Basel became a clear winner for a city break within a short flight from Dublin with great food, a bit of culture and a busy nightlife.
A long weekend within a short flight from Dublin with great food, a bit of culture and a busy nightlife.
There were lots of European cities in the hat but after looking at flights, accommodation and activities - Switzerland stood out as a front runner.
Easy flights from Dublin meant a city break in Basel looked like a winner - especially because after a 2-hour hop - the long weekend could start straight away.
How to get there
Direct flights from Dublin are easy and hassle-free to Basel with Ryanair. Getting from the airport to the city center is also fairly simple. It involves a quick bus and a tram. Both easy to navigate and takes about 20-30 minutes in total.
I was extremely lucky to get a dry but cold weekend in Basel which meant I could walk around the compact city and soak it all in. But the tram system is amazing and you can jump on and off really easily as you zip back and forth across the River Rhine.
It is well worth getting a BaselCard for your stay. It includes free use of public transport and a 50% discount on admission to Basel’s museums, Basel Zoo, and Theater Basel.
North of the Rhine you'll find good value and excellent ambiance when looking for accommodation. The beauty of Basel is that everything is within reach. There was a tram stop just outside the hotel I chose - The Pullman Basel Europe.
It offers 141 rooms equipped with modern technology - even USB and European plugs so you don't need adapters. The gourmet-restaurant "Les Quatre Saisons" and the uncomplicated atmosphere of the "Bistro Europe" add to the relaxing feel of the hotel and the city in general.
The breakfast buffet is leisurely. A morning paper a must over a croissant and coffee.
It's a great location, close to the historical center of the city, the Messe Basel congress and exhibition center, means to caters lots of business and leisure customers.
I was right off the tram from the airport and onto a walking guided tour of the city. It was the perfect start to the trip as you could find your bearings in the city straight away and the guide, Karin Cameron, provided great knowledge of the history of Basel.
On the tour, you learn details about urban development, events from history, cultural and economic influences that forged the city. Basel is both proud and very aware of its history, but at the same time receptive to everything new.
You also get a chance to explore the old town around the "Spalenberg" with its various shopping opportunities. The shops on Spalenberg are mostly very small but full of charm. The traditional house of Johann Wanner - is definitely worth a visit - it is one of the suppliers of Christmas decoration of the Vatican, the White House and the Queen of England.
A little way out of the city is the Fondation Beyeler, which is again is easily navigated to by the tram system.
In building Renzo Piano's museum in 1997, the Fondation Beyeler made its collection accessible to the public.
While I was there an exhibition devoted to the paintings and sculptures of the young Pablo Picasso from the so-called Blue and Rose periods, between 1901 and 1906, was on display. For the first time in Europe, paintings on Picasso’s path to preeminence as the twentieth century’s most famous artist, are presented together, all together.
Other Cultural offerings in Basel include the Kunstmuseum Basel with its current exhibition of Henry Fusely and the toy museum (Spielzeug Welten Museum) with its current hat exhibition.
Museum Tinguely is well worth a visit as well. Situated on the banks of the Rhine, it is devoted to the life and work of the major Swiss iron sculptor Jean Tinguely (1925-1991). The museum building was designed by the Ticinese architect Mario Botta. The permanent exhibition of Tinguely's animated mechanical sculptures is supplemented by a varied programme of special exhibitions on Tinguely's artist friends and contemporaries and other modern artists.
The fascinating world of teddy bears, dolls, doll houses, and miniatures are in the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel. More than 6,000 exhibits are on display, occupying four floors of the museum, which is the largest of its kind in Europe.
You can cross the river in the same way as it has been done for the last 150 years on The Four Ferries. Ring the bell on the landing pier and step aboard one of the four Rhine ferries, powered solely by the natural current of the river.
Volkshaus Basel is a French brasserie and classic bar that has a locals meeting point in the heart of city vibe. I ate there and the food, including the snails, were wonderful.
The Bar Rouge is situated in the 105-meter-high fair tower. They have a really good cocktail* menu and an unforgettable view of the city.
Hotel Kraft was a highlight of the trip. Never mind the delicious food but the view of the Rhine is second-to-none. A great setting for lunch or dinner.
Well worth a visit is the Bachmann Confiserie. You will learn about the typical Basel Läckerli, Swiss chocolate, and some more delicacies.
Restaurant Kohlmanns smells of fire, wood, and freshly baked goodies. The restaurant with its modern oak furniture is extremely cosy. It can be best described as hearty Swiss fare.
A typical Swiss restaurant, Restaurant Walliser Kanne has a cool bar, Swiss dishes and specialties from the canton Valais, various fondues and Wiener Schnitzel prepared at the table.
Confiserie Bachmann is a Basel institution and should be on your itinerary. There you will learn about the typical Basel Läckerli, Swiss chocolate, and some more delicacies.
Barcelona, Madrid, Paris or Brussels - could have been my destination for this weekend city getaway. But the intimacy of Basel and the ability to dive straight into the city - right from the airport - really proved key in having a great 48-hour break.
There is a narrative that Switzerland is expensive, but I found it no more expensive than Temple Bar in Dublin. Basel has a fun weekend vibe and lots of cultural events to keep you entertained. It's well worth a punt the next time you thinking of a European city break.
Travel: From Dublin was around €100 each for the long weekend direct to Basel with Ryanair. For more information on Swiss rail specials check out the Switzerland Travel Centre.
Hotel: Starting from CHF 150 for a single room or a double room for CHF 150-300. It gets more expensive during fairs like Art Basel
I travelled with the Switzerland Tourist Board and they organise packages, trains, and air tickets - for more information visit www.MySwitzerland.com .