, right? Nine towers were built in varying architectural styles.
You can still climb four of the towers that remain intact. A clock built in 1535 sits atop Zyt Tower and still chimes with accuracy! It chimes precisely one minute before all other city clocks. This is a fairy tale moment at its finest.
Address: Kapellbrücke, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland
Time Taken: 1 hours 12 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
Website: Kapellbrücke Bridge
2. Zürich, Switzerland
Switzerland’s pulse can definitely be found in Zürich. With art at its core, you won’t want to miss out on the Kunsthaus Zürich Museum of Fine Arts or the Rietberg Museum. Equally enchanting, you must visit Fraumünster Church. Five of Chagall’s stained glass windows are proudly displayed in this quiet, sacred space.
If stargazing within Kunsthaus or Fraumünster isn’t your preferred form of art, how about some window shopping along Bahnhofstrasse? This is what you would consider the main street of Zürich and, thankfully, it’s for meandering pedestrians only. Most of the stores here are high-end, so you just know those window displays are going to shine in artful delight.
As you stroll along Bahnhofstrasse, you won’t always know where to look. Quintessential Europen fountains dot this happy lane, along with public art and dancing trees. In 1867, an old moat was filled right at the center of Bahnhofstrasse. This divided it into two sections, including the Fröschengraben section. This latter section leads you toward the lake and station, boasting many turn-of-the-century buildings. Yes, artform abounds everywhere in lovely Zürich.
Address: Bahnhofstrasse, 8001 Zürich
Time Taken: 1 hour 13 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
3. Freiburg, Germany
Freiburg cozies right into the foot of the Black Forest’s haunting passageways. This is symmetry at its finest, as Freiburg glistens under 2,000 hours of annual sunshine - that’s more shimmer than anywhere else in Germany. Without a doubt, one of the first sights you’ll have to take in is Freiburg Minster, a cathedral dating back to the 13th century. It spires over the town, casting its graceful gaze upon residents and visitors alike. The stained glass windows are paralleled only by the likes of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. The admission fee of 1.50 USD won’t hurt your beer stein budget one little bit.
Underneath Freiburg’s happy rays of sunshine, you’ll also find one of the prettiest old quarters in Germany. Canals scoot up alongside the pavement, greeting gleeful brewery patrons. Some like to attribute the lovely disposition of Freiburg residents to the sunlight. However, I don’t think a nice long sip from an old German beer stein ever hurt a thing.
Address: Münsterplatz, 79098 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Telephone Number: +49 761 202790
Hours: Mon - Fri, 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sun, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.; Closed Mon, Nov 1st - Apr 1st
Time Taken: 55 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
Website: Freiburg Minster
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4. Strasbourg, France
Get ready to wander through the mists of a city cloaked in German and French influence, boasting two of the most glorious other-worldly gemstones. You’d be a fish swimming upstream if you didn’t head to the Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg first. This 13th-century larger-than-life Gothic cathedral towers in great contrast over the city. The wonder of its construction in a world without any heavy machinery will blow your mind. Hopefully, Freiburg will cast some of its sunshine Strasbourg’s way as you gaze upon some stunningly intricate stained glass windows.
Every evening in this tri-country trifecta simply must be capped off with a reflective apéritif. In Strasbourg, there’s only one place to achieve this delight. La Petite France is the most enchanting historic neighborhood this side of heaven, lined with cobblestone streets, delectable dining, transformative coffee shops, and bushels of flowers you’ll wish you could float away on. I’m not really sure how anyone tears themselves away from La Petite France.
Time Taken: 1 hour 24 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
Website: Tourism in Strasbourg
5. Bern, Switzerland
Doesn’t it seem like Zürich could serve as the capital of Switzerland? No, indeed. It’s stoic Bern. You might be sensing a pattern here, but one of the list-toppers for Bern is a visit to Old Town. Here, we’re greeted by those picturesque cobblestone streets again, dancing beneath cafés, shops, bookstores, and more. This is where the famous Clock Tower positions itself, and it’s a marvel unto itself.
