Rebecca Cohen's Top Five Things About Basel, Switzerland

Thursday January 11, 2018


Hello Dreamreaders! Since my new novella, Not All Chocolate and Cuckoos Clocks, is set in Basel, Switzerland I thought it only fair to share 5 things about the city. When people think of Switzerland, they probably think of the Alps and skiing at St Moritz and Davos, or the banking centres like Zurich. But I live in Basel, the third largest city which sits in the north-west of the country sandwiched between France and Germany. I moved there from the UK because of my day job back in 2011, and the below are 5 things that surprised me about the city:

1 Fasnacht – The completely bonkers spring carnival, where for 3 days the usually level-headed Baslers run amok. There’s a 4 am lantern procession, loud parades, a battle of the oompah bands… completely OTT and great fun!

2 Art and museums – Basel is the capital of Swiss art and has some amazing galleries and museums. I have a museum pass and love spending a free afternoon in one of the many exhibitions. Then there’s Art Basel – the modern art convention where the streets are filled with installation and performance art.

3 Herbstmesse aka the autumn fair – Two weeks at the end of Oct, the autumn fair is in full swing. As well as the actual fairground with rides, sections of city open up little wooden huts selling all sort of arts, crafts, toys etc. Other stalls sell food and it’s when Glühwein season starts – no drink warms you better than spiced hot wine.

4 The old town – here the houses and narrow streets date back to the 12th century. The city is old, the original settlers were Roman, and the medieval centre is still there. The warren-like streets make you step back in time and many houses date back to 1140s. Down my road Hans Holbein stayed and he painted the Totentanz (Dance of the Dead).

5 The Rhine – I am very lucky that my apartment block is on the banks of the River Rhine. The river is the heart of city. Little wooden ferries cross it at various points, the fireworks on Swiss Day (1 Aug) and 31st Dec are launched from the middle bridge, and during the summer cafés and bars pop up overnight. So cool to sit and watch the world go by while sipping a Mojito on the banks.

What are the five things that you’d say were the best bits of your region/country and would advise visitors to experience (or avoid!)?