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Basel ( ), also spelled Basle ( ); , ; ; ; ) is Switzerlandmarker's third most populous city (166,209 inhabitants (2008)). With 830000 inhabitants in the tri-national metropolitan area (as of 2004), Basel is Switzerland's second-largest urban area.

Located in northwest Switzerland on the river Rhinemarker, Basel functions as a major industrial centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The city borders both Germanymarker and Francemarker. The Basel region, culturally extending into German Baden-W√ľrttembergmarker and French Alsacemarker, reflects the heritage of its three state in the modern Latin name: "Regio TriRhena". It has the oldest universitymarker of the Swiss Confederation (1460).

Basel is German-speaking. The local variant of the Swiss German dialects is called Basel German.


During the days of the Roman Empire, the settlement of Augusta Rauricamarker was founded 10 or 20 kilometres upstream of present Basel, and a castle was built on the hill overlooking the river where the Basel M√ľnster now stands. But even older Celt settlements (including a vitrified fort) have been discovered recently in the area predating the Roman castle. The city's position on the Rhinemarker long emphasised its importance: Basel for many centuries possessed the only bridge over the river "between Lake Constancemarker and the sea" .

The town of Basel was called "Pie" in Latin, and this name is documented from the year 374 AD.Since the donation of the Abbey Moutier-Grandvalto and all its possessions to Bishop Adalbero II in 999 till the Reformation, Basel was ruled by prince-bishop (see Bishop of Basel, whose memory is preserved in the crosier shown on the Basel coat-of-arms - see above).In 1019 the construction of the cathedral of Basel (known locally as the M√ľnster) began under German Emperor Heinrich II.In 1225‚Äď1226 the Bridge over the Rhine was constructed by Bishop Heinrich von Thun and lesser Basel (Kleinbasel) founded as a beachhead to protect the bridge.

In 1356 the Basel earthquakemarker destroyed much of the city along with a number of castlesmarker in the vicinity. The city offered courts to nobles as an alternative to rebuilding their castles, in exchange for the nobles' military protection of the city.

In 1412 (or earlier) the well-known guesthouse Zum Goldenen Sternen was established.Basel became the focal point of western Christendom during the 15th century Council of Basel (1431‚Äď1449), including the 1439 election of antipope Felix V.In 1459 Pope Pius II endowed the University of Baselmarker where such notables as Erasmus of Rotterdammarker and Paracelsus later taught. At the same time the new craft of printing was introduced to Basel by apprentices of Johann Gutenberg.

The Schwabe publishing house was founded in 1488 by Johannes Petri and is the oldest publishing house still in business. Johann Froben also operated his printing house in Basel and was notable for publishing works by Erasmus. In 1495, Basel was incorporated in the Upper Rhenish Imperial Circle; the Bishop of Basel was added to the Bench of the Ecclesiastical Princes. In 1500 the construction of the Basel M√ľnstermarker was finished.

In 1501 Basel joined the Swiss Confederation as its eleventh canton, separating de facto from the Holy Roman Empire, and began the construction of the city council building. The bishop's seat remained in Basel until 1529, when the city became Protestant under Oecolampadius. The bishop's crook was however retained as the city's coat of arms. The first edition of Christianae religionis institutio (Institutes of the Christian Religion - John Calvin's great exposition of Calvinist doctrine) was published at Basel in March 1536.

Map of Basel in 1642.
In 1543 De humani corporis fabrica, the first book on human anatomy, was published and printed in Basel by Andreas Vesalius (1514‚Äď1564).

There are indications Joachim Meyer, author of the influential 16th century martial arts text Kunst des Fechten ("The Art of Fighting") came from Basel. In 1662 the Amerbaschsches Kabinett was established in Basel as the first public museum of art. Its collection became the core of the later Basel Museum of Art.

