Known as the City of Culture on the Rhine, Basel is home to a variety of museums and art galleries, including the Beyeler Foundation and Kunstmuseum. It has a lot to offer to culture vultures, and city breaks lovers. If you are looking for an epic Basel day trip guide or one day in Basel itinerary, this post has you covered.
One day in Basel Itinerary: Things to do on a Basel day trip
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Basel is the third largest city in Switzerland, right after Zurich and Geneva. It is located in northwest Switzerland, and close to Germany and France.
So whether you are visiting from across the border or from Zurich you can check off some of the primary attractions in Basel in 1 day.
At a glance,
1 day in Basel itinerary: Things to do in Basel in one day
- Climb up the Basel Minster
- Check out the Cloisters
- Take in the view from the Pfalz
- Visit the Town Hall Square
- Have lunch by the Rhine Promenade
- Soak in views from the Promenade
- Visit the Basel Fine Arts Museum
- Wander St Alban Tal
- Stop by the Sankt-Alban-Tor
- Return to Basel Old Town for dinner
Planning your trip to Basel Switzerland: How to get to Basel
Basel is an all-year destination. It lights up with various Christmas markets in the winter, and in the summer months, the Rhine river becomes like a cool hang-out of sorts with colorful floaties and swimmers!
The Rhine river promenade defines the city and its vibes in so many ways that it is hard to miss – anytime you visit.
Getting to Basel:
When flying from North America, the best way to get to Basel is to fly to Zurich international airport and then travel to Basel by train.
Trains from Zurich HB will take an hour to arrive at Basel Main Train Station (Basel SBB). You can surely use the Swiss Travel Pass to cover the train trips between the cities and the airport.
The Swiss Travel Pass provides unlimited rides on public transport and free access to over 500 museums all across Switzerland.
If you wish to fly to Basel directly, you can get to the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, which is an international airport in the French Alsace region.
This airport is shared by both Switzerland and France in Europe. You can book a private transfer from the airport here
Getting around Basel:
Once you are in Basel, you can walk to most of the sightseeing attractions in Old Town, take the tram, or rent an e-bike.
You can also join a walking tour with a local to learn about the city’s history and cover all the primary landmarks with ease. Book this city tour right here
Where to stay in Basel:
If you need a place to rest after spending a day in Basel, consider staying at the Old Town so that you can enjoy a relaxed night out and then get to your room comfortably.
In Basel Old Town, you will find both luxurious and affordable options.
- Grand Hotel Les Trois: For those looking for luxury, the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois provides opulent rooms and suites, complete with views of the river and city. It is located close to the Town Hall, and the Basel Munster. Check current prices here
- The Hotel Euler: The Hotel Euler is another great choice, featuring chic rooms and suites in a gorgeous building. This hotel is located in St Albans where we will conclude sightseeing for the Basel day trip itinerary. You can explore the neighborhood, check in to the hotel, order a meal at their elegant restaurant with a terrace, and call it a night! Book your stay here
- Hotel Motel One Basel: For mid-range accommodation, Hotel Motel One Basel is popular and close to many attractions, restaurants, and transportation. Their suites come with a balcony offering city views. Book your stay here
Now that we have all the practical information out of the way, let’s go over the sightseeing spots that you can cover in Basel in one day
Climb up the Basel Minster
Kickstart your day at the Basel Minster or the Basel Cathedral. This is one of the iconic landmarks of the city and a must visit.
The cathedral was constructed between 1019 and 1500, and the design is in Gothic and Romanesque architectural style.
Although its origins were as a Catholic cathedral, today it is a Reformed Protestant church.
We highly recommend popping inside (access is completely free). The cathedral interiors are beautiful with stained glass windows, 3 naves, and a transept. You will also find a crypt here with graves dating back to 1000 AD.
During our visit, we also paid to access the church towers to take in the views of the city, river Rhine and the beautiful old town surroundings.
Access the church towers for a 6 CHF entry fee per person, and you can pay for it on-site.
The square or the Platz outside the church is always bustling with visitors and locals alike taking in the view of Old Town and the greenery surrounding it.
