Once you have arrived in Switzerland and your head is still spinning from the reality that you did just indeed leave the comforts of home for an international work/life assignment, take a moment to catch your breath, and allow yourself to fall in love with your new country. Start to explore the city (assuming you are living in one), the area in which you now reside and the country. I promise you, all the stress from the past will melt away as you stroll your new streets, with Swiss chocolate in hand and gorgeous views in sight.
Listed below are a few ways to help you become better acquainted with Basel and the surrounding areas. Watch out, you might just fall in love…we did and that love is deep!
Basel is a small (under 200,000 people) city, but very charming and extremely walk-able. Stroll into the local tourist office (located in Barfüsserplatz) and obtain a map of the city before your start your trek. Then stop at a local chocolate shop, select something magnificent and let the exploring begin. Sprügli happens to be located right next to the Tourist Information Center in Barfüsserplatz, so that might make a sweet second stop.
Slowly meander through the city of Basel. Do not make plans, do not commit to a set agenda, but rather allow yourself the simple pleasure of losing track of time. Walk with the intent of getting lost, discovering your new favorite coffee shop, or a charming downtown street. Once you feel better acquainted with the city, you will start to feel a bit more at home. Take note of the important locations such as: pharmacies, the library (GGG), grocery stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, etc.
Despite not having plans, I can recommend a trip to Münsterplatz, which sits in a gorgeous square. Once at the church you can climb (narrow stairs not recommended for those not fit, or afraid of heights) to the top of the church for five francs and take in the incredible views of your new city. Take photos to remember the moment! Be sure to walk around the back of the church and see the city from high above the Rhine.
Marktplatz is the heart of Basel, with many shops, cafés, restaurants and most famously, the outdoor market, you will find yourself surrounded by charm, energy and all the conveniences of center city Basel.
The markets are open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 – 14:00 and Friday to Saturday from 8:30 to 18:00. Bring your camera, purchase some local produce and stop for a sausage and bread while you take in the pulse of your new city. And don’t forget to walk through the Rathaus – the red building that sits in the background of the market.
The Rhine River
If the weather is good, be sure to pack a small picnic lunch, hop on one of the small ferries that shuttles individuals back and forth across the Rhine. The fare is not expensive and this is a fun way to truly enjoy the river. Once off the boat, stop off and enjoy a glass of wine (it is perfectly acceptable to drink in public), cheese and bread that you packed at the base of the river. In the summer, watch as people cool themselves in the river and enjoy the scenery as you sit on the Klein Basel side of the river and look over to Gross Basel. In winter months, pack a thermos of tea, some baked goods, dress warm and if you are lucky, you might just witness the steam rising off of the river!
Oh, and if you are up for a lovely walk, walk along the Rhine away from the city. Here you will enter Birsköpfli, where in the summer months, this area is packed with people swimming in the river, grilling sausages, playing soccer, and simply enjoying the beach – like atmosphere of the city! A true gem and if you have children, there is a small pool behind the fresh restaurant Veranda Pellicano and bring your water shoes so the kiddos can splash and dig in the Birs River where it dumps out into the Rhine. When that becomes boring, walk over the foot bridge to the playground, further up there are pigs and goats, and then of course, the Rhine River Lock between Basel and the town of Breisach. Adults and children are fascinated by this! Hours of entertainment all in once location!
Wanderwegs – A.K.A- Hiking Trails (Those yellow markers all over the place)
If you are an outdoor enthusiast you have arrived at an outdoor haven. Basel Land is remarkable for hiking and biking trails. To get inspiration for your first hike or ride, consider looking at one of the following websites.
If you are feeling particularly brave, take the tram to a location outside of the city (Muttenz tram 14 towards Pratteln or, Arlesheim tram 10 towards Dornach), get off and look for the yellow trail markers. Simply pick a destination and follow the signs. The signs will tell you the time to your destination of choice and if you see a tram, or bus that means once you have reached your final destination a tram or bus will be available! This is another great way to learn and see more of the area.
Trip to the Alps
Oh my, the Alps are nothing short of AMAZING and to truly get a feel for Switzerland, the sooner you explore the mountains the better – RUN! There are so many wonderful Alpine villages to choose from each with their own beauty and charm. I can recommend a couple of villages highlighted below, however, as you begin to explore on your own, you will naturally feel a pull for an area that will wrap itself around you and you will long to go back.
Listed below are a couple of ideas, though not my absolute favorite, these destinations are easy to access, rich with touristy and a great place to start.
Engelberg – Touristy yes, close to Basel, yes, beautiful, indeed! Take the crowded gondola up to Trübsee and enjoy the lake. For the adventurous and particularly fit, try the four-lake, one pass hike that goes uphill from Trübsee to Melchsee Frutt. Stunning!
For the less adventurous, walk around Trübsee or take the lift all the way up to Titlis for year round skiing. Brace yourself, once at the top, Titlis is freezing – dress appropriately.
Grindelwald – Once again quite touristy, however, take the gondola up to Berghaus Bort, stop for a delicious meal on the terrace and enjoy the amazing views of Jungfrau, the Eiger and Mönch. To gain a more in depth overview of the area, continue on to First and hike to Bachalpsee (it is best experienced in summer). Pack a lunch and once at the lake, spread yourself out, give yourself a good pinch and smile because this experience is indeed real! You made the move and whew…was it worth it!
The Alps are best experienced in good weather and to appreciate the true beauty of the mountains, go on a clear day. Pack water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and layer your clothes for the best possible experience.
For more inspiration, please visit My Switzerland
Enjoy and welcome to beautiful Switzerland.