Basel jealously guards its status as Switzerland's
oldest university city (1460). The old town, which has meticulously retained its
historic heritage, is studded with shops and market stalls.
The city centre is organized around the Marketplatz, located west of
the Rhine. The Rathaus (city hall) was built in the early 16th century and decorated
with colourful frescoes in the following century, while the very well-preserved
cathedral (Muenster) is generously proportioned. The city is home to some 30 museums as
well as a great many galleries. Finally, visiting the zoo, the largest in the country,
as well as the two botanical gardens, is a must.
Mulhouse's old town is divided into two parts: the ville basse (lower town) and the ville haute (upper town). The lower town is organized around Place de la Réunion. Now reserved for pedestrians, this area features narrow row houses, Renaissance-style buildings-such as the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) with its double staircase-and the Gothic Revival-style Saint-Étienne church, graced with magnificent stained-glass windows (14th century). The upper town is characterized by numerous ecclesiastical buildings, such as churches, chapels and convents.
Mulhouse also encompasses three towers, namely the Tour du Diable (devil's tower), Tour Nessel and Tour du Bollwerk. The first two are the only remaining vestiges the former Episcopalian castle, while the third was once part of the city walls.
Gardens and parks of all kinds adorn Mulhouse. Stroll through Steinbach square, Salvator park or Wallach park to admire the city's various floral displays, flower-lined paths and ponds. A walk through the zoological and botanical gardens allows visitors to observe more than 1,000 animals (200 species) as well as lovely plants.
Mulhouse has primarily made a name for itself with its museums, as renowned as they are educational. Car buffs can visit the Musée National de l'Automobile (national automobile museum), which showcases some 500 models, including a number of Bugattis, Rolls Royces, Ferraris and Porsches. Noteworthy among the city's other museums are the Musée Historique (history museum), Musée des Beaux-Arts (museum of fine arts), Musée de l'Impression sur Étoffes (printed-fabrics museum), Musée du Papier Peint (wallpaper museum) and the Musée Français du Chemin de Fer (French railway museum).
Basel not only boasts top-notch restaurants, but also Switzerland's first music theatre as well as an opera house. The city hosts about 1,000 concerts a year, as well as a jazz festival and shows for all tastes.
Mulhouse is home to some excellent restaurants that prominently feature local cuisine. Fruity, very dry and almost exclusively white (Riesling, Gewurztraminer), the wines of Alsace are served young and very fresh, notably as aperitifs. Just north of Mulhouse, Alsace's Route du Vin(wine route) is definitely worth exploring.
Where on earth
Located in northern Switzerland, at the
juncture of the French, German and Swiss borders, Basel (pop. 200,000)
straddles the River Rhine. Mulhouse (pop. 110,000) is situated in Alsace,
France, 35 km from Basel.