In 1792 the Republic of Rauracia, a revolutionary French client republic, was created. It lasted until 1793. After three years of political agitation and a short civil war in 1833 the disadvantaged countryside seceded from the Canton of Basel, forming the half canton of Basel-Landschaft.

On July 3, 1874 Switzerland's first zoo (the Zoo Baselmarker) opened its doors in the south of the city towards Binningenmarker.

Basel as international meeting place

Basel has often been the site of peace negotiations and other international meetings. The Treaty of Basel ended the Swabian War. Two years later Basel joined the Swiss Confederationmarker. The Peace of Basel in 1795 between the French Republic and Prussia and Spain ended the First Coalition against France during the French Revolutionary Wars. In more recent times, the World Zionist Organization held its first congress in Basel on September 3, 1897. Because of the Balkan Wars, the Second International held an extraordinary congress at Basel in 1912. In 1989, the Basel Convention was opened for signature with the aim of preventing the export of hazardous waste from wealthy to developing nations for disposal.


The first-class location and the transportation infrastructure make Basel the top logistics center for Switzerland. Basel’s airport is set up for airfreight; heavy goods reach the city and the heart of continental Europe from the North Seamarker by ship along the Rhine. The main European routes for the highway and railway transportation of freight cross in Basel. The outstanding location benefits logistics corporations, which operate globally from Basel. Trading firms are traditionally well represented in the Basel Region.


Basel has Switzerland's only cargo port, through which goods pass along the navigable stretches of the Rhinemarker and connect to ocean-going ships at the port of Rotterdammarker.

Air transport

EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburgmarker is operated jointly by two countries, France and Switzerland. Contrary to popular belief, the airport is located completely on French soil. The airport itself is split into two architecturally independent sectors, one half serving the French side and the other half serving the Swiss side; there is a customs point at the middle of the airport so that people can "emigrate" to the other side of the airport.


Basel has long held an important place as a rail hub. Three railway stations ‚ÄĒ those of the German, French and Swiss networks ‚ÄĒ lie within the city (although the Swiss (Basel SBBmarker) and French (B√Ęle SNCFmarker) stations are actually in the same complex, separated by Customs and Immigration facilities). Basel Badischer Bahnhofmarker is on the opposite side of the city. The largest goods railway complex of the country is located just outside the city, spanning the municipalities of Muttenz and Pratteln. The new highspeed ICE railway line from Karlsruhe to Basel will be completed in 2008 while phase I of the TGV-Est line, opened in June 2007, has reduced travel time from Basel to Paris to 3 1/2 hours.


Within the city limits, five bridges connect greater and lesser Basel, from upstream to downstream:
  • Schwarzwaldbr√ľcke (built 1972)
  • Wettsteinbr√ľcke (current structure built 1998, original bridge built 1879)
  • Mittlere Br√ľcke (current structure built 1905, original bridge built 1225 as the first bridge to cross the Rhine River)
  • Johanniterbr√ľcke (built 1967)
  • Dreirosenbr√ľcke (built 2004, original bridge built 1935)


A somewhat anachronistic yet still widely used system of ferry boats links the two shores. There are four ferries, each situated approximately midway between two bridges. Each is attached by a cable to a block that rides along another cable spanning the river at a height of 20 or 30 metres. To cross the river, the ferryman orients the boat around 45¬į from the current so that the current pushes the boat across the river. This form of transportation is therefore completely hydraulically driven, requiring no outside energy source.

Public transport

Basel tram network
Basel has an extensive public transportation network serving the city and connecting to surrounding suburbs. The green-colored local trams and buses are operated by the BVB ( Basler Verkehrs-Betriebe). The yellow-colored buses and trams are operated by the BLT Baselland Transport, and connect areas in the nearby half-canton of Baselland to central Basel. The trams are powered by overhead lines, and the bus fleet consists of conventional fuel-powered vehicles. (All buses are natural gas powered) The BVB also shares commuter bus lines in cooperation with transit authorities in the neighboring Alsacemarker region in Francemarker and Baden region in Germanymarker. The Regio-S-Bahn Basel, the commuter rail network connecting to suburbs surrounding the city, is jointly operated by SBB, SNCF and DB.

