Basel by bike: A perfect one-day e-bike tour of Basel Switzerland

by Jan 12, 2023Switzerland

Therese Iknoian Starting Our Basel Bike Tour standing by her Tour de Suisse ebike

Basel is a very bike-friendly city. We took an e-bike tour through forests, along rivers, on city roads and bike paths, and in and out of three countries. Plan your own Basel bike tour in Switzerland’s three-country triangle.

Bikes and bike culture are a deeply ingrained part of what makes Basel, Switzerland, such a wonderful city to visit and explore. In fact, I would venture to say if you don’t spend part of your time exploring Basel by bike, you’ll miss experiencing Basel as so many of its residents do – on two wheels. And in what other city in the world can you bike through three countries, all in one day?

One thing that makes Basel such a bike-friendly city is that the region is laced with some 37 miles of well-connected and -marked bike paths either along streets or on paths separated from traffic entirely. On a bike, you can spend your time slowly cruising along the Rhine River or meandering along city streets to the city’s 40 museums. Or you could decide to venture farther out to distant parks and other sights, or perhaps pedal through history in the old parts of Basel. It is even possible to shortcut across the Rhine River with your bike on an old-time, current-driven ferry.


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Rhine River Ferry Basel

For our Basel bike tour, we chose e-bikes – as we did in San Francisco — so we could cover more ground as we explored this northwestern corner of Switzerland. Our goal was to experience where Switzerland, France and Germany meet in what is called the tripoint, border triangle, three-country triangle or, in German, “Dreilaenderecke.” Fun fact: Without a lot of effort, you’ll experience 3 countries and 3 languages on your 2 wheels (Ok, so we are counting Swiss-German as a separate language since, well, it really is nearly its own beast, and if you count English, you get four languages). We also managed 5 border crossings, going from Switzerland to Germany, back to Switzerland, through Germany, into France, then back to Switzerland.

You will have plenty of company on your bike tour in Basel since bikes are a primary means of getting about in the region. If you do as we did and cross the Rhine when exiting the “Grossbasel” old town (Greater Basel, south of the Rhine), you’ll cross the Wettstein Bridge. There, you’ll see an electronic sign that counts bikes. At 6:40 p.m. at the end of our one-day tour, the sign had logged 4,008 bike crossings that day alone, for a total to-date for the year as of Sept. 5, 2022, of approximately 900,000 bike crossings.

Basel Ferry On The Rhine

When the weather is warm, stand-up paddleboarders, swimmers, and splashers get themselves into the Rhine right in town. Or take the ferry across from near the Wettstein Bridge, in the background.

Yes, Basel, at just nine square miles, loves its bikes. Data from 2015 (the latest available) shows that more than four of 10 residents get around to work or play on bike or on foot – the most of any of Switzerland’s six largest cities.

On our day touring Basel by bike, we not only combined what is supposedly four tours as laid out in the Basel Bike Tours brochure (which may be available when you rent your bikes, but our Subscriber Club members can download a PDF map here), we also added some other side explorations for a full day (of about 25 miles). We do love our bike tours and highly recommend biking as a way to experience a destination, either for a day or on multi-day trips as we did along the Danube River.

HITT Tip: Depending on the season, be sure to pack along a light jacket, rain jacket or sweater, as well as water (the bikes did not have bottle cages) and snacks for quick nibbles. In the summer, it can get warm, so sunglasses and sunscreen are a must, too. You won’t likely need your passport but having along an ID will never hurt if crossing between countries, as well as a stash of both Euros and Swiss Francs.

Below, I will explain our primary stops for our Basel bike tour and give you the addresses so you can map our trip, if desired. You can choose any segment of our trip you’d like, of course – but I promise you’ll get sidetracked by all that the city of Basel has to offer in views, sights, and superb architecture.

HITT Tip: The waypoints I have chosen are in some cases very specific addresses of places we stopped, but in some cases, they are less specific points that will head you in the right direction. If you use them, please use logic in assessing the route since of course there are many options – and paths or streets can change.

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Where to start your Basel bike tour

Waypoint, Bike Office: Centralbahnstrasse 10, 4051 Basel, Switzerland

Basel by bike underground bike garage

Your adventure will start at the Guest Bike office underneath the central train station. There, you’ll find a maze of undercrossings in, out and through a large subterranean bike parking garage with – I am not exaggerating – many thousands of bikes, all neatly parked and lined up. Watch your step down there, though, since Basel cyclist-commuters come swooping down into the underground system, assuming everybody knows to stay off the bike avenues that criss-cross to different directions in town. This is a cloverleaf on steroids for two wheelers.

