Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide – What to see, transportation and itinerary

  • 05.12.2023 11:24
  • Bruno Arcos

Have a look at our Basel and Colmar 3-day travel guide and discover the best these cities have to offer. This guide includes hotels, restaurants, tips to avoid tourist scams and even a detailed list with everything you must see and do in Basel in 3 days, including the famous day trips to Colmar.

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While it may not match the importance of Zurich or the atmospheric beauty of Bern, Basel is definitely the go-to place in Switzerland for those who wish to see one of the very best Christmas markets in Europe! However, that doesn’t mean the country’s second-city isn’t worth visiting outside of the festive season, since Basel features an incredibly picturesque Old Town with charming cobblestone streets and medieval churches.

Moreover, its unique location at the tri-border with France and Germany means Basel is quite the perfect gateway to a diverse array of excellent day trips – with the picturesque French village of Colmar standing out as a definite highlight!

That being said, we invite you to have a look at our Basel and Colmar 3-day travel guide and discover the best the Swiss city has to offer, such as hotels, restaurants, tips to avoid tourist scams and even a detailed list with everything you must see and do in Basel in 3 days, including the famous day trip to Colmar.

Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide

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How to get to Strasbourg – Flights from Ireland

Considering its strategic location, the city is served by the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, an international air hub, technically located in France, but that also serves cities/towns in Germany and Switzerland.

As such, if you’re traveling from Ireland, it is possible to fly directly into Basel from Dublin, with Ryanair.

How many days do I need to visit Basel and Colmar?

Despite their small and compact size, both Basel and Colmar offer a decent range of things to see and do, so it’s worth spending at least 1 day in each destination. Plus, the French town is located near several other popular small villages in Alsace, so extending your travel plans to include a third day and explore these tiny settlements is a tremendous idea!

Basel and Colmar 3-day travel guide – Best time to visit the city

Although Basel is a great destination year-round, there’s a special magic in visiting the city (as well as nearby Colmar) during the Christmas season. After all, this region is famous for hosting some of the world’s best Christmas markets, as every small village is meticulously decorated and themed stalls pop up all over the place. That being, the undisputed best time to experience Strasbourg is during the month of December (last week of November as well).

However, if this timing doesn’t quite work for you, consider visiting during shoulder-season, in the seasons of Spring and Fall. This means fewer crowds and budget-friendlier prices, without having to compromise on the weather!

Documents needed for your trip to Basel and Colmar

Since France a is part of the EU, Irish citizens only need to show a valid ID Card in order to be granted access to the country. The same goes for Switzerland. Albeit the latter isn’t a member of the European Union, it is nonetheless a part of the Schengen Area.

Basel and Colmar 3-day travel guide – Withdrawals, banking fees and travel budget

With the Swiss Franc (CHF) as Switzerland’s official currency, any withdrawal using an Irish bank card might incur in the payment of several different fees. Besides the percentual fee referring to the currency conversion, some Irish banks may also charge a flat commission for withdrawals made outside Ireland. In some instances, you may well end up paying 5%-6% of your original withdrawal in banking fees.

On the other hand, exchanging money before your trip is not a viable solution either. Besides not being any cheaper, it’s also not safe or wise to carry so much money on you during your trip. As such, we recommend using the services of online banking fintech companies such as Revolut, N26 or Monzo.

Although each have their own limitations and fees, they allow you to withdraw a certain amount in foreign currency without any fees involved. And even after that threshold is reached, costs are much smaller when compared to traditional banks.

Regarding the French leg of your trip, and since France is part of the Eurozone, just like Ireland, there is no currency exchange, with both nations using the Euro. As such, travelers are able to use the same credit/debit card that they utilize back at home without incurring in any fees. However, keep in mind some local banks or networks (such as the infamous Euronet ATM’s) may charge you a flat fee per withdrawal upon detecting that you’re using a foreign card.

Nevertheless, and so that you can get a tighter grip on your travel budget and things don’t slide out of control, we still recommend using Revolut. By using the bank’s online app, you will have immediate access to your balance, as well as all your expenses, allowing you to check in real time whether you’ve been charged any fees for your withdrawals or not. Besides, you may just load your card with the exact daily amount you want to spend on your trip, helping you to avoid overspending and going over your budget. Plus, if you find yourself in a situation where your card got lost or stolen, the only money you stand to lose is amount you had loaded your card with. Sign up for Revolut for free >> to get 3 months of Premium.

