Issue: Issue2 2014
Roger Bonner is a writer from Basel with cult status in Switzerland, whose incisive anecdotes on local culture in our HELLO SWITZERLAND magazines and in his book Swiss Me (Bergli Books) have captured a fan base of both Swiss and internationals. He took writer Kate Orson around some of his favourite places to give our readers some inside tips on the city.

"I am Swiss but grew up in Los Angeles, California and when I was twenty-one, my family moved to Basel where I have been living and working as editor, writer and English teacher ever since.
When I saw the city, it was love at first sight! The beautiful Old Town, the rich cultural life, the situation on the Rhine, and the proximity to Germany and France, have all inspired my writing over the years."

Swiss Me can be found at


Cathedral Square is truly the heart of Basel. More than two thousand years of history have left its mark on this site, where Celts and Romans came and went, where medieval jousting tournaments took place, where the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche taught in a nearby school, and the artist Hans Holbein the Younger, famous for his portrait of Henry VIII, supposedly had his studio. With its beautiful Cathedral overlooking the Rhine, this is the city's striking landmark.


Walking through the Münster Cloister, with its memorial tombstones of Basel's famous families, reminds me how transient life is. Many came as highly skilled refugees during the 16th Century and turned Basel into a very prosperous city. For me it's a place for contemplation, sometimes dappled with sunlight, and not for brooding, for I soon come to the Rhine pulsing with life.


The large terrace behind the Münster is called the "Pfalz". It is my favourite place in Basel. The Pfalz affords the best view of Kleinbasel, the Black Forest and the Rhine with its many barges chugging up and down the river. The promenade on the other side, locally known as the Riviera of Basel, makes me feel like I'm on a holiday. I can relax here and forget the hustle and bustle of daily life."


Crossing the Rhine with the Münster Ferry is always a thrilling experience. It's just a short ride, propelled by the current and though it only takes a few minutes to get to the other side, I feel like I'm embarking on an adventure, with the wind tousling my hair and the waves lapping against the sides of the boat. The ferry can be hired by the hour, for example, a fondue dinner to which you can bring your own cheese and wine. The Ferryman sometimes entertains his guests with a story, which can be a tall tale. So, if you do not always tell the truth in Basel, you tell it to the Ferryman…


The Lesegesellschaft is a charming place that only insiders (and now Hello Switzerland readers) know about. I've been a member here for over twenty years. Stepping into the reading room is like going back in time. It dates back to 1787 and has over 80,000 books and many current newspapers and magazines with a good selection in English. The floors creak and the air is pleasantly musty with the smell of history. It is my refuge. Here I can sit in one of the leather-coated armchairs and read an English newspaper or magazine or peruse the new arrival of books. And if I need a break, then I can walk to one of the large windows and watch the Rhine flowing past.



Photos: Roger Bonner, Toni Davidson, Mueller, Basel Tourismus/Andreas Zimmermann, Daniel Petkovic. Thumbnail image: Marco Castelberg & Maurice Haas.

Author: Kate Orson

Kate is a British writer living in Basel. She has published articles about travel, health and parenting. She also writes fiction and is currently working on a novel.

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