- Hours: Weekdays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Sundays from 11:30 am to 5:00 pm
- Address: Münsterpl. 9, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
- Tickets: Free to visit church interiors, church tower access is a 6 CHF entry fee per person
Check out the Cloisters
Right outside and close to the Basel Minster are the Gallus gate and the two cloisters. They are immensely beautiful and the perfect place to photograph the uniqueness of Basel.
It is completely free to enter and take a look at the cloisters and its corridors. Inside the complex, you will find amazing artwork dating back several centuries.
Take in the view from the Pfalz
A quick walk from the cloisters and the Basel Minster is the viewing platform called the Pfalz. This spot offers uninterrupted views of the old and new cityscapes with the Rhine river flowing through it.
This is one of the popular viewpoints in Basel, and it is also free!
Visit the Town Hall Square
After soaking in the city views make your way to the Town Hall of Basel. The Town Hall will grab your attention with its stunning red facade and the coat of arms of Basel adorning the building’s exteriors.
The building is over 500 years old, and it played an important role in shaping the history of the city of Basel.
Right outside the Town Hall, is the Marktplatz. This plaza glows with local artisans and grocers selling fresh produce and other delicacies.
Note that the market is only open during the weekdays and they close by evening!
- Hours: Weekdays from 08:00 am to 05:00 pm. Closed on weekends
- Address: Marktpl. 9, 4001 Basel, Switzerland
- Tickets: Free
Have lunch by the Rhine Promenade
You can eat and hang out at the Marktplatz or nearby cafes. There are lots of places to eat in and around the town hall. You will also find trams there.
If you are up for a walk, then make your way to the Rhine promenade and find Restaurant Kraft, located in the vicinity.
Reserve a spot here to enjoy delicious Swiss meals in the afternoon. Order bread dumplings or rosti and settle down at a table by the river view.
- Hours: Every day from 12:00 am to 02:00 pm, and 06:00 pm to 10:00 pm
- Address: Rheingassee 12, 4058 Basel Switzerland
Soak in views from the Promenade
After lunch, take a walk along the Rhine promenade.
The Central Bridge, also known as the Mittlere Brucke or the Middle Bridge is one of the recognizable symbols of the city of Basel.
As you stroll along, you will see the towers of the Basel Minster, the bridges, and the river itself.
Along the river banks, you will find leafy shades, benches, and areas to sit on, relax and take in the view of Rhine up close and personal!
Visit the Basel Fine Arts Museum – Kunstmuseum
The next item on the Basel one day itinerary is one of the premier fine arts museums in the world – the Kunstmuseum.
The Kunstmuseum is one of the oldest public arts institutions, dating back to 1661. The museum complex is huge and is spread across three buildings exhibiting paintings, drawings, and artworks from the 1400s to the 21st century.
The main building of the Kunstmuseum Basel was designed by Rudolf Christ and Paul Bonatz in the 1930s.
Here you will find over 4,000 paintings, sculptures, and installations, along with over 300,000 drawings and prints – with many dating back to the Middle Ages.
There is also an impressive collection of works by Symbolist, Impressionist, and post-Impressionist artists. You will also find works of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh, among others.
To explore the main building we recommend that you set aside at least 2 hours. Entry to the museum is included in the Swiss Travel Pass.
- Hours: Mondays closed. Other days are open from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm (Wednesdays and Fridays are open till 08:00 pm)
- Address: St. Alban-Graben 16, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
- Tickets: 16 CHF for adults. Free with the Swiss Travel Pass
Wander St Alban Tal
From the halls of Kunstmusem, make your way to the quaint neighborhood of St. Alban Tal. This cute area is known as the ‘Venice of Basel’ with its canals and charming alleys.
St. Alban Tal is perfect for a late afternoon stroll in a leafy boulevard soaking in the beauty of Basel. If you have time on your hands, be sure to stop at the medieval paper mill and the Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Stop by the Sankt-Alban-Tor
Now St. Albans is famous for one of the three historic city gates of Basel, called the Sankt-Alban-Tor or the Gate of Saint Alban.
While enjoying your stroll do check off this iconic Basel landmark from your day trip itinerary.
There were 6 city gates in Basel, but only three of them remained – Sankt-Alban-Tor, Spalentor or Gate of Spalen, and the Sankt-Johanns-Tor.