Basel and Colmar 3-day travel guide – Common scams and frauds

Since Switzerland is currently 10th on the Global Peace Index, it comes as no surprise that Basel can be considered one of the safest destinations in the world. That being said, the chances of ever coming across some kind of crime or violence are next to non-existent! Fortunately, the same goes for Colmar, since the Alsace region is one of the safest in France – especially when it comes to smaller towns (which is the case).

However, and much like you would do in any other big city, using your common-sense is key. That means no taxis whose drivers refuse to start the meter, no accepting help from strangers when you’re using an ATM or trying to buy metro tickets and always keeping an eye out for your stuff when you’re walking through busy areas. To sum up: don’t do anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in any other city!

Where to sleep in Basel and Colmar – Hotels and Accommodation

If you’re looking out for a place to stay on our Basel and Colmar 3-day travel guide then we got your covered!

Unfortunately, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries on Earth, meaning any hopes of having a budget-experience when visiting Basel are better off dead! This goes for pretty much every single item you can think of when planning a trip (such as food, accommodation, experiences, etc.). As for Colmar, and though it is a bit lighter on the wallet, it can still be a pretty pricey place, as this is one of the most popular and touristy destinations in France!

However, one of the main advantages of both Basel and Colmar’s geographic and cultural proximity to Germany, is that hotels and apartments tend to have relatively high and consistent standards in Germanic countries. Yes, you’ll pay a bit more but at least you’ll get your money’s worth!

That being said, here are a few hotel options which have passed our value-for-money test:

Hotels in Basel:

Hotels in Colmar:

Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide – Transportation between the airport and the center of Basel

Upon landing in Basel, the best way to reach the city is by using the line nº10 from the local bus system. The stop is located right outside the arrivals’ terminal (just follow the signs) and the bus will drop you off at the Railway Station in around 20 minutes. These vehicles run daily from 04h10 to 00h36, and you can either buy your ticket from the stop’s automatic machines or directly from the driver. One-way tickets cost CHF 4,70. However, if you show the driver a booking confirmation at a local hotel for the night of your arrival, you get to ride the bus for free!

Finally, if you happen to land in Basel outside of the bus’s working hours and need to rely on the taxi, the same trip will cost you a whopping CHF 50!

Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide – Public transportation

Even though Basel is a medium-sized city, it boasts a rather efficient public transportation system, composed of buses and – most notably – an extensive and convenient tram service.

Fortunately, the city is also extremely compact, meaning you’ll hardly need to rely on any public transportation to explore its main tourist attractions if you stay near the historic center.

As for Colmar, there’s no need for an overview of local public transportation since everything worthy of a visit can be found within its extraordinary, compact and totally walkable Old Town.

Basel Trams – Maps, Tickets and Fares

By far the most useful of Basel’s public transports, the local tram system is a network made up of 12 distinct lines. Besides covering the entire historic center, the tram actually crosses the border onto Germany and France, serving several suburban areas on both neighboring countries.

The tram operates every day from 05h00 to midnight.

Regarding tickets, the fare system is determined by the distance covered and the number of zones crossed during each journey. Each ticket category comes with a specific time limit for the trip to be completed, allowing for how many transfers you need within that timeframe, so as you long as abide by the number of zones your selected ticket allows you to traverse. Here’s a brief overview of the different tickets available:

  • Short Distance (2 km) – CHF 2,30 – Valid for 30 minutes
  • 1 Zone – CHF 3,80 – Valid for 60 minutes
  • 2 Zones – CHF 4,70 – Valid for 90 minutes
  • 3 Zones – CHF 6,10 – Valid for 120 minutes

You can buy your tickets from the automatic machines at tram stations/bus stops. Alternatively, they are also available through the BLT and SBB applications. Regardless of your choice, remember to validate your travel ticket before boarding.

Furthermore, as mentioned earlier for transportation between the city and the airport, if you have a confirmed reservation in Basel, you will be given a Basel Card for free!

Basel Card – Free public transportation and discounts on tourist attractions

Upon checking in at any Basel hotel, all guests receive a Basel Card as a special gift. This card will grant you free access to public transportation throughout your stay, helping you cut some costs in an admittedly pricey city. However, keep in mind this complimentary service is only applicable to zones 10, 11, 13, 14 and 15 of the current network, encompassing the entire city center and the airport – basically, the most convenient areas!

