20 Jun 2019

Basel, Switzerland (March 2019)

10 minutes ago Ryan said, ‘You’ve still got that Vego chocolate bar in the fridge,’ and I squealed, because I forgot all about it. I thought I ate it ages ago, as soon as Lent was over. My friend Grace gave it to me on the plane back from Basel in March, three months ago. I saved it. Vego is a vegan chocolate brand. Grace is vegan. I went to Basel in Switzerland with her. 

Yes. I went to Switzerland, the land of cheese and chocolate, with a vegan*.

Grace and I have been friends for about five years. I spotted her on Facebook and Twitter after Ryan’s brother commented on her public posts. I say ‘her’, but they were written by her mum who was updating their friends and family while Grace was having a brain tumour removed.

Very dramatic. And we all know I love the drama. We had to be friends.

Skip forward to last year and Grace was having surgery again. I told her that once she was recovering from it, we’d book a city break away. Anywhere. Her choice. And we did! She chose Basel as her parents had been, and I hadn’t been to Switzerland so that suited my map-scratching needs. Basel it was.

Switzerland is expensive. Like, fuck me. EXPENSIVE. We decided to just go Friday to Sunday in March. It’s a small city so totally doable in that time. The flights were super reasonable with EasyJet, but we needed to sell a kidney each to stay in a hotel and, not being funny, Grace cannot afford to lose a kidney. Line drawn. So we found a cute Airbnb near Basel SBB train station. 

When you fly to Basel, you fly into France. It’s great. I love shit like that. Basel is on the very tip of Switzerland, just where it borders with France and Germany. More on that later.

EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is in France and when you leave, you have to make sure you choose the right exit: into France, Germany, or Switzerland. There are just little flags above each door. Like it’s the most chill and normal thing. Brilliant. 

Getting to the city of Basel is easy. You get the 50 bus from outside (the right side of) the airport for CHF4.70 one way, and it takes 15 minutes.

Once we’d dumped our stuff and nosied around the flat, we went wandering to the river. We sat by the river eating too-expensive-chips and too-expensive-wine, before figuring we were super tired so bought some bread, fruit, crisps, dip, and… more bread from a shop to eat on the balcony back at the flat. We watched the Swiss sunset and gossiped for hours, living our best lives with our bread and more bread.

Eating in Basel was a pain in the arse for two reasons: finding suitable vegan places isn’t easy, and everywhere is SO EXPENSIVE, HAVE I MENTIONED. So for our first dinner, we went to Markthalle, a huge market hall full of street food vendors and bars. It was bloody perfect, though bloody busy. You could get any type of food you liked at a reasonable price. Bliss. It was like London’s Borough Market but with less rubbish and more benches. 

We then splashed out ever so slightly at Soho, a bar in the mini theatre district of Basel. We had one drink then crashed back at the flat. 

I had a plan for the Saturday for us to walk to Three Countries Corner, the very tip of Basel where the borders meet. You could skip from Switzerland to Germany to France within the same 30 seconds. But the walk was going to take about an hour and it was warm, so we scheduled in stops to be sensible.

First up: Basel Minster. A lovely cathedral in the main square which charges CHF5 for you to walk up to the very top. Ah, views. Lovely, Instagram views. What we didn’t know was that the journey up to the top wouldn’t pass a health and safety check from the guy leading the safety test at Chernobyl. It was hell. Narrow staircases, no light, no rope, squeezing around corners with no barriers, bending around the cathedral bell. I’m not claustrophobic but no, never again. 

Obviously, the views were worth it.

After dicing with death, we began our long walk along the river, stopping off at Grace’s very own boat and then a cafe called myyDing. I wrote my nan’s postcard, Grace had a coffee, and I had her free biscuit because FREE. The best thing about Basel were all the water fountains dotted around the city. Also free.

We thought there might be some cool bars open along the river where we could stop at have lunch once we got to Three Countries Corner, but as were out there off season, everywhere was closed. E v e r y w h e r e. We ended up grumpy toddlers by the time we got there and had to share a cereal bar Grace had stashed at the bottom of her bag. 

That was also worth it though because, y’know, THREE COUNTRIES ALL AT ONCE.

Germany to the right, France to the left, standing in Switzerland 

We stopped off for more chips and wine on the long walk home, before I dashed off to Läderach to buy some Swiss chocolate for back home (honestly, being in a Swiss chocolate shop during Lent is actual torture) while Grace dashed off to the Airbnb because she needed a poo. 

Only go on holiday with people you can talk about poo with, otherwise it’s not worth it.

I had to buy a slab of Basler Läckerli - chocolate with bits of spiced biscuits made from honey, hazelnuts, almonds, candied peel, and Kirsch scattered in it. A Basel special. 

Grace found a veggie/vegan buffet restaurant for that evening where you pay based on the weight of your plate. It was a great shout. Grace did end up slightly ill after accidentally eating dairy (they hadn’t labelled dishes correctly…) but the concept was great…

To soothe Grace, we brought her home. To an Irish pub, for some strong whisky. I mostly stared at her for a bit as she had a distressed ‘Am-I-going-to-shit-myself-or-no’  look plastered on her face, and I tried to hide from a super keen French woman who wanted to be my friend and I was being very British about it.

The next day, we started the day with some people watching outside the cafe at the Elisabethen church before walking to Wettsteinbrücke for some views. As we walked over the bridge, we started to hear a distant band. They got louder and louder, and suddenly appeared with hoards of people following them. We saw them again and again throughout the day, and didn’t find out until later that for the four Sundays after the Carnival of Basel, the bands come back out to play around the city. It was so great! We missed the carnival but still got a taste of it.

Early afternoon, we went on a free walking tour around the city. Our group of about 20 was made up of people from around the world, who were all in Basel for different reasons. Some were alone and had just moved to Basel from another country, some were visiting friends, some were on a football trip, and some were on a city break like us. Basel isn’t necessarily a place full of holiday-makers, which made finding out people’s reasons for being there more interesting. 

Before going back to the airport, we went to Stripped Pizza for dinner and sat outside on the crossroads with our wine. It was pretty perfect for a last meal.

Then we were back on the plane, and I was holding the chocolate bar I wouldn’t eat until three months later. 

Basel is a very cute, very pretty city. There isn’t heaps to do, unless you love museums (there are 40 packed into the little city), tiny death trap cathedral towers, or spending money. But it was perfect for some exploring over a long weekend, with a pal who’d been through a lot. Highly recommend.

*This is a running joke, please don’t come at me. 


  1. Nice Blog! Basel holds the real beauty! I always wanted to visit the land at least once in my lifetime. I am all set to head to Swiss this winter. All I need is my Switzerland visa UK.

  2. Hi Lousie! I love your writing styles & reading your work. It seems you had a wonderful time discovering the colors of captivating Switzerland. I applied for Switzerland Schengen Visa yesterday & planning a trip to Zurich with my spouse. Could you please suggest some best places to visit in Zurich & other nearby Swiss cities to visit?