If Downton Abbey has ever gotten its hooks into you, you might presume castles are simply inhabited museums. Well, when you visit the Einstein Museum and Historical Museum of Bern, you’ll actually walk into two museums housed in one 15th-century castle. Talk about a showcase for scrumptious talent! This is the second largest museum in Switzerland - which is saying a lot, given the likes of Basel and Zurich. More than a half a million pieces of artwork are displayed here, from the Stone Age to the 20th century.
If you happen to find yourself in the Alps in the summertime, you simply must take in Rosengarten. It’s a most impressive botanical feat, showcasing over 200 species of roses, along with an additional 200 species of other colorful delights such as irises and rhododendrons. Rosengarten offers delectable views of the center of town, as if it’s colorful bravura wasn’t enough.
Bern Clock Tower
Address: Bim Zytglogge 3, 3011 Bern, Switzerland
Hours: Daily, from Apr 1 to Oct 31; Sat only, from Nov 1 to Mar 31; Daily, from Dec 26 to 31
Time Taken: 1 hour 28 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
Website: Bern Clock Tower
6. Black Forest, Germany
Enter only if you dare. If your name is Hansel or Gretel, you might find yourself trying to escape the grasps of the wicked witch. It’s no wonder sunny Freiburg had to pop up nearby! If Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf doesn’t get a whiff of you, you might find yourself on lovely and expansive walks through quiet countrysides, gazing upon friendly farmhouses. This is actually a pleasant reprieve from all the city dwelling we’ve been venturing upon. Make sure your map takes you to Triberg Waterfalls - one of Germany’s highest waterfalls with a cute little cafe and shop at its feet.
Now that you’re in the thick of the forest, you might want to ascend Schauinsland. It’s a lovely mountain with an elevation of over 1,200 meters (4,000 feet). There are two ways to drink up this delight. You can find yourself cloud bound within 20 minutes on any given afternoon, thanks to Germany’s longest loop cable car. Or - a personal preference for many - you can float up to the stars via a night ride. Which one will you choose?
Schauinsland cable car
Address: Bohrerstraße 11, 79289 Horben
Telephone Number: +49 761 4511 777
Hours: Jan - Jun, Daily, from 9 am - 5 pm; Jul - Sep, Daily, from 9 am - 6 pm; Oct - Dec, Daily, from 9 am - 5 pm
Time Taken: 1 hour 40 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
7. The Rhine Falls, Switzerland
The Rhine Falls is the largest waterfall in Europe. It’s quite a display at 145 meters (490 feet) wide and 22.5 meters (75 feet) high. If you stand above the falls, you’ll sense a roaring vibration that only these falls can provide.
Would you know what I mean if I said it’s equal parts terrifying and joyous? Platforms on either side of the falls offer show-stopping displays. However, you simply must take a boat trip that’ll skim you along the base of these falls.
The Rhine Falls
Address: Rheinfallquai, 8212 Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland
Telephone Number: +41 52 632 40 20
E-mail Address: www.schaffhauserland.ch
Time Taken: 1 hour 41 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
Website: The Rhine Falls
8. Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Outside the Black Forest and adjacent to the Rhine Falls, you’ll find the medieval city of Schaffhausen. Guess where we’re destined to head first? You guessed it; Old Town. While this traffic-free slice of Heaven is great for shopping, it’s the frescos and painted facades that will stay with you forever. This is storybook grandeur at its finest.
Munot fortress is that must-see monument that each of these cities and towns possesses. Built in the 1500s, this fortress can be seen for miles. But, here’s the next chapter in our newfound Swiss fairytale.
Every night, at 9 p.m., the guard who currently resides in the tower will ring the Munot bell. You better scurry. This is a signal that all town gates and inns should close for the evening.
Address: Munotstieg 17, 8200 Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Telephone Number: +41 52 625 42 25
Hours: Daily, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Time Taken: 1 hour 51 minutes drive away from Basel (approx.)
Website: Munot Fortress
Castles in the sky
Fairytale forests, crashing waterfalls, medieval castles, gothic cathedrals, and sunny canalside towns. How will you line all these treasures up along your travel map? Hopefully, this little cheat sheet will help. Follow your fancy - whether that may be art galleries, museums, restaurants, or nature hikes - and you’ll soon see your course of action come into focus. Safe travels, as you dip in and out of 15th-century living!
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