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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in basel
Free Travel guide Ooaj.com A free travel guide for holidays. Hotels in basel, Bed and Breakfast!
Basel is a city in Switzerland.
While it is not a typical tourist destination, it has a beautiful medieval style Old Town center and there are quite a few things to see and do if you have a few days to spend.
The town of Basel lies in the north-western corner of Switzerland. The town shares borders with France and Germany and is the heart of this trinational region. Besides its own attractions it can serve as a good entry point to the Alsace, Black Forest regions or the canton of Basel-Land.
The Rhine runs through the city in an right-angle curve and divides the town into two parts. Situated on the south and west bank is Grossbasel (Greater Basel) with the mediaeval old town at its centre. Kleinbasel (Smaller Basel) is located on the north bank.
Basel means art. Visiting Basel is usually a holiday for your vocal cords since you will absorb the beautiful art in silence exhibited in the many first-rate museums. Once a year it also hosts Art Basel which is the world's premier fair for modern classics and contemporary art.
Basel has one of the most amazing carnivals you're likely to see, called "Fasnacht". If you're there during the "three loveliest days" of the year, prepare to be amazed, and don't expect to be able to sleep. (more information below).
Even if you think your German is pretty good, and even though Basel is only just over the German border, remember this is Switzerland and the locals speak the incomparable and lively Baslerduutsch.
The tourist information office is located in Barfusserplatz, directly across the street from McDonald's. There is also a tourist office at the Basel SBB station.
The Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (http://www.euroairport.com/EN/) is the only binational airport in the world. Built on French soil about 4 km from Basel it is connected with the city through a toll-free road. Several major airlines, like Swiss, Air France or Lufthansa, serve the EuroAirport. Besides the national carriers, easyJet (http://www.easyjet.com/) is building up a larger base in Basel. Current destinations are airports in the surroundings of Berlin, Liverpool, London, Alicante, Barcelona, Nice, Palma de Mallorca, and Rome. Another low-cost carrier is Air Berlin (http://www.airberlin.com) which flies to many holiday destinations, e.g. some Greek islands and the Canary Islands.
Be careful to exit through the Swiss passport control, or you will unwittingly find yourself in France. In the arrival hall you can choose to go through the Swiss customs and take the toll-free road to Basel or to go the French customs. Some flights to the EuroAiport are descripted with Basel (BSL, Switzerland) as destination while flights from France usually write Mulhouse (MLH, France) as their destination, although it is the same airport. To confuse you completely it even has a third airport code EAP, which is the less used international code. If you are searching for flights to Basel search for both destinations.
From the airport, visitors can rent a car (not recommended) or take the #50 bus (right outside the arrivals area) which ends at the Basel SBB train station. You must purchase a two-zone ticket at the bus stop for 3.80 CHF or XX Euros (only coins accepted). (Note that trips on the bus to the center of town are a "two zone" trip).
A good source for finding flights to Basel (and other places) is dohop.com, the travel search engine (http://www.dohop.com). It will show you connections from many places, mainly with discount airlines, which you might not even know existed!
Basel has two main train stations. The Basel SBB station is south of the town center and the Basel Badischer Bahnhof (abbrev Basel Bad Bf) is to the north. The Basel SBB station serves the Swiss SBB rail (http://www.sbb.ch/en) and French SNCF rail (http://www.voyages-sncf.com), with German DB trains connecting to the Basel Bad Bahnhof. The Bad Bahnhof serves the German DB rail (http://www.db.de). If you are arriving from France or Germany, you will pass through customs before entering Switzerland (which is not part of the EU).
International train connections include
This is the standard mode of travel for many within the city. Old Basel isn't very large and there are many narrow and winding side streets with incredible slopes. The shopping streets in the old city are closed to car traffic. Tourists will walk a lot - and be pleased and impressed at every turn. But the walking can be hard because of the often-found cobblestone pavement and the slopes. Some sidewalks even have steps. Walking around Basle can be a real cardiovascular workout for most if you wander off the main streets - but it's the ONLY way to really experience the city.
WARNING: Trams have the right of way over pedestrians - all the time. Keep an eye out for trams as you cross a street. A stopped tram can accelerate very quickly. And, always look the OTHER WAY for a tram if you're crossing behind one that just passed you. Your view of an oncoming tram may be blocked by the tram that just passed you.
