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Weekend in Basel in December: Magical Basel Christmas Market

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Weekend in Basel in December: Magical Basel Christmas Market
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In this post, I wanted to tell you some ideas on how to spend your weekend in Basel in December including visiting the magical Basel Christmas Market. The Christmas Market in Basel, Switzerland is one of the best Christmas Markets I’ve ever visited and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the amazing Christmas atmosphere in Basel. 

Why Basel?

Basel in Switzerland has a strategic location with access to two countries – Germany and France. In fact, the Basel Airport is located in France and its full name is Euro Airport Mulhouse Basel Freiburg. Getting to Basel is super easy – you can just fly to Basel airport and the flight from London is around 1 hour long. British Airways and Easyjet fly there and the tickets aren’t so expensive, however, as always with the flights, it’s better and cheaper to buy them in advance. Check the prices and availability for the flights to Basel now!

Even though Basel is a small city with a population of only 170,000 people, it’s actually the third biggest city in Switzerland and is often referred to as to the art Capital of Switzerland. Relatively small Basel is home to over 40 museums and there is definitely A LOT to do in the city. Basel also has a very big and beautiful Old Town that is very well preserved. 

Also, if you’re planning to visit Basel for over 3 days, you can hire a car and explore beautiful places nearby. One of my favourite cities in Europe, Colmar (read my post about Alsace & Germany road trip), is just circa an hour drive away. 

Moreover, Basel has a wonderful Christmas Market. Enough reasons to visit Basel?

Basel in December

Which language do people speak in Basel?

If you’re wondering, which language to use in Basel, locals speak Swiss German, but everybody knows German and French as well and English is also very common.

Weather in Basel in December & what to pack?

In recent years, there rarely has been snow in Basel in December. However, that doesn’t make Basel less magical during the Christmas Markets time. We’ll talk about the Christmas Markets in Basel a bit later in the post. 

Basel in December is pretty cold, like most of Europe. We were in Basel in the middle of December and were wearing long coats, hats and gloves. It can be anything from -2C to 12C, but it’s certainly very chilly at night. If you plan on spending a bit of time outside, make sure to bring thermal clothes.

Weekend in Basel: where to stay?

Switzerland is not the most affordable country, however, there are plenty of accommodations for any budget.

If you’re looking for affordable hotels, Hyve Hostel Basel and Basel BackPack have private rooms for a great price.

If your budget is bigger, these hotels are a great option: Novotel Basel City (we stayed there and it was really good), Hyperion Hotel Basel and Nomad Design & Lifestyle.

Weekend in Basel in winter

Weekend in Basel in winter: our itinerary for 2 days in Basel & Basel Christmas Market

Getting to Basel from the airport & Basel Card

We decided to fly to Basel after work on Friday, so we arrived at our Hotel, Novotel Basel City at around 9 pm. It’s very easy to get to Basel city centre from the Euro Airport – just take the bus 50 that goes up to 6 times per hour. The journey time is less than 20 minutes. We got our Basel Cards from our hotel – that allowed us to use even the airport buses free of charge. 

It’s a great initiative that you get Basel Cards from any hotel you’ll stay at and besides free transport, you will also get 50% off entry to multiple museums and discounted rates for renting a bike in Basel. You can check the full list of discounts here.

Basel at night. Christmas in Basel

Where to eat in Basel at night?

On the first evening in Basel, we decided to eat something quickly and then explore the city at night. We decided to check out the trendy indoor street food market in Basel called Markthalle Basel (Basel Market Hall) – at 9:30 pm, many of the stalls were already closing, however, we managed to get some empanadas from the Argentinian place. Overall, there are plenty of food stalls serving everything, from Afghan to Italian food. 

There are also a lot of bars in the Markthalle and Bierrevier is one of the most popular ones. Go there to try a huge selection of beers (by huge, I mean HUGE, they have over 750 beers!)

After eating, we went to the Old Town to see the Christmas decorations. The Christmas Markets in Basel close around 8:30 pm, so it was already too late to visit them, but we wanted to see the beautiful streets of Basel at night. Basel in December, just before Christmas is full of beautifully decorated shops. Here are some of the ones we liked most:

Basel city tour: discovering the highlights of Basel in 2 hours 

On our second day in Basel, we had a walking tour with our lovely guide, Regine from Basel Tourism. 

We started our tour from the Tinguely Fountain (or the Carnival Fountain) – a very famous moving fountain created by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely.

Carnival Fountain in Basel

Later on, we walked to the Old Town of Basel and explored some of the oldest streets of the city, where the city walls used to be and the small alleys and passageways of Craftsmen. My favourite alley has been the Ingweralley or Ginger Alley.

Afterwards, we headed to the Basel Town Hall – you can apply to visit it beforehand, however, we didn’t have a chance to do it, so we just visited the inner courtyard with a stunning Christmas Tree. There is also a book for wishes, where you can write down your wish. 

