Basel is an underrated travel destination, yet there is plenty to recommend about Switzerland’s third most populous city. On the Rhine River at the tri-point of Switzerland, Germany and France, this pocket-sized town is effortlessly cool and sophisticated, and one of the most culturally rich places in Europe. From Kleinbasel on the east bank to the medieval Old Town and Grossbasel in the south, it’s an eclectic melting pot of fashion, food, music and design.
The city also packs an artistic punch. Its 37 square kilometres contain a remarkable 40 museums – a cultural concentration that few cities in Europe can rival. In the city centre, the Kunstmusuem Basel houses one of the most significant fine art collections in the world. This includes 4,000 paintings and sculptures from the 15th century to the present day. Its new state-of-the-art wing opened in April last year. In Riehen, on the outskirts of Basel, the Fondation Beyeler, a world-class 20th century modern art gallery houses a permanent collection that includes Rothko, Kandinsky and Van Gogh, is celebrating 20 years.
Jordan Casteel, Twins, 2017
Courtesy of the artist and the gallery
Its biggest ‘museum’ though, is undeniably Art Basel. Now in its 48th edition, it’s the most important event on the international art calendar, attracting art collectors and curators, the jet set and more than 4,000 artists from the world’s leading 291 international galleries.
On show will be a mix of modern and contemporary painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, photography and video works including important multimedia works by renowned South Korean artist, Nam June Paik, a new ‘atmospheric’ installation by Guan Xiao and rare Max Beckmann prints from the 1910s and 1920s.
Serious art collectors, museum directors and curators, art advisors can apply for the highly coveted VIP card and even rarer First Choice VIP, exclusive access cards that provide plus-one entry to invite-only premier events such as The Art Basel Champagne Breakfast in the Rundhof. Cardholders can relax during the event at the Collectors Lounge. The VIP card also gives holders free admission to Basel art museums.
For downtime, Hotel Les Trois Rois is an elegant spot for sunset drinks overlooking the Rhine River. It’s also where Restaurant Cheval Blanc, a Michelin three-star restaurant can be found. Rubino Restaurant, close to Kunstmuseum Basel, is an elegant neighbourhood bistro with seasonal and organic produce, a ‘surprise’ five-course degustation menu and local wines.