Basel has an extensive tram (and bus) network (map (http://www.bvb-basel.ch/pics/Liniennetz_05.gif)). Trams in Basel are the greatest amenity you can imagine. They are absolutely prompt - as is all public transit - inexpensive, clean and very convenient. Each stop has maps of the system for the trams that stop there as well as a listing of arrival times at that stop. Free tram transfers are allowed in the city, as long as you go in one direction.
Every tram stop has a green ticket vending machine. You will need Swiss currency (coins only), except for a few places that accept Euros. Inside the city limits, all destinations farther than 4 stops away are zone 1. As long as you are traveling away from your stop, you can ride on the one ticket. Don't buy first class, because trams do not have first class cars. Round trip tickets are fine, but watch out for any conditions, like same day return. Multi trip tickets or multi-day tickets are also available. If you're several people or plan on spending more than a couple of days in Basel, it is worth considering buying a 12-trip 1 zone ticket, available at every kiosk. It's not cheaper but more convenient because it saves you having to fiddle around with change. Do NOT buy a half-price ticket. That is reserved for any resident who purchased the appropriate annual discount card.
Doors on the tram are controlled by large push buttons on the door (outside) and above the door or on the grab rail near the door (inside). Once the tram stops, push the button and the door will open for you. The doors automatically close before the tram starts moving. HOLD ON! The trams have great acceleration and braking to make the trip as quick as possible. Each upcoming stop is announced by a recorded voice (in Standard German) along with the numbers of connecting trams at that stop.
Tram travel is on the honor system. Nobody collects your ticket. Periodically, a number (4-8) of "tram police" (undercover agents) board a tram and halt it short of a regular stop. They quickly examine everyone's ticket. If you don't have one, expect a large fine to be levied - in the neighborhood of 100 Francs. Even in this exercise, there is efficiency. Typical halts last less than 3 minutes - the precision of the schedules can't be messed up!
Many better hotels in Basel offer each registered guest a free tram travel card on check in. This is a great benefit, as it can be worth the price of a lunch every day you stay. Your only challenge is getting to the hotel as you arrive on the first day.
Buses serve the outer-lying areas of Basel, as trams operate mainly in the city centre. The fare is the same as the trams, and transfers are free. There are also special buses that connect to nearby towns in France and Germany.
Basel is a very bike-friendly city, with many well-marked bike lanes all through the city, and even traffic signals and left-hand turn lanes for bikes. While drivers are generally aware of bikers, be sure to use hand signals and ride defensively. Besides local commuter bike lanes, there are specific bike trails that connect to other parts of Switzerland (via the Veloland Schweiz network); these are indicated by signs at some intersections. Helmets are not required, but lights and bells are. The Swiss are quite keen cyclists, so don't be surprised when an old lady goes flying past you on her bike while going uphill.
Bikes can be rented from the underground bike park at Centralbahnplatz, under the Basel SBB station.
Driving in Basel is not recommended for visitors, as the roads are very confusing and are shared with trams (note, cars must yield to trams). Parking in the old city is also expensive and scarce.
Most of the "old town" attractions in Basel are in a walkable area between the Basel Zoo (just south of the Basel SBB train station) and the Rhine. Since most stores are closed on Sundays, it is a good day to plan to see one of the many museums, which are usually open. Basel has over 20 museums, and many of these have a free opening hour at the end of the day.
Events and Festivals
Basel is a center of the pharmaceutical industry. Mergers of Basel companies in the past two decades have produced the giant Novartis (http://www.novartis.com) group, still with HQ in Basel. The smaller, but still huge, Hoffman-La Roche (http://www.roche.com), provides competition. There are also other large chemical and lifesciences companies such as CIBA Specialty Chemical (http://www.cibasc.com), Syngenta (http://www.syngenta) and Lonza (http://www.lonza.com).
Basel is also emerging as a software cluster, particularly in the field of enterprise web software, with companies such as Day (http://www.day.com) (Communique CMS), Obtree (http://www.obtree.com/) (now owned by OpenText), Things Prime (http://www.thingsprime.com) (Generic Applications), and Obinary (http://www.obinary.ch) (Magnolia CMS), all having their HQs in Basel.
