Basel, Switzerland

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In late December we flew to Basel, Switzerland to embark on a week-long Rhine River cruise back to Amsterdam. Lying just south of the Rhine River border between France and Germany, Basel is the second-largest economic center in the country and the third-highest in population.

We arrived mid-morning for a 10pm ship departure and spent the day exploring the historic town, finishing with a three-country walk from Switzerland to Germany to France and back into Switzerland again.

Below are trip highlights from December 23, 2019. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

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At Schiphol Airport waiting for our flight to Basel. We’ve been experimenting with travelling light and trying to avoid checked luggage when possible. On overnight trips to Paris and St. Petersburg for example, our only luggage was what we could carry in 25L backpacks.

This trip is several days longer at a week, but we’ve still got only carry-on, with the two 25L backpacks and two Osprey Porter 30 Travel Backpack. We recently bought the Porters as an improvement over the 25L backpacks for short trips and this is our first time using them. So far we’re really happy with the Porters—they hold a lot of gear in a convenient format.

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We’re flying to Switzerland on EasyJet, the second-largest discount airline in Europe after Ryanair. This is our first time travelling with the airline and we were quite impressed with their operation. One of the ways EasyJet reduces costs is by increasing plane utilization through minimizing their on-ground time. This is done partly by pre-checking passengers into a boarding area and then unloading/loading the plane using the forward and aft doors.

Pictured is our plane arriving into Schiphol at 8:18am for an on-time 8:55am departure. That’s just over a half-hour on the ground.

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France or Switzerland
EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg serves both France and Switzerland. You exit to the left to enter France and to the right to enter Switzerland. The airport technically is in France and a fenced customs-free road passes through French/EU territory to Switzerland, outside EU customs zone. We had nothing to declare and since Switzerland is a Schengen Area member state, we didn’t need to complete any formalities to enter from the Netherlands.
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The river cruise boat AmaMora, our home for the next week, docked at Basel, Switzerland. The boat is 443 ft (235m) by 38 ft (11.6m) and draws only 2m, slightly less than Dirona. We arrived around 10:30am, left our bags on the boat and set out for a three-country walk.
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Spalentor (“Gate of Spalen”), is the most impressive of the three 14th-century city gates that remain from the medieval walled city of Basel.
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Town Hall
The dramatic 500-year-old Basel Town Hall, painted red, overlooks the Marktplatz.
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Walking up narrow Schlusselberg in historic Basel.
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Basel Minster
Basel Minster dates from the 12th century and is a well-known landmark in the city.
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Minster Interior
Looking towards the alter under the soaring arches of Basel Minster.
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View from Tower
The view from the south tower of Basel Minster past the north tower to the Rhine River. Our boat, AmaMora, is barely visible moored alongshore at the upper left.
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A delicious lunch at Steiger in downtown Basel. Prices are very high in Switzerland— Steiger isn’t particularly high-end, but a lunch entree was around 25 USD.
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Carnival Fountain
Carnival Fountain, built in 1977 by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely consists of multiple moving machines interacting with water in a style resembling Steampunk. We loved it. A brief video is at Carnival Fountain.
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Ferry crossing the Rhine viewed looking north from the bridge Wettsteinbrucke. We saw multiple ferries crossing like this, with a flag-laden tether to an overhead cable. Using the overhead cable, the ferries can cross the river almost without additional propulsion by aiming the boat diagonally to the flow of the river, which just drives them across to the other side.
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Looking across from the north side of the Rhine to historic walls of Basel along the south side.
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Ferry Cable Support
The stay for the striped pole that supports the ferry‘s cable was run through the wall of this building. Basel Minster is visible on the hill at the opposite side of the Rhine.
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Commercial barge heading under Middle Bridge, viewed from the south shore of the Rhine. It looked like it would barely clear.
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The Dreilandereck memorial marks the tripoint in the Rhine where the borders of Switzerland, Germany and France meet. The Three Countries Bridge, that we’ll soon cross, is visible in the background to the north.
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Swiss-German Border
The customs checkpoint between Switzerland and Germany, checking vehicles on entry to Switzerland. It felt strange to stroll past a formal customs checkpoint without clearing in with anyone. But since both Switzerland and Germany are part of the Schengen immigration area, no check is required if you are not importing/exporting goods.
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German-French border
Crossing from Germany into France on the Three Countries Bridge with the Dreilandereck memorial visible in the background slightly right of center. The arch bridge is 813 ft (248 metres) long as is the longest single-span pedestrian/cyclist bridge in the world. France and Germany are both in the Schengen Immigration Area and the EU Customs zone, so no formalities are required to cross the border. In this case, no customs or immigration officials were anywhere in the area.
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French-Swiss Border
At the French border about to walk back into Switzerland. This sign and a security camera opposite were the only indicators that this was a border crossing. We’d walked between three countries in a half-hour, and this was our fourth country of the day.
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Home for a Week
Our room on the AmaMora, our home of the next week as we cruise north along the Rhine River back to Amsterdam. We really enjoyed the room, with the bed facing a French balcony and an adjacent small balcony, visible at far left, where we could sit outside.
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The Rhine River current is quite strong, requiring care when navigating. Most of the river boats turn into the current and carefully work up to the side under power to dock. Since the AmaMora was running downstream, the captain would turn the boat around whenever we docked and turn back around again to leave.
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A delicious dinner on the AmaMora. The food on board was consistently excellent. One of the many aspects of the ship we liked was that dinner was open-seating with a range of table sizes.
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Departing Basel
View to the dock as the AmaMora departs Basel after dinner.
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Grand Canal d’Alsace
The AmaMora churning up mud as we approach our first lock of the passage, in the Grand Canal d’Alsace. Completed in 1959, the canal starts just north of Basel and extends for 30-mile (50km), diverting boats around the swift-flowing Rhine where it is nearly unnavigable. The canal also provides hydroelectric power at several locations and cooling for the Fessenheim Nuclear Power Plant, eliminating the need for cooling towers.
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Kembs Lock
On our balcony as the AmaMora descends in the Kembs Lock, completed in 1932. The river boats are built to maximize space and just barely fit inside the locks. We could easily touch the walls on either side as we passed through.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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4 comments on “Basel, Switzerland
  1. Thomas says:

