Between Basel's five bridges across the Rhine you will find the city's four ferries, “Wilde Maa”, “Leu”, “Vogel Gryff” und “Ueli”, with which you can cross the Rhine without motorised assistance, using only the natural power of the river's current. It is not only tourists that are thrilled by this mode of transport, the inhabitants of the city also regularly use this means of transport around the city.
Every day except Sunday, fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers are on sale here. The Marktplatz is dominated by the City Hall (Rathaus), the seat of the government of the Canton of Basel-City which at the same time functions as the city council. Particularly worth seeing are the Council Chambers, the atmospheric Inner Courtyard, the romantic arcades and the imposing tower. The City Hall has been located in this place since the 14th century, well away from the seat of the former ruler of the city, the Prince-Bishop, who resided on the Cathedral Hill. This separation shows that the burghers of the town, with their growing economic strength in the 14th century, sought independence from the bishop. It was also the craftsmen organised into 15 guilds who, in 1501, carried through the council's decision to join the Swiss Confederation.
To mark this occasion, at the beginning of the 16th century the front part of the existing town hall was replaced by a prestigious new building. The battlements were adorned, in coloured surrounds, with the arms of the 12 cantons including Basel that then constituted the Confederation. At the beginning of the 17th century the Rathaus was enlarged and the now bigger facade was painted by Hans Bock with mock architectural features. In 1900, the Rathaus underwent a further extension, with the addition of the wing on the extreme left and the tower on the right. At the same time the old rear building dating from the 14th century was demolished and replaced by a new structure. This was the period of historicism, when architects played with elements of past styles.
The structural forms of the old parts were incorporated into the new buildings, but the decorations are already in what was then the latest style, Art Nouveau. At the time of the transition from historicism to the Art Nouveau style, almost all the old burghers' houses around the Marktplatz were replaced by larger buildings. One surviving building in the Renaissance style is the house of the vintners' guild, known as the Geltenzunft, whose members were wine merchants and taverners. They were held in high esteem, for wine, like bread, was one of the most important daily foods and the vintners supervised its quality.
This impressive building designed by famous architect Mario Botta is home to the Bank für Internationalen Zahlungsausgleich (BIZ). The six-storey building is typical of the style of the architect from the Swiss canton of Ticino.
The round building on Aeschenplatz impresses with its two-tone striped natural stone walls and its 'negative staircase' opening in the façade, which narrows as it climbs the side of the building. The building was originally commissioned by the Swiss bank UBS and was taken over by its current occupants in 1998.
Together with the Mittlere Brücke, the Cathedral is the most famous landmark of Basel. With its red sandstone walls, colourful roof tiles and twin towers, no other building adorns the cityscape of Basel like the Cathedral.
Visit the former episcopal church, built between the years 1019 and 1500 in Romantic and Gothic styles. The crypt, the chancel, the tomb of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Gallus gate and the two cloisters are witness to a fascinating tale of construction over a period of several centuries. The piazza in which the Cathedral stands is today a popular meeting place and is often used for concerts and events. The Pfalz - the terrace offering wonderful views over the Rhine - is the best-loved viewpoint in the city.
During summer time: Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, Sundays and bank holidays 11.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; during winter time: Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays and bank holidays 11.30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; on the following days the Cathedral will remain closed all day: 1 January, Good Friday, 24 December; on the following days the Cathedral will be closed between the following hours: 6 August 2011, 1 p.m. to 3.15 p.m., 13 August 2011, 1.30 p.m. to 3.45 p.m., 7 Juli 2012, 1 p.m. to 3.15 p.m.
When one enters this impressive piazza, the first thing that catches the eye is the colourful Town Hall (Rathaus). However this piazza still plays a key role in the lives of Basel's inhabitants today. The market that takes place here every day of the week is a welcome addition to the grocer's and greengrocer's shops elsewhere in the city centre. Lovers of good food can find delicious local produce on the market stalls, as well as many specialities from the region, Switzerland and the entire world.
The 31-storey tower on Messeplatz was designed by renowned architects Morger & Degelo & Marques and is an unmistakeable landmark of the city with its green-tinted glass and metal structure. In addition to a hotel and offices for many of the city's most prominent companies, the top floor also houses the BarRouge. From here there are breathtaking views of the city and of the neighbouring countries of France and Germany.
There is hardly another monument in the city of Basel that has become such a symbol of the city as the Mittlere Brücke. Opened in 1226, it is one of the oldest Rhine crossings between Lake Constance and the North Sea.
The Mittlere Brücke was initially used for local traffic, in conjunction with the development of the route over the Gotthard Pass as an international trade route, in the 14th century it gained significance as a crossing over the Rhine for international trade. With the advent of electric trams, the old bridge had to make way for the new Mittlere Brücke in 1905. A copy of the old bridge chapel, the so-called “Käppelijoch”, where in the Middle Ages convicted criminals were sentenced to death, was erected as a reminder of the original construction.
The word “Pfalz” is derived from the Latin word “Palatium”, meaning “palace”. The terrace high above the Rhine and behind the Münster Cathedral is so-called because it is situated close to the location in which the former palace of the Bishop once stood. On one side of the viewing terrace are steps that lead down to the landing jetty of the Münster ferry. On the other side there is a small gateway leading to the quiet cloisters of the Cathedral. Here you will find richly decorated gravestones of members of prominent Basel families from the 16th to 19th centuries.
In times gone by, many important supplies and provisions entered the city through this gate having arrived from Alsace. Its square main tower, flanked on each side by two round towers, would have been seen long before arriving at the gates of the city. The façade facing away from the city is also decorated with three figures dating back to the 15th century - the Madonna and two prophets.
The Swiss artist lined a shallow fountain with black asphalt and created inside mechanical figures powered by low-voltage current who appear to be playing in the water. These ten iron figures are in constant motion and conversation with each other - like the mime artists, actors and dancers that once occupied the stage that stood in this spot.