In addition to free transportation, the card also comes with a 50% discount on admission to all city museums, the local zoo, guided bus tours, boat rides on the Rhine, the Reigoldswil-Wasserfallen Cable Car and entrance fees to Basel’s major annual events. Lastly, as some locations in Basel provide public Wi-Fi open to residents, cardholders can also enjoy free internet access. Simply locate “Guest Wi-Fi Basel” and enter the access code provided with the card.

Transportation between Basel and Colmar

Given the distance of less than 70 km between Basel and Colmar, traveling between these two cities couldn’t be any easier!

You have the option of taking the train, with both the SNCF (French Railways) and SBB (Swiss Railways) selling tickets online for this route. Trains run every 30/60 minutes (depending on the time of day) from 05h20 to 22h40, with the journey taking just 45 minutes. Prices for train tickets usually range between €16-€18.

Alternatively, you can consider taking the bus with Flixbus. The German company operates two daily connections between Basel and Colmar, one in the morning and another in the evening. When purchased well in advance, bus tickets are relatively cheaper compared to train tickets, starting from €8,99. However, the bus journey takes longer (1h15 to 1h30) and is generally way less comfortable.

Getting around Alsace – Buses and Trains

Once you make it to Colmar, and unless you’re planning on going all the way north to Strasbourg, you’ll have no other option but to rely on the regional buses from Fluo Grand Est in order to get to other Alsatian tourist hotspots, such as Eguisheim, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg or Ribeauvillé. Fortunately, the institution’s website allows you to search for connections and schedules online. Besides, it’s also integrated into Google Maps. Be that as it may, these are the lines/routes for visiting the aforementioned destinations:

  • Colmar – Riquewihr: 68R016
  • Riquewihr – Ribeauvillé: 68R016
  • Ribeuvillé – Colmar: 68R016
  • Colmar – Kaysersberg: 68R013
  • Colmar – Eguisheim: 68R030

Ordinary tickets cost 4,00€ and can be bought directly from the bus driver, although some of the shorter segments are obviously cheaper. However, each 4,00€-ticket is equally valid for the return-trip, so as long as you take the second bus within 4 hours from the first. For example, if you take the bus from Colmar to Riquewihr at 12h00, you can use the same ticket for a second trip before 16h00. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Sundays should be avoided to travel around Alsace using the regional buses, since most routes are suspended (or with heavily restricted schedules) during this specific day of the week.

Basel and Colmar 3-day Travel Guide – Free walking tours

While in Basel and Colmar, you have the option to explore both locations with a free walking tour. These tours, led by local guides or tour companies, offer guided visits to the historic center, sharing intriguing stories about each place and providing valuable cultural context. Even though these tours are technically free, it’s customary to show appreciation for the guide’s efforts by leaving a tip at the end. In Basel, a reasonable tip hover around CHF 8,00. As for Colmal, €7,00 would be the minimum threshold.

That being said, here are a few companies that run free walking tours in Basel and Colmar.

Free walking tours in Basel:

Free walking tours in Colmar:

Basel and Colmar 3-day Travel Guide – Hidden Treasures

With 3 days in Basel and Colmar, you’ll have more than enough time to explore both towns’ main tourist attractions and even discover a few hidden gems along the way, as long as a couple alternative small towns in the region of Alsace.

As such, and because we believe a good traveler must always be able to explore beyond the obvious, here are a few more obscure places you should add to your list of things to see and do in Basel and Colmar in 3 days:

Basel Reaction Ferries: Connecting the banks of Grossbasel and Kleinbasel, with the majestic Rhine standing between them, these ferries stand as a true symbol of the city. Besides offering an affordable and extremely scenic way of crossing the river (CHF 2,00), the boats don’t use any motor propulsion system, relying solely on the force of currents.

Basel Botanical Garden: Originally established in 1589, this garden ranks among the world’s oldest botanical gardens. Currently, they’re under the management of the University of Basel, and entrance is free of charge.

Kaysersberg: Another tiny, charming village, perfectly in line with the region’s tremendous charm. No wonder it was crowned “The Favorite Village of the French” back in 2017 edition!

Obernai: Since it’s not located near the more traditional Colmar route, this beautiful village is often overlooked in most Alsace itineraries. Nevertheless, with its medieval charm and partially intact fortifications, it’s easy to understand the significance of its history, having earned the title of “Free Imperial City” inside the Holy Roman Empire – a level of autonomy reserved for the empire’s most important cities.

Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide – What to See and Do in 72 Hours

Since Basel’s essentials can be visited in a single day, I highly recommend taking the other two days of the itinerary to explore the magnificent town of Colmar, as well as some other settlements along the enchanting French region of Alsace. After all, this is where you’ll find some of the prettiest, most picturesque small towns in all of Europe, so not taking advantage of Basel’s geographic proximity would be a massive disservice!

Without further ado, here’s what to see and do in Basel and Colmar in 3 days:

Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide: Day 1 – Basel

For the start of your cross-border adventure, you’ll first explore the charming Swiss city of Basel, one of the country’s most overlooked destinations. However, don’t let yourself be fooled by its somewhat “lesser” status, as Basel’s splendid Old Town (Altstadt) offers plenty to see and do! Still, before diving deep into the maze of historic buildings, one must start off with a ride on the Basel Reaction Ferries. Connecting the banks of Grossbasel and Kleinbasel, with the majestic Rhine standing between them, these ferries stand as a true symbol of the city. Besides offering an affordable and extremely scenic way of crossing the river (CHF 2,00), the boats don’t use any motor propulsion system, relying solely on the force of currents. There are four different boarding points, with the most picturesque routes departing between the Wettsteinbrucke and Mittlerebrucke bridges. Across the river, follow the boat ride up with a visit to the Basel Botanical Garden awaits. Originally established in 1589, this garden ranks among the world’s oldest, currently sitting under the management of the University of Basel (entrance is free).

From there, you’ll finally step into the Old Town through the Spalentor Gate, walking down Spalenberg Street, known for being Basel’s most important commercial throughfare and one of its prettiest streets. Serving as the heart of Basel, your next stop will take place at the famous Marktplatz, where an ancient local market is organized to this day! However, and alongside the street stalls, it’s the glitzy, red-painted façade of the Rathaus, the town hall building, that usually catches the eyes of visitors. While the interior is partially restricted, you can still catch a free glimpse of the main hall and the two local governing chambers. Still inside the Altstadt, no other building is more impressive than the Basel Minster, the local cathedral that stands as the city’s architectural masterpiece. Besides the interiors, be sure to check the cloisters and take in the views from Basler Pfalz, a viewing platform located right behind the cathedral. On your way out of the historic center, make a quick detour to Tinguely Fountain, before visiting Kunstmuseum Basel (CHF 16,00). This is the city’s Fine Arts museum and its most important cultural institution, showcasing works by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso or Dalí. If traditional art isn’t really your cup of tea and prefer a more hands-on experience, you can skip the Kunstmuseum and check out Papiermühle (CHF 18,00) instead. This alternative museum is housed inside a former paper mill and offers a more interactive visit, with an exhibition that details the old processes behind paper-making, printing and binding, before the “modern” techniques introduced by Gutenberg.

First day wrap-up:

  • Old Town (Altstadt)
  • Basel Reaction Ferries
  • Basel Botanical Garden
  • Spalentor Gate
  • Spalenberg Street
  • Marktplatz
  • Basel Rathaus
  • Basel Minster
  • Basler Pfalz
  • Tinguely Fountain
  • Kunstmuseum Basel
  • Papiermühle

Where to eat in Basel – Cheap restaurants:

Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide: Day 2 – Colmar

After visiting Basel, it is now time to cross the border towards France and explore some of the most beautiful towns in the region of Alsace. And you might as well go all-in on this one because we’ll be kicking things off with none other than Colmar, unanimously acclaimed as the most beautiful town in the region. As explained in this guide’s public transportation section, you can travel between Basel and Colmar via SNCF/SBB trains or Flixbus buses. Once you arrive in Colmar, you’ll enter the old town via the colorful Quai de la Poissonnerie, where the local fishermen used to live, which is directly connected to La Petite Venise, one of the most photogenic quarters in the city, located at the confluence of the Lauch River’s meandering canals (hence its name: “Little Venice”).

Afterwards, take a quick walk through the Quartier des Tanneurs, which, much like in Strasbourg, used to be inhabited by the local tanners, before you make it to the Ancienne Douane, an historical building that served as a customs office for all of Colmar’s imported and exported goods back in the 15th century. From here, you’re free to explore at your leisure and get lost in the enchanting streets and alleys of the city, with highlights like the Grand Rue, the Rue des Marchands and the Rue des Boulangers. While Colmar may not be brimming with grand monuments, its lovely streets are filled with charming façades, nukes and details, making it one of the most picturesque and “fairytale-ish” corners of Europe. Nonetheless, make sure to check off a few of its most popular attractions, including the majestic Saint Martin’s Church, the Dominican Church or the convent housing the Unterlinden Museum.