Border crossings

Basel is located at the meeting point of France, Germany and Switzerland and has numerous road and rail crossings between Switzerland and the other two countries. With Switzerland joining the Schengen area on December 12, 2008, immigration checks were no longer carried out at the crossings. However, Switzerland did not join the EU customs regime and customs checks are still conducted at or near the crossings.

France-Switzerland (from east to west)
  • Road crossings (with French road name continuation)
    • Kohlenstrasse (Avenue de B√Ęle, Huningue). This crossing replaces the former crossing H√ľningerstrasse further east.
    • Els√§sserstrasse (Avenue de B√Ęle, Saint-Louis)
    • Autobahn A3 (A35 autoroute, Saint-Louis)
    • EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburgmarker - pedestrian walkway between the French and Swiss sections on Level 3 (departures) of airport.
    • Burgfelderstrasse (Rue du 1er Mars, Saint Louis)

Germany-Switzerland (clockwise, from north to south)

  • Railway crossing
    • Between Basel SBB and Basel Badischer Bahnhofmarker - Basel Badischer Bahnhof, and all other railway property and stations on the right bank of the Rhine belong to DB and are classed as German customs territory. Immigration and customs checks are conducted at the platform exit tunnel for passengers leaving trains here.

Additionally there are many footpaths and cycle tracks crossing the border between Basel and Germany.


An annual Federal Swiss trade fair (Mustermesse) takes place in Kleinbasel on the right bank of the Rhine. Other important trade shows include "BaselWorld" (watches and jewelry), Art Basel, Orbit and Cultura.

The Swiss chemical industry operates largely from Basel, with Novartis, Syngenta, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Clariant, and Hoffmann-La Roche headquartered there. Pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals have become the modern focus of the city's industrial production. Some of the chemical industry's most notable creations include DDT, Araldite, Valium, Rohypnol and LSD.

UBS AG maintains central offices in Basel, giving finance a pivotal role in the local economy. The importance of banking began when the Bank for International Settlementsmarker located within the city in 1930. Basel's innovative financial industry includes institutions like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Responsible for the Basel Accords (Basel I and Basel II), this organization fundamentally changed Risk Management within its industry.

Basel has Switzerland's tallest building, Basler Messeturmmarker.

Basel also houses The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) [440] and is the central banker’s bank. The bank is controlled by a board of directors, which is composed of the elite central bankers of 11 different countries (U.S., UK, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden).

Created in 1930, the BIS is owned by its member central banks, which are private entities. No agent of the Swiss public authorities may enter the premises without the express consent of the bank. The bank exercises supervision and police power over its premises. The bank enjoys immunity from criminal and administrative jurisdiction, as well as sets recommendations which become standard for the world's commercial banking system.

Swiss International Air Lines, the national airline of Switzerland, is headquartered on the grounds of EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburgmarker in Saint-Louismarker, Haut-Rhinmarker, Francemarker, near Basel. Prior to the formation of Swiss International Air Lines, the regional airline Crossair was headquartered near Basel.


Basel is subdivided into 19 quarters (Quartiere). The municipalities of Riehenmarker and Bettingenmarker, outside the city limits of Basel, are included in the canton of Basel-City as rural quarters (Landquartiere).