Spalentor Gate is the prettiest and also elaborative, but for the purposes of this itinerary visit the Sankt-Alban-Tor before calling it a day.
At this point, you can conclude your Basel day trip and return to Zurich. If you are planning to stay in Basel overnight, head over to Old Town for some dinner and drinks.
Return to Basel Old Town for dinner
There are lots of traditional Swiss and international restaurants where you can enjoy a nice dinner.
If you prefer popular/casual dining, then you will love Papa Joe’s! They have a lovely balcony for diners with views of Barfüsserplatz and nearby areas. Try their signature fajitas and drinks and ring on a beautiful night in Basel!
Other things to do in Basel in one day
Other than the above must-do Basel attractions there is more to do in the City of Culture. This list includes historical museums and art galleries.
Feel free to swap any of the above sites for the ones below,
Natural History Museum
Located in Old Town, the Natural History Museum Basel is a natural history museum showcasing over 7 million items from the fields of mineralogy, anthropology, and paleontology.
- Hours: Mondays closed. Rest of the days open from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm
- Address: Augustinergasse 2, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
- Tickets: Free with the Swiss Museum Pass and Travel Pass. 17 CHF without the Pass. Free entry on the first Sunday of the month
The museum is located in Solitude Park by the Rhine, and it is one of the popular places to visit in Basel. The museum is dedicated to the life and work of Jean Tinguely.
Outside the museum, you will find the unique sculptures that he created.
- Hours: Mondays closed. Rest of the days open from 11:00 am to 06:00 pm
- Address: Paul Sacher-Anlage 2, 4002 Basel, Switzerland
- Tickets: Free with the Swiss Museum Pass. Without the Pass, it is 18 CHF
Fondation Beyeler is one of the most visited art museums in all of Switzerland. The museum is located in Riehen, which is a little outside of Basel.
The museum features both traditional and modern art exhibits. It also showcases temporary and seasonal collections.
You will find works of Picasso, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh as well as tribal artwork from Africa, Oceania, and Alaska.
To intimately visit and see the collections set aside an hour or so.
- Hours: Every day from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm (Wednesdays open till 08:00 pm, and Fridays open till 10:00 pm)
- Address: Baselstrasse 101, 4125 Basel, Switzerland
- Tickets: 25 CHF for adults. With the Basel Card, it is 12.50 CHF
Basel Historical Museum
Another Old Town favorite, the Basel Historical Museum dates back to 1892. It houses three complexes – the Barfüsserkirche, Haus zum Kirschgarten, and Musikmuseum.
And here you can learn all about the history and evolution of the city of Basel.
- Hours: Mondays closed. Rest of the days open from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm
- Address: Barfüsserpl. 7, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
- Tickets: Free with the Swiss Travel Pass. 15 CHF per adult entry without the Pass
1 day in Basel Itinerary: Sightseeing Map
Day trips from Basel Switzerland
More time in Basel? You can head out to one of these destinations on an easy day trip from Basel.
1. Lucerne and Lake Lucerne
Located just south of Basel is Lucerne. It is a beautiful Alpine town that sits on the banks of Lake Lucerne.
It’s easy to reach by train, taking an hour from Basel. Here you can explore the city centre and its quaint cobbled streets or take a boat trip on Lake Lucerne.
You can also book a day tour covering all the sites and round-trip transportation
Switzerland’s capital, Bern, is just an hour away by train from Basel. The historic old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many of Switzerland’s most iconic landmarks.
Be sure to check out the Bear Pits, Zytglogge Tower, and Bern Cathedral for some incredible views of the city.
3. Mt. Pilatus Golden Round Trip Small Group Tour
You can also explore Mount Pilatus from Basel. On this Golden round trip you will ride a cogwheel train, and cable car ride, and also enjoy a sightseeing cruise. Book this day tour here
4. Zermatt and Mt. Gornergrat Small Group Tour
Want to see the Matterhorn from Basel? Book this full day tour exploring the ski village of Zermatt with views of Matterhorn and Mount Gornergrat. More details here
5. Alsace France
An hour’s drive from Basel and you will be in Alsace – a beautiful region in France. From historical sites to outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Alsace.
One popular activity for visitors to Alsace is wine tasting. The area is well known for its white wines and you can visit local vineyards and tasting rooms to sample some of the best vintages.
