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Canton Basel-Stadt
District n.a.
Coordinates  47°32′ N 7°35′ E
Population 166120   (December 2002)
Area 22.75 km²
Elevation 260 m
Postal code 4000
Mayor Ralph Lewin (Pres. of Cantonal exec.)
Location within Switzerland
Location within Switzerland

Basel (English traditionally: Basle [bɑːl], German: Basel ['ba:zəl], French Bâle [bɑl], Italian Basilea [bazi'leːa]) is Switzerland's third most populous city (188,000 inhabitants in the canton of Basel-City as of 2004; the 690,000 inhabitants in the conurbation stretching across the immediate cantonal and national boundaries made Basel Switzerland's second-largest urban area as of 2003).

Located in north-west Switzerland on the river Rhine, Basel functions as a major industrial centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The city borders both Germany and France. The Basel region, culturally extending into German Baden and French Alsace, reflects the heritage of its three states in the modern Latin name: "Regio TriRhena". It has the oldest university of the Swiss Confederation (1460).



Basel has Switzerland's only cargo port, through which goods pass along the navigable stretches of the Rhine.

EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is the only airport in the world operated jointly by three countries, France and Switzerland and Germany. Contrary to popular belief, the airport is located completely on French soil. The airport itself is split into two architecturally independent halves, one half serving the French side and the other half serving the Swiss side; there is a customs point at the middle of the airport so that people can "emigrate" to the other side of the airport.

Basel has long held an important place as a rail hub. Three railway stations—those of the German, French and Swiss networks—lie within the city (although the Swiss (Basel SBB) and French (Basel SNCF) stations are actually in the same complex, separated by Customs and Immigration facilities). A goods railway complex exists as well.

Basel has an extensive public transportation network serving the city and connecting to surrounding suburbs. The green-colored local trams and buses are operated by the BVB (Basler Verkehrs-Betriebe). The yellow-colored buses and trams are operated by the BLT (Baselland Transport), and connect areas in the nearby half-canton of Basel-Land to central Basel. The trams are powered by overhead lines, and the bus fleet is mix of electric and conventional fuel-powered vehicles. The BVB also shares commuter bus lines in cooperation with transit authorities in the neighboring Alsace region in France and Baden region in Germany.

A panoramic view of Basel, looking east over Kleinbasel (smaller Basel)
A panoramic view of Basel, looking east over Kleinbasel (smaller Basel)

Industry and trade

Marktplatz, Basel's market square.
Marktplatz, Basel's market square.

An annual Federal Swiss trade fair (Mustermesse) takes place in Kleinbasel on the right bank of the Rhine. Other important trade shows include "Basel" (watches and jewelry), Art, Orbit and Cultura.

The Swiss chemical industry operates largely from Basel, with Novartis, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Clariant, and Hoffmann-La Roche headquartered there. Pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals have become the modern focus of the city's industrial production. Some of the chemical industry's most notable creations include DDT, Araldite and LSD.

UBS AG maintains central offices in Basel, giving finance a pivotal role in the local economy. The importance of banking began when the Bank for International Settlements located within the city in 1930. Basel's innovative financial industry includes institutions like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Responsible for the Basel Accords, this organization fundamentally changed Risk Management within its industry.

Rathaus, Basel's Town Hall.
Rathaus, Basel's Town Hall.

Basel has Switzerland's tallest building, Basler Messeturm.

History and science

Basel traces its history back to at least the days of the Roman empire settlement of Augusta Raurica though even older Celtic settlements have been discovered recently predating the roman castle. The city's position on the Rhine long emphasised its importance: Basel for many centuries possessed the only bridge over the river "between Lake Constance and the sea".

From 999, Basel was ruled by prince-bishops (see Bishop of Basel)

In 1019 the construction of the cathedral of Basel began under german Emperor Henrich II.

In 1225-1226 the Bridge over the Rhine was constructed by Bishop Heinrich von Thun and lesser Basel (Kleinbasel) founded as a beachhead to protect the bridge.

In 1356 an earthquake caused extensive damage in the city destroying a vast number of castles in the vicinity, allowing the city to offer courts in the city to nobles as an alternative to rebuilding their castles in exchange for their protection of the city. The De Bâle family moves in and helps rebuild the city and surrounding country, but set up house in Basel-Land.

Basel became the focal point of western Christendom during the 15th-century Council of Basel (1431-1449), including the 1439 election of antipope Felix V.

In 1459 Pope Pius II endowed the University of Basel where notables like Erasmus of Rotterdam, Paracelsus and Hans Holbein the younger teached. At the same time printing was introduced in Basel by apprentices of Gutenberg. The Schwabe publishing house was founded 1488 by Johannes Petri and is the oldest publishing house still in business. Johann Froben also operated his printing house in Basel and was notable for publishing works by Erasmus.

In 1495, Basel was incorporated in the Upper Rhenish Imperial Circle, the bishop sitting on the Bench of the Ecclesiastical Princes.

