Best Museums In Basel (Famous & Intriguing)

best museums basel

Basel is known as the cultural capital of Switzerland as it is home to so many museums that showcase everything from art to science, music, and even pharmaceuticals.

If it is museums you are after, you are spoiled for choice in Basel. But, chances are you won’t have time to see them all so which are the best museums in Basel to focus your time on? That is what we are here to find out.

Join me as I run through the 10 best museums in Basel so that you can pick a select few to visit during your time there.

Museum Tinguely

Basel Museum Tinguely
Basel Museum Tinguely – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Museum Tinguely holds the largest collection of works by Jean Tinguely, a Swiss artist who specialized in kinetic art as well as drawings and sculptures.

The museum showcases his life story from 1925 through to 1991 when he passed away. You will find interactive exhibits in the form of Jean Tinguely’s machine art which you can actually touch and make work.

There are also sculptures, drawings, and illustrated letters that Jean Tinguely sent to friends.

You will find Museum Tinguely close to the Rhine River in a stunning building designed by Mario Botta, a famous Swiss architect from the Ticino Region.

Visiting Museum Tinguely is a fantastic experience and since the art is interactive, kids are amazed by it too, so it is a great museum to visit as a family.

Foundation Beyeler

Foundation Beyeler
Foundation Beyeler – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The world-famous art museum Foundation Beyeler is without question one of the best museums in Basel. People from around the world travel to Basel just to see it.

You will find Foundation Beyeler in the small town of Riehen, just a quick 25-minute tram ride from Basel city center. Set in a stunning park and in a building designed by Renzo Piano, the setting could not be more beautiful.

Foundation Beyeler has quite an art collection ranging from classic to modern, impressionist, and contemporary. World-famous pieces by some of the best artists who ever lived are on display.

You can see art from Warhol, Degas, Picasso, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and lots more. It only takes about 2 hours to see the whole museum so it is a lovely thing to do for half a day in Basel.

Vitra Design Museum

Vitra Design Museum
Vitra Design Museum – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Vitra Design Museum is another of the best museums in Basel. It isn’t actually in Basel, it is across the border in Germany in a town called Weil am Rhein. It doesn’t take very long to get there and is very much worth the trip.

The Vitra Design Museum is solely dedicated to interior design, furniture design, and architecture. In fact, the museum is a complex of buildings designed by various famous architects including Alvaro Siza, Frank O. Gehry, Nicholas Grimshaw, and Tadao Ando.

A highlight of the museum is VitraHaus as it is designed to pour color and light into the building in a very special way. You can also see some of the most key pieces that have influenced modern furniture design over the ages.

Toy Worlds Museum Basel

Toy Worlds Museum Basel
Toy Worlds Museum Basel – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

If you are traveling as a family then one of the best museums in Basel you can go to is the Toy Worlds Museum Basel on Barfüsserplatz.

It used to be called the Dollhouse Museum and today the four-story house is home to thousands of priceless miniature model dolls that sit behind glass cases. It also pays homage to the model makers who specialize in making such creations.

The museum has more than 6000 toys to see and is the biggest display of such items in the whole of Europe. Amongst the collection are 2000 teddy bears and lots of other toys that will have you and your kids in awe.

You will learn all about the history of the toys and lots more at this fun Basel museum.

Basel Historical Museum – Barfüsserkirche

Basel Historical Museum - Barfüsserkirche
Basel Historical Museum – Barfüsserkirche – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Basel Historical Museum is all about showcasing Basel’s history as a city and how it has changed over the years.

The museum is spread across three buildings, the Barfüsserkirche, Haus zum Kirschgarten, and the Musikmuseum.

The Barfüsserkirche which literally means “Church of the Barefoot Friars” dates back to the 14th century and was renovated in the 1970s to house the museum. It focuses on Basel across the ages and its cultural influence being on the border of Switzerland, Germany, and France.

