Christmas fun in Basel

Discover exquisite Christmas ornaments at Basel's Christmas MarketDiscover exquisite Christmas ornaments at Basel's Christmas Market
Discover exquisite Christmas ornaments at Basel's Christmas Market
You can't fault Basel for family-friendly festive fun, says Chris Page

Where to go:Basel has certainly set its stall out for finest festive fun for all the family.Switzerland's third biggest city ranks first when it comes to Christmas Market magic.Commonly considered the country's cultural capital, decorated streets and squares are awash with seasonal spirit – including Glühwein by the gallon!Dream destination throughout the year, the Disney-Pixar storyboard backdrop becomes light fantastic at Christmas.Yule agree if you visit Münsterplatz and Barfüsserplatz, whose rustic wooden chalets pepper beating heart of festivities.

City Market piazza, packed with produce from flowers to fruit, sausages to spices, is more colourful than Father Christmas's costume.And Adväntsgass im Glaibasel's advantage is adding large helping of quintessentially quaint charm to present-hunting proceedings.Far from the madding crowd Magical Courtyards aplenty include Johann Wanner, hand-blown and painted baubles supplier to The Vatican and The White House as well as our late Queen.City Hall inner courtyard Basel Wish Book awaits visitors' Advent hopes for world peace and Santa Claus gift wish lists.

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Theater Basel foyer surprises daily with Advent Calendar of unique performances embracing opera, theatre and ballet.Or enjoy aerial view of impressive illuminations from Basel Cathedral (Münster) and St Martin’s Tower glowing stairwell.Christmas Magic captivates crowds with alluring charm, full as Santa's sack with fascinating traditions and special stories.Brunch on-board cruiser Rhystärn, enjoying winter wave of popularity, navigating from Mittlere Brücke in civilized style.

Basel Christmas market at MünsterplatzBasel Christmas market at Münsterplatz
Basel Christmas market at Münsterplatz

Four Rhine ferries, powered solely by the majestic river's natural current for 150 years, are also festooned with festive garb.Culture vultures flock to Switzerland's most popular art museum Fondation Beyeler, currently showcasing Niko Pirosmani exhibition, cementing proud founders Ernst and Hildy Beyeler's vision for "an open active museum that inspires an appreciation for art in a wide audience".

Where to stay:

Contemporary design and Helvetian culture combine in equally engaging measure in stylish shape of recently renovated Basel Marriott Hotel.Connected to Congress Center and Messe Basel, within short walk of Old Town heritage, the superbly situated site is also easily accessible for air, land and river travellers.Designed for all lifestyles, the perfectly positioned base boasts 218 rooms - £238 per night for Superior King room - and 21 suites while HERITAGE restaurant innovative sharing dishes trailblaze new culinary concept.

Encouraging exploration, personable and professional reception staff dispense complimentary BaselCards, enabling travel across excellent public transport service, including free airport transfers.

Where to wine and dine:

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Success is sweet at Confiserie Schiesser, Switzerland's oldest coffee house, including in-house bakery and confectionery manufacture, multi-generational family affair founded over 150 years ago. Think warming hot chocolate and crispy butter croissants. And some! Sweet-toothers also go nuts for Mystifry's Vegan donuts. Spice up your life with Confiserie Bachmann's Läckerli gingerbread that truly takes the biscuit. Pair popular mulled wine with hazelnut praline filled Mässmogge as well as similarly sweet treats Beggeschmutz and Magenbrot.

Fond of fondue? Traditional tavern Löwenzorn is a big cheese in this dining domain. Old Town rooms, first referenced as far back as the 13th century, continue to attract discerning clientele, surroundings complemented by romantic courtyard, complete with charcoal barbecue.

Elegance exudes from Beyeler Restaurant im Park within Baroque Villa Berower, whose eclectic menu features wealth of local delicacies, sourced from finest seasonal ingredients, washed down with Barista quality coffee or wine list, similarly providing pride of place to regional producers.

Time-honoured pub poser "what's your poison?" never rang truer than at Gifthüttli, scene 120 years past of first inn to offer ale as well as wine, newspaper asserting "... to drink beer elsewhere than at the brewery is like drinking poison (Gift)". The beautifully wood-panelled Beiz today also delivers cordon bleu excellence to international audience, some of whom book tables up to a year in advance to avoid disappointment.

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Other hostelries worth visiting include whisky and cocktail central Hinz & Kunz, Seventies retro rooftop terrace Amber Bar, 100-plus wine cellar Consum, also salami and cheese specialist, and Kleinbasel hotspot The Klara.

All of which prove perfect places to toast Basel this Christmas. Or any season. Prost!