Home to 40 museums, the city of culture for connoisseurs has the highest concentration of museums in the country. Basel also has a beautiful Old Town, modern architecture, and the Rhine – an inviting spot to rest a while.
Basel is Switzerland’s oldest university city. Historic landmarks of the city include the large market square with its richly decorated red sandstone town hall and the late Romanesque-Gothic cathedral. During a walk through the old town, past small boutiques, antique book shops but also shops of modern designers, a visit to the “Läckerli Huus” to try the traditional Basel honey cake is well worth your while. Basel is tradition-conscious and open-minded at the same time, a fact born out by several modern buildings designed by renowned architects such as Herzog & de Meuron, Mario Botta, Diener & Diener and Richard Meyer.
Almost 40 museums make Basel the city with the highest density of museums in the country. Internationally known museums, such as the Basel Art Museum, the museum devoted to the iron sculptor Jean Tinguely, the Fondation Beyeler and the Museum of Cultures attract a great many visitors, as do several galleries and playhouses. Basel is among other things home to the symphony orchestra and the chamber orchestra as well as the musical theatre featuring international productions. And a wide range of classical and contemporary productions are shown on the stages of the Basel Theatre and the Playhouse.
Basel is a green city. The Botanical Gardens, several parks and the banks of the Rhine are perfect places to relax and linger for a while. And the Etoscha House at the biggest zoo in Switzerland offers spectacular insights into the Namibian Savannah.
Not many cities have managed to retain their historic features quite as successfully as Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thanks to its 6 kilometres of arcades – the locals refer to them as ‘Lauben’ – boasts on of the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe.
The medieval air of this city with its many fountains, sandstone facades, narrow streets and historic towers is unique. The elevated Rose Garden above the Bear Park and the platform of the 101-metre-high cathedral tower offer the best views of the old town round which the River Aare flows. The former entrenchments and bastions drop down steeply to the river. The boutiques, bars and cabaret stages of the old town, some of which are located in vaulted cellars, and the small street cafes attract locals as well as a lot of tourists. Although Bern has a very good public transport network it is best to explore the city centre on foot.
The Zentrum Paul Klee situated on the outskirts of the city houses the most comprehensive collection of works by the artist Paul Klee. The Albert Einstein House bears testimony to the physics genius’ stay in Bern at the start of the 20th century and may ideally be combined with a visit to the Einstein Museum. With the History Museum, Art Museum, Swiss Alpine Museum and Communication Museum Bern offers a very varied range of exhibitions.
Bern is the seat of Switzerland’s government. The Houses of Parliament (Bundeshaus) rise above the city just a stone’s throw away from the railway station. The doors to the Houses of Parliament are open to visitors most of the time, and if you’re lucky you might even bump into a member of parliament in the streets of the city.