Visitors to Switzerland usually don't spend much time in Basel, even though it is the country's third-largest city and has a lot to offer—particularly art.
Its location is its biggest asset. It's on the Rhine River where Switzerland, France and Germany meet, which makes Basel a good base, only 60 mi/100 km north of Bern, for exploring three scenic areas: the Jura (in Switzerland and France), the Vosges and the medieval towns and villages of Alsace (France), and the Black Forest (Germany). Basel truly is a meeting point of the three cultures that help shape Switzerland.
The Rhine is at the heart of Basel, and much of the life of the city is centered on the river, from bathing stations to restaurants to international trade. The four ferries across the river, powered only by the river currents, are favorites with locals and tourists alike. The great Rhine swim, once a year, sees thousands take to the water to take advantage of the currents, and there is no better way to see the city than by taking one of the river cruises.
Basel is also an eminently walkable city and is well signposted for pedestrians. Must-see spots include the old marketplace by the Rhine, the famous Tinguely Fountain and the impressive modern BIZ building designed by Mario Botta. Basel, like other central European towns, is particularly enchanting at Christmas, as the Christmas market with lots of seasonal activities takes over the historic streets for the whole of Advent.
Be sure that you don't get so caught up in exploring surrounding areas that you miss out on Basel. There's plenty to see within the city, which boasts more than 30 museums, a host of historical sites and plenty of breathtaking scenery. Most tourists flock to nearby France and Germany for day trips, so you might feel as if you have the place to yourself.
Although typical Swiss-German food is not known for its subtlety, Basel's gastronomy benefits from its position on the borders of France and Germany. It boasts more than 20 restaurants that have been recognized by the Gault Milau or Michelin guides, and there is a great variety of cuisines available.
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