In Switzerland for the 1st time: one day in Basel

My Swiss trip started in Basel. I had quite enough planned for one day – you can read about how I liked the city and what experiences I took home with me in the article.

My “base” was Zürich. I arrived there on Friday night and on Saturday morning the schedule was as following:
– to buy a Swiss SIM card for internet access (EU roaming does not work in Switzerland and every phone company charges an incredible amount of money for 1MB of data. If you are interested in this topic, I will definitely write about how I prepared for this trip and I will write more about this topic.)
– buy a jacket for the mountains (erm, somehow I forgot to pack it – but it wasn’t my fault, we just had a heatwave in Ireland and it just didn’t occur to me)
– take the train to Basel and spend the whole day there

As for the SIM card, I chose Swisscom, which is right across from the train station in Zürich and they have the best deals. Well, the best, you still pay a lot of money… but about that in another article. I finally got the jacket at North Face and even though it was over my budget (but this has nothing to do with Switzerland, that was my stupidity again. On the other hand, the Decathlon in Zürich disappointed me, so I didn’t have that many options again.), it’s great. The jacket paid itself in the mountains. And it was so expensive that they will bury me in it 🙂

I just want to quickly point out – the customer service at Swisscom is absolutely amazing! There were only young men and none of them had a problem with English. It took about 30 minutes because they put me to a guy who was learning, but he also put the SIM card in my mobile phone and showed me how it works. Meanwhile, in Ireland, I had to do everything myself and the SIM card didn’t work in the end anyway… this made me really happy.

After buying a SIM card and a jacket, I quickly ran to the Coop for food and water, which I took back to the hotel and then hooray for the train. Trains are great in Switzerland. I never had to ride them in the Czech Republic, mainly because they were always full and dirty (please, I’m talking about the Czech Railways about 15 years ago). In Ireland, the trains are nice and clean, but buses work more here (lots of train lines are abandoned). I will also elaborate on the trains in Switzerland in another article, which I already mentioned above.

However, the train to Basel was only an hour without transfers and it was a “double-decker”, which we don’t have in Ireland, so I found a free seat at the top for the views. And I did well, because two seats in front of me there was a man with a dog, and the dog must have been bored and was running around the train (it was a small bulldog on a leash) – we all loved the doggo haha As for the way back, I took an ICE (high-speed train) up to 150 km/h hih (if you think that ICE is expensive and how could I afford it – everything will be in the second article)

So what is Basel like!?

In short – amazing! A young chill town with beautiful views and architecture and locals chilling in the Rhine.

Long – this was my plan for one day – 17 stops in the city. Most specific places, some just photo places. I started at St. Alban City Gate. That part of Basel is surprisingly very nice – it mixes modernity with history. From the gate itself, through houses (such typical German ones, they are called fachwerkhaus, as a German friend taught me) to nature (there is a park and also a view of the river). I really liked it here and I immediately got excited about Basel!

From this part of the city, I headed to the town hall, where there was again a lot to see architecturally. What I haven’t mentioned yet – I was “lucky” and it was 30+ degrees in Switzerland that weekend, so I enjoyed the sun and the heat and completely forgot about places like museums. Yes, almost all experiences are simply from the streets. I spent the whole day running around the city and around the river. In the end, I didn’t make it to Workroom Warteck and Roche Tower (although you can see both places in the photos). But I would say that I saw the most important things in the city. And it didn’t even seem that big to me, and I got to know the place without a map, which is always nice.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the places circled in red. To the north is the Three Countries Bridge and Dreilaendereck – the place where the borders of Switzerland, France and Germany meet. You can thus “visit” all three countries in one day. The place on the right – Hornfelsen – is a natural view of the city of Basel. You can either walk there (about an hour and a half from the city according to Google), or take a combined tram, bus and walk (under an hour). According to Google, the view from there is absolutely superb, so I’m gutted I didn’t make it. The third circled place on the left is Spalentor, the city gate. In a very photogenic street, I’m really sorry I skipped it for some reason (actually I take it back, according to Google it was under reconstruction in August, based on my luck everywhere else, I bet it wasn’t any better in September).

What I liked about Basel

I think it has a pretty hip chill vibe and people didn’t mind me taking their pictures at all. Or most of them. They even liked to pose for me (that wouldn’t happen in Ireland). The atmosphere that day was simply very nice, as far as people are concerned, I didn’t have a single negative experience. Of course, as I already mentioned – the architecture and views were 11/10. In addition, they have fountains with cold drinking water everywhere, so you can refresh yourself at any time. Bonus: I don’t know where, but somewhere they played Due Vite!! And it is not the first and last time that Eurovision songs were played in public in Switzerland.

What I dislike about Basel
Münsterplatz covered with trees but no benches.

Toilets. I always google this in advance, because when I feel like it, I don’t want to spend half the day looking for a toilet. In Ireland, public toilets are always in shopping centers and usually free. Then, of course, they are also at the station, but except for Heuston, the rest is a bit no-no. As for Basel, I was hoping that there would be some toilets in the malls as well, but somehow I couldn’t find them there (in one mall they had a sign to the second floor, but when I got there, there was only a supermarket and no toilets anywhere). According to Google, there are also supposed to be public toilets around the city, but of course many of them were closed. During my planning I discovered this website but that day I wasn’t really in the mood to wander around the city and try random restaurants or cafes (besides, I know from my own experience that toilets in such places are often in terrible condition). So I thought I’d look at the toilets at the main station and, wow, they wanted 1.50 francs for it and there was no card machine… Fortunately, it was so hot that day that whatever I drank, I immediately sweated off, but this was interesting “to try”. Another thing that made me a little sad – I thought that they don’t have many benches around the city (as the center where there are tourists) and if they are, they are mostly in the sun. This could be seen a lot on Muensterplatz, where there are a few benches near the planted trees and the sun was shining on them all. But there wasn’t a single one under the trees where there was shade (there was enough space between them, the benches wouldn’t hurt them).

For my fellow photographers, one thing that was really crazy about Basel (and Zürich) – they have tram or boat wires everywhere. It’s pretty hard to remove even using Lightroom or Photoshop, which you can see in my photos. Even the AI couldn’t make some of it disappear haha but whatever – authenticity and so on I guess. They have cranes everywhere on top of it because they are always fixing something and that was also something else in Lightroom.

In conclusion, I just want to say that I would definitely like to return to Basel again, maybe even at a different time of the year and spend more days there and get to know the city better. It’s definitely worth it (at least for me, I haven’t seen such architecture in a long time). I also recommend visiting a nearby village called Augusta Raurica – they have the remains of Roman culture and an amphitheater there (you can get there with s-bahn 1 – I’m definitely adding it to my list!).

A song I vibed to while in Basel.

With this article, I start a mini-series about my Swiss trip. You can look forward to more articles from other locations, I will also discuss how I prepared for the whole trip and what one should not forget when traveling and how much the whole trip cost me and I will make a comparison with Ireland cost-wise.