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