Living in Basel?

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Living in Basel

Expats living in Basel enjoy numerous amenities and an above-average quality of life. They profit from cultural and outdoor activities, as well as a great infrastructure for all areas of daily life. The InterNations guide to Basel introduces leisure, healthcare, schools, and local transportation in the region.

At a Glance:

  • Basel is a city of arts and culture. With over 30 museums and a number of different musical ensembles, the city has a lot to offer in terms of history, art, and classical music.
  • The city also has numerous bars, restaurants, and clubs. If you want to truly experience Basel as a local, try taking part in the annual Rheinschwimmen or take the opportunity to enjoy the Basler Fasnacht.
  • In Basel, as in the rest of Switzerland, you have to fund your own health insurance. No insurance can refuse you a basic healthcare plan, however, if you want more comprehensive cover, you can be declined based on pre-existing conditions.
  • Basel has a number of different healthcare facilities providing numerous services, from the Notfallapotheke, and hospitals specializing in a variety of fields, to the international patient service at Basel’s University Hospital.
  • Education in Basel is compulsory for children from the age of four to 15: children attend two years of Kindergarten, six years of primary school, and three years of secondary school.

An Excellent Quality of Life

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. In the 2017 Mercer study, Basel was ranked in the top ten cities in the world for quality of life. Based on factors such as crime, political stability, personal freedom, public services, education, and housing, residents in the city have a lot to be happy about.

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. This 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. The only downside that comes with the high quality of life in Basel  is the property prices.

The City of Arts and Culture

Once you have had the chance to recover from your journey and settle into your new 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. Highlights include 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. The Foundation Beyeler houses works from Miro, Monet, and Picasso, to name but a few. The building itself was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.

If you prefer the performing arts, you’re in luck — ensembles like the Basel Symphony Orchestra and the Basel Chamber Orchestra uphold the city's strong tradition of classical music. However, the city’s music scene also caters to more specific interests. Concerts by the Basel Bach Choir or regular performances of medieval and renaissance music are only two examples of the variety Basel has to offer.

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.

There’s More: Nightlife and Cuisine

Of course, Basel has more than “just” art and culture to offer. If you’re on the lookout for the local and alternative nightlife, take a stroll down the streets of Klein-Basel, where you’ll find many bars, pubs, and live music clubs. Other night life scenes in the city include Steinvorstadt street, which is home to a number of restaurants and cinemas, or the areas around Barfüsserplatz and Klosterberg, which are great for bar hopping.

During the day, you can treat yourself to some chocolates or cakes at the Confiserie Braendli, or hunt for some tasty souvenirs at the Laeckerei Huus. This pastry company offers delicacies like the typical Basler Laeckerli (spice biscuits) or Rahmtaefeli (fudge).

If your budget allows for it, you might want to try some of Switzerland's haute cuisine. The restaurant Stucki Bruderholz prides itself on 18 points in the Gault-Millau guide and two Michelin stars. Of course, the restaurant’s prestige and world renowned reputation comes at a price, don’t seem too shocked when the bill arrives — a main course alone is likely to cost over 60 CHF. 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.

Want to Go Outside?

After sampling all that Swiss cuisine has to offer, you’ll need to burn off some of the calories you have acquired. On hot summer days, you could imitate the famous Rheinschwimmen, an event held once a year in August, where the city comes together to swim and relax by the river. 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, water temperature, and other hazards). Its best to be on the safe side and 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 — perfect for any outdoor enthusiasts.

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 carnival of Cologne, this historical carnival celebration is a custom to remember. The festival begins at 4:00 on the Monday following Ash Wednesday and continues until the early hours of the following Thursday. Festivities involve parades of fifers and drummers dressed in traditional costumes and masks, as well as singing and lots of celebrating.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

Andrey Vasilyev

"I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides."

Elin Gustavson

"At the first InterNations event that I attended, I met my wonderful partner. We now live together in a flat next to the Limmat."

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