On a short trip, one of the hardest aspects for us whilst travelling is finding the best places to eat and drink – but in Basel, this simply isn’t a problem. With over 20 restaurants that have won GaultMillau or Michelin awards within the compact city boundaries, visitors on a city break are simply spoilt for choice.
Disclaimer: My hotel and some of my meals were covered by the Basel Tourism board but my (very many) thoughts and enthusiasm are only ever genuinely mine and mine alone.
And that’s without the possibility of taking a quick trip to France or Germany into consideration – something that I very much took advantage of and managed to slip 3 meals in 3 different countries. But that’s for another blog post…
I can’t pretend to be a local, but very luckily I had an insider’s track in the form of personal recommendations from locals on the tourism board – plus a guidebook full of hand-picked recommendations.
Where to eat breakfast
The most obvious place will be your hotel – I stayed at the modern and cosy 3-star Hotel Steinenschanze (Steinengraben 69, 4051 Basel, Switzerland) just on the edge of the Old Town, and close to the Swiss/French railway station. It was lovely; quiet with a lovely garden that I took full advantage of, modern in style and they had everything a guest could need – from Swiss adapters to umbrellas, from Winkelfisch that you could borrow for a swim in the Rhine to an honesty bar that you could help yourself from at the end of a long travel day.
The breakfast was generous too – the above is barely a third of the selection and made choosing what to have rather difficult. One morning I went for a selection of fresh fruit (including cherries), warm buttery croissants and passionfruit jam. The next day was more of a savoury leaning; slivers of delicious cheese, cold charcuterie, boiled eggs with a dill sauce and a few gherkins for a crisp start to the day. I’m still intrigued by some of the dishes I saw – perhaps I should go back…
Where to eat lunch in Basel
My favourite lunch was taken over the river. I joined some of the tourism board team at Le Rhin Bleu (Rheinbad Breite
St. Alban-Rheinweg 195, 4052 Basel) one of two converted bathhouses that still stand on the Rhine river banks. The menu is has a marked Mediterranean flair, and we enjoyed the plats du jour; a Greek salad, fried fish and a lovely pannacotta with a cherry compote.
I have it on good authority that Le Rhin Bleu is a local’s secret, a few minutes out of the centre on the tram and is often a summer destination after taking a swim in the Rhine.
I also popped into Confiserie Bachmann, one of the traditional confectionaries – you can just pick up handmade Basler Läckerli, a local traditional hard spice biscuit made of honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied peel, and Kirsch, or perhaps a couple of the fabulous Schoggiweggli, a small bun studded with chocolate. Or, you can stop in for something a little more substantial and linger at one of their tables with open-face sandwiches, sandwiches and light snacks prepared fresh daily in the bakery – to start with that is – their counters are rather irresistible…
Where to eat dinner on a trip to Basel
This is where visitors are utterly spoilt for choice. On my first evening, I have to admit that thanks to being rather tired, from the Market I grabbed some charcuterie, local soft cheese (it looked like brie, but had Swiss flags all over it) and a couple of rolls for a en plein air riverside picnic, complete with a draft of my favourite peach nectar.
The second night, however, I enjoyed a leisurely 3-course meal at the beautiful Volkshaus Basel. Serenaded by a live music performance nearby and waited on hand & foot by the beautiful waiting staff, I couldn’t have been happier or more spoilt.
Volkshaus Basel (Rebgasse 12-14, Postfach 603, 4058 Basel) is a traditional local restaurant that reopened in March 2012 following an extensive makeover. Redesigned by Herzog & de Meuron, it is a French brasserie and classic bar, with courtyard beer garden with scattered trees, pavement café and banquet rooms, and is considered a new culinary and cultural meeting point in the heart of Kleinbasel.
My meal was perfect; I slipped into the No. 2 Bier Garten and was seated immediately under a swatch of trees and fairy lights. I ordered a glass of local wine, a (heat busting) cold soup of cucumber, yoghurt and dill, served with a praline of trout; then a beautiful cut of Ossobucco with creamy polenta, root vegetables and gremolata. My dessert was utterly gorgeous – and worth a trip back itself – a slice of Toblerone cheesecake with marinated strawberries and chocolate sorbet. Each nibble was a bouquet of delight, and the sweetness of the dish was cut with baby basil leaves scattered through the plate.
Would I go back? Absolutely.
Where to go for an evening aperitif or drink
Again, I cheated on my first night, and simply lingered in the garden of Hotel Steinenschanze, sipping Swiss Rose…
…but on my second night after dinner, I ventured out to Bar Rouge (Messeplatz 10, 4058 Basel) a 105-metre high bar where all of the cool people in Basel gather and take in a view of the city below. I saw the sunset in, and then left the Saturday evening club vibes to the young’uns (that makes me feel old, but it’s true) preferring to return to my hotel for a nightcap with my 90’s music.
Every meal was a delight – and all of the restaurant teams spoke more English than my very broken German, and made me feel very welcome as a visitor to Basel.
Do you prefer luxurious or simple meals whilst travelling?
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