    Hello Jennifer and James,
    Looks like you‘ve had a great time cruising down the Rhine river. Hope you enjoyed it!
    Though I now live in Stuttgart, I was born and grew up in Duesseldorf. I will go there on Jan 24th for the Boot exhibition. Are you also planning on visiting the fair?
    If it fits to your travel plans and you would like to meet, I could show you around the famous old city center of Duesseldorf and invite you to some beers in my favorite breweries. There are still 4 old (> 150 yrs) historic breweries; very close to craft beer; it‘s called Alt (“old“) beer, a little like Sam Adams lager.

    We‘ve also booked our charter boat for this August (last two weeks) in Croatia. Maybe a second chance in the Med in summer…..

    Enjoy your time in Europe!

    All the best,

    • Unfortunately, we won’t be able to get to Dusseldorf for the show. I’ve got to be back in Seattle for work during that period. But we will be heading to the Mediterranean next year so our paths may cross there. All the best in 2020.

  2. John S. says:

    Canal cruising can be great fun. My wife and I took the AMA Lyra on a 7 day trip through Normandy last summer — it was a spectacular trip, D-Day beach was so moving, Monet’s gardens in Giverney were unbelievably beautiful. Normandy is lovely. We booked the trip through BackRoads, a bicycling tour company. They are a Class A operation, the bicycling added so much to the trip. We liked the AMA operation as well.

    Can’t believe you can squeeze a week’s worth of clothing into a backpack! Remarkable. We schlep two 35 lb checked bags for a week-long trip.

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