Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Basel, Switzerland

Fri Apr 1, 2011 6:22am EDT
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By Josie Cox

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to spare in Basel? Offering far more than just a set of financial regulations, the city on the edge of the world's oldest democracy offers a perfect juxtaposition of modern cultural pizzazz and historical grandeur. Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you get the most out of a visit.


6 p.m. Basel's quirky flair is often eclipsed by the stern bureaucracy of the banking world. Spend the evening sipping cocktails and people-watching at Cafe des Arts on the edge of the Barfuesserplatz -- or "barefoot square" -- which dates back to 1100, and you will soon understand why Switzerland's leading economic region is so loved by tourists and locals alike.

Recline in a deck chair, in the shadow of the 1298-erected Barfuesserkirche, and strike up a conversation with the friendly waiter or the gaggle of gossiping folk on the next table, embracing the end of another strenuous working week.

8 p.m. Touching on France and Germany, Basel is inspired by a plethora of different cultures, religions and nationalities, also reflected in the city's varied cuisine. On the opposite side of Barfuesserplatz, Lebanese restaurant Aladin ( serves a huge variety of falafel, hummus, kebabs and grilled meats, as well as countless meze, salads, soups and sauces. Bag yourself a seat by the floor-to-ceiling windows and watch the world go by while savoring the delights from another world.

10 p.m. Basel's music academy dates back to 1867, when philanthropist Johann Jakob Schaeublin-Voegtlin founded the school as the first conservatory in German-speaking Switzerland. Today Basel's musical offerings range from rock to classical over rap, ska and hip-hop. The Bird's Eye Jazz club (, housed in the gym of a former prison, regularly plays host to the finest of local, national and international talent. Ticket prices of 12 swiss francs ($13) are unlikely to break the bank, so go along for one or two sets and let the soulful tunes lure you into the weekend.


10 a.m. There is no better way to experience local charm than by climbing the Spalenberg hill and delving into the colourful frenzy of bargain-hunters and vendors that gather every Saturday on the 1277-constructed Petersplatz square at the city's biggest flea market. While haggling for everything from antique silver to vinyl, take a minute to admire St. Peter's church -- in which the mathematician Johann II Bernoulli is buried -- that overlooks the square and dates back to 1529.   Continued...

<p>The Swiss town of Basel on the Rhine River March 28, 2008. (EURO 2008 PREVIEW) REUTERS/Christian Hartmann</p>