MLTJ Destination: Basel, Switzerland
A Main Line transplant offers insight into the quaint Swiss city centrally located in Europe.
All photos by Melinda Taylor Schoutens
Former Main Line resident Melinda Taylor Schoutens, who once called Chesterbrook home, relocated to Basel, Switzerland for her husband’s job nine years ago. Adjusting to the new lifestyle and location, Schoutens and her family have explored their adopted city, which she enjoys for its small size—it has about 165,000 residents—and friendly atmosphere. For Schoutens, there is no better way to explore the city than to meander its charming streets and get a true sense of its culture. Here, she shares her recommendations from her experiences abroad.
About her trip: There is an understated charm that envelops Basel. It’s a city often overlooked by most guidebooks due to the industrial nature of its economy, but to never visit this city would be a pity. With its old streets, lively café culture, bustling art scene and festivals that bring life and action to its streets throughout the year, it’s an alluring place. Basel sits on the French and German borders, making day trips delightfully easy. The city is remarkably family friendly with well-preserved green space, ample parks, botanical gardens and museums that adults and children can enjoy year round.
Restaurants: Restaurant Papiermühle is an understated, simple location ideal for enjoying a lovely Sunday brunch in a quaint setting. For those just stopping by, enjoy a coffee and a homemade cake at the restaurant and then consider a visit to the Basel Paper Mill Museum located next door. Or, walk across the street and down to the St. Alban Rhine Ferryboat. For just a few francs, the ferry will sweep individuals across the Rhine to the Klein Basel side of the city. From there, walk up the stairs and head towards the Middle Bridge (Mittlere Brücke) while taking in the picturesque views.
Accommodations: Though we don’t stay in hotels in Basel because we live here, we have recommended the Teufelhof Hotel to friends. The hotel is split in two: the Art Hotel, which has eccentric and artistically appointed rooms, and the Gallery Hotel, with crisp, clean styles. The hotel boasts a central city location, a fabulous café, and two restaurants on premise.
Experience: Grab a map from the Tourist Information Center in Barfüsserplatz and take time meandering through the city streets. Be sure to stop at Sprüngli, a famous Swiss chocolate store dating back to 1836 and pick out a delectable treat. Sprüngli is known for their macaroons so be sure to give the “Luxemburgeli” a try. Visit the Basel Historical Museum to gain knowledge about the city. The museum is housed in an old church and is set back in a square. Pay a visit to Münsterplatz, with its Gothic and Romanesque style cathedral, which sits high over the Rhine offering stunning views. For those fit and able, be sure to climb the narrow and steep stairs to the top for a 360-degree view of Basel. Be sure to walk around the back of the church to enjoy views of Klein Basel and the Rhine. Get a taste of local culture at Marketplatz, the open-air market with its gorgeous array of colors. Local florists with bright bouquets, fresh produce from nearby farmers, and fresh baked bread dot the captivating market, which is the perfect place to grab a sausage with bread or enjoy a coffee. Also nearby is the Rathaus, a large, stately, red building roughly 500 years old and home of the Cantonal Parliament. Lastly, stop at the Three City Gates, which once protected the city from intruders. St. Alban, Spalentor and St. Johann are the remaining structures, and each gate is unique.
For those with time, take a day trip to the Alps. No trip to Switzerland would be complete without one. In less than two hours, travelers can be in the Alpine village of Engelberg. Though touristy and rather pricey, this destination attracts visitors from all over the world as they make their way up to Mount Titlis for spectacular views. For thrill seekers, plan to walk across the suspension bridge known as the Titlis Cliff Walk and capture the euphoria from high above the mountains. On the way down, take a slow walk around lake Trübsee where the air is warmer and the views are captivating. This is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch and snap a few photos.
Merian Gärten, Botanical Garden Brüglingen
Something you won’t find in the guidebooks: Petersplatz Flea Market is a wonderful and lively market that is open on Saturdays, though not on holidays or during the fall festival. In good weather, vendors sell antiques, trinkets and second hand items, great for finding an affordable souvenir. From there, head back through the gates to enter the Botanical Gardens of the University. The stately greenhouse offers warmth on cold days and visitors might just spot some of the tropical birds, and frogs that inhabit these lovely gardens. Another garden worth a visit is the Merian Gärten, Botanical Garden Brüglingen, which is free of charge. It boasts stunning iris gardens in the spring, as well as brightly colored clematis and vegetable gardens. The gardens are beautiful all year, but to witness the irises, plan to visit in mid to late May.
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