36 hour tour of Basel, Switzerland

Jenny Calvert reports from her whirlwind weekend in Basel.

I’m beginning to learn that one of the perks of being a pilot’s fiancé is the brilliant spontaneous trips to European destinations – this weekend it was Basel, Switzerland!

The city of Basel borders France, Switzerland and Germany, with the river Rhine running right through the middle of the city centre. Basel is Switzerland’s third most populous city with about 195,000 inhabitants.

Only an hour and a half’s flight from London, Alex was stopping over for a 36-hour stint at the weekend, so as a first time passenger on one of his flights I stepped on board to head over to Basel for the weekend. I felt a bit like a VIP boarding a plane where everyone knew my name, plus I got the best seat in business class and a delicious dinner! It was very funny listening to Alex over the PA system and I tried not to break into fits of giggles throughout the flight – although this did seem to calm my nerves!!

After a bumpy landing (just joking Alex!), I hopped on the crew bus that would take us to the hotel – feeling a little like a stowaway I sneaked on and sat in between the lovely cabin crew! We were staying at the Swissotel, about 10 minutes walk from the city centre. It’s a lovely hotel, with big rooms and swish bathrooms, just a little corporate for my liking but with a free stay I couldn’t complain at all!

The bright exterior of the Rathaus, Marktplatz, Basel
The bright exterior of the Rathaus, Marktplatz, Basel

Sunday morning, we woke up early, hungry and eager to explore the city. Basel has a brilliant tram system, and the hotel provided us with a free tram pass to get around the city. We hopped on the number 6 and headed to the centre, passing over the huge river Rhine and onto the marketplatz. What we hadn’t anticipated was that on Sundays, NO shops are open in the whole of the city and the cafes and restaurants don’t wake up until after lunchtime so unfortunately we ended up in Starbucks to plan what we should do for the rest of the day.

We decided on an adventure over the border into France, to the white water rafting centre in Huningue. What we didn’t realise is that the tram only took us half way there! The last 2km was spent walking across the border through an industrial estate, good exercise but not by any means the prettiest walk. Once we arrived, the rafting centre was a hive of activity and chatter. There are a few options to the mode of transport you can travel down the white water on, from canoes and kayaks, to an inflatable boat or hydrospeeding foam boards. We decided on hydrospeeding, by which you hoist yourself onto foam body board and head down the white water rapids of the Rhine!!

Hydrospeed at the white water rafting centre in Huningue, France
Hydrospeed at the white water rafting centre in Huningue, France

 

Wetsuits, boots, flippers, helmets donned, we jumped in. It was immense fun. Ducking and diving through the rapids, you’ve got to embrace the fact you’re going to get very wet but it was such an adrenaline rush! For 19 euros you can spend 2 hours going up and down the river. After an hour and a half we were absolutely exhausted, so it’s definitely more than enough time.  Hunger had set in after our fun filled morning, so we headed to the little café next to the canoe centre. It was a quirky, arty space, serving a whole range of food from spaghetti to bruschetta and salads. Food and drinks were long-awaited after the 2 hours on the water and we were served huge portions of homemade spaghetti to curb our hunger. We needed the energy to walk 2km walk back to the tram to get back to the hotel, as by this time the sun was out and it was 32 degrees. Despite the long walk, it was definitely worth the journey to the French side of the border, especially if you are an adrenaline junkie!

After a refresh back at the hotel, we caught the tram back down to the beautiful cafes and restaurants that stretch out across the banks of the Rhine and had a lovely walk along the riverbank, taking in the brilliant Swiss architecture. By this time the crowds of locals and tourists had reared their heads and there was a great atmosphere down by the river. To our surprise we saw hundreds of people floating down the Rhine! Apparently throughout the summer this is a common sight; to cool off, the locals jump in with a waterproof bag carrying their belongings and float with the river current to the tram stop down river. It looked like great fun and we decided that we would definitely be trying this next time!

The Rhine
The Rhine

The restaurants by the riverbank were packed, so for dinner we decided to walk over the bridge to the Marketplatz where we sat out on the square and watched the world go by. The Movenpick restaurant serves a great variety of dishes and was where Alex tried the regions delicacy, Flammkuchen – a very thin crispy long pizza with crème fraiche, chorizo and sundried tomato topping and we finished the evening with some delicious blueberry sorbet.

Beautiful Basel architecture
Beautiful Basel architecture

As we walked back along the river to our hotel in the warm evening sunshine, I reflected on how much we had fitted in the short time we’d been here! I would recommend to anyone to come and visit the city for a long weekend. 3 days here would really give you the chance to explore all the shops, the river and the surrounding countries!