Streets Ahead: A Creative Guide to Basel, Switzerland

A small, quirky university city – and an international epicentre for art and architecture – Basel makes the perfect urban getaway for design-loving travellers.

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Basel is an enigma: a small, student-filled Swiss city that also happens to be a successful international incubator for contemporary art and architecture. But we begin to understand why, as we tour the town and its environs with BustArt, an affable and anonymous 30-something who founded Urbane Kunst, a collective of global graffiti and street artists.

"In Basel, people pay for art," he explains, as we ride the bus out to the Big Wall at Basel Airport. On it is Switzerland's largest street mural, which was painted by Urbane Kunst in 2020. "When I lived in Amsterdam, for example, everyone expected creativity to come for free. But in Basel, individual customers actually pay artists for a canvas in their home. Companies pay artists for sponsored artwork on their walls. The city authorities pay artists for installations and murals." It can never be said too often: to support artists and creatives, pay them properly.

Riverbank, Basel, Switzerland
Street art on a wall in Basel

Urbanites enjoying the river in the Old Town, left, and a street art mural in Basel. | Photo credit: Kevin Faingnaert

With a modest population of some 175,000, Basel is Switzerland's third-largest city, situated in the north-western corner of the country, a few miles from both the German and French borders. It's home to the country's oldest university, founded in 1460. This, perhaps, is key to understanding this culturally dynamic hub and its centuries-old commitment to creativity, respect for artists and academics, and high regard for humanism.

Basel unpacked: the city address book

To stay

Volkshaus in Basel, Switzerland
Photo credit: Kevin Faingnaert


Volkshaus Basel

In 2020, Herzog & de Meuron designed a boutique hotel within a 1920s building, creating a near-perfect and affordable 45-room boutique hotel. Every detail is thoughtful, including the buffet breakfast, with pastries by cult bakery Beschle.


Rebgasse 12-14 Postfach 603 4058 Basel

A junior room at Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois


Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois

This grande dame is one of Europe's oldest city hotels, which now combines beautiful Belle Époque design flourishes with sleek, contemporary furniture. There's a Michelin-starred restaurant in addition to a more informal brasserie.


Blumenrain 8, 4001 Basel, Switzerland

A room at Nomad Design & LIfestyle Hotel
Photo credit: Mark Niedermann


Nomad Design & Lifestyle Hotel

Housed in a 1950s apartment building, this design-led, 65-room hotel is a favourite with luxury-lovers on a budget who want a prime address minutes from the city centre. Polished concrete, foliage and natural wood sit alongside curated art.


Brunngässlein 8, Ch-4052, Basel

The Lowdown

Seeking more recommendations for Basel hotels? Head to Or, purchase Volume 37: Craft today and receive A Creative's Guide to Switzerland, an 80-page SUITCASE travel companion to Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne and Montreux Riviera, and Basel.

Main photo credit: Kevin Faingnaert