Once you get your bike, helmet, and any maps or brochures, you’ll need to determine which tunnel out is the one you want. We got lost, admittedly, and ended up going back and forth, in and out, down and around a few times, apologizing to the cyclists who were smiling but probably thinking, “Dang tourists.”

HITT Tip: Especially if you plan on more than one day of cycling in Basel or on your trip, consider bringing your own helmet. The selection is meager and not so well-fitting, although we finally found a couple that worked. In addition, consider good quality lights if you decide to keep the bikes for more than one day.

Off into the city, over the bridge … and beyond!

Waypoint, Bridge: Wettsteinbrücke, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

Basel Ferry On The Rhine

Once we found our way out of the underground spiderweb, we took the paths and city streets toward Wettstein Bridge, above, to get across the Rhine River into so-called “Kleinbasel” (Lesser Basel) on the north side of the river.

Next stop: A wonderful blend of old and new architecture

Waypoint, Warteck: Burgweg 7, 4058 Basel

Basel bike tour Warteck building

I love architecture so I plotted an additional stop at the Werkraum Warteck building that repurposed a former brewery into a restaurant, shops, and offices. The old brick brewery remains, but the modern stairs are a contrast to behold.

A hankering for more architecture: Basel Exhibition Center

Waypoint, Expo Center: Bleichestrasse 3, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

Ebike tour Basel Expo Center

Another well-known piece of modern architecture in Basel, the Basel Exhibition Center, was also on my list to see. We cycled through it along the Messeplatz tram stop, watching the busy transit point while enjoying the amazing, curved design by architects Herzog & de Meuron.

Out of the city, past “the other train station,” and into the forest

Waypoint, forest paths: Schorenweg 150, 4058 Basel, Switzerland

Basel Bad Train Station Basel bike tour

The Basel Bad train station, pictured here, is another main station in Lesser Basel. As you can see Michael has a safe bike path and even his own bike stoplight in the area’s well-developed network.

We headed along Reihenstrasse past Basel’s other train station (Basel Bad, which is also in Switzerland but managed by the German railway system), until we reached the Lange Erlen forest park. What a beautiful cruise along creeks and canals, along forested paths! Just pedal northeast along the paths. You may have to consult signs at a couple of intersections. But to the left is the canal and to the right is the city – just stay in the forest! Note: There is an animal park in Lange Erlen if you want to take a stop there – free entry.

Basel e-bike tour Lange Erlen Forest

Accepted etiquette is that paved is for bikes and gravel is for feet. Swiss organization!

HITT Tip: You’ll be crossing a lot of tram tracks on the roads, and especially around the train stations. Be sure to cross them keeping your tires perpendicular to the tracks so you don’t catch your bike or take a spill.

A little culture at Fondation Beyeler

Waypoint, Beyeler: Baselstrasse 101, 4125 Riehen, Switzerland

Fondation Beyeler Basel by bike

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022, Beyeler Foundation houses the collection of the Beyeler Family in a suburb of Basel called Riehen. The building is sleek and modern, while the café is housed in a former Baroque villa – both situated in the peaceful Beyeler Park. Mind you, the Fondation Beyeler museum is a rather high-end museum (with prices to match). Admittedly the guards did look at us askance in our bike clothes, with helmets and packs dangling, and we felt a hair out of place among the rather well-heeled clientele. Nevertheless, with a need for a bathroom break, the woman at the reception did nicely allow me in sans entry fee – and my glance at the exhibits as I passed proved they are worthy of their international acclaim.

But we did not dawdle – a morning rainstorm that had delayed our start, and the day had transformed into a beautiful one — we wanted to pedal! If you want to spend a little time here, plan your day accordingly. We wheeled through the gorgeous Beyeler Park gardens – free, and a great place to hang out – past the café where customers clinked glasses on the lovely terrace.

Beyeler Park Basel bike tour

Chairs allow visitors in Beyeler Park to relax in the shade while gazing at the museum building.

Ready for 24 Stops?

Waypoint, 24 Stops at Riehen baths: Weilstrasse 69, 4125 Riehen, Switzerland

Bird Cages On The 24 Stops Art Trail Basel

These bird cages, the second official stop along the 24 Stops / Rehberger Weg, hang in the Beyeler Foundation area, just before you exit to head toward Switzerland.