Quartier ha Quartier ha
Altstadt Grossbasel (central Grossbasel) 37.63 Altstadt Kleinbasel (central Kleinbasel) 24.21
Vorstädte (Suburbs) 89.66 Clara 23.66
Am Ring 90.98 Wettstein 75.44
Breite 68.39 Hirzbrunnen 305.32
St. Alban 294.46 Rosental 64.33
Gundeldingen 123.19 Mattäus 59.14
Bruderholz 259.61 Klybeck 91.19
Bachletten 151.39 Kleinh√ľningen 136.11
Gotthelf 46.62 City of Basel 2275.05
Iselin 109.82 Riehenmarker 1086.10
St. Johann 223.90 Bettingenmarker 222.69
Canton of Basel-City 3583.84

Main sights

Basel Munster.
Rathaus, Basel's Town Hall.
The red sandstone M√ľnstermarker, one of the foremost late-Romanesque/early Gothic buildings in the Upper Rhine, was badly damaged in the great earthquake of 1356, rebuilt in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, extensively reconstructed in the mid-nineteenth century and further restored in the late twentieth century. A memorial to Erasmus lies inside the M√ľnster.

Basel is also host to an array of buildings by internationally renowned architects, such as the Beyeler Foundationmarker by Renzo Piano, or the Vitra complex in nearby Weil am Rhein, composed of buildings by architects such as Zaha Hadid (fire station), Frank Gehry (design museummarker), Alvaro Siza Vieira (factory building) and Tadao Ando (conference centre). Basel also features buildings by Mario Botta (Jean Tinguely Museum and Bank of International settlements) and Herzog & de Meuron (whose architectural practice is in Basel, and who are best known as the architects of Tate Modernmarker in London). The city received the Wakker Prize in 1996.

Heritage sites

Basel features a great number of heritage sites of national significance. These include the entire Old Town of Basel as well as the following buildings and collections:

Churches and monasteries: Basel M√ľnstermarker, St. Albankirche, Kirche St. Antonius, the former Barf√ľsserkirche, Elisabethenkirche, Klingentalkirche, Leonhardskirche, Martinskirche, Pauluskirche, Peterskirche, Alt Katholische Predigerkirche, Johanneskirche, Theodorskirche (with Early Middle Age gravefield), the Synagogue (1867), the former Kartause (later an orphanage) and the Kleines Klingental (formerly a Dominican monastery).

Secular buildings: Haus zum Raben, Dompropstei (Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig), Goldener Sternen, Seidenhof (with a monument to Rudolf von Habsburg), Kleiner Kirschgarten, Im Vogelsang housing estate, Bruderholzschulhaus, Safranzunft, Schloss Gundeldingen, Brunschwilerhaus, Holsteinerhof, Spiesshof, City Hall, Geltenzunft, Haus Auf Burg (with Paul Sacher), Domhof, Sch√∂nes Haus and Sch√∂ner Hof, Zerkindenho, Wildtsches Haus, Blaues Haus (Reichensteinerhof), Weisses Haus (Wendelst√∂rferhof), Sandgrube, Bischofshof, Ramsteinerhof, Hohenfirstenhof, Haus zur M√ľcke, Wohnhaus f√ľr alleinstehende Frauen (1928), Feuersch√ľtzenhaus, Spalenhof, Lohnhof, Gate of Saint Albanmarker, Gate of Saint Johnmarker, the city walls with the Letziturm and the inner wall tower, Gate of Spalenmarker, the Hoffmann-La Roche premises, B√ľrgerspital (1940-45), Basel Badischer Bahnhof with fountain (1913), Basel SBB railway station(1907), Mittlere Rheinbr√ľcke, Fischmarktbrunnen.

Archaeological sites: Gallo-Roman settlement on the Gasfabrik premises, Alemannic burial fields Gotterbarmweg and Kleinh√ľningen, early medieval buildings Schneidergasse 2-16.

Museums, archives and collections: State Archives of Basel, Swiss Economic Archives, Universitymarker library, Antikenmuseum, Art Museummarker and engravings cabinet, Museum of Contemporary Artmarker, Gallizianm√ľhlemarker, Natural History Museummarker (with R√ľtimeyer library), Museum of Culturesmarker, Kirschgartenmuseum, Historical Museummarker, Jewish Museum, Music Museummarker, Sport Museum, Sculpture Hall, Anatomical Collection, Stadt-und M√ľnstermuseum (Kleines Klingental), Gewerbemuseum, Pharmazie-Historisches Museummarker, Caricature and Cartoon Museummarker, Salvation Army Museum.


