We all know Basel to be the birthplace of Roger Federer - in fact dedicated Federer-fan/Rovo intern Roger So is about to embark on the first of his annual pilgrimages next Saturday! Such legendary status however should not obscure the other treats of the town. What are some of such treats, read on to find out!
Disclaimer: Basel is more known for its museums than its historical site, contrary what this blog post seems to suggesting. The writer of this blog post studied history in school, hence the bias in the article towards the historical places.
Kunstmuseum Basel is conventionally deemed the number one tourist must-visit of Basel. Switzerland’s largest and richest collection of art is for yours to enjoy at this excellent museum. The list of artist whose original works adorn the museum's walls says it all: Starting from the Renaissance there’s Konrad Witz, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Hans Holbein (the museum grew from an early collection of his works). Then you have the Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Brueghel the Elder and Rubens. Then comes the 19th century masters like van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Manet and Gauguin. A plus for Picasso fans - the Kunstmuseum has an entire room just for works by Picasso! Its 20th-century art collection include Giacometti, Klee, Franz Marc, Braque and Chagall are just a taste of the 20th-century art collection.
This is a cannot-be-missed for history buffs interested in early modern Europe. Basel’s old town has an uncommon array of Swiss national heritage sites. If you check in at the tourist office they’ll suggest a few historical walks around Grossbasel on the left bank and Kleinbasel on the right bank of the Rhine. As the many plaques make clear, the Altstadt’s oldest buildings date from the 14th century! These streets were once walked by numerous historic figures - the most famous one being Erasmus. (We assume you know your stuff if you bothered to come so far here in this paragraph.)
There’s no missing Basel’s medieval minster church and its two 60-metre towers, Georgsturm and Martinsturm. It’s a charming work of architecture with pinkish red sandstone walls and a glazed patterned roof. A lot of the architecture dates from the 14th and 15th centuries after an earthquake in 1356 toppled a high medieval Romanesque church. One of oldest parts is the main portal, which was partly dismantled by iconoclasts during the Reformation. But they left untouched the Gothic archivolts, which contained angels, prophets, roses, kings and an image of Abraham. For €5 you can climb up (laboriously, we have to warn you) a narrow spiral stairway to survey Basel and the Rhine.
Basel City Hall
This one is another historical delight! The City Hall feels at the centre of Basel in every sense. In front of Martkplatz is the central point of Basel’s tram network. The red sandstone behemoth of a structure that confronts you when you step into Marktplatz dates from the start of the 16th century and no expense was spared in its construction. There are many symbols to embedded into the facade, like the 12 coats of arms of the Old Swiss Confederacy, including Basel’s. Go through the arch to enter the captivating courtyard where there’s a 17th-century fresco by Hans Bock and a original statue of Basel’s Roman founder Lucius Munatius Plancus, sculpted in 1580.
All these being said
Basel hosts the annual ATP 500 Basel Indoors Tournament, with the one this year slated to run from 22 to 28 October. So if you happen to be in Basel during that time, hopefully because of this guide, do check it out and say hello to Roger Federer for us.
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