Basel Town Hall in Winter

Finally, we headed to the Basel Münster (Basel Minster) and went inside – it looked very simple but still very impressive. The main religion in Basel is Protestantism, so all the churches are very simple. Afterwards, we took one of the famous Basel reaction ferries that deliver people from one side of the river to another between the bridges. The ferries are very unique – they don’t use any power except for the current power of the river Rhine. A ferry is attached to the rope that connects two sides of the river and the ferry just slides along the rope. It’s a very special thing and I haven’t seen anything like that before. 

Christmas locations in Basel. Basel Christmas Market

Basel lunch spots – eating in Ufer 7

We had lunch in Ufer 7 – one of the trendy and hipster restaurants in Basel with a lovely terrace and a stunning view. We met Isidora from Basel Tourism, who told us even more about Basel and its food, traditions and people.

Ufer 7 had amazing food. The prices aren’t that high, but the quality was incredible. I was very impressed by my salad and loved what Pepe has ordered as well. 

Lunch spots in Basel

Exploring Basel Christmas spots

I’ve been to a lot of Christmas Markets before and even wrote posts about Edinburgh Christmas Market and Moscow Christmas Market. I haven’t heard much about Basel Christmas Market before and I got very surprised that it’s so amazing!

Basel Christmas Decorations

First of all, Basel is one of the best-decorated cities I’ve seen in Europe – every shop is nicely decorated, plus there are small Christmas trees attached to every building. Also, there are plenty of beautiful Christmas lights, Overall, it’s very impressive and magical.

Christmas Markets in Basel

Opening hours: most of the Christmas Markets in Basel are open from 11 am in the morning until 8:30 pm.

Opening dates: end of November (in 2019, it was the 28th of November) until the 23rd of December.

Best time to visit: during the working days, as on the weekends, the Christmas markets will be packed (but you will enjoy them nonetheless)

The main Christmas Market in Basel: Christmas Market at the Barfüsserplatz

Basel has 3 main Christmas spots. The first one is the main Christmas Market at the Barfüsserplatz in a very strategic and central location. It looks small from the outside, but once you get in, there are plenty of small passageways and it goes deep inside the street. There are plenty of shops, food stalls and, of course, mulled wine stalls that you can explore.

Our guide recommended to try the mulled wine at one of the first stalls at this Christmas Market and it was glorious. 

Barfüsserplatz Christmas Market is very busy on the weekends and in the evenings, so if you want to have it for yourself (almost), come during the week before 5 pm. 

My favourite Christmas Market in Basel: Christmas Market at the Münsterplatz

My favourite Christmas spot in Basel was the Christmas Market at the Münsterplatz, First of all, it has two different parts – the “normal” Christmas Market and the Märchenwald or the “Fairytale forest”. If you go to Basel with kids, they will love the Fairytale forest, as there are plenty of different workshops (mostly for kids). You can learn how to bake bread or make candles and many other things.

Also, the Münsterplatz is decorated with hanging stars – when it gets dark, they look so magical!

The last of the main Christmas Markets in Basel: Rheingasse Food Stalls 

Finally, the last, but not least of the MAIN Christmas locations in Basel (there are more smaller Christmas spots in Basel, but in this post, I will only cover the main ones), is the Rheingasse with its beautiful food stalls and a lot of food offering. There you can try fondue in a cable car gondola (how amazing is that) or eat fish & chips in an old route master double-decker that used to service the route somewhere close to Nottingham. 

Rheingasse is a lovely street and most of the food stalls open around 3-4 pm, so head there in the late afternoon or the evening. 

Weekend in Basel in winter

Trying fondue in Basel: Walliser Kanne 

One of the most famous restaurants to try fondue in Basel is Walliser Kanne. Even though the place is huge, you need to book in advance or come after 9 or even 10 pm. The prices aren’t cheap, but that fondue was one of the best I’ve tried in my life.

Basel Old Town. Weekend in Basel in December

Last day in Basel – Basel is the Capital of Art in Switzerland

Did I mention that Basel has over 40 museums? On the last day of the weekend in Basel, I recommend exploring the art and museum scene of the city. One of the most famous and beautiful museums is located slightly outside the city, in Riehen, it’s called Foundation Beyeler. It has a stunning art collection and also the park around it is very beautiful. 

Another museum that is worth visiting is the Fine Arts Museum in Basel. 

There are more unique and interesting museums including the Paper Mill museum, Caricature and Cartoon Museum and more! Make sure to pick the one that interests you most.

Summary of the weekend in Basel in December:

Overall, Basel exceeded our expectations and impressed us a lot. It’s a very small and compact city and yet, there are so many things to do! Basel is the city of art and museums, so make sure to visit at least some of them. And of course, Basel has one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe!

I wanted to thank Basel Tourism for inviting us to beautiful Basel and organising this trip. This has been a FAM trip, but all opinions are, as always, our own.

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