Let's get to know Basel first
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 - summer activities.
Best art museums in Basel
Basel houses some 40 or so museums, which is mind-blowing for such a small city. We can't resist a quick comparison so here are the numbers: the 171,000 Basel inhabitants now enjoy around 40 museums, whereas New York's 8 mil. people have to content themselves with only 83 museums.
The free BaselCard is a useful little thing to have, as you'll have 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. Find out more and get your free card here.
Here are our top picks for the best art museums in Basel:
Photo © Mark Niedermann/ Basel Tourism
Built by Renzo Piano and a marvel in itself, the Beyeler building houses essential modern masterpieces in its permanent collection. The temporary exhibitions on display at Fondation Beyeler are usually outstanding and impeccably curated.
This season's temporary exhibitions at Fondation Beyeler
You have only until 16 May to admire the Rodin/Arp temporary exhibition, pairing the groundbreaking work of late 19th-century sculpture’s great reformer with the influential work of a major protagonist of 20th-century abstract sculpture, Hans Arp.
Between April and July 2021, we're excited to see Olafur Eliasson's ''LIFE'' water installation which takes over the museum, as the adjacent lily pond extends and floods the museum's inner rooms.
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. What is unique about this museum is the wide span of the works on display: 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 17th century building, modeled after the Palazzo Ducale of Mantua and the new concrete building from 2008, which houses the temporary exhibitions.
This season's temporary exhibitions at Kunstmuseum Basel
Our picks are the raw and provocative temporary exhibition from the amazing Kara Walker, between 5 June - 26 September, where race, brutality, trauma and violence are on display and the beautiful Living Abstraction of Swiss Abstraction pioneer Sophie Taeuber-Arp, between 20 March and 20 June
Photo © Basel Tourism
The Basel museum designed by the clear-cut Mario Botta, houses the largest collection of Tinguely's kinetic sculptures and some very interesting temporary exhibition. We also love the children's workshops.
This season's temporary exhibitions at Museum Tinguely
Until 29 August 2021 you can visit the Impasse Ronsin temporary exhibition, Murder, Love, and Art in the Heart of Paris, a glimpse in the daily life of artists living in the dead-end Montparnasse street, so poetically called Impasse Ronsin. You'll see a new side of Constantin Brâncusi, Max Ernst, Marta Minujín, Eva Aeppli, Niki de Saint Phalle, Larry Rivers, André Almo Del Debbio and Alfred Laliberté.
Don't miss the Museum Tinguely Birthday Party, its 25 years old anniversary. Between 24–26 September 2021 attend the celebrations in Solitude Park, the museum itself and the exhibition barge at anchor right next to the museum. There will be countless activities, workshops, shows, concerts and great food.
The moving Tinguely 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.
Photo © Basel Tourism
Basel Street Art
Photo © Switzerland Tourism
Basel has a rich 'collection' of urban art with such artists as Invader or TIKA covering some central city spots. For a closer look and a map of the most interesting works, have a look here.
Where to stay in Basel: Gaia Hotel****
Gaia Hotel**** is a Bio Hotel, which means it is certified sustainable and fully organic: Gaia sources natural ingredients for their rich breakfast buffet, as well as organic and regional toiletries and ecologically certified cleaning products. It also has a great location, right by the Basel central station and an impressive spa area. We love Gaia because it is family run, it has a rich history (more than 90 years old) and most of all, because they're so committed to zero-waste.
There's so much more to say about Basel's art and architecture spots, we're not nearly over, but hopefully it's a good start. For a closer look, have a look at the following:
Here is a curated list of the best museums in Basel, art and otherwise.
Here an excellent collection of tips and Basel art highlights organised as a 2 day art city tour.
And in closing, let's keep to the water theme, from Olafur Eliasson's water installation to the Tinguely fountain, to introduce one of the most fun pastimes in Basel during the summer: Rhine swimming! It's only for experienced swimmers, don't take it lightly, but do try it at least once.
Have a great artsy summer in Basel!
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: Exploring Basel street art with Serena Confalonieri © Basel Tourism.