our special correspondent in Basel

The Rhine river runs through Basel, and slice the city in the bright, with the assurance of a strength and majestic. On the left bank, the historic city, its small palaces, its shopping streets, its charming swiss taste of eternity. Right bank, the Petit-Basel and its neighbourhoods most popular – all proportions kept – where are mixing a population more varied. The sunrise, seen from the quays, on whatever side, is a wonder. The bridges wrapped in a mist of freezing winter draw their silhouette against the light of the rising sun. A striking entrance when you arrive in Basel, it is the silence. Not that the city is asleep, but the cars are banned from the centre and held at a distance. With severity. In Switzerland, there is neither doing nor exception in order to escape the rules. It is horribly frowned upon.

Three places to a market

With trams that glide like swans on the water, we hear little more than the hiss of bicycles and cries of children. The city whitecaps from hill to hill in an urbanization of small houses, very “art nouveau”, places where flow sometimes fountains and pedestrian streets lined with boutiques opulent. Because this city on the rhine with a population of 200,000, enriched by the pharmaceutical industry, experienced its golden age with prosperity inversely proportional to its unemployment rate (around 3.5 %). The Dreiländereck, a sort of check-point basel, the yacht harbour, it was founded on two countries, Germany and France. Two trams (the number 8 to Weil am Rhein, and the number 3 up to Saint-Louis in Alsace), you pass a border almost invisible. A curiosity that has something to promote exchanges. Especially around the cultural offering exceptional.

The second Christmas market around the cathedral, on the Münsterplatz. Basel Tourismus

Because this is still something amazing that these forty museums for a medium-sized city, including three behemoths, the Kunstmuseum, Fondation Beyeler and the Tinguely Museum, institutions that reign over the world of the arts. A tradition of patronage, the centuries-old, grease the inner workings of a local society that frames a rich bourgeoisie protestant whose discreet generosity, the origin of the art collections and the creation of museums, is the first commandment. No wonder, therefore, that the feasts of Christmas and year-end spend, beyond the symbol, an art of living that is unique in Europe.

The Christmas market in Basel is presented as the largest in Switzerland. And one of the most beautiful. Declined in three places of the city, it brings together over 180 chalets, but here each one has its architecture and external decoration, sometimes a nothing extravagant, nothing to do with our huts in france that are all alike. The most impressive one is the one who stands on the Barfüsserplatz in the heart of the city, connecting the shopping streets. It shines on all the neighbouring arteries lined these cottages occupied mostly by artisans. Those of the trades of mouth are many, declining some local specialties such as anise bread (Anisbrötli) or Mödeli, of the mussels, which, since the Fourteenth century, decorate the pastries of Christmas. The second market, smaller, is located around the cathedral, on the Münsterplatz, lovely esplanade lined with old mansions of which the end offers a terrace dizzying on the Rhine. Sausages, mulled wine and beers are standing around pedestal tables against which we will accoude, or the avachit, depending on the time of the evening.

The cathedral of Basel by the Rhine. Nicolas Glauser

The third position of the market on the Petersplatz, stuffed with a bucolic charm, close to the botanical gardens and the university. Another place brings its share of wonder: shop Christmas decorations, Johann Wanner (Spalenberg 14). Its facade gleaming hides a maze of rooms behind the shop in which twinkle of Christmas balls, hand-decorated, garlands and advent calendars in a feasting of colors. Known in the world, the store provides the White House and Buckingham palace.

Basel, Christmas overflows also in the streets and alleys of the old town, very postcard, with numerous concerts and choirs, pounding the pavement. The St. Jakobshalle is being held this year for the first time the festival of military music, the Christmas Tattoo (from 14 to 16 December). In the Small-Basel, that other district, right bank, more mixed, younger and more plugged in, extend the Klybeck and its spots alternative, a burning flame of the animation of Christmas is created with bars and ephemeral, adding a touch of classical to this time of celebration that attracts every year in Basel nearly 1 million visitors.

