Basel, Switzerland doesn’t draw the traditional tourists for Swiss outdoor sports or the après-ski lifestyle. In fact, a large influx of internationals can be tied to the fairs, conferences and trade shows taking place in the city’s epic Messeplatz exhibition space—home to, among many others, Art Basel and the Baselworld watch and jewelry fair. Business travelers have different needs than others, but after year upon year of visiting the city we’ve become quite taken with its (sometimes hard to find) offerings. Stretching along either side of the Rhine river in Switzerland’s northeast corner, Basel’s beauty is worth embracing. Only minutes away from Germany and France, it carries a true cultural confluence. And for those used to nothing but the conference center and Bar Rouge atop the adjacent Radisson, here are seven other suggestions for fun, dining—or even breaking free.
Half the draw of Volkshaus is the Benjamin Mohr-helmed brasserie known as No 2. The other half happens to be its Herzog & de Meuron design. There’s a minimal yet warm beer hall feel to the restaurant, but the building’s origins date back to 1925. There are ample drink options within the bar, called No 1, and also an events space, hotel, gallery and more. This is a cultural center for everyone. Rebgasse 12-14, 4058 Basel, Switzerland
Osteria Little Italy
For upscale Italian fare, daily specials and a nice wine list, Osteria Little Italy provides a rustic reprieve in central Basel. Vegetarian-friendly salads, pastas, and meats round out the menu, making sure everyone is covered. The food is fresh. The staff is friendly. In the sometimes challenging dining scene of Basel, this is a reliable stop.
Binningerstrasse 9, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
With handcrafted items from a local woodshop, WohnGeist isn’t your typical souvenir shop. From solid Swiss-sourced wood, visitors can find furniture, design objects and even tool kits. The only problem here: many of what’s on sale is far too big to fit in your carry-on. Steinentorstrasse 19, 4051 Basel, Switzerland
Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois
No visit to Basel would be complete without stepping inside the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois. Of course, if one’s budget allows, this well located five star grand hotel is worth staying in. However, there’s more than just accommodation on site. A central restaurant occupies a ballroom with view on the Rhine river. The bar feels cozy and historic—an ideal place for a classic cocktail. History is ever-present when walking through the doors and Les Trois Rois defines the more grander side of the city. Blumenrain 8, 4001 Basel, Switzerland
It’s safe to say the best meals (or, all meals) come at a price. But if truly fine dining is what you’re after Chez Donati is the place. This highly awarded restaurant features gourmet Italian food—and has for 60 years. It’s under the ownership of Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois and only a five minute walk away. If one wants to truly impress, this is the destination. St. Johanns-Vorstadt 48, 4056 Basel, Switzerland
Vitra Design Museum
In Germany, 15 minutes by car from central Basel, the Vitra Design Museum celebrates generations of design developments by some of the biggest names. With a main museum building designed by Frank Gehry and a campus of other stunning structures, it’s as compelling outside as it is in. The primary building plays host to two main exhibitions per year, while other smaller installations can be found in the compounds other buildings. Guided tours and workshops are available upon request and with advanced planning researchers can have access to the museum’s impressive archives. Charles-Eames-Straße 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany
If you’re going to be dining in the Swiss-German part of Switzerland, it only makes sense to try the region’s best schnitzel. Walliser Kanne, a staple since 1947, is an ideal place to visit with traditional wiener schnitzel on the menu that’s prepared right at your table. Other standard Swiss, French and German dishes are also on the menu—with plenty of hearty options. It’s worth noting that Walliser Kanne is cash only. Gerbergasse 50, 4001 Basel, Switzerland
Images courtesy of respective venues