By Kate Youde
The birthplace of tennis ace Roger Federer, Switzerland’s third-largest city is a global arts hub renowned for its high quality of living.
International and engaged
Basel, which borders France and Germany, has a large expat community: foreign nationals accounted for 37.1 per cent of the city’s 171,000 permanent residents in 2017, with 22.7 per cent from the EU.
The city’s residents are the country’s most politically engaged: Basel had the highest average participation rate of eight Swiss cities in federal votes and parliamentary elections held between 2014 and 2017.
They have just been to the polls again for the Swiss federal elections. Though foreigners could not vote, recent YouGov research found that 86 per cent of expats in Switzerland are content with the country’s political set-up, noting its stability.
The city’s economy is Switzerland’s strongest: provisional figures from BAK Economics for 2018 show that, at SFr180,414 ($181,000), Basel-Stadt’s nominal gross domestic product per capita is the highest of any region and more than double that of the country as a whole.
Home to pharmaceuticals multinationals Roche and Novartis, Basel has a reputation for life sciences. More than one in 10 people employed in Basel-Stadt in 2017 worked in the sector, which contributed 41.5 per cent of the canton’s total gross value added that year.
The Technologiepark Basel has state-of-the-art laboratories and houses early-stage start-ups, including pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies. The canton offers rent relief to new companies there for up to three years.
Safe and sound
Basel ranks among the top 10 cities globally for expat quality of life, based on measures including international schools, culture and availability of housing, according to research by Mercer.
The human resources consultancy also rates the Swiss city as the world’s second safest, behind Luxembourg, accounting for factors such as stability, crime levels, law enforcement and relationships with other countries.
The annual Art Basel international fair shows work by more than 4,000 artists, while the newer Photo Basel, which returns for the sixth time in June 2020, is dedicated to photography. But the city has plenty to offer art lovers all year round.
Von Bartha gallery, celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, represents international contemporary artists from a converted garage at Kannenfeldplatz, while Museum Tinguely by the Rhine has a permanent display of works by the Swiss 20th-century artist Jean Tiguely.
Fondation Beyeler, which shows modern and contemporary works by the likes of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso in a Renzo Piano-designed museum in Riehen, is a 15-minute tram ride from the Badischer Bahnhof, one of the city’s two main central railway stations.
Eye for detail
The city’s appreciation for the arts extends to modern architecture. Basel is home to the headquarters of architects Herzog & de Meuron, whose portfolio includes international landmarks such as the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. The practice has also made its mark across the city, most obviously with the Roche Tower, Switzerland’s tallest building.
The distinctive, rounded Aeschenplatz office originally designed for bank UBS by Swiss