Hi - we just booked a river cruise out of Basel for next December. Air will be booked through the cruise line. I assume we will arrive on a Friday morning. We check in to the hotel and the rest of the day is on our own. Saturday morning we will have a walking tour of Basel, with Saturday afternoon on our own. Sunday is also on our own, but we will need to transfer to the cruise ship at some point in time. We are looking for recommendations of what to do with our free time. We are not interested in skiing. We are in our mid-50's and early 60's. Is there enough time / is it worth it to take a train or some other transportation to see other areas?
Since you'll be doing a tour of Basel, I would suggest a train trip to Bern (just over an hour) or Colmar, France (45 mins). Both cities are at the top of my list for when I eventually make it to Switzerland. You could do a quick Google search or watch some vides on You Tube to see if either would interest you.
While the train from Basel to Colmar does only take 45 minutes, and Colmar is a good place to visit, that same train makes two more stops and gets to Strasbourg in only 1:18 from Basel. The Strasbourg Christmas Market is world famous.
It is all what you will want to see, and perhaps if your boat makes a stop for Strasbourg or Colmar.
There's a good chance that the river cruise already stops in Colmar, or Strasbourg, or both. Sure it wont be long enough in either place, but there are plenty of other worthwhile places in Switzerland to see. Luzern would be my first choice, maybe Stein-am-Rhein, or the Rheinfalls near Schaffhausen.
Yes, we stop in Strasbourg after Breisach
Train from Basel to Luzern is around 1.5 hours, and as you walk out of the main station (hauptbahnhof) you will be looking at beautiful riverfront, lake surrounded by mountains and the center of a great place to visit.
Stan, this visit will be in December. Does Luzern have a Christmas market or other seasonal-themed event or attraction? I was there in January years ago, and the lake, river, and sky were a monochromatic grey, not especially scenic. But of course they could get lucky and arrive on a fine day such as you describe.
My first thought was of Colmar, like Nigel’s. We spent a night in Basel and 2 in Colmar recently, in summer, and thoroughly enjoyed both. The half-timbered houses of Little Venice are a delight, and would still be so on a cloudy grey day. And if there is a Christmas market, all the better.
I don’t think it would be redundant to the stop in Strasbourg by the cruise ship.
Lola, I dont know about a Christmas market in Luzern so that's a good question. I guess you're always at the mercy of the weather in Switzerland, but if its a day trip situation, you can always decide at the last minute where to go based on the weather report.
I've been to Colmar and Strasbourg each twice. I'd much prefer Colmar for a day trip visit. My Viking Rhine cruise visited both.
Stan, I’m almost positive we stopped in Colmar on our first Viking Rhine cruise, but I can’t tell for sure from my pictures. This is the same cruise, perhaps with some different stops. I’m most excited to visit the Christmas markets.
I assume you will be flying into Zurich, and taking the train to Basel? Zurich's main train station has the largest indoor xmas market in Europe. And- the Swiss train system is exceptional in efficiency, dependability, and availability.
Basel has two main xmas markets, and Bern has several.
Luzern's markets are smaller, and seem to start later in December. However, Luzern is charming, and worth the visit. On Saturdays, there's a regular year-round Farmers' Market. You can take an hour boat ride from Luzern to Vitznau, where the cogwheel train climbs to the top of Mt Rigi. We went on a cloudy day, but the hills were still very green, and when we rose above the clouds on Mt. Rigi, the views were spectacular! It was dark when we returned to Luzern via the boat, and the reflections of the lights on the water were beautiful.
Strasbourg is magical at xmas, and I sure hope you're there in the evening, when the decorations and lights are fantastic!
We were there Dec 2019, and it was a memorable trip. Good luck, and I wish you safe -and healthy- travels!
I frankly don't think you would have enough time to do anything but enjoy the quaintness of Basel and collect yourselves for the cruise. You could do a day trip to Zurich, but you need to investigate what will be open on a Sunday. Consider hiring a private tour guide with transportation. This will maximize your time.
What I enjoyed about Switzerland, and expect you to find this in Basel-- the exchange rate was commensurate to the dollar. Authentic Swiss Army knives for gifts. Great shopping at Globus. Amazing fondue. Make reservations because if there is a Christmas market post covid-- any restuarant will be jammed and booked solid!
Sometimes it's nice to just enjoy where you are without having to do something. I feel there is enough to do in Basel to be a local and enjoy the town without worrying about time and deadlines.
We ended a cruise in Basel staying a couple of extra days on our own plus the cruise included a day trip to Lucerne which we loved. Happy to be going back on a different tour next year. If you've never been then it might be the best choice. Very nice walkable town and as someone said the train station is right where you want to be.
If you decide to hang in Basel they are one of the Swiss towns that give tourists a free pass for all public transport. Excellent tram system that we used extensively. Just ask the hotel concierge or front desk for your pass.
Remember on Sunday not much is open in European towns except museums and restaurants. Plus I assume the Christmas markets.
I can vouch for Bern, Colmar, Luzern and Zurich. Pick one and go Saturday after your walking tour.
Thank you for all the recommendations. We will have time in Colmar and Strasbourg on the cruise, so we’ll either pick another destination or just hang in Basel as some suggested. Good to know many things are closed Sunday - we’ll make sure to maximize our time Friday and Saturday.