It’s Christmas market time! Last year, we visited Berlin and had a blast at the Christmas markets all over town. This year, we decided on the Basel area in Switzerland in combination with a day tour to Colmar in the French Alsace area. We had a great weekend!
As always, there’s a map at the bottom of the page with the sights and directions.
How to get there
The EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg is conveniently located right where three countries meet: Switzerland, France and Germany. We hopped on a quick and cheap flight from Copenhagen with Easyjet. On arrival, we took the Swiss exit and the airport bus to Basel. There is also a separate exit to the French/German areas since those countries are part of the European Union which Switzerland is not.
A major advantage in Basel is that a card for the public transport network is included in the hotel stay. This also included the bus trip to and from the airport. No one checked our tickets but it would be alright to show the hotel reservation if so needed. We got our real Basel card when we checked in and used the trams and buses in Basel a couple of times during our weekend.
Where to stay
We wanted to stay close to the railway station in Basel since we were taking a day trip to France. The airport bus stops at the central station and there are several hotels around the bus and tram square next to it. We chose Hotel Euler at the furthest end of the square from the railway station and were mostly happy with our choice. The location and breakfast was great but the rooms could have been more soundproofed. We heard every noice from the hallway, including the piano player who played nightly in the lounge. The rooms were nicely decorated and very clean, so overall a good choice.
The train station is located a few tram stops from the old city of Basel. Since we got the Basel card for free from the hotel, it was easy to either take the tram or walk to the old parts of Basel.
Christmas markets in Basel
Basel has several Christmas markets and we went to two of them, both located in the old town: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. They are close to each other, an easy tram ride (just a few stops) or even a walk away from the train station.
The Christmas markets had similar vendors, all lined up in the squares and alleys in their cute booths. Lights and Santas everywhere, and of course lots of glühwein. You get a souvenir porcelain cup by paying a deposit of a few Swiss marks. If you don’t want to keep it after your visit to the markets, just return it before leaving and you get your money back. A refill of glühwein was 5 Swiss franks in most booths.
What to eat at the Basel Christmas markets
For dinner, we had the Swiss specialty raqlette which consists of boiled potatoes, mushrooms and pickles covered in melted cheese. The cheese is melted from a huge block of Swiss cheese and the dish is made to order. It’s a comforting dish perfect for the winter evenings. You can also have cheese fondue at some of the market stalls.
We also had an alpine hot dog one day for lunch. It was basically a hot dog in bread covered with cheese and sauerkraut. Tasty!
The food in the markets stalls is not cheap. The price was usually around 10-15 Swiss franks, which is about the same in euros. You won’t get a big portion either. Switzerland is definitely more expensive than the neighboring countries.
Sightseeing in Basel
Apart from the Christmas markets, the Basel old town is great to just wander around in. City of Basel: Five walking tours around Basel provides easy to follow walks with signs on buildings and street corners.
The streets have pretty buildings and you can also walk along the river and take the boat across if you feel like it. The beautiful red city hall is a must to see and don’t forget to go inside the gates to the courtyard with its statues (we didn’t go inside the actual building since it was closed). The Münster cathedral is right next to the Münsterplatz Christmas market. A bit further away is the Spalen tower which is one of the old city gates.
There are also museums of course but we were happy taking a self guided walk following the Basel city signs and then warming up with glühwein at the Christmas markets. There are chocolate shops and cafés scattered throughout the areas as well. If you wander off too far, just take the tram back to where you started. Do remember that Sundays are rest days in Switzerland so most stores will be closed.