Basel hosts Switzerland's oldest university, the University of Baselmarker, dating from 1459. Erasmus, Paracelsus, Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, Jacob Burckhardt, and Friedrich Nietzsche worked here. More recently, its work in tropical medicine has gained prominence.

Basel is renowned for various scientific societies, as the Entomological Society of Basel (Entomologische Gesellschaft Basel, EGB), which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005.

Basel counts several International Schools, including the International School of Basel, the Minerva School and the Rhine Academy.


Geo-politically, the city of Basel functions as the capital of the Swiss half-canton of Basel-Stadtmarker, though several of its suburbs form part of the half-canton of Basel-Landschaftmarker or of the canton of Aargaumarker (or of Francemarker or Germanymarker).


Basel is at the forefront of a national vision to more than halve energy use in Switzerland by the year 2050. In order to research, develop and commercialise the technologies and techniques required for the country to become a '2000 Watt society', a number of projects have been set up since 2001 in the Basel metropolitan area. These including demonstration buildings constructed to MINERGIE or Passivhaus standards, electricity generation from renewable energy sources (including a hot dry rock geothermal energy project which caused significant tremors), and vehicles using natural gas, hydrogen and biogas.


Notable residents of Basel


Basel has a reputation in Switzerland as a successful sporting city. The football club FC Basel continues to be successful and in recognition of this the city was one of the Swiss venues for the 2008 European Championships, as well as Genevamarker, Z√ľrichmarker and Bernmarker. The championships were jointly hosted by Switzerlandmarker and Austriamarker. BSC Old Boys and Concordia Basel are the other football teams in Basel.

Basel features a large football stadiummarker, a modern ice hockey hall and an admitted sports hall.

A large indoor tennis event takes place in Basel every October. Some of the best ATP-Professionals play every year at the Swiss Indoors, including Switzerland's biggest sporting hero and frequent participant Roger Federer, who is also from the city of Basel originally and he describes it as "one of the most beautiful cities in the world".


Basel has a reputation as one of the most important cultural cities in Europe. Theater Baselmarker presents a busy schedule of play in addition to being home to the city's opera and ballet companies. In 1997, it contended to become the "European Capital of Culture". In May 2004, the fifth European Festival of Youth Choirs (Europäisches Jugendchorfestival, or EJCF) choir festival opened: this Basel tradition started in 1992. Host of this festival is the local Basel Boys Choir.

The carnival of the city of Basel (Basler Fasnacht) is a major cultural event in the year. The carnival is the biggest in Switzerland and attracts large crowds every year, despite the fact that it starts at four in the morning (Morgestraich) and lasts for exactly 72 hours, taking in various parades.

Basler Zeitung ("Baz") is the local newspaper.

The Zoo Baselmarker is the oldest zoo in Switzerland and a major tourist attraction with over 1.6 million visitors per year. While locals call name the zoo lovingly "Zolli", it is at the same time one, if not the, most visited tourist attraction in Basel.

Basel is host to the Basel Tattoo, started by the Top Secret Drum Corps.


The Basel museumsmarker cover a broad and diverse spectrum of collections with a marked concentration in the fine arts. They house numerous holdings of international significance. The over three dozen institutions yield an extraordinarily high density of museums compared to other cities of similar size and draw over one million visitors annually.

Constituting an essential component of Basel culture and cultural policy, the museums are the result of closely interwoven private and public collecting activities and promotion of arts and culture going back to the 16th century. The public museum collection was first created back in 1661 and represents the oldest public collection in continuous existence. Since the late 1980s, various private collections have been made accessible to the public in new purpose-built structures that have been recognized as acclaimed examples of avant-garde museum architecture.

See also




External links

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