In 1500 the construction of the cathedral of Basel (german: Münster) was finished.

In 1501 Basel de-facto separated from the Holy Roman Empire and joined the Swiss Confederation as 11th state, and began of the construction of the city council building. The bishop continued to reside in Basel until the reformation of Oecolampadius in 1529. The bishop's crook was however retained as the city's coat of arms.

In 1543 De Humanis Corporis Fabrica, the first anatomy book was published and printed in Basel by Andreas Vesalius (1514 - 1564). In 1662 the Amerbaschsches Kabinett formed the basis of the world's first public art collection and exposition, forming the core of the museum of art of Basel.


Basel is not subdivised in official counties, districts or boroughs, but in inofficial quarters. There are 19 quarters; the municipalities of Riehen and Bettingen are not included.

Quartier ha Quartier ha
Central quarter of Grossbasel 37,63 Central quarter of Kleinbasel 24,21
Suburbs 89,66 Claire 23,66
Am Ring 90,98 Wettstein 75,44
Breite 68,39 Hirzbrunnen 305,32
Saint Alban 294,46 Rosental 64,33
Gundeldingen 123,19 Matthew 59,14
Bruderholz 259,61 Klybeck 91,19
Bachletten 151,39 Kleinhüningen 136,11
Gotthelf 46,62 City of Basel 2275,05
Iselin 109,82 Riehen 1086,10
Saint John 223,90 Bettingen 222,69
Canton of Basel-City 3583,84


The Romanesque Münster, with its two (uneven) towers forms an architectural monument which survived medieval earthquake. The tomb of Erasmus lies inside the Münster.

Basel is also host to an array of buildings by internationally renowned architects, such as the Beyeler Foundation by Renzo Piano, or the Vitra complex in nearby Weil am Rhein, comprised of three buildings by Zaha Hadid (fire station), Frank Gehry (design museum), Tadao Ando (conference centre), Mario Botta (Jean Tinguely Museum and Bank of International settlements)and several buildings by Herzog & de Meuron (originally from Basel, but otherwise known as the architects of the Tate Modern in London).


Basel hosts Switzerland's oldest university, the University of Basel, dating from 1459. Erasmus, Paracelsus, Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler and Friedrich Nietzsche worked here. More recently, its work in tropical medicine has gained prominence.

Basel is renowned for various scientific societies, as the Entomological Society of Basel (Entomologische Gesellschaft Basel, EGB), which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2005 .


Geo-politically, the city of Basel functions as the capital of the Swiss half-canton of Basel-Stadt, though several of its suburbs form part of the half-canton of Basel-Landschaft or of the canton of Aargau.

People from Basel


Basel has a reputation in Switzerland as a successful sporting city. The soccer club FC Basel continues to be successful and in recognition of this the city will be one of the venues for the 2008 European Championships, as well as Geneva, Zürich and Bern. The championships will be jointly hosted by Switzerland and Austria.

The largest indoor tennis event in Europe occurs in Basel every October. The best ATP-Professionals play every year at the "Davidoff Swiss Indoors".

In 2002, the World Judo Championships took place in Basel.

Basel features a large soccer stadium, a modern ice hockey hall and an admitted sports hall.


Basel has a reputation as one of the most important cultural cities in Europe. In 1997, it contended to become the "European Capital of Culture". In May 2004, the fifth EJCF choir festival will open: this Basel tradition started in 1992. Host of this festival is the local Basel Boys Choir.

The city is also known for "The Basel Elite", the posh and old money social circle that the city can more than cater to. Although Switzerland can technically have no nobility since such a status would depend on the country being a monarchy, which it isn't, the Basel Elite would be the closest thing, and are represented as such by their familiarities with present-day nobilities from bordering countries. One such example is the DeBâle family of Allschwil, who have lived in the area for centuries, but have not acknowledged the nobility that has been bestowed upon them from actual monarchies.

The carnival of the city of Basel (Basler Fasnacht) is a major cultural event in the year. The carnival is one of the biggest in Switzerland and attracts large crowds every year, despite the fact that it starts at four in the morning (Morgestraich) and lasts for exactly 72 hours, taking in various parades. For more information see also [[1]]

Basler Zeitung is the local newspaper.


Chronological table

Year Event
< 58 BC Rauracian (Celtic) agglomeration on the Rhine
58 BC Exodus of the Helvetians and Rauracians (Battle of Bibracte)
44-43 BC Lucius Munatius Plancus founds the Roman colony Colonia Raurica, that will later become colonia Augusta Raurica
12 BC The oppidum of Basel is one of the supporting points for the Roman troops during the campaigns of Tiberius against the Rhaetians
1st century Occupation of the Agri Decumates (southern Germany); the Roman fortified place of Basel becomes a vicus.
3rd century Alemanni invasions. The Roman Vicus of Basel becomes again a fortified place
To be continued ..

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