Hello there, Basel
Known as the center of the pharma industry in Switzerland, the very cosmopolitan city of Basel is prosperously industrial and more of a metropolis, different from peaceful Bern and similar to Zurich in terms of buzz and activity.
Its closeness to France and Germany brings a very special charm and amazement (you can switch between three countries in a matter of minutes!), while the monumental Art Basel has forever etched the city as a major art and architectural destination.
Let's unravel the unmissable art & culture spots in Basel, and other more mundane - but terribly fun - activities.
Meet the best art museums in Basel
Basel is home to around 40 museums, which is mind-blowing for such a small city. We can go as far as to say Basel has one of the best museums-per-inhabitant ratio in the whole world. Read below to see how you can best experience the artsy world of Basel.
The free BaselCard gets you a 50% discount on all Basel museums, including German-based VITRA Design Museum. Other great advantages of the card are: a 2-hour tour on the sightseeing bus or a walking tour of the old town.Get your Basel Card
Vitra Design Museum
Vitra Design Museum, Frank Gehry, 1989 © Vitra Design Museum, photo: Thomas Dix
One of the world's leading museums of design, the Vitra Design Museum is dedicated to the research and presentation of design, past and present. In the main museum building designed by Frank Gehry, the museum annually displays two major temporary exhibitions.
Often developed with renowned designers, many of the museum's exhibitions cover highly relevant contemporary themes, such as future technologies, sustainability or questions like mobility and social responsibility.
Our tip: Take some time to explore the whole Vitra Campus during your visit. You can enjoy the public area which includes the Vitra Design Museum, the VitraHaus and the Vitra Silde Tower on the Álvaro-Siza-Promenade, as well as the Vitra Schaudepot. If you wish to see the production facilities, make note that they are accessible only as part of an architectural tour.Plan your visit
Temporary exhibition @Vitra Design Museum
Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture | 21.10.2023 – 03.03.2024
Iwan Baan: Moments in Architecture © Vitra Design Museum, Photo: Mark Niedermann
Iwan Baan is one of today’s leading photographers of architecture and the built environment. His images document and explore the growth of global megacities, explore traditional and informal housing structures, and portray buildings by prominent contemporary architects.
The exhibition features examples from all areas of Baan’s work since the early 2000s and includes film footage as well as rarely published photographs of traditional and informal architecture around the world – from the round Yaodong villages of China to the rock-hewn churches of Ethiopia, from self-built multi-storey dwellings in Cairo to the Torre David in Caracas.
As Iwan Baan points out, "What's important is the story, which is very intuitive and fluid. I am not so interested in the timeless architectural image as much as the specific moment in time, the place, and the people there – all the unexpected, unplanned moments in and around the space, how people interact with that space, and the stories that are unfolding there."Show me more
Novartis Pavillon designed by Michele de Lucchi © Novartis
The Novartis Campus is the best place to admire top-class architecture while enjoying quiet moments in green surroundings.
Many architects have put their stamp on the Novartis Campus: Diener & Diener, Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, Frank Gehry, Fumihiko Maki, or David Chipperfield are just a few of them.
A must-see is the Novartis Pavillon conceived by Michele De Lucchi. Its zero-energy media façade hides the 'Wonders of Medicine' exhibition, where you will delve into the secrets of life sciences.
The Novartis Pavillon is located in one of the green spaces designed by famous landscape architects. Sculptures, architectural displays, a 60-metre-high mural and a sound installation make for a truly impressive synergic experience.Find out more
Fondation Beyeler designed by Renzo Piano © Mark Niedermann
This art museum in Riehen near Basel is internationally renowned for its high-calibre exhibitions, its important collection of modern and contemporary art, as well as its ambitious programme of events.
The museum building was designed by Renzo Piano in the idyllic setting of the park. It boasts a unique location in the heart of a local recreation area, looking out onto fields, pastures and vineyards close to the foothills of the Black Forest.
Temporary exhibitions @ Fondation Beyeler
Niko Pirosmani | 17.09.2023 - 28.01.2024
Niko Pirosmani, Giraffe, Oil on oilcloth, 137.4 x 111.7 cm, The Collection of Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts of Georgia © Infinitart Foundation, Photo: Roberto Bigano
Niko Pirosmani (1862–1918) is a legendary Georgian artist, one of modern art’s enigmatic loners. Like Vincent van Gogh, Henri Rousseau and Marc Chagall, he painted pictures revered by both ordinary people and avant-garde artists.
With great sensitivity, the self-taught painter transformed the everyday into the exceptional. Harmonious stillness and glowing intensity dominate Pirosmani's works, which abound in vibrant colours on a black background.