Haus zum Kirschgarten holds a lovely collection about the domestic culture in Basel and is housed in an old luxury residence. The Musikmuseum showcases 5 centuries of history of European music and is fascinating.

Kunstmuseum Basel

Kunstmuseum Basel
Kunstmuseum Basel – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Kunstmuseum Basel is a world-famous art museum and is the oldest museum in Europe and quite possibly in the world. Visiting Kunstmuseum Basel is one of the city’s top attractions and people come from far and wide just to wander around its extensive hallways.

The Kunstmuseum Basel is spread out over two buildings and is home to a huge art collection. The museum started in 1661 when the city of Basel and the University bought the private art collection of the Amerbach Cabinet.

You will find a huge collection of works by artists from the Upper Rhine that was painted between 1400 and 1600. There is also a huge collection of modern and contemporary art that date from the 1850s onwards.

Museum of Natural History Basel (Naturhistorisches Museum Basel)

Museum of Natural History Basel
Museum of Natural History Basel – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Museum of Natural History Basel has been around for more than 300 years and houses more than 7.7 million objects which the museum calls an “Archive of Life”.

The Museum of Natural History Basel has a lot of different collections which span multiple fields including paleontology, zoology, anthropology, mineralogy, and lots more.

Children will be dazzled by the huge dinosaurs and wooly mammoths in the paleontology and zoology section. Kids can even have a sleepover at the museum at the monthly “Night at the Museum” events.

The museum also hosts special exhibitions such as showcasing the works of the Wildlife photographer of the year competition as well as contributing to large projects for research across the various fields.

Caricature & Cartoon Museum Basel

The Caricature & Cartoon Museum Basel, now called the Cartoonmuseum Basel, is the only museum in Switzerland dedicated to caricature and cartoon artists.

It houses more than 10,000 pieces that include the likes of animated movies, comics, and graphic novels. You will find exhibitions spanning contemporary, classical, social, environmental, and political satirical art.

At the Caricature & Cartoon Museum Basel, you can also join workshops to learn how to create caricature and cartoon art as well as animation.

It is not the biggest museum around but is a great one if you are into animation and drawing.

Basel Paper Mill

The Basel Paper Mill is a museum inside a 500-year-old paper mill on the banks of the Rhine and is an awesome museum to see, especially if you have kids with you.

The Basel Paper Mill is all about teaching you everything there is to know about paper, how it’s made, and its history. You will actually get to see paper being made in working machinery!

The museum also runs through the history of the written word from pictographs to typing on a computer, as well as bookbinding.

You can even make your own paper in one of the interactive exhibits which is fun for both kids and adults.

Between the setting, the old building, and the excellent exhibitions, this is a must-see museum in Basel.

Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig

Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig
Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig museum is Basel’s Museum of Antiquities and the Ludwig collection.

If you are interested in ancient art, then this is a museum you simply have to go to. You’ll find works of art that date back as far as 4000 BC and run all the way up to 500 AD.

It has collections of Roman, Italian, Greek, Etruscan, and Egyptian artwork in its collection which include clay figures, jewelry, Greek vases, sculptures, bronze sculptures, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are museums in Basel free?

A lot of the museums in Basel are free to visit on the first Sunday of each month. If you happen to be in Basel on the first Sunday of the month, be sure to get your museum fill on that day.

On all other days of the month, there is a price to enter. If you are staying at a hotel in Basel, you will be given a Basel card which will give you discounts on the museums.

How many museums does Basel have?

Basel has a total of 40 museums which is a lot for any city. When you consider just how small Basel is (34 sq km), the number of museums is 1.18 per square kilometer which is very impressive.

What is the largest museum in Basel?

One could say that Basel’s Medieval Old Town is the largest museum in the city as it is so well preserved that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Be sure to explore the Old Town of Basel while you’re there.

The largest museum in Basel is actually the Kunstmuseum Basel and you can easily spend a whole day there looking at the stunning art collection.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *