An art city on the Swiss-German-French border, Basel is a pretty settlement filled with traditional Swiss architecture, plenty of historical museums, and lots of local food. And, if you’re looking to explore central Europe for a couple of days, then it’s the perfect place to base yourself for trips into central Switzerland, across to France, and over to Germany. Here are 10 magical day trips from Basel, Northern Switzerland!
#1 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
The vibrant city of Freiburg im Breisgau, often shortened to just ‘Freiburg’ has a population of around 220,000 residents, meaning that it’s pretty substantial in size and has plenty going on. Located just south of the Black Forest, the university city is around two hours away from Basel via public transport. Once there, you’ll find that there are plenty of museums to visit as well as plenty of historical buildings to wander around.
#2 Geneva, Switzerland
Located lakeside, Geneva is one of the prettiest cities in Switzerland and is best known for its connections with chocolate, luxury goods, as well as its number of 5-star hotels. However, given Geneva’s location around two and a half hours from Basel by car, there are certainly closer day trips to the city to be taken!
But then again, if you want to see the birthplace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, or experience the iconic fountain of the Jet d’Eau for yourself, then you simply must head to Geneva! Other highlights of Geneva include a historic old town (complete with cobbled lanes) and the 12th-century St Pierre Cathedral (which offers fantastic views over the rest of the city).
#3 Strasbourg, France
For Francophiles, the fairytale French town of Strasbourg probably needs no introduction! Small riverways wend their way alongside timber-framed houses and candy coloured façades pop at every corner; all of which makes for great photo opportunities.
Often referred to as ‘Petite France,’ highlights of Strasbourg include medieval architecture and lots of local cuisine (think plenty of cheeses and wines). Located under an hour and a half from Basel via either public transport or your own car, Strasbourg makes for the perfect day trip from Basel!
#4 Lucerne, Switzerland
If you’re looking for a magical day trip from Basel that’s within Switzerland itself, then you need to look no further than Lucerne (also known as Luzern in German). Lying alongside a body of water of the same name, Lake Lucerne, this pretty city is full of fairytale architecture and quaint eateries serving local produce.
Nestled under snow-topped Mount Pilatus, in the summer months, there are plenty of water activities on offer, while the winter months offer the opportunity to visit one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. Luzerne is easily one of the best day trips from Basel if you’re looking for a taste of fairytale Switzerland, and the city can be reached in just over an hour should you opt for a fast train.
Read more: Chapel Bridge and Water Tower Lucerne.
#5 Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg, France
The fortified château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is a medieval castle in the entire Upper Rhine Valley area, a region well known for its stunning castles, including the ones at Alt-Eberstein, Dahn, and Badenweiler, among others.
Humans have inhabited the rock for centuries, as proven by a document issued by Charlemagne in the 8th-century. The Bundsandstein Rock was then home to a monastery before a later castle was constructed (though no one is completely clear on the dates.)
The day trip from Basel to the medieval Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg only takes around an hour each way by car, and is well worth the time spent driving! After all, a visit to the castle can easily be combined with a trip to the fairytale town of Colmar, which is en route!
#6 Zurich, Switzerland
Often mistaken as the Capital of Switzerland (the Swiss Confederation doesn’t actually have an ‘official capital’ at all), with a metropolitan population of over 1.8 million people, Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, and as a result, is packed with things to see and do.
Zurich can be found around an hour from Basel by either car or public transport (both take exactly the same time), making it an easy day trip from Basel. Highlights of Zurich include various water activities on Lake Zurich, as well as visiting all of the various medieval churches and cathedrals dotted around the city. For those seeking a quirkier side to the city, there are plenty of trendy bars and unique stores to discover.
#7 Neu-Falkenstein & Alt-Falkenstein, Switzerland
The twin Swiss castles of Neu-Falkenstein & Alt-Falkenstein are located around three-quarters of an hour from Basel by car. The impressive ruins of Neu-Falkenstein were constructed by a wealthy family in the 12th-century and are now open to the public.
Nearby, a seasonal heritage museum operates in the restored medieval fortifications of the Schloss Alt-Falkenstein. Elsewhere in the surrounding area, stunning hiking trails showcase the beauty of this mountainous country.
#8 Lausanne, Switzerland
On the same lake as Geneva, just across the water from the well-known town of Evian-Les-Bains (where Evian water comes from!), Lausanne is a typically Swiss city that’s best known for its impressive cathedral (said to be the most beautiful example of Gothic architecture in Switzerland)
Other notable attractions include Lausanne’s punctual clock in the heart of the old town, and the city’s stunning views onto the Alps. The city is also well worth a trip if you’re interested in sports; Lausanne is home to a Winter Olympics Museum and the city has strong ties to the games.
Read more: How to spend one week in Switzerland.
#9 Bern, Switzerland
Bern is often cited as one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland, and it’s easy to see why! Often referred to as the stand-in ‘capital of Switzerland’ as this is where all of the Cantons convene, Bern is a pretty city with plenty to see and do.
Highlights of Bern include a visit to the world-famous rose garden and a stroll around the Bern Münster (cathedral), which has the highest spire in Switzerland. Elsewhere in the city, the Bern Historical Museum is said to be one of the best cultural offerings in all of Switzerland.
#10 Colmar, France
With its pretty timber-framed façades and gently flowing river, a visit to Colmar is easily one of the best day trips from Basel. Best seen around Christmas time, when the mulled wine is flowing and the French stalls are at their best, Colmar is a magical town that’s well worth the two hours or so train ride from Basel.
After all, some of the best things to do in Colmar include visiting its toy museum, exploring one of the city’s many art museums, or simply strolling alongside the pretty riverside. Other highlights of this fairytale town include a local museum housed with a former convent and strolling around ‘La Petite Venise,’ a pretty as a postcard Venice lookalike neighbourhood.