Make sure you pay a visit to Fondation Beyeler and see the most comprehensive international exhibition of Pirosmani’s work to date, featuring around 50 major paintings.Plan your visit
The impressive new building of Kunstmuseum Basel © Francesco Baj/ Switzerland Tourism
Kunstmuseum Basel, a.k.a the Fine Arts Museum, hosts the oldest public art collection in the world - made accessible to the public in the 17th century (1661 to be more precise).
What is unique about this museum is the wide range of art works: you'll find 15th and 17th century artists next to iconic ones representing all major movements from the 18th century to present.
The rich history of Kunstmuseum Basel is illustrated by the two old and new buildings: the original building from 1936 is modeled after the Palazzo Ducale of Mantua and the new concrete building from 2016 which houses the temporary exhibitions. No wonder then, that London’s The Times named this museum the fifth best in the world in 2013.Plan your visit
Temporary exhibition @ Kunstmuseum Basel
Matisse, Derain and Friends. The Paris Avantgarde 1904–1908 | 02.09.2023 - 21.01.2024
André Derain, La Femme en chemise, 1906, SMK, National Gallery of Denmark © 2023, ProLitteris, Zurich; video: Ruben Dario Bañol Herrera
This exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel shocases the Fauves’ outstanding experimentation with color. The Fauves were a group of artists tied by the stylistic influence od Henri Matisse, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, who pioneered revolutionary experiments in color.
Fauvism emerged as the twentieth-century’s premier avant-garde movement. Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Kees van Dongen, among others, were to later join the movement.
Drop by Kunstmuseum Basel to witness how Fauvism depicted an era of dramatic changes in urban society, fast-emerging mobility and the nascent advertising and tourism industries.Find out more
Museum Tinguely (view from the south) © 2022 Museum Tinguely Basel; Photo: Daniel Spehr
Museum Tinguely in Basel, designed by the clear-cut architect Mario Botta, houses the largest collection of Tinguely's kinetic sculptures and some very interesting temporary exhibitions. We also love the children's workshops.
This museum is simply different: discovery, laughter, and amazement all rolled into one, a place where the senses are set in motion and art comes to the visitors.
An open house for all, it offers an interactive museum experience and stimulates children, grown-ups, and art experts alike to contemplate human creativity.
Our tip: The moving Tinguely (so-called Fasnacht) Fountain in the old town is a wonderful site, a tribute to the old town theater and facing the building of the new Theater Basel.Plan your visit
Temporary exhibition @ Museum Tinguely
Delphine Reist, ÖL [oil, olio, huile] | 18.10.2023 – 14.01.2024
Delphine Reist, Huiles (Detail), 2022, installation view at VRAC MULTIVRAC, Frac Grand Large — Hauts-de-France, Dunkerque, France, 2022 © Delphine Reist, photo: Aurélien Mole
At Museum Tinguely, Delphine Reist presents works that refer directly or indirectly to oil as an energy source, painting material and lubricant, as well as to its fluid physical properties.
Beyond oil as a physical material, the artist explores themes of handcraft and industrial labour using tyres, tools and buckets.
Other works address the theme of office work, through objects of material infrastructure like colour printers, window blinds in perpetual random motion, or the marks left by endlessly circling office chairs. Reist even questions the basis of our entire economy in an installation that displays trickles of fuel oil, motor oil, and vegetable oil running down the white wall. The whole exhibition is an invitation to reflection and intrigue.Plan your visit
Where to stay in Basel
Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois
Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois as seen from the Rhine © Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois
Hospitality tradition since 1681 - experience the timeless elegance and charm of the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois located on the banks of the Rhine River and offering all the modern conveniences to meet and exceed even the highest expectations of the discerning modern traveller.
The storied hotel boasts 101 rooms and suites which are a perfect blend of elegance, luxury and comfort and feature hand-selected, precious antique furnishings, priceless artworks and cutting-edge amenities. The hotel is also a gourmet Mecca - guests have a choice between the Restaurant Cheval Blanc (3 stars in the Michelin Guide, 19 GaultMillau points) with its exclusive waterside terrace or the French.Find out more
There's so much more to say about Basel's art and architecture spots, we're not nearly over, but this is a good start. For a closer look, have a look at the following:
Here is a curated list of the best museums in Basel.
Here an excellent collection of tips and Basel art highlights organised as a 2-day art city tour.
Looking for more excellent tips on how to enjoy the best Basel has to offer? From tips on amazing places to visit, where to stay and where to enjoy a great coffee, click below.Tell me more about Basel
Main article photo credits: Museum Tinguely with 'Schwimmwasserplastik' by Jean Tinguely in the Solitude Park (view from the west) © 2022 Museum Tinguely Basel; Photo: Daniel Spehr