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5 Things to Do in Basel, Switzerland on a Romantic Getaway

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In the 10 years since we’ve become parents, my husband and I have taken a handful of romantic getaways – usually a night or two at a local hotel while my parents or a babysitter watched the kids. These retreats provided just enough time to get a taste of our previous selves as a couple before parenthood stripped most of the romance from our lives. For this romantic vacation, though, we embarked on a multi-day journey up the Rhine River with Viking River Cruises. With idyllic scenery, incredible restaurants and plenty to explore, what better place to launch our epic romantic journey than Basel, Switzerland? Check out five things to do in Basel with your honey.

5 Things to do in Basel, Switzerland on a romantic getaway

Wisteria blooming in romantic Basel, Switzerland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Hold hands at a museum.

With 40 museums in the city, you need to visit at least one during your stay. Options range from Basel’s best-known museum, Fondation Beyeler with its renowned contemporary collection, to Spielseug Welten Museum Basel, home of the world’s largest collection of teddy bears, doll houses and dolls.

The smallest museum in Basel, Hoosesaggmuseum

The smallest museum in Basel, Hoosesaggmuseum (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Even if you don’t have much time to tour, you can squeeze in a visit to the smallest museum you’ll likely ever see, Hoosesaggmuseum. This museum is so wee, you can’t even step inside. The window display pictured above shows the museum in its entirety. It houses rotating collections of themed items on loan from locals. When we were there, the theme was lions in honor of The Lion King musical, which was playing at the Musical Theatre Basel.

Basel's colorful Town Hall, Rathaus in Switzerland

Basel’s colorful Town Hall, Rathaus (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Wander through Old Town.

With over 2,000 years of history, Basel has much to explore. Best is just wandering along the cobblestone streets of Old Town to pop into quaint stores for souvenirs or tempting bakeries for a treat. You can’t miss the Marktplatz (or Market Place, in German), an open-air square bursting with fresh produce, flowers, cheeses, and more for purchase. Next door is the colorful Rathaus (Town Hall).

Also located in the city center is Fasnachtsbrunnen (Tinguely Fountain), a unique fountain designed by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, with 10 iron figures that shovel and spray water year-round. In winter it becomes an ice sculpture with water shooting from the icicle-covered mechanical fountain. Impressed with Tinguely’s fountain? Visit the largest Tinguely collection in the world at Museum Tinguely.

Behind the fountain you can see Basel Minster, a cathedral built as an Episcopal church in the 12th and 15th centuries. Go here for memorable views of the Rhine and the Black Forest in the distance.

Tinguely Fountain in Basel, Switzerland

Tinguely Fountain in Basel, Switzerland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Enjoy the Rhine together.

Located on the bend of the Rhine, Basel is uniquely situated with easy access to France, Germany and, of course, Switzerland. In fact, after we got off the plane, we almost went to France instead of walking through the Swiss exit before we realized we needed to pick our country to leave the airport!

The Rhine River is ever-present in Basel’s history and its residents’ life. Thanks to Basel’s location along this river, its inhabitants have long enjoyed trade with other cities along the waterway. In summer, a great many locals float down the Rhine on round individual floats to cool off during their lunch hours. Between Basel’s five bridges across the Rhine, you can take a non-motorized ferry, powered solely by the river’s current.

Romantic Getaway in Basel, Switzerland

Romantic Getaway in Basel, Switzerland

Or, you can do as we did and just get drinks and enjoy the view. The sunny, more modern side of the Rhine is THE place to be in the afternoons for a picnic on the grass or drinks at a pub. Our Viking ship, Eir, was docked on the shady side, however. No matter, sipping hefeweizen beers at a local joint along the Rhine with complimentary side of olives was sublime. It was one of those moments where you sit with your partner and just relax and toast your good fortune.

Prost! Enjoy the Rhine River while in Basel, Switzerland.

Prost! Enjoy the Rhine River while in Basel (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Splurge on a spectacular meal.

Located between three countries, Basel’s cuisine reflects its multicultural location. I can’t speak for every restaurant in town, but I can majorly vouch for Restaurant Schlusselzunft. This is the kind of place where you feel rawther important just dining within its walls. Leave your worries about budget at home and bring extra Swiss francs because this place ain’t cheap. It is, however, worth every centime. Located in a former guild house, you feel a part of history here.

Splurge on a spectacular meal at Restaurant Schlusselzunft

Splurge on a spectacular meal at Restaurant Schlusselzunft (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

To start, get the tarte tatin with morel and spring onion, I beg of you. It was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Ever. For entrees, my husband won the dinner battle with his order of monkfish medallions with mustard crust, sesame-cowpeas and tomatoes. Light, buttery, fluffy fish with a hint of some intriguing spice…was it cardamom, cinnamon or nutmeg? No matter. It was delicious. Deserts were impressive in presentation but lacking in taste, so I suggest skipping them and sipping another glass of wine instead, if you’re so inclined.

Stay in style in Basel at Hotel Steinenschanze

Stay in style in Basel at Hotel Steinenschanze (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Stay in Basel in style.

My husband and I bedded down at Hotel Steinenschanze the night prior to our Viking Cruise departure. This hotel has a very modern, Northern European feel with bright colors and clean lines. Room prices vary greatly from an economy single to our swanky studio, with its separate living room, Nespresso machine, two TVs, and access to a grassy garden area. Included for guests is an evening aperitif in the lounge plus complimentary breakfast with yogurts, fresh fruits, charcuterie, cheeses, pastries, and more each morning. There’s even a fun squeeze-your-own orange juice machine. Sit inside or in the outdoor tree-lined courtyard.

Les Trois Rois is the place to live like royalty in Basel, Switzerland

Les Trois Rois is the place to live like royalty in Basel, Switzerland (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

If that’s not swanky enough for you, there’s always the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois (Grand Hotel of the Three Kings, in French). If you can’t afford to sleep like royalty, do as we did and go for a fancy-schmancy lunch with a ridiculous view of the Rhine instead. It would be hard not to feel in the mood for romance here!

After one night and day to explore Basel, we boarded our Viking River Cruises ship for an eight-day adventure up the Rhine. We could have paid extra, as many of our fellow cruisers did, for an Extension trip in Lucerne, Switzerland. But for us, Basel was the perfect place to start our journey.

A Note from The Travel Mama: Our cruise was hosted by Viking River Cruises. Our hotel and a portion of our meals were provided by Switzerland Tourism. All opinions are mine, as always.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. I have always wanted to visit Basel. It’s on my lengthy list.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Katie – To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Basel until we booked our Viking Cruise Rhine Getaway. I’m so glad we discovered this unique city!

  2. Wow. This honestly looks like a spectacular place! Those photographs are unbelievable! I’ve always been interested in exploring Basel, but I have never really got round to it!
    Think you’ve just inspired my journey for next year!

  3. I’m taking a virtual romantic holiday right now through your post. I think that my husband and I would have a wonderful time here!

  4. Ellen Lanin says

    It’s hard to imagine how small the distances are in Europe to go from one country to another. Glad to experience this with your write-up.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      It was so amazing to start our morning in one country, spend our afternoon in another, and sometimes by evening arrive in yet another country during our Viking River Cruise!

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