First off credit where it’s due: Rosa plans all our trips and I usually just go along. It’s an adventure not having a clue as to what you’re doing next. Also I’m lazy. That being said, this was very different from the city trips we usually do. We always travel by public transport and in Europe at least that’s not much of a problem for us. We’ve seen quite a few countries this way and none of us is really a car person, although truth be told: I’m lazy. Annnnnyyyhooo…
We spent the first night in Basel. Getting from the airport to the city is really easy, with a bus running every 7 minutes (we landed on a Wednesday morning). The city itself seemed rather staid to us. Fun fact: Basel is located at the borders of Switzerland, France and Germany and the city has suburbs that extend into these countries.
Basel is expensive. No two ways about it. When we got off the train, we withdrew some Swiss Francs and queued up like good passengers to buy tickets to Colmar. Fun fact: tickets to Colmar ‘at a particular counter’ cost you less than at the counter in the main hall. You can also just do it via the internet. Either way, it’s always good to ask the fine folk at the station before you do the buying. A Franc saved is a Franc earned.
Our first meal was from a supermarket called ‘Migros’, just some good ol’ chicken with veggies. Not-fun fact: communication ‘gluten-free’ can be quite a challenge in a crowded train station supermarket. We then took this lunch to a park.
We then proceeded to buy a Basel card.
Practical tip: A mobility ticket is included when you check-in to a hotel in Basel. This ticket provides free transportation in the city, including the transfer to and from the airport. Check if your hotel reservation is marked ‘Mobility Ticket’
Since we had an apartment and not a hotel, we got one separately. But if you’re someone who gets their thrills from testing the limits of rule enforcement, know that in Basel – NO ONE CHECKS ANYTHING. Yup, that’s right, if you want you can probably get away with not buying any kind of ticket. But please don’t. You’re better than that. Right?
Back to the Basel card, it also offers some fun freebies: free entrance to museums and a free guided tour, which is usually the best way to kick-off a city visit. So that’s what we did. It began at Tinguely fountain.
Our walking tour started with a bitter disappointment on the face of our tour guide when she learned that she had to do the tour in German as well in English. It was hard, but I think she compensated well by giving the German speakers the detailed information and us a summary. Here are some of the things they take you through on the tour. The Basel Town Hall (Rathaus) is also an interesting building with a red sandstone facade. Worth a look if you’re in the neighbourhood and IT’S ALSO FREE.
It was then time to
have fun check off things that we could do for free while we still had time left on our Basel card. So we went to the Spielzeug Welten Museum which rival’s Utrecht’s own street organ (Speelklok museum) as far as unique, playful museums go. (I’m not counting the Amsterdam sex museum on this list just yet.) The Spielzeug Welten Museum boasts the largest collection of teddy bears if you’re into that sort of thing. There are also a lot. of. creepy. dolls. To be fair, this was only the third floor. Doll houses and other installations on the second and first floors were intricate and interesting. It is the largest museum of its kind in Europe.
You can also buy lovely handcrafted music boxes like the one we got:
After that, it was time to take the unique ferry across the Rhine – the rheinfähre. The ferry is attached to a line and moves only based on the current.
Dinner was at Walliser Kanne and came highly recommended by the walking tour guide when we told her that we wanted to try traditional Swiss food. As is the recurring theme with Basel, this place was NOT cheap.
The fondue was their specialty, so we ordered that. Rosa was pregnant, so they made the fondue without the wine. Also, as a gluten-free option they served boiled potatoes to be dipped in the fondue. After she was done, I dunked a few pieces of bread. As good as it was, the dish became slightly monotonous for me after a while. Rosa ordered a pork sausage with onion sauce and rösti. The sausage was flavourful and the rösti was crisp on the outside. I actually preferred Rosa’s dish to the fondue.
Where we stayed: Rent a home Delsbergerallee
Clean, functional and fairly close to the center and a tram stop. Also a very good price (we paid 40 Euros for the night).
Where we ate:
- Lunch from Migros at the train station
- Dinner from Walliser Kanne
We don’t do many vegetarian meals on our travels, but we came across this restaurant called Tibits for lunch. They had a great buffet where you pay by weight. There also vegan options for those of that persuasion. The courses were quite delicious and the allergens were clearly marked, so Rosa knew exactly what to eat. The gluten-free options were plentiful too.
The walking tour guide also told us that the European Youth Choir festival was happening in Basel. There were a number of performances, some paid and some free. When we heard that there was something free in Basel, we had to check it out! We attended a delightful performance by a choir and a conductor who had the whole audience participating in four different languages! I still remember the words and the tunes of the pieces we sang along. Interestingly, there was no one in the audience that was shooting a video or doing anything else except singing (except me). Result below:
After we walked around the city some more, we ended up in Tibits again for a late lunch.
In the evening, it was time to take the train to Colmar.