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Basel is Switzerland’s third biggest city in terms of population and in common with other Swiss cities it is home to a large percentage of incomers, with 35 per cent non-Swiss nationals.
Basel is the greenest of the green, with an eco record envied all over the world.
The city is leading the green movement in Switzerland, with the most initiatives aimed at halving energy use in Switzerland by 2050. Basel’s aim is to become a 2,000 watt society, and a number of projects have been launched here, including buildings with futuristic levels of insulation technology. renewable energy and vehicles using natural gas, hydrogen and biogas.
Basel passed a law that all new flat roofs must be green roofs right back in 2002. Basel is, unsurprisingly, the world’s leading green roof city and means that everywhere you look there is something growing.
The principal industry in Basel is pharmaceuticals. The psychedelic drug LSD was first synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel in 1938.
The Swiss chemical industry operates mostly from Basel. Many large pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals firms have set up home here, among those green roofs.
The city has long been a draw for internationally renowned architects and evidence of this is all around in a series of wonderful creations.
Check out the Beyeler Foundation by Renzo Piano, or the Vitra complex in nearby Weil am Rhein, composed of buildings by architects such as Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Álvaro Siza Vieira and Tadao Ando. Herzog & de Meuron, architects of Tate Modern in London, have their architectural practice here (they also designed the Bird’s Nest in Beijing and the Olympia stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
There are about 180,0000 residents here and the main language is German. Basel is the cultural capital of Switzerland, famed for having scores of museums. They include the Kunstmuseum, the largest museum of art in the country, the Fondation Beyeler and the Museum of Contemporary Art (contemporary art).
Switzerland’s oldest university the University of Basel was founded in 1460. This commitment to learning and the city’s centuries-long humanist leanings, have made Basel a safe haven for such people as Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Holbein family, Friedrich Nietzsche, and in the 20th century also Hermann Hesse and Karl Jaspers.
However people don’t usually arrive here for humanism – they come to work in Switzerland’s second-largest economic centre, which also happens to have the highest GDP per capita in the country. Only a tiny fraction of goods exported from Basel are not chemical and pharmaceutical products.
Basel was recently named in the ten most liveable cities in the world by Mercer, despite being the most densely populated city in Switzerland. It sits on the borders of France and Germany and has suburbs in both countries.
Most of the population speaks German – Italian is the second most common language and French is third.
There is evidence of Roman occupation here, but Basel did not really become a city until the 11th to 12th centuries.
The main market place is first mentioned in 1091 and the first city walls were built around 1100.
The first bridge across the Rhine was built in 1225. The bridge was largely funded by Basel’s Jewish community.
The Black Death reached Basel in 1348. People blamed the Jews and between 50 and 70 Jews were executed by burning in the Basel massacre. Maybe it was divine retribution that led to the Basel earthquake of 1356, which destroyed much of the city and many castles in the area.
Basel seems to have been a bloodthirsty place, years before becoming the green and peace-loving city it is today. The Böse Fasnacht riot in 1376 killed a number of men and the alleged killers were executed.
Printing was introduced to Basel in the 13th century and the Schwabe publishing house was founded in 1488 – it is the oldest publishing house still in business. The first book on human anatomy De humani corporis fabrica was published and printed in Basel in 1543.
On 9 June 1501, Basel joined the Swiss Confederation – the only canton that was asked to join. Basel had a strategic location, good relations with Strasbourg and Mulhouse, and control of the corn imports from Alsace.
In more modern times, Switzerland’s first zoo, the Zoo Basel, was created in 1874.
The first World Zionist Congress was held in Basel in 1897 and has been held here many times since.
In 1967 Basel became the first city in the world where the population voted to buy works of art for a public institution. The public voted to buy three of Picasso’s works. Picasso was so moved by the gesture he gifted the city with another three paintings.
Basel has long welcomed peace negotiations and other international meetings. The 1499Treaty of Basel ended the Swabian War. The 1795 Peace of Basel ended the First Coalition against France in the French Revolutionary Wars.
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Like many places in Switzerland, foreigners are given a warm welcome here. If you are green-leaning you will find many like-minded people here, along with the peacefulness and deep thinking that almost comes hand in hand with living in a Swiss city. Costs of living are high, but so too are salaries,
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That prime location which led to the offer to join the team centuries ago means Basel is ideal for logistics firms. Basel’s airport is used for airfreight and heavy goods arrive from the North Sea by ship along the Rhine. European routes for highway and railway transport of freight cross in Basel.
Here is Switzerland’s only cargo port, and a rail hub, which offers railway stationson the German, French and Swiss networks. Basel has the largest goods railway complex in Switzerland. You can get from Basel to Paris in about three hours by train.
Basel is on the A3 motorway.
There are many forms of public transport including a hydraulic ferry, a large tram network and buses.
Because Basel it is so near other countries it does not check immigration status at those borders, however customs checks are carried out.
Basel is home to several important trade shows. They include Art Basel, the world’s most important fair for modern and contemporary art, the watches and jewellery show Baselworld, the construction and real estate show Swissbau and the hotel and catering show Igeho.
The Swiss Sample Fair Schweizer Mustermesse is the largest and oldest fair in Switzerland.
There are loads and loads of museums here. You couldn’t visit all of them in a holiday if you tried.
There’s the Anatomical Museum of the University Basel, a Museum of Ancient Art, Former Franciscan Barefoot Order Church and Basel Historical Museum, the Basel Historical Museum, the Jewish Museum of Switzerland, a Caricature & Cartoon Museum and the Natural History Museum of Basel. Other museums focus on art, music, pharmaceuticals, design, business, sport – you name it.
Schola Cantorum Basiliensis was founded here in 1933 to research music from the mediaeval to the baroque. Theater Basel was named the best stage for German language performances and Opera house of the year. Basel has the largest orchestra in Switzerland and is also the home of the Basel Sinfonietta and the Kammerorchester Basel.
The Basel Boys’ Choir host the European Festival of Youth Choirs.
Basel holds numerous fairs and events all year round. One of the most important fairs for contemporary art is Art Basel, founded in 1970 and held in June each year. Baselworld, the watch and jewellery show attracts tourists and dealers.
The carnival is a major event – the biggest in Switzerland – and it attracts large crowds every year, despite the fact that it starts at 4am on a winter Monday.
Basel Tattoo has grown to be the world’s second largest military tattoo after Edinburgh. An estimated 125,000 visitors pour into Basel for the event.
Zoo Basel has over 1.7 million visitors per year, making it the second most visited tourist attraction in Switzerland.
Established in 1874, Zoo Basel is the oldest zoo in the country and the largest. It has had several breeding successes, such as the first worldwide Indian rhino birth and greater flamingo hatch in a zoo.
A large indoor tennis event takes place in Basel every October. Some of the best ATP-professionals play every year including Roger Federer, a Basel native.
The annual Basel Rhine Swim also draws several thousand visitors to the Rhine.
Basel is famed for its achievement in mathematics. Mathematician Leonhard Euler and the Bernoulli family taught here and in 1910 the Swiss Mathematical Society was founded here. In the mid-20th century Russian mathematician Alexander Ostrowski taught at the university.
Basel hosts Switzerland’s oldest university, the University of Basel.
Basel also hosts several academies including Academy of Art and Design, Academy of Music, and the School of Business.
Basel is renowned for various scientific societies, such as the Entomological Society of Basel.
There are several international schools here, including Academia International School, École Française de Bâle, Freies Gymnasium Basel, Gymnasium am Münsterplatz, Schweizerisch-italienische Primarschule Sandro Pertini, International School Basel and SIS Swiss International School.