Visitors to Switzerland usually don't spend much time in Basel, even though it is the country's third-largest city and has a lot to offer—particularly art.
Its location is its biggest asset. It's on the Rhine River where Switzerland, France and Germany meet, which makes Basel a good base only 60 mi/100 km north of Bern for exploring three scenic areas: the Jura (in Switzerland and France), the Vosges (France) and the Black Forest (Germany). Basel truly is a meeting point of the three cultures that help shape Switzerland, and it serves as a great base for exploring the medieval towns and villages of Alsace in France, the Swiss alpine heights of Jura (by cable car), and the Black Forest.
The Rhine is at the heart of Basel, and much of the life of the city is centered on the river, from bathing stations to restaurants to international trade. The four ferries across the river, powered only by the river currents, are favorites with locals and tourists alike. The great Rhine swim, once a year, sees thousands take to the water to take advantage of the currents, and there is no better way to see the city than by taking one of the river cruises.
But Basel is also an eminently walkable city and is well signposted for pedestrians. Must-see spots include the old market place by the Rhine, the famous Tinguely Fountain and the impressive modern BIZ building designed by Mario Botta. Basel, like other central European towns, is particularly enchanting at Christmas, as the Christmas market with lots of seasonal activities takes over the historic streets for the whole of Advent.
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