One of Switzerland’s national dishes, cheese fondue is a decadent, hearty meal best served with a glass of white wine
A charming city split down the middle by the beautiful Rhine River, Basel is one of the oldest cities in Switzerland, as well as one of the country’s most culturally and historically rich. It is a wonderful labyrinth of architectural allure with buildings, churches and castles dating back to the Renaissance, as well as the impressive 15th-century Old Town. Aside from its beauty, it’s an important culture and business hub. It’s home to the annual Baselworld watch and jewelry exhibition, the globally renowned Art Basel fair and a host of pharmaceutical companies and banks. If traveling on business, be sure to extend your trip to enjoy the city’s riches. There is never a dull moment for lovers of the arts, as the small city lays claim to more than 40 museums, one of the oldest clock towers and amazing theaters. The nearly 150-year-old Basel Zoo — home to an advanced breeding program and active in worldwide conservation — is bound to fascinate nature lovers, not only because of its grand wildlife, but also for the aquarium and the Basel Zoological Garden. For hikers, Basel is the one city where you can travel to the three-country corner where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. When you find the exact location, straddle your feet and put one hand down to the ground, and you can safely say you are in all three countries at once.
Innocenz Weiss, who famously served beer there. At the time, beer was only served at a brewery, so a local paper said that drinking beer anywhere else was like drinking poison ( gift in German). The good-humored Weiss renamed it Gifthüttli, meaning poison pub. The menu has everything from deep-fried cordon bleu (delicious) to traditional, and somewhat unusual, combinations such as calf liver and raspberry dressing. gifthuettli.ch Schloss Binningen Schloss Binningen, located just out of town, is a castle-hotel and restaurant with a storied past. It was first mentioned in 1299 as a castle with a moat, and in the 14th century it was nearly destroyed by two earthquakes, but it was reconstructed in the 15th century. Over the years, it served as an important military and political stop. Today, the stately manor house has a wonderful restaurant, also named Schloss Binningen, that serves the finest traditional French cuisine in the region, as well as local favorites. Dinner here will truly transport you to another era as you sit within its ancient stone walls. Head chef Thierry Fischer’s “Castle Menu” takes you on a gastronomic journey through the region. If you are lucky enough to go in spring or summer, you may be able to dine on the outside terrace. schlossbinningen.ch
Elsbethenstübli When in Switzerland, fondue is an absolute must, and Basel has one of the best fondue restaurants in the land: Restaurant Elsbethenstübli. A small restaurant not far from the Fine Arts Museum, the more than 60-year-old restaurant remains family run, and the charming owners of the cozy spot have a wonderful way of making you feel right at home. While it serves some local dishes such as Wienerschnitzel, it is renowned for its secret cheese-fondue recipe. Be sure to bring your appetite and eat like the Swiss: start with a salad for better digestion, drink white wine instead of water and leave a little room for dessert. We recommend the lemon sorbet topped with vodka, but most visitors are partial to the parfait made with local Basler Läckerli, a biscuit made of honey and nuts, Veal is a famous dish in Basel, and if you have an affinity for the local veal cordon bleu — here, it is a pub specialty — head to Gifthüttli in Old Town. It has a wood-paneled bar on the first floor and dining room upstairs, both full of decorative vases, statues and objects with old-world appeal. Even the wooden beams feature carved faces that are said to protect diners. Originally called Zum Ritter St Georg, it was built in the late 1890s by and whipped cream. elsbethenstuebli.ch Gifthüttli