From the Beyeler Park, we headed out on the so-called 24 Stops art route, which is a walking route of about 3 miles that starts at the Fondation Beyeler. The route, also called Rehberger Weg, links two countries (Switzerland and Germany) and two museums (Beyeler and Vitra, our next stop). It was created by artist Tobias Rehberger and has 24 objects of artwork — sometimes surprising, sometimes enchanting, always amusing.

Right after the bridge and bathhouse (where you can stop in for a dip in the natural spring waters) came the border crossing between Germany and Switzerland. Looked deserted, but we are quite sure there were cameras – and perhaps people – watching the comings and goings, so we behaved ourselves. Despite open European borders for so long, it’s still an amusing treat to simply cross from country to country.

Swiss German border crossing on bike

Into Germany we pedal! Windows dark, but you know they’re watching.

Heading into Germany

Waypoint, Fools Fountain: Hinterdorfstrasse & Hauptstrasse, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany

Narrenbrunnen Weil Am Rhein

The Fool’s Fountain (Narrenbrunnen) in Weil am Rhein is not on the official route since we ended up on the main street on our way to Vitra. But it’s a fun piece.

Unfortunately, once we got past the border, on our way along the 24 Stops route from Riehen to the Vitra Design Campus, we took a wrong turn. Not that it mattered since there is always something to experience along the way! And indeed, all paths head to Rome or, in this case, toward Vitra. We had missed a right turn that would take us up along Riehenerstrasse and through the vineyards and parks and along the 24 Stops. Instead, we pedaled through the German town of Weil am Rhein, mostly down the Hauptstrasse (Main Street) until we ended up on Roemerstrasse, making a right turn at the Narrenbrunnen (Fool’s Fountain). This fountain represents the all-important Mardi Gras time in this area and is the waypoint we have offered here. Feel free to veer up into the vineyards and along the 24 Stops route instead!

More design and art at the Vitra Design Campus

Waypoint, Vitra: Charles-Eames-Str. 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany

Therese Iknoian on our Basel Bike Tour At The Vitra Campus In Germany

Therese looking at the VitraHaus on the Vitra Campus in Germany near the Swiss border and Basel.

At just two to three miles between Beyeler and Vitra (depending on your route), it won’t take long before you see the modern structures of the Vitra Design Campus come into view. And if you are enthralled by this kind of stunning modern architecture as I am, you will have your breath taken away.

The Vitra Design Campus, founded in 1981, covers more than 60 acres and features industrial design and architecture by some of the world’s greatest, including Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando, Frank Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron. It is not just a museum, but a true design campus, with exhibit halls, paths, gardens, an expo center, and production workshops. You may wonder why this prestigious center is in the small town of Weil am Rhein, but that selection had a purpose, being at the three-country triangle and near the headquarters of the Vitra furniture company. Even bus stops are a piece of art!

Basel Bike Tour Vitra Design Campus

Don’t forget to look up and all around. This is the covering over the deck where you enter the VitraHaus — its own work of art.

HITT Tip: You really need most of a day just at the Vitra Design Campus to enjoy all there is to see. A quick stroll without heading into exhibits may take an hour or so.

Once on campus, we took a spin along the paths on the southern section, past the Slide Tower (dang! Not open!), winding our way around beautiful gardens, sometimes crazy architecture, and places to sit and enjoy.

Vitra Design Slide Tower on Basel bike tour

At that point, we realized we had dawdled a LOT. If we were to return our bikes by 7 p.m., when the Bike Office closed, and we wanted to cover more ground, we had to just enjoy the campus from the grounds. Well, except for a quick break for some beverages and cake for fortification!

Bike Tour Cake break at Vitra

Apple strudel and fresh whip cream — Michael is ready to pedal again!

Back to Switzerland and the forest

Waypoint: Römerstrasse & Verner-Panton-Weg

Rehberger Weg Basel 24 Stops Art

This is stop 23 on Rehberger Weg art path, across from the Vitra Design Campus. You can head up from the main street on this path. Once up in the trees, a right heads you back into Switzerland.

We headed back out toward the border, and this time took a left on Verner-Panton-Weg about a quarter-mile down from Vitra (where the colored posts were). That allowed us to get off the main road and onto the quieter forested paths on our way toward Switzerland and in the general direction of Fondation Beyeler. There are many paths and small streets from which to choose, but you will want to turn right (If you have the 24 Stops brochure and map (our Subscriber Club members can download the 24 Stops map here), you can follow that route; otherwise, just enjoy the ride!)