Second day wrap-up:

  • Colmar
    • Quai de la Poissonnerie
    • La Petite Venise
    • Quartier des Tanneurs
    • Ancienne Douane
    • Grand Rue
    • Rue des Marchands
    • Rue des Boulangers
    • Saint Martin’s Church
    • Museum Unterlinden

Where to eat in Colmar – Cheap restaurants:

Basel and Colmar 3-Day Travel Guide: Day 3 – Riquewihr and Kaysersberg

After spending the night in Colmar, and as your journey through Basel and the Alsace is coming to an end, there are two more historic villages you’ll be visiting before capping off your time in the region! Wasting no time, you’ll kick things off by heading to Scheurer Kestner Square and catching bus 68R016 to Riquewihr, the first stop of the day. Although Riquewihr is significantly smaller than Colmar (you can see it in about an hour), this walled village is not to be missed. After passing through the Hotel de Ville, the town hall building which also serves as Riquewhir’s main gate, you’ll stroll down Rue du Général de Gaulle, the only street that spans the entire village and – I guarantee – one of the most insanely beautiful thoroughfares you will ever lay your eyes upon. At the end of the “rue”, you’ll get to climb up the Dolder, an ancient watchtower now housing the village museum. Plus, even if history isn’t really your thing, the view from atop is well worth the 3.00€ admission fee. From there, you can wander along the Rue des Remparts that runs alongside the old wall and visit the Tour des Vouleurs, where the criminals of Riquewihr used to be locked up.

Once you’re good with this small town, you have two options to reach Kaysersberg, the next village on the itinerary. On one hand, you can take the same bus (68R016) back to Colmar and then switch to line 68R013; or you can choose to walk the 5km that separate Riquewihr from Kaysersberg. This distance takes about an hour to cover, but the path will take you through the scenic vineyards of Alsace, making it actually quite pleasurable. Upon reaching Kaysersberg, you’ll come across another tiny, charming village, in line with what you’ve been seeing and experiencing throughout the day. No wonder Kaysersberg was crowned “The Favorite Village of the French” in 2017! Here, it’s worth walking along the main street (also called Rue du Général de Gaulle), admiring the magnificent Sainte Croix Church – possibly the most impressive in all of Alsace’s small towns – and crossing the Pont Fortifié, before setting out on the inevitable climb to Château de Kaysersberg, the village’s main feature. Although not much is left of the ancient castle, the views over Kaysersberg are simply unrivaled! To return to Colmar, where you’ll catch the train or bus back to Basel, you can take bus 68R013 at Porte Haute. It’s a long day, but a definite highlight before flying back home!

Third day wrap-up:

  • Riquewihr
    • Hotel de Ville
    • Rue du Général de Gaulle
    • Dolder
    • Rue des Remparts
    • Tour des Vouleurs
  • Kaysersberg
    • Rue du Général de Gaulle
    • Sainte Croix Church
    • Pont Fortifié
    • Château de Kaysersberg

Got more than 3 days in Strasbourg? Then you might want to check out the best day trips from the city:

  • Zurich: Known as Switzerland’s financial hub, Zurich is one of the very few places that can actually make Basel seem a bit more affordable. Be that as it may, exploring the Old Town, seeing the city’s expansive lake and stumbling upon the Giacometti Murals, hidden inside a police station, is totally worth the visit!
  • Bern: Probably the prettiest city in Switzerland, it’s hard to believe that a place with such a small-town feel can actually be the administrative capital of such a rich, prosperous country. Plus, is there any other city this size where you can casually come across bears in their natural habitat?
  • Lucerne: Switzerland’s tourism postcard boy, little Lucerne is a photographer’s dream, as well as one of the most popular destinations in the country. Local icon Kapellbrücke ranks among the most iconic (and beautiful) bridges in the world!
  • Strasbourg: The beating heart of Alsace, Strasbourg is the biggest city in the region, as well as one of the capitals of the European Union! Nonetheless, the city boasts plenty of tourism appeal, with an Old Town and a food scene that beautifully blend French and German influences.
  • Ribeauvillé: Another amazing Alsatian village, where you can expect the typical colorful façades and charming half-timbered houses. Moreover, Ribeauvillé is surrounded by rolling hills, with one of these hills serving as home to the so-called Three Castles, a set of ancient ruins offering fantastic views of the village and the surrounding vineyard-covered landscape.

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