Meet Helvetia, the allegorical female figure who has symbolised Switzerland for hundreds of years. She sits at the end of the Middle Bridge on the Kleinbasel side, gazing thoughtfully down at the Rhine, with her suitcase packed and her spear resting at her side.
The best way to see the city from the water is while on a passage though the locks to Rheinfelden or during a harbour cruise on the Basler Personenschifffahrt company’s white fleet. Or you can explore the Rhine in and around Basel on the Rhytaxi. On offer are city and harbour cruises with commentary, longer journeys to and from Rheinfelden, Mulhouse and Breisach, and individual tours with a specially tailored programme.
The Münster is one of Basel's main sights. Situtated in a promiment position high above the Rhine River, the former episcopal church presides high above the region. The reformed church is a vivid monument to Romanesque and Gothic red sandstone architecture (1019-1500). It can look back on a varied history with a rich tradition of outstanding musical events and church services.
With buildings by superstar international architects from Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano to David Chipperfield, Basel is unequivocally Switzerland’s capital of modern architecture. Herzog & de Meuron are the local heroes: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron were both born in Basel, and have played a key role in shaping Switzerland’s architectural landscape. Their latest work in the city is the Roche Tower: Switzerland’s tallest building by far at 178 metres. The structure recently started offering guided tours to visitors.
The Swiss artist had black asphalt poured into a shallow basin before placing these low power-operated, water-spouting objects in it. These nine iron eminences are in constant motion and “talk” to each other just as did the mimers, actors and dancers who once performed at this very spot.
The St. Alban-Tor is a remnant of the last and most extensive of Basel's city fortifications (1400). While passing through the gate, in addition to the massive wooden door, one can also see the heavy posts that could be lowered to block the entrance to the city in times of danger.
The St. Johanns-Tor was built after 1356. It was formerly a part of the third mediaval ring of fortifications that was constructed round the whole city shortly after the great earthquake of 1356.
The St. Johanns sunurb, which until then was enclosed by walls of its own, was thus incorporated into the city area. The outer ring of walls provided space for some 20,000 inhabitants, which sufficed for the population of Basel for 450 years. The city wall and moat extended from the St. Johanns-Tor down to the Rhine.
This first church in Switzerland built from concrete was designed by the architecture professor Karl Moser. It was built between 1925 and 1927. The floor plan of the church, which is built in precast concrete, is a rectangle with the impressive size of 60 x 22 meters and a height of 22 meters. The monumental stained glass windows make St. Antonius stand out as a pioneering church structure.
The bridge was initially used for local traffic, but in the 14th century, as the route over the Gotthard Pass took on international significance, it became an important Rhine crossing for long-distance trade. With the advent of electric trams – the “Drämmli” - the bridge had to make way for the new Mittlere Brücke, built in 1905 using granite from the north side of the Gotthard Massif. A copy of the old bridge chapel, the so-called “Käppelijoch”, where convicted criminals were sentenced to death in the Middle Ages, was erected in memory of the original structure – and is a wonderful place to enjoy the view of the Rhine.
The Mittlere Brücke links the fashionable Old Town on the left bank – known for the cathedral and Barfüsserplatz – with Kleinbasel, a district traditionally inhabited by workers and immigrants. Right next to the Mittlere Brücke, the Rhine boats moor at the pier. From here you can take a cruise to the Jean Tinguely Museum or even as far as Weil am Rhein, site of the Vitra Design Museum.