With trams that glide like swans on the water, we hear little more than the hiss of bicycles and cries of children

Basel is deserving of its title as the cultural capital of Switzerland. And, for the festivals, major exhibitions are on the program. The fair of Art Basel, the largest global art market, founded in 1970 by three gallery owners from basel, Ernst Beyeler in mind, says the eyes of the world to the artistic vocation of the city. Three important places of exposure are unavoidable. The famous Fondation Beyeler, one of the “museums” of art most visited in Switzerland (500.000 visitors in 2017), which is located a little bit outside of the city, has until January 1, a major retrospective devoted to Balthus (1908-2001). The family of the artist and the national Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza of Madrid, went there of their loans, which gives the exhibition its wealth (until January 1, 2019).

At the Kunstmuseum, it is the swiss artist Johann Füssli (1741-1825), the great painter of the works of shakespeare that the English love, which is presented in an impressive monograph. More than 70 works, from prestigious Tate London, of the New York Met or the Louvre, among other institutions, show the work of this artist, also known as the pioneer of romanticism in black (Gothic Horror). The museography rather daring, in fact, such as the breath at the heart of the course, a video installation, contemporary echo in the work of Füssli.

It is in the new wing of the museum opened recently, the Neubau, is presented the exhibition (until 10 February 2019). The opportunity also to extend his visit in the rest of the museum. His art collection to the stunning world-renowned masterpieces to universal: The dead Christ in the tomb, , of Holbein, of which talks about Dostoevsky in The Idiot (the work had impressed him during his visit to Bale), a moving self-Portrait of Van Gogh , or The Bride of the wind , one of the most beautiful paintings of Kokoschka. The art is in Basel this everywhere. Where we least expect it, like at the Grand Hotel of the Three Kings, the establishment iconic hotel, the swiss, who delivered it to the imagination of young schoolchildren, the body paint of his Bentley. Creating in the same spirit of artistic the first luxury limousine of street art!

roadmap

GO With the TGV Lyria, 3 hours from Paris with a stop in Dijon. On board, a Business class and a catering service, instead of good quality. Read side, the distribution of many newspapers and magazines, including Le Figaro . From € 57. Six round trips per day. www.tgv-lyria.com

The Grand Hotel of the Three Kings. Ben Koechlin

SLEEP Without any hesitation, choose the Grand Hotel des Trois Rois (photo), in the old town. This institution’s iconic 101 rooms, high at the edge of the Rhine, in 1844, was counted as famous clients Richard Wagner and Pablo Picasso. Walls to be lined in a sumptuous damask silk, furniture and old paintings make the rooms at the top of the excellence. The table, The White Horse, by Peter Knogl has been rewarded three Michelin stars. For the year-end holiday season, a package “Magic Christmas”: 1 night and breakfast, VIP support at the Christmas market, sampling mulled wine, 710 CHF (626 €) for two people. Blumenrain, no. 8 (Tel.: 00 41 61 260 50 50, and www.lestroisrois.com). Rates from 550 to 780 CHF (485 688 €) out-of-plan.

TABLE On the Rheingasse (no. 12), the artery that runs along the Rhine, the Krafft Basel is a table zen with a generous cuisine very healthy (soups, vegetables and steamed fish) in a decorative Art and Craft. (Tel.: 00 41 61 6090 91 30 ; www.krafftbasel.ch). Around 50 CHF (44 €). Close to the train station on the Brunngässlein no. 8, Nomad Eatery & Bar is a kind of restaurant lounge a nothing plugged in a superb decor to raw concrete, brasserie (Tel.: 00 41 61 690 91 60 ; www.nomad.ch). Around CHF 40 (35 €).

DRINK We see Single by far, although it is in a small alley in the city centre (Gerbergässlein no. 20), as this trendy bar, well-known by the nightlife scene in basel, is facing a fresco of street art, rather colorful. Excellent cocktails and music rock’n’roll of the highest quality.

COUP DE COEUR For the centre aqualudique Aquabalisea (Hardstrasse no. 57), wellness centre, swimming pools, giant, rivers artificial water-bar, sauna and spa. The care of the steam room with golf and massage in a dedicated space, more real than nature, is alone worth the detour. A good half-hour by tram (no. 14) the city centre. (Tel.: 00 41 61 826 24 24, and www.aquabasilea.ch).

GOOD PLAN booking a hotel for the night in any hotel in Basel gives access to the Basel Card, which allows free access to transportand to museums, in particular.

FLAT It is on the border with France, but the French language is used very little in Basel (for the benefit of the German) including the cartels of the museums where exhibitions.

LEARN www.suisse.com and www.basel.com

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