If you plan on living in Basel as an expat, you have much to look forward to. As in other Swiss cities, the residents enjoy a high quality of life. It can easily compete with, for instance, Geneva, which regularly ranks among the ten best expat destinations worldwide. According to a local survey conducted in 2011, people living in Basel rate their city with a rank of 7.7 out of 10. The participants were all highly satisfied with everyday life in Basel. The topics of housing and safety were the only exceptions. Even this perception may be somewhat skewed, though.
While affordable housing is indeed hard to come by, living in Basel is actually very safe. Switzerland is actually one of the safest places worldwide, and Basel is no exception. However, matches of the popular soccer club FC Basel may lead to much reported cases of hooliganism. These incidents seem to have unsettled many observers in the survey cited above. Nonetheless, this feeling of unease should not detract from the fact that Basel is generally peaceful and pleasant. Although the city is a less well-known tourist destination than Lucerne or Lugano, there is a lot to enjoy in terms of leisure and culture.
Once you have recovered from your trip and settled in your accommodation, take the time to explore your new home. The Basel tourist office organizes English-language walking tours around the picturesque old town, with its narrow, cobbled lanes. Such walks feature highlights like the medieval cathedral, where the humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam lies buried, or the Renaissance-style town hall.
Art lovers and history buffs living in Basel have over 30 museums to choose from. They range from collections devoted to classical antiquity and Basel's Roman origins to exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. For example, Italian star architect Renzo Piano designed the building of the Fondation Beyeler. It houses works by Miro, Monet, and Picasso, to cite but a few impressive names.
If you prefer the performing arts to the fine arts, living in Basel still provides you with plenty of entertainment. Ensembles like the Basel Symphony Orchestra and the Basel Chamber Orchestra uphold the city's strong tradition of classical music. Basel's music scene also caters to more special interests. Concerts by the Basel Bach Choir or regular performances of early music are only two examples of such variety.
The Theater Basel does not only put German-language plays on stage, but its repertoire includes opera and dance as well. If you are a fan of light entertainment, the Musical Theater Basel might be your place to go. Moreover, there are several cinemas that show films in English, French, or other languages (often with German and/or French subtitles).
Read on to discover Switzerland's impressive arts and culture scene.
Activities available to expats living in Basel include more than "just" arts and culture. Strolling through the streets of Klein-Basel will introduce you to most of the local nightlife, including bars, pubs, and live music clubs. During the day, you can pamper yourself with chocolates or cake at the Confiserie Braendli. If you'd like to surprise your family and friends back home with special souvenirs, go shopping at the Laeckerli Huus. As the name implies, this pastry company offers delicacies like the typical Basler Laeckerli (spice biscuits) or Rahmtaefeli (fudge).
If your budget allows it, you might taste some of Switzerland's best cuisine. The restaurant Stucki Bruderholz prides itself on 17 points in the Gault-Millau guide and two Michelin stars. Sadly, such a renowned meal requires gourmets to cough up over 60 CHF for a main course. So let's hope that you have a very generous expat salary!
You can discover more about the fantastic cuisine in Switzerland in our article on the culinary traditions of Switzerland.
Of course, you'll need to burn those newly acquired calories from Swiss chocolates and fine wines. On hot summer days, you could imitate the famous Rheinschwimmen and go for a swim in the river yourself. However, this is not entirely risk-free. Experienced swimmers living in Basel know that you should always enquire about current conditions (e.g. entry and exit points, strong currents, and other hazards). You'll be on the safer side if you just bathe in the sun and cool your feet in the Rhine.
As an alternative to swimming, a hiking trip in the nearby Jura Mountains is a great option. Situated less than an hour from Basel, the region boasts nature reserves, opportunities for mountain-biking, kayaking, and canoeing, as well as the beautiful Three Lakes area. Outdoor enthusiasts will love it.
Last but certainly not least, all expats living in Basel should seize the opportunity and watch the Basler Fasnacht. Not to be confused with boisterous Mardi gras or the more garish carnival of Cologne, this historical carnival celebration is a custom to remember.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.