Basel, Switzerland: Europe’s secret cultural gem

Basel, Switzerland has long been a cultural gem, but Americans are just beginning to discover it. Photo: Basel Tourism

BASEL,SWITZERLANDDecember 14, 2012 – When you think of the great cultural centers of Europe, cities that first come to mind might be Paris, Rome or London.  Most Americans probably wouldn’t even consider Basel, Switzerland, but they should.

Basel has long thrived as an artistic hub and one of the finest cultural destinations in Europe. Now American travelers are beginning to discover what Europeans have known for centuries.

Situated at the confluence of Switzerland, Germany and France along the banks of the Rhine River, Basel is the gateway to the Upper Rhine Valley, a region that is rapidly growing in popularity.

Tinguely Fountain, Basel

Basel’s cultural heritage is deep and rich. Swiss democracy traces its roots more than seven hundred years to the 13th century when three cantons unified to become the Confœderatio Helvetica (Latin) or Swiss Confederation.

This strong democratic heritage eventually led Basel to open the first public art museum in the world and later become the first city in the world ever to hold a public referendum for the purchase of art.

Today, with more than forty first-rate museums, there are statistically more high quality museums in Basel than any other city its size in the world.

The Uffizi and the Prado, Basel’s Kunstmuseum (Fine Arts Museum) ( often surprises visitors with the depth of its collections including Holbein, Hodler, Picasso, Giacometti, Monet and Klee to mention a few artistic masters.

Among other exhibitions throughout the city visitors will find a doll museum, a toy museum, a printing museum, a contemporary art museum, the Jean Tinguely Museum  ( and the Ernst Beyeler Foundation (

Beyeler Foundation Museum, Basel

Native son Ernst Beyeler, who died in 2010, became world famous as a collector and was instrumental in beginning an International Arts Fair in Basel nearly half a century ago. The art fair is now acclaimed as being one of the best in Europe.

Beyeler’s own museum, which took years for him to find the ideal location, features 20th century art containing works from his private collection plus traveling exhibitions as well.

Jean Tinguely’s Museum filled with all manner of whimsical gadgets and contraptions made from scrap metal is a delight. Tinguely was also a Basler and his museum was designed by world-renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta.

You can view Tinguely’s work at his fountain in the center of Basel. The nonsensical machines are captivating and, in winter when the water freezes they become amusing little ice sculptures.

If you visit Basel in winter for the Christmas Market, the local tourist office can arrange a fondu dinner on a boat on the Rhine for up to twelve participants.

The first hour costs $165 while the second, and any hours beyond, are $110. Fondue, bread and wine will cost approximately $45 per person, so a two-hour outing for ten people runs about $72.50 each (

Don’t miss Johann Wanner’s Christmashouse shops featuring every Christmas decoration imaginable. Wanner is the world’s largest manufacturer of handmade Christmas decorations and his year-round collection includes Faberge eggs, cuckoo clocks, miniature figurines, ceramics, and wreaths.

Johann Wanner Christmashouse, Basel

The larger collection, Weihnachtshaus, is located at Spalenberg 14, while a second shop featuring a lovely café, Weihnachtsstuben and Weihnachtkaffee, is just down the street about two minutes away at Schneidergasse 7 ( (*Note: The website is written in German)

Stay at the Art Hotel Teufelhof ( which means Devil’s House when translated. This delightful three-star gem was the fulfillment of a dream in 1989 by Monica and Dominique Thommy-Kneschaurek. Hotel Teufelhof even has its own theater for the performing arts.

Each room in this quaint nine-room hideaway is created by a different artist who is allowed a maximum of one month to complete his or her room design. Rooms are redone roughly every two years.

Art Hotel Der Teufelhof, Basel

Rates range from $195 to $705 for a double or from $165 to $630 for a single. All rooms are non-smoking rooms and include breakfast buffet, VAT, taxes and service charge.

Basel is easily reached in an hour by train from Zurich.

For more information on sightseeing throughout Switzerland visit For rail information contact

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countriesSuggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte



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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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