On the banks of the Rhine, where the Swiss, French, and German borders meet, Basel shines as a world class capital of art. Among its 30-plus museums are the impressive Kunstmuseum of fine art, the Museum Tinguely with its playful mechanized sculptures, and the Fondation Beyeler’s superb 20th-century art collection in a Renzo Piano-designed building.
Every June, this pocket-size city hosts Art Basel, the world’s leading international art show for modern and contemporary works. Bringing together painting and drawing, sculptures, installations, photography, videos, and multimedia works, nearly 300 galleries display works be more than 2,300 artists—from the great masters of modern art to the latest emerging stars. Beyond the main event, culture vultures canvas the town for smaller exhibitions, film screenings, concerts, and parties during this art-rich week. Book your hotel well in advance or consider finding lodging an hour away by train in Zurich, whose own cultural delights make the option an appealing one.
Art lovers are naturally drawn to Der Teufelhof Basel, whose minimalist guest rooms (nine in the Art Hotel, 24 in the adjoining Gallery Hotel) are regularly redecorated by different Swiss artists, and exhibitions feature contemporary artists in the wine cellar and medieval finds in the archaeological cellar. The gracious, riverside Hotel Krafft has the medieval Old Town at its doorstep and 45 spacious and simply furnished rooms, many with river views.
Epicureans have long revered Restaurant Stucki, Bruderholz, whose erstwhile master chef, Hans Stucki, was one of Switzerland’s culinary giants until his premature death in 1998. Today, the trailblazing restaurant continues to hit new heights under chef/owner Tanja Grandits—a rising star in the culinary world. The décor, mood, and menu have lightened up, but the culinarystyle remains assertive: Grandits applies a hint of the exotic to regional ingredients, earning her food the label “Filigree Art.” For a great simple meal—fondue, sliced veal with rosti (hash browns)—the Lowenzorn’s snug, wood-paneled rooms and airy courtyard feel part bistro and part beer hall, and all wonderfully convivial.
WHERE : 53 miles/86 km northwest of Zurich.
BEST TIMES :Late Feb or early Mar for Fasnacht carnival-like festival (begins Mon after Ash Wednesday); mid-Jun for Art Basel.