The Swiss city of Basel is one of the most popular places to visit in winter and for a good reason. There are plenty of things to do here then, from experiencing first-hand the traditional Christmas markets to enjoying the creamy and tasty saffron risotto.
In this guide, we offer some suggestions for activities you can do that are unique to this season! While you’re at it, make sure to find a good place to stay in Basel if you’re planning to stay for a while.
Explore Basel’s Old Town
A must-see for anyone visiting Basel, the city’s historic center is filled with imposing palaces and churches dating back centuries. Highlights include the University of Basel, founded in 1459, the Brugg Castle, which dates from 1289, and the Weiler Palace.
Locals will tell you that picking your way through winding streets is half the fun – be sure to consult a map before you go!
Ice skate or ski at Winterthur
Basel is home to two world-renowned ski areas: Wengen in the Bernese Oberland and St. Gallen in the Appenzell Ausserrhoden. Both offer a good range of trails for all levels of skiers and snowboarders.
But we highly recommend you try ice skating at Winterthur, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. This charming Swiss village features miles of crystalline ice rinks that are perfect for a day out on the frozen surface.
In addition to its many skating rinks, including a large outdoor ice rink, Winterthur also has several ski slopes, including the well-known Zentrum slope.
With easy access from Basel city center, it’s easy to combine a visit to this park with some shopping and dining.
Visit the Münster Cathedral – Basel’s most famous landmark
If you’re looking for a UNESCO World Heritage Site to explore during your stay in Basel, head to the Münster Cathedral. This Gothic masterpiece is packed with history and beauty, and you won’t be disappointed by the sight or sound of this divine institution.
The Münster comprises a series of shining onion-domed towers and an impressive entrance tower. The church was built between 1352 and 1421 on the site of a 7th-century cathedral and features some spectacular stained glass windows.
Take a tour of the interior to see the many ornate altars, or visit on Tuesdays when admission is free.
Head to the Christmas markets
Basel’s Christmas markets are a must-see during winter! There are three different Christmas markets in Basel, each with its own unique atmosphere.
The Christkindlmarkt in Riehen is the largest and busiest of the three, with stalls selling traditional Swiss goods like chocolates and dolls, as well as tree stands selling ornaments and Christmas presents. The Alter Markt near Basel Cathedral is smaller and more family-friendly, with a variety of local food options available on-site.
Finally, the Schatten Garten features themed gardens full of festive trees and decorations, along with train rides around a beautiful snow-covered forest.
These winter markets run from late November until the end of January, so there’s plenty of time to find what you’re looking for.
Take a stroll through the Botanischer Garten
Basel’s Botanical Garden is a beautiful winter spot to wander, with trails that wind through the various gardens and specimen areas. It covers an impressive 150 hectares (almost 375 acres!) and there are plenty of things to see while you’re there.
If you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax, head to the meadows by the river. If you’re more active, take a walk through the rose gardens or explore the botanical museums. There’s even a Polar Bear Garden if you’re feeling adventurous!
No matter where you go, don’t forget to take in the stunning views of Basel from atop the City Museum or Schlossberg. It’s really no wonder that this garden is so popular in winter – it’s totally worth braving the cold weather for!
Visit the Museum of Cultures
Basel’s Museum of Cultures is an amazing place to spend a winter afternoon. With exhibits on cultures from around the world, it’s a great way to learn about other people and their cultures.
This museum has a wide range of exhibits related to different cultures around the world. From ancient Egyptian antiquities to tribal art from Africa and South America, the Museum of Cultures is sure to have something for everyone.
Plus, with over 600,000 visitors annually, it’s clearly one of the most popular attractions in Basel.
There’s nothing like a snowy weekend in Basel to kick off the winter season. If you’re looking for things to do in the city during this time of year, our list is a great starting point.
From skiing and snowboarding on some of Switzerland’s highest peaks, to exploring Swiss heritage sites like the Münster Cathedral, there is something for everyone on our list. We hope you will enjoy your winter trip to this beautiful city!