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Basel (English traditionally: Basle [ba:l], German: Basel ['ba:z@l], French Bâle [ba:l], Italian Basilea [bazi'lE:a]) is Switzerland's third most populous city (188,000 inhabitants in the canton of Basel-City as of 2004; but 690,000 inhabitants in the conurbation stretching across the immediate cantonal and national boundaries, making this Switzerland's second-largest urban area as of 2003).

Located in north-west Switzerland on the river Rhine, Basel functions as a major industrial centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. The city borders both Germany and France. The Basel region, culturally extending into German Baden and French Alsace, reflects the heritage of its three states in the modern Latin name: "Regio TriRhena"). It has an old university.



Basel has Switzerland's only cargo port, through which goods pass along the navigable stretches of the Rhine.

EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, known as Euroairport, shares its facilities and services between Switzerland and France. The airport lies in an exclave in France; a national border runs through the airport terminal.

Basel has long held an important place as a rail hub. Three railway stations -- those of the German, French and Swiss networks -- lie within the city. A goods railway complex exists as well.

Industry and Trade

An annual Federal Swiss trade fair (Mustermesse) takes place in Kleinbasel on the right bank of the Rhine. Other important Fairs include "Basel" (Watches), Art, Orbit and Cultura.

The Swiss chemical industry operates largely from Basel, with Novartis, Ciba , and Hoffmann-La Roche headquartered there. Pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals have become the modern focus of the city's industrial production. Some of the chemical industry's most notable creations include DDT, Araldite and LSD.

Numerous major Swiss banks maintain central offices in Basel, giving finance a pivotal role in the local economy. The importance of banking began when the Bank for International Settlements located within the city in 1930. Basel's innovative financial industry includes institutions like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision . Responsible for the Basel Accords , this organization fundamentally changed Risk Management within its industry.

Basel is served by Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg International Airport, actually located in France.

Basel has Switzerland's tallest building, Basler Messeturm.

History and science

Basel traces its history back to at least the days of the Roman empire settlement of Augusta Raurica . The city's position on the Rhine long emphasised its importance: Basel for many centuries possessed the only bridge over the river "between Lake Constance and the sea". In 1356 an earthquake caused extensive damage in the city.

Basel became the focal point of western Christendom during the 15th-century Council of Basel.

See also: pharmacopoeia


The Romanesque Minster, with its two (uneven) towers forms an architectural monument which survived mediaeval earthquake. The tomb of Erasmus lies inside the Minster.

Basel is also host to an array of buildings by internationally renowned architects, such as the Beyeler Foundation by Renzo Piano, or the Vitra complex in nearby Weil am Rhein, comprised of three buildings by Zaha Hadid (fire station), Frank Gehry (design museum) and Tadao Ando (conference centre).


Basel hosts Switzerland's oldest university, dating from 1459. Erasmus, Paracelsus, Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler and Friedrich Nietzsche worked here. More recently, work in tropical medicine has gained prominence.


Geo-politically, the city of Basel functions as the capital of the Swiss half-canton of Basel-Stadt, though several of its suburbs form part of the half-canton of Basel-Landschaft or of the canton of Aargau.

Famous Basel People


Basel has a reputation in Switzerland as a successful sporting city. The soccer club FC Basel continues to be successful and in recognition of this the city will be one of the venues for the 2008 European Championships, as well as Geneva, Zürich and Bern. The championships will be jointly hosted by Switzerland and Austria.

The largest indoor tennis event in Europe occurs in Basel every October. The best ATP-Professionals play every year at the "Davidoff Swiss Indoors".

In 2002, the World Judo Championships took place in Basel.

Basel features a large soccer stadium, a modern ice hockey hall and an admitted sports hall.


Basel has a reputation as one of the most important cultural cities in Europe. In 1997, it contended to become the "European Capital of Culture". In May 2004, the fifth EJCF choir festival will open: this Basel tradition started in 1992. Host of this festival is the local Basel Boys Choir.

Last updated: 11-06-2004 16:29:07