I have been living in Basel now for 5 years and have a pretty good overview what is what in this beautiful and very cultural city of Basel and what are pros and cons of living in Basel. I am personally coming from a smaller city of 60 000 people, so Basel size for me is perfect, but in my list of cons I mention that it can be too small for some big city life people, so just be aware: the size of Basel can be a huge pro or a huge con depending what kind of lifestyle you like.
Basel is number 3 city by population in Switzerland and has over 170 000 inhabitants and is constantly growing, the only two bigger cities are Zürich and Geneva. Basel is very well connected to the rest of Switzerland, Europe and the whole world as it has amazing train connections, great roads and a very comfortable Airport just 10 minutes away from the city center.
So let us dive in and have a look at pros and cons of Basel and how is life overall in this capital of museums in Switzerland.
Pros and cons of living in Basel
Switzerland overall has pretty much the best salaries in the world with some exceptions of small countries like Monaco or Liechtenstein. Switzerland calculate salary averages for different markets (IT people, scientists, plumbers, cleaners, drivers and so on), but the overall average salary in Switzerland is around 4500 CHF (after taxes). That is around 4000 euros. That is huge, because for example in Germany average salary is around 2400 euros, in France around 2200 euros and pretty much just Norway or Denmark can offer something similar like in Switzerland.
What is good about Basel, that it is not some isolated small city with huge gap of salaries comparing to big cities like Zürich or Geneva. In Basel you can get a very decent salary for your job.
Basel is a home for a very huge and powerful pharma companies as Novartis and Roche. Only these two companies make city popular and vibrant with very high end professionals as chemists, physic geniuses, IT people and so on. All of this lifts up the whole city level of salaries alone.
If you are moving to Basel, you should really expect to get the average salary of Switzerland and even more if you are good in your job. You can really earn good money and establish a nice life in Basel.
Basel is very clean
Basel and Switzerland overall is a very clean place and you really start to appreciate it. The posters in whole city encourages people to use the big trash bins next to river or city center. The paper bags for your dog poop you will find all around the city and even outside the city in the woods or fields.
Basel city is cleaned every early morning and they keep the highest standard of cleanliness in the city all year long (it can be only a bit dirty after Fasnacht celebration, but it is fun dirty).
You can always expect all walking and hiking paths to be very well maintained, all streets clean and no garbage lying around for days. Basel is very very clean.
Rhein river fun
Once you are in Basel, you must go by the river. Basel has the longest river in Switzerland – Rhein. It comes straight from the Swiss Alps and it is clean as it can be.
In the summer time you can find many small bars next to the river where you can get some bear or wine and some delicious snacks. It has plenty of places to sit by and you will see huge crowds gathered there every day. You can barbeque next to the river, you can sunbath (sunbathing is popular next to Wettsteinbrücke and up to Tinguely Museum), you can drink beer (yes, it is allowed to drink outside in Switzerland) and you can even swim in the river.
Swimming in the Rhein is a big thing in Basel and in the hottest months of summer you will see hundreds of people swimming in the Rhein each day. Most of people jump into the Rhein next to Tinguely Museum and swim to the old town.
There’s a very vibrant life next to the river each day if the weather is sunny and beautiful. In winter months you can have a very nice walk or a run next to the river (up to 10km).
Basel is close to the nature
Basel is pretty close to some huge woods and if you want to have a nice hike, you can start right in the city and after an hour or so, you will get to the big forests.
When I do my runs, I need only 30-40 minutes to get into the forest and be very close to the nature.
There are plenty of hiking paths and trails in the forests and there are even some free to use BBQ places. So if you want to have a relaxing walk on the weekday, there’s no need to jump into the car and drive miles and miles, just take a walk to Allschwil direction, and you will get to nature very fast.
Another option: you can walk to Wiese river (it is a small river flowing into the Rhein) – there’s a big park next to it with a forest. In summer time it is a perfect place for BBQ, dog walking, sunbathing, running or simply reading a book. It is very close to the city.
Parks in Basel
Basel has a few very nice parks where you can spend some time during long evenings in summer.
Most of the parks has a lawn in extremely good conditions (it is being watered everyday) and it is very popular place to lie down, read a book, sunbath, play some frisbee, BBQ or just spend time with your friends.
Kannenfeld park is perfect for BBQ, spend time with your family (plenty of places for children to play), running and playing table tennis.
St. Johanns park is perfect for sunbathing, playing frisbee and doing a BBQ.
Merian Gärten is a huge park with a botanic garden, restaurant, many walking paths, plenty of exotic plants, ponds, fish (I even saw a beaver there once) and many other activities.
Schützenmattpark is perfect for families, BBQ and some slow walks.
And there are even more smaller or bigger parks in Basel and many other small places to relax.
Close to Germany and France
It is even crazy how close is France and Germany from the city center of Basel. I even do some runs (10km long) where I start in Switzerland, run to France (run maybe 2-3km in France), cross the bridge to Germany (run about 1km in Germany) and run back to Switzerland.
Basel is pretty much put on the border of Germany and France. You can walk with ease to France or Germany or take a tram if you live a bit further away. It is very well connected and if not a border posts, you wouldn’t even notice that you crossed the border into another country.
What is good about that? SHOPPING.
Food prices in Switzerland are the highest in Europe and many people prefer to shop in France or Germany. There is even a huge shopping mall right on the border to Germany which is called Rheinmarkt. And it is packed with Swiss people every day.
Another good thing about the location of Basel is that that you can travel in Germany or France on weekends pretty easily. If you want to experience some French culture – travel to Strasbourg, if you want some German culture – travel to Frankfurt or Karslruhe – it is all very close.
