One of my favourite things about this time of year is making a visit to one of Europe’s beautiful Christmas Markets. Each year I try and visit at least one destination, sometimes more. Having previously visited markets in Germany, Croatia, Spain and Sweden, I decided on the Basel Christmas Markets for this year’s trip.
Basel Christmas Markets
I had been to Basel before, a few years ago on a work trip and remembered it to be a very beautiful Swiss city, located on the banks of the Rhine, and very close to the borders with France and Germany. I did some research before booking and when I found out that Basel has the largest Christmas Market in Switzerland I was sold.
Rather than my usual day trip consisting of an early flight out and a late flight back the same day, I decided to book an early morning flight out on a Saturday, stay the night, and then travel home on the Sunday afternoon.
We had booked the early morning easyJet flight out of Gatwick Airport and arrived in Basel just before 11am. (British Airways also fly to Basel from Heathrow). On arrival we each purchased a day pass for all the trams and buses in the city, including the trip from the airport, and at 9 Swiss Francs each this was good value. The buses run every 10-15 minutes from the airport to the main train station, and the journey takes about 20 minutes. On arrival outside the train station we found so many tram platforms, but after looking at the tram map we found the one we needed to get us to our hotel. The tram took us through the old part of the city and across the river, to a more modern district where are our hotel was located.
We had booked to stay in the Pullman Europe Basel Hotel, and when we checked in we were all given a complimentary transport pass for the buses and trams for our entire stay. So I would recommend checking with whatever hotel you book to see what extras are included. We checked in around midday, and as only one of the two rooms was ready, we just left our luggage in this room and headed out to find the markets.
We could have taken the tram to the markets, but as the hotel receptionist told us that the markets were only a 15 minute walk from the hotel we decided to walk and take in the sights of Basel. The markets are mainly in two areas; Munsterplatz and Burfusserplatz. From the direction we were walking we arrived at Munsterplatz first. This was the smaller of the two squares, and very picturesque. The market was laid out with rows of beautiful rustic wooden stalls, selling everything from Christmas decorations and festive treats to jewellery and candles, not to mention all the stools selling gluhwein, bratwurst and also potato pancakes.
Part of the fun of exploring these markets is to try out all the food, accompanied with gluhwein, of course! We spent a couple of hours, sampling food and drink products, and also buying small gifts and mementos to take home. Once we had visited all the stalls in this area we made our way to Burfusserplatz to see the rest of the markets. The route was easy, and we just followed the lights, decorations and Christmas trees! It was also signposted – just in case!
Burfusserplatz has a market that is about twice the size of the first. As well as the main market area in the square, it continues up a few streets just off the square. Here there were so many other food items to try, such as cured meats and liqueur drinks. We also found a stall making rustic pizzas and another selling crepes. After a few hours of looking around we decided to head back to the hotel for a rest, and to get ready for dinner.
Later that evening we returned to the old part of the city, passing through the bustling markets which were still open, and a lot busier than earlier. I don’t know if we were looking in the wrong places but we did struggle to find somewhere for dinner. We were looking for a local place to sample some traditional food, but all we could seem to find were more mainstream chain restaurants, along with many bars.
Basel Christmas Markets by Night!
A bit tired from looking around, we settled for an Italian restaurant. The blankets on the chairs outside looked very appealing, so we decided to sit outside wrapped up in these blankets to eat our dinner. I wasn’t overly hungry after all the potato pancakes and bratwurst during the day so I just opted for the seafood risotto, which was delicious! Dinner was a bit hurried as the cold had got to us a bit, so we ate up and made our way back to the hotel for a drink or two, in the warmth of our hotel.
The next day we checked out late morning and left our bags with the concierge before heading back towards the markets. We opted not to have breakfast at the hotel as we thought it would be more fun to eat at the market. We found the place that we had seen the day before that made the rustic pizzas, and ordered one each for breakfast, followed by a crepe.
After a last look around the Basel Christmas Markets we had about an hour before we needed to go and collect our bags, so we decided to get some lunch in the Christmas Bistro that we had come across earlier that day. The place was decorated like a Christmas grotto, with decorations and toys all around. We all ordered a bratwurst and potato pancake covered in onion gravy and served in a hot skillet… delicious!
We didn’t have a lot of time left so we hurried back to the hotel to get our bags and left for the airport to catch our flight home. The Basel Christmas markets were some of the prettiest I have visited, and I think the only thing that could have made it better would have been snow – but you can’t have everything I suppose!
If you’re not already feeling festive, I hope this has got everyone in the mood, and I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.