What comes to mind when imagining the perfect, quintessentially European weekend away? I tend to image cobblestoned streets, long walks, age old cathedrals, galleries, museums and history galore. But take a trip in any of the top European cities – think Paris, Prague, Madrid, or Rome – and you’ll find the long, quiet walks and sidewalk coffee drinking can turn into something else all together. Whether it’s pushing through crowds at the Vatican, navigating the public transport in Madrid, or waiting 2 hours to see the Mona Lisa, you could end up needing a weekend to recover from your weekend!
So what’s the alternative?
My latest weekend away took me to Basel, Switzerland. With a mere 195,000 residents, this small city boasts some of the world’s most impressive museums, with the promotion of arts and culture dating back to the 16th century. Not to be missed, the Kunstmuseum Basel is home to one of the largest and oldest public museum collections in Europe. Which brings me to my first reason why travelling to cities like Basel can provide the European ambiance and history, without the stress.
While nothing will quite compare to visiting the Louvre in Paris, for a weekend away in Europe, you won’t have the time or energy to wade through 35,000 objects. Instead, on a Sunday morning in Basel, my friend and I managed a peaceful 3 hours walking through an amazing collection of art at the Kunstmuseum. Take a look specifically at the Rodin sculptures scattered around the museum halls. No lines, no overcrowding – just hang your coat on the coat rack and go.
We’ve all been there – wasting precious weekend hours figuring out if it’s better to get the 24 hour pass, 48 hour pass, bus only, train only, group discount….etc etc. Who has time? This weekend in Basel, my friend and I booked a hotel and were told that a Mobility Pass for the was included that covered transport for the entire weekend. Not only did the city have an amazing tram system that could get you anywhere in the city centre within 15 minutes, it was entirely FREE. No hassle with tickets and passes and wasting time. Just pick up your Mobility Pass from your hotel and you’re off.
A lovely afternoon guided tour on Saturday took us around the entire town, with a focus on the history and the art that dots the city. Starting at the Tinguely Fountain, this beautiful feature highlights mechanical figures who appear to be playing in the water. The fountain marks the spot where the old city theatre used to stand. More highlights along the tour included a walk by the Rathaus and Marktplatz, the Münster Cathedral, and a view of the Rhine. The best part of all was that our guided tour had about 10 people in it, so no big crowds, no umbrellas in the air, and the chance to ask as many questions as we wanted.
Bars and Restaurants
From quaint wine bars to hidden lunch spots and large brasseries for Sunday afternoon roasts, we had our fair share of great food and drink options. Best yet, there were no long lines, no reservations that needed to be made – just walk in and grab a seat. When you only have a weekend away, you just don’t have time to be waiting an hour or two for a meal. Highlights include Sunday dinner at Brasserie Baselstab and a nice evening glass of wine at Rosario’s Lo Spuntino.
So, by all means, if you have a week or two to spend in one of the larger European cities, then you have all the time in the world to spend waiting in lines and taking in guided tours and the endless transport systems. But, if it’s a weekend away you’re looking for, Basel has everything to offer – minus the hassle. Take my word for it.