Returning in part along the garden paths, we choose to then somewhat mimic the route we had taken on our way to Beyeler, crossing the Germany-Switzerland crossing, past the bathhouse with a right turn to wind us through the forest and meadow paths. There are however many paths heading back toward town and the Rhine River!

On to the Rhine River and the three-country triangle

Waypoint: Wiesendamm 4, 4057 Basel, Switzerland

Lange Erlen bike paths Basel bike tour

Signage usually doesn’t leave you guessing when getting around the region. Red is for bikes, yellow for pedestrians.

From the Lange Erlen Tierpark animal park you can continue to follow the paths and promenades along the so-called “Wiese” canal. That will wind you down toward the Rhine River toward one of the tour’s highlights: the place where the three countries meet at one point at the river. 

HITT Tip: Of course, there are so many other ways to go, especially if there are other sights you want to see. The helpful red or green bike signage is pretty ubiquitous so keep an eye on those, too, to help guide your muse.

Take a right turn to cross the canal at the Ufer Strasse (if you are on the Wiesendamm you can’t miss it because if you go straight, you’ll be in the river, which won’t be a good thing). Once across the canal, keep the river on your left as you pedal along a narrow spit of land past rather industrial buildings until you can’t go anymore.

At that point, you’ll need to park your bike at the entrance to the so-called Sandoase bar and restaurant, which seems a little out of place since it is trying to replicate a tropical island hangout with, yes, sand and thatch-roof huts. Troop right through to the point at the end where you will find the modernistic marker for where the three countries meet at (of course) a Photo Spot. The modern monument was installed in the ‘50s. Com’on, take your photo!

3 Countries corner Germany Switzerland France

Smile, Michael! The modern three-countries sculpture is behind him.

Three countries pedestrian bridge and into France

Waypoint, left turn: Hafenstrasse 7, 4057 Basel, Switzerland

Once you’ve left the Sandoase, retrace your ride back to the Uferstrasse, but don’t cross the canal. You’ll curve to the left, then turn left at Hafenstrasse. This stretch of your ride along Hafenstrasse is quite a change from the forests, vineyards, and quaint city streets. This is a working harbor, and this is where shipping terminals, offices, and other support businesses are located.

Waypoint, German-Swiss Border crossing: Weil am Rhein Grenze, 79576 Basel, Switzerland

Keep going, and then head up and over an overpass across a narrow inner harbor to the next border crossing from Switzerland back into Germany. You will notice that signage immediately looks different!

Waypoint, three-countries bridge: Dreiländerbrücke Weil am Rhein, 68330 Huningue, France

3 Countries Bridge France Germany

Before you know it, you’ll see this beautifully modernistic arch bridge across the Rhine River that will take you in seconds from Germany (Weil am Rhein) into France (Huningue). From this road (formerly Hafenstrasse although it changes names at the border), you make a left turn onto the Hauptstrasse (about 240 yards from the border) to go up and over the bridge – with a flotilla of other bikes and pedestrians. Opened in 2007, the bridge with an overall length of nearly 814 feet is the longest single-span pedestrian bridge in the world. Suddenly, everything is in French! Perhaps you want to find a bakery for a nice Pain au Chocolat?

Pedaling along the Rhine at the end of the day

Therese Iknoian On The Rhine River Bike Path In Basel

Therese biking along the Rhine River in Basel, Switzerland, which becomes the shady side at the end of a warm day.

This is one lovely and peaceful pedal along the quay of the river after your left turn from the bridge to head back toward Basel. Just keep the river on your left and enjoy the approximately 1¼ miles of being in France, before your fifth and final border crossing back into Switzerland.

HITT Tip: Hooked on cycling in and around Basel or in Switzerland in general? Then take a peek at the Schweiz Mobil association for suggestions for tours with maps.

Back to the Guest Bike Office at the SBB Train Station

Waypoint, Bike Office: Centralbahnstrasse 10, 4051 Basel, Switzerland

Therese Iknoian Riding Into Basel Bike Garage

Therese rides down the ramp into the bike garage at the Basel main train station at the end of our Basel Bike Tour.

Sigh, all good things must come to an end. We were very tempted to just keep the bikes for the next day. It’s so easy pedaling around Basel since it is such a bike-friendly city. If you have more time in the city – and we highly recommend it since it is so much more than a quick overnight – a bike is the way to go.

In the summer, you will have much more daylight, so consider ensuring your hotel can house your bikes and use them as transport to take a dip in the Rhine River, head into the Old Town for dinner, or take in a few more of the remarkable pieces of modern architecture in Basel.

Basel, see you soon, bis bald, à bientôt, ade!

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