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Barely an hour from Zurich, Basel has enough history and culture for several cities. Switzerland’s 2,000-year-old cultural capital has splendid architecture, such as the Romanesque Münster Cathedral and the Gothic Town Hall. Music is heard throughout through the year, especially during Fasnacht, the elaborate 3-day carnival with a climax on the Monday after Ash Wednesday.
Basel is served by EuroAirport, which is shared with Mulhouse in France and Freiburg in Germany. It has flights from all over Europe. The closest airport with intercontinental flights is Zürich Airport.
Many people visit from other European cities via the excellent train service. Swiss Federal Railways has trains from Geneva, Bern, Zurich, and other cities. A rail pass is a very affordable way to get around, even in first class.
The best way to see Basel is by foot or by tram, as most of the sights are in or around the old town center. BVB is the city's public transportation system with buses, and trams. For general tourist information in English, including ferries and transportation to surrounding areas, see Basel Culture Unlimited.
The city sits right at the point where Switzerland, Germany and France meet at the Rhine, so it's a multilingual place. German is the language most spoken here, but French and also English are common too. The river splits the city into two distinct sections: on the southwestern bank lies Grossbasel (Greater Basel), the cultural center of the city, and the winding medieval streets of St. Alban. On the opposite bank is Kleinbasel (Little Basel), the commercial quarter of the city. Basel has a small but tight and affable gay scene of bars, dance parties, restaurants, stores, and saunas.
What to do
The Basel Stadttheater (Theaterstrasse 7) offers a wide array of operas, operetta, and plays in German. For cultural types there’s art at the Kunstmuseum Basel, the Museum Tinguely, and the Beyeler Foundation.
Currency and Money
The franc is the local currency for Switzerland (and neighboring Liechtenstein). Many businesses also accept euros, but don’t count on it.
Media & resources
GayBasel has info on all the circuit parties, gay sports activities and other events listings, plus good photos from around town. Habs is an online resource for gay organizations and community resources in Basel. Gay.ch is another source for gay Switzerland. Lesbian&GaySport has the scoop on gay places in Basel to swim, bowl, play badminton, tennis, volleyball - or staying in shape, walking, hiking or doing yoga. All four are in German.
For gay information on other major Swiss cities in English and French see 360°
For an overview of museums in Basel, with current and upcoming exhibits and events in five languages, see the website Museen Basel.
A keen appreciation for the great outdoors, backpacking, camping, and hostel stays are a passion of Swiss of all ages. The Swiss Youth Hostels association has a network of 53 establishments, ranging from romantic castles and stately manors, cosy rural hostels and vibrant city sites --open around the clock, with no age limits. Most offer double and four-bed rooms as well as dorms. Memberships are 33 CHF/year, (valid at 3,500 hostels around the world) for those 18 and over.
It's a small but tight and affable gay scene in Basel, with some bars, stores, saunas, and local events.
Baragraph (Kohlenberg 10), trendy but casual cocktail bar and lounge, mixed young crowd, minimalist modern decor/design.
Cargo Bar (St. Johanns-Rheinweg 46, at Johanniterbrücke), mixed crowd, jazz sessions, big bands, sleazy listening and dirty dancing.
Feldberg Kiosk (Feldbergstrasse 60), gay-friendly multi-cuisine cafe/restaurant and bar, warm-weather terrace seatings.
Hirscheneck (Lindenberg 23) gay and alternative restaurant, meat, vegetarian and vegan; concert and dance cellar bar, non-corporate easygoing vibe. Now and then gay Sundays hardcore basement nights Untragbar; DJs, sci-fi, porn, Funny as Fuck TV videos.
Irrsinn Bar (Rebgasse 43), alternative young crowd, cocktails; Metal,Punk, Hard Core music.
L39 (Rebgasse 39), longtime gay neighborhood bar and lounge for men and women, the former Elle et Lui, open Monday-Thursday 5pm-2am, and Friday/Saturday until 3am.
Les Gareçons (at Badischer Bahnhof station), gay-friendly cafe/bar, men and women; open 9am - midnight, (weekends 1am) with DJ music, shows, Tango nights. Sunday breakfast all day.
Parterre (Klybeckstrasse 1b), restaurant and bar, daily from 7pm, outdoor lounge; creative, seasonal, fresh market cuisine, constantly changing menu.
Roxy Birsfelden (Muttenzerstrasse 6), alternative theater productions, performance art, dance, music and film.
Schluggstube (Gerbergässlein 28, Altstadt Grossbasel), zany, kitch atmosphere, upscale neighborhood bar, mixed crowd.
See more restaurant suggestions at our map & listings pages.
Bar Rouge (Messeplatz 10, Mustermesse), unique view from high above the rooftops, evenings of finger food, cocktails and DJ music. Free admission, but limited number of guests. Special event Rainbow Gay Party every few months.
Borderline (Hagenaustrasse 29), large two dance floor nightclub, mixed crowd, chill zone, performances; special event gay parties.
For more dance night dates, and photos from around town in the clubs, see Gaybasel.ch.
Darktown (Güterstrasse 214, Gundeldingen), new erotic movie cinema, cruise area, private cabins, glory-holes.
Sauna Sunnyday (Grenzacherstrasse 62), basement level hot spot, cabins, lockers, bar, sauna, bio-sauna, whirlpool, sling, TV/video lounges, gym, gay sex shop, plus exotic and erotic masseurs.
Skurilla Club (Feldbergstrasse 82), partykeller basement cruise club, underwear, sport fetish and naked events; lockers, showers, byob drinks.
The compact city center, easily covered on foot, is packed with many shops, large and small. The Stücki shopping center is easily reached by way of the tram system.
Arcados (Rheingasse 67), gay art, photography, books, videos; doubles as a community center of sorts to locals and visitors alike. Their website, in German, has book reviews and commentaries.
The Gay-Mega-Store (Laufenstrasse 19), gay cinema and porn DVDs, gay literature and novelties, casual clothing, underwear, toys, lubes, magazines -- the place is packed with stuff.
Joy4Men (Spalenring 1), erotic shop for all tastes, DVDs, accessories, plus gay sex cruising stop.
Manor (Greifengasse 22), department store beside the Rhine River, men's and women's fashions, bath and beauty, toys, wine shop, pizza restaurant, WiFi hotspot.
Migros Claramarkt (Ochsengasse 2), large coop supermarket, big chocolate selection, M-Budget mobile phones, restaurant.
New Shop (Feldbergstrasse 82), sex shop books, magazines, DVDs, fetish items, pumps, BDSM and Elektoplay toys, lube/condoms, neoprene and leather gear.
Stücki (Hochbergerstrasse 70; Wiesenplatz tram stop), Kleinhüningen shopping center, by Swiss-German-French border, 100 shops, restaurants, cafés and services.