You can also learn about the region’s winemaking history with a guided tour of its famous wine cellars.
If you’re interested in exploring Alsace’s rich cultural heritage, make sure to check out its many historic sites. The most popular attractions include Strasbourg Cathedral and the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg.
As you wander through these beautiful locations, you can learn about Alsace’s history and culture.
6. Colmar France
Colmar in particular makes for a great day trip idea especially in the winter as the little town brightens up with festive colors and decorations.
7. Weil am Rhein Germany
Visit Weil am Rhein and the Vitra Designs Campus in Germany on a half-day adventure. During our trip to Basel, we rode on e-bikes to get there – courtesy of Basel Tourism.
8. Freiburg Germany
Located just across the border in Germany, Freiburg is a beautiful city full of cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, and quaint cafes.
It’s easily accessible by train from Basel and offers a great day trip for visitors looking to explore beyond Switzerland.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural experience in Lucerne, a scenic trip to Alsace, and other parts of Switzerland there are plenty of day trips that can be taken from Basel.
Additional Travel Tips for Basel
We will wrap up this post with extra Basel travel tips. As a Swiss city, the main form of currency is the Swiss Francs – CHF. We carried our credit cards and it was accepted everywhere in Basel.
Swiss Travel Pass will definitely be handy when you visit museums or utilize public transportation systems in the country.
In terms of tourist visas, Switzerland follows the Schengen agreement for non-visa-exempt nationals to enter and visit the country. US and Canadian passport holders can explore without a visa and can stay in Switzerland for up to 90 days.
Don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip! Read our detailed guide to planning a trip to Switzerland
Best time to visit Basel
Basel is an all year round destination. The city has a temperate climate, with cool winters and warm summers. The best time to visit Basel depends on what kind of experience you are looking for.
Typically summer months of June, July, and August are popular as you can swim in the river and enjoy the outdoors. The city is alive with festivals and events at this time of year, including art exhibitions.
The winter months of December and January (late November too) are great to visit Christmas and seasonal markets. While temperatures are cooler, it’s still possible to enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing or snowshoeing on nearby hillsides.
Spring and autumn are also good times to visit Basel. These seasons offer mild temperatures and plenty of outdoor activities such as cycling or hiking in the nearby countryside. There’s also a range of cultural events and fun fairs taking place in the city during this time, particularly in the fall.
Free things to do in Basel
With the Swiss Travel Pass in hand, you can access all the museums in Basel, Switzerland for free.
Also, if you stay overnight in a Basel hotel, the accommodation offers a Basel Card that will allow you free transportation rides and discounts on museums.
Having said that there are some free things to do in Basel:
1. Take a stroll through St. Alban Park, it is free and very pretty
2. Hang out by the Rhine River banks or walk the promenade
3. Explore Basel’s Old Town which is full of charming cobblestone streets, picturesque buildings, and colorful flower boxes
4. Basel Minster and Cloisters are free to visit
5. Note the free Museum nights on Sundays
6. Hang out by the Tinguely Fountain and admire the sculptures
Yes, Basel is a walkable city. The Old Town and the newer areas can be explored on foot, so remember to wear comfortable walking shoes.
Basel is known as the cultural capital of Switzerland, and rightly so. It is home to one of the oldest and finest art museums – Kunstmuseum, and the largest Fondation Beyeler.
Its history and evolution along with the views of the Rhine river make it a special destination.
To fully experience Basel’s cultural and city attractions 3 days will be great. This way you can check off the Old Town sites, join walking and food tours, and even spend a day exploring nearby towns (and countries).
Is 1 day enough for Basel?
One day in Basel is enough to visit the Old Town attractions, and the Fine Arts Museum and also relax by the Rhine River promenade. You can also complete this itinerary as a day trip to Basel from Zurich as the train ride is just an hour.
Like this post? Read more of our Switzerland itineraries:
- Switzerland trips: 2 days in Switzerland | 5 days in Switzerland | 10 days in Switzerland
- One day in Bern | One day in Lucerne | One day in Lauterbrunnen
- One day in Zurich | 2 days in Zurich itinerary | Where to stay in Switzerland
- Glacier Express Review | Swiss Travel Pass Review