Mr TBST and I like to meet January head-on, booking a post-Christmas getaway so we can avoid those blues. This January we headed to the small but mighty city of Basel in Switzerland, for a 2-night/3-day stay.
Basel effortlessly blends romantic Swiss architecture, art and culture by the bucket-load, and quirky twisting side streets, while also being an economic hub – with the latter presumably being the reason EasyJet offers super-cheap flights to the city. Basel is predominantly German-speaking, however the locals are friendly and kindly accommodated our English.
Perhaps unsurprisingly in Switzerland, the food and drink in Basel is a foodie’s dream – with an equally exquisite price tag! However, there are some hidden gems with slightly kinder prices – Drink Ueli Bier at Brauerei Fischerstube – a microbrewery and restaurant, with great food (including yummy vegetarian options) and a gorgeous potato rosti bar snack, and I’d also recommend Tibits, an upmarket self-service vegetarian restaurant on Stänzlergasse, where you pay for the weight of your plate!
My Basel highlight was our private chocolate tasting experience with Stephanie (Xocotour Suisse) – just wow! This euphoria is (probably) not solely down to the chocolate enzymes…. Stephanie is so friendly and knowledgeable, and so passionate about chocolate, it’s infectious – within minutes we felt perfectly at home in Stephanie’s hip cafe. The chocolate was honestly the best I’ve ever eaten – I’m converted to delicious artisan dark chocolate! Oh and while you’re there, ask Stephanie about Guatemalan Keith.
If you don’t share my chocolate obsession, there’s plenty more to enjoy in Basel! Basel is a wandering city; meander through steep and narrow streets, gaze at the architecture and enjoy the beautiful Old Town. Climb the Basler Munster (cathedral) – warning, its a very tight squeeze, maybe don’t attempt this after indulging in the local brew and heavy regional specialities! Check out the quirky engineering on the Tinguely Fountain, and the spectacular Rockstar Mural street art, tucked away in the shopping district. Visit the iconic, bright red Rathaus (town hall), wander the pretty St Alban district, and cross the Rhine in the small, eco-friendly ferries that use only the natural current of the river to make their journey between the two sides of the city.
Public transport in Basel is a slick operation (and better signposted than the tourist sites). The ‘BaselCard’ is provided free of charge to tourists, by hotels, entitling the user to free use of public transport for the duration of their stay, as well as discounted entry to a generous list of attractions. This perk meant we could spend a rainy Sunday tram-hopping to make the most of our final day and go a bit further afield. There’s no confusing validating, just hop on and off as you like.
We stayed at Hotel Spalentor, next to the gothic Spalentor Gate, one of the three surviving medieval entrances to the city. We had a free upgrade to a ‘comfort room’, which had nice touches such as a Tassimo coffee machine, loads of space, and a branded rubber duck(!), plus there’s complimentary fresh fruit all day on reception. The staff here are amaaazing, nothing is too much trouble, I’d definitely recommend it.
Basel is a small city, but I wouldn’t rule out returning, as there’s still more to so. There are so many galleries and museums, and we didn’t venture inside this time. Basel also has heaps of festivals spanning the calendar, so it’s worth checking what’s on before you plan your trip…
Enjoy this little piece of Switzerland!