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A Brief Stay in Basel

29 October 2014

image from A Brief Stay in Basel

Anyone who has known me for a while is probably aware of my slight obsession with Switzerland. Before my first visit to Europe it was the country I wanted to visit the most, besides the UK. And seeing it in person did not disappoint. I stayed in Lucerne during that first visit and it instantly became one of my favourite cities in the world. I was determined to see more of Switzerland when I moved to London.

The only thing I knew about Basel was that it’s Roger Federer’s home town, but finding some reasonably priced flights for a weekend city break was all the incentive I needed to book a trip.

Interestingly, the airport that serves Basel is the only tri-national airport in the world. It is actually built on French soil and is connected to the city by a customs-free road. In the arrivals hall there are signs directing you to each country.

We stayed at the Ramada Plaza Hotel which is a little out of the Old Town but it has a Sky Lounge on the 30th floor offering panoramic views over the city. They also offer free public transport tickets for guests which is quite handy. You can even use this pass to travel to and from the airport (just show your hotel confirmation on arrival in Basel).

The weather was beautiful while we were there so we set out to explore the Old Town.

It wasn’t long before I was lured in for some chocolate indulgence (this is Switzerland after all).

We wandered through the Natural History Museum which housed a vast collection of exhibits including dinosaurs, butterflies and live ant and bee colonies. Most of the labels and information is written in German but this didn’t detract from the experience. We did find the layout a little confusing - there is no set path to follow which had us questioning whether we had seen everything.

For dinner we wanted to have a traditional Swiss meal and ended up going to Walliser Kanne for some Raclette. It was the first time I’d tried this dish and I was quite intrigued by the process. A block of raclette cheese is heated and as the cheese melts it is scraped onto a place and served to the diner accompanied by small potatoes, gherkins and pickled onions. The food was fantastic although it did seem like most of the other diners were also tourists.

The following day we set out to find the Gate of Saint Alban, one of three remaining gateways in the ancient city walls of Basel.

I then managed to drag my boyfriend along to the Spielzeug Welten Museum, a toy museum which has four floors of historic dolls, dollhouses, teddy bears, motorised carousels and figurines from various countries. The teddy bear collection is the largest in the world and most of them are over 100 years old. It’s not a very interactive museum with everything displayed behind glass and no photography permitted but it was still interesting to see such a vast collection.

Our last stop was Basel Minster, a red sandstone cathedral which is listed as a heritage site of national significance in Switzerland. We climbed to the top of the towers for some fantastic views over the city.

We had to cross over the Rhine River to return to our hotel so we decided to take one of the small ferry boats which are drawn between the two banks by a steel rope.

Basel is definitely an underrated tourist destination in Switzerland and left me eagerly awaiting my next trip to this beautiful country (I’ll be returning to St Moritz for a ski trip in February).

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