You can as well check out my list of day trips from Basel: Day trips from Basel.
As mentioned before, Basel is very well connected to the whole Switzerland with trains and roads, but another very cool thing is: Basel has an airport and it is just minutes away from the city center. I need 10 minutes by car to get to the airport. That is crazy close. And with no traffic jams.
Basel airport is very well connected to Europe: you can fly to London, Paris, Berlin and many other bigger airports where you can get connections to pretty much anywhere. This makes Basel a very travel friendly city and you can have many amazing weekend trips to anywhere you want.
Cultural life and museums
Basel is the capital of museums in Switzerland, because it has more than 40 museums. 40! It will take you one year to visit them all.
And one more thing: it has a famous Basel Messe. It is a huge event once a year when artists from all around the world gather in Basel and thousands pieces of amazing and famous art are being presented right here in Basel.
Believe me – it won’t be a problem to see Picasso or Rembrandt in Basel. Or even some new trending artists. Basel is definitely the capital of art in Switzerland. It is full of it.
Cons of living in Basel
Even though Basel is an amazing place to live, it has some quirks or disadvantages – let us have a look at it.
Here I do not mean parking costs for one hour once you visit Basel, I mean parking costs if you live here and you have your own car.
There is no free parking in Basel. That is pretty much impossible to find, unless you have your company parking or some friend’s place. Parking is paid everywhere.
If you have your own car, you must pay a yearly parking fee – 280 CHF. And that allows you to park your car only in ONE ZONE you are living (the zones are the post codes). So if you pay 280 CHF a year for your car, it doesn’t mean that you can get to another part of the city and park your car the whole day there. No no. You will get a ticket for doing that. Parking is only free for one hour or after 19.00 till 8.00. So the nights are pretty much free.
If you want to rent a garage for a car, that cots about 200 CHF each month (2400 CHF a year), so the city parking looks pretty cheap now, right? Yes. But still be aware that you can park only in your zone, nowhere else.
Basel is quite far from big mountains
I know I know, I am really pushing it… But Basel is at least 150km away from big mountains. In Basel surroundings you can find some huge hills (up to 1200 meters high), but these are not Swiss Alps… And as I am the hiking fan, that is pretty important to me. Actually for me, that is the only real CON of living in Basel. There are some other big cities which are most closer to mountains like Bern, Lucerne, Geneva, even Zürich.
I know that I am talking as a spoiled brat, but to have a nice hike I need to drive at least couple of hours, then do a hike, and travel back these two hours. I am telling this as a con, because some cities (mentioned above) are closer and have better opportunities to do some breathtaking hikes.
But if you do not care to travel these 2 hours (which I do a lot) – then you can get to pretty much the most beautiful hiking trails in Europe. Not bad, huh?
Basel is not a big city
For me personally it is not a con at all, as I am coming from even smaller city, but if you like big city life – Basel is quite small. It has only 170 000 inhabitants and does not offer some splashy lifestyle opportunities.
It actually has all you need: cinema, many restaurants (chinese, japanese, italian, greek, german, french, thai, etc), shopping malls (not big ones, but still), branded shops, bars, clubs, stadiums, yoga studios and so on.
But if you are big ON clubbing and drinking in the bars – you will pretty much visit them all in your first month and then you will just have to go round and round. It is not limitless, it is not London.
But just one hour by train – and you will get to Zürich, the most vibrant city in Switzerland. Trains pretty much go 24 hours to Zürich and back, so you shouldn’t have big problems enjoying an active bar/clubs lifestyle in Switzerland.
Basel is pretty calm even on weekends and only couple of places are noisy on Fridays: Barfüsserplatz and Steinvorstadstrasse.
Spoken language in Basel
Basel is in the german speaking part of Switzerland. So that is ok. But, Swiss people speak Swiss German which can be a huge challenge for you, especially if your mother language is not German.
All Swiss people speak perfect Hochdeutsch. The are taught this language at school and all official documents, laws, signs are in Hochdeutsch. You will barely see anything written in Swiss German. But they all speak Swiss German and they even speak Basel German which is a dialect different from Zürich or St. Gallen German.
Most of Swiss people will immediately switch to Hochdeutsch once they feel or hear that you do not speak Swiss dialect (I have experienced maybe just twice in 5 years when a person continued to speak Swiss German).
Swiss people speak perfect English as well, so you will not have a problem getting around.
It is just that feeling, once they ask you something in Swiss German, you do not understand, they switch to english or german and only then you can continue the conversation. It is not a problem, it is just a bit frustrating some times.
But do not worry – you will get around perfect with English and even better with German.
Limited carrier possibilities
As Basel is not a huge city and it is perfect for scientists working in pharma business, but it can be quite limited for other people who want to work in IT, fashion and some other markets.
Do not get me wrong, there are plenty of jobs in Basel and pretty much everyone can find their place here, but if you are looking for some very high level carrier, you can be simply limited by the size of Basel. It is not a huge metropolis.
It has many huge companies, international companies, some very extremely famous architecture companies, banks and many others, but if you have some very specific needs or specific profession – Basel may not be for you.
If you want to get a job or already got a job in Basel, please come here, you will not be disappointed. It is a great city with great infrastructure, nature, people, art, leisure time, slow walks, parks and many other things.
You are going to love it and you will definitely find yourself here. You won’t be bored, you will be fascinated and will fall in love with Basel.
Please check out my other articles about Basel:
If you have any questions about life in Basel, please let me know, I will do my best to help you.
For more specific information, laws, regulations and other information, please visit the official website of Basel City.