Basle is also home of the World Bank.
Basel's "shopping mile" goes from Clarastrasse (Claraplatz) to Marktplatz and up Freiestrasse and Gerbergasse to Heuwaage and Bankverein. Most of the shopping is in specialty stores and luxury boutiques, with a few department stores. Like other large Swiss cities, Basel has many jewelers, horologers (watches), and chocolatiers. Tourists will enjoy wandering the small streets and window shopping in the large variety of specialty shops. Retailers are generally cheery and very competent, polite and helpful.
Souvenirs in Basel Old Town tend to be expensive and high-end. Souvenir shops in Basle are located near the tram stop at Schifflande and another near the University "up the hill" from Marktplatz. Also at the train station "SBB"; maybe at the tram museum, too.
Prices of name brands are generally uniform across the city - and across the country. Discounting has only recently made inroads in Basel. Expect to pay the same price anywhere for a Swiss Army knife or a watch.
Most stores close promptly at 6:30PM Mo-Fr, except for Thursday when many stores are open until 8 or 9PM. Stores close by 5PM on Saturday and nothing is open on Sunday. Exceptions are the stores around the train station, the Coop Pronto at Barfüsserplatz and a number of small family businesses in residential areas. Tax is included in prices, and there is generally no haggling. Some luxury stores offer tax-free shopping for tourists.
Basel has a thriving café culture, and the streets of the old town are lined with outdoor seating in the summer. For "sit down" restaurants, tipping a percentage of your bill is not the norm as it is in the US. Generally, leaving "pocket change" is the norm. For example, if your bill comes to 19.65 francs, leave .35 francs as a tip. Don't worry about appearing to be cheap., Do as the locals do. Restaurants build into food prices an allowance for proper salaries for their servers. Moreover, your server takes pride in doing his or her job without needing (or expecting) an incentive payment.
Food in Switzerland is generally more expensive than other countries in Europe, and those on a budget should consider preparing their own food from the grocery store (closed in the evenings), or taking a trip up to nearby France or Germany.
The restaurants in the historical part of Basel are generally of good quality.
If you plan on staying in Basel during BaselWorld 12 (http://www.baselworld.com), Fasnacht 13 (http://www.fasnacht.ch/), or Art Basel 14 (http://www.art.ch/) be sure to book your room well in advance. Most places are booked solid during these times.
Basel is a cosmopolitan city because of its university and its industry, and proximity to the borders of France and Germany. Most people speak some French and German (for many one of these languages is their first language) and probably 50% of the population can speak English comfortably enough to deal with typical interactions, and will gladly work with you to understand you (if you happen to be strictly English-speaking). The locals speak Baseldytsch, which is a local Swiss-German dialect. To the untrained ear, it sounds similar to German with a smattering of French.
Every Swiss takes great pride in his/her work. Every position is a profession demanding excellence. The bartender, housekeeper, tram driver, retail clerk, street sweeper, waiter, etc. aims to be perfectly competent. This attitude is reflected in the everyday life you will experience in Basle and throughout Switzerland.
Don't mistake the Swiss penchant for privacy and calmness as indifference. They are earnest and interested, but generally reserved - except during Fasnacht (Carnival).
Swiss are scrupulously law abiding and honest. Few natives cross against a traffic light. A loose banknote on the sidewalk may stay there all day awaiting its rightful owner to realise that it's missing and come back for it. Real story: A Basel resident found a cr card on the street and took the time to visit a number of nearby office buildings and inquire about the possibility of the card owner working in that building. The rightful owner was found after a number of unsuccessful visits to other buildings.
Ingenodata Apple Center, Güterstrasse 133 (a few min walk, left from the south entrance of the Basel SBB station), 061 366 11 11. A large certified "Apple Center" offers free repair service for Apple products covered under an AppleCare warranty.
If you want lots of tee shirts and other relatively inexpensive trinkets, go to the Old Town in Lucerne - very much worth the trip because of the beautiful location at Lake Lucerne with a panoramic view of the Alps. Of course the souvenirs will be of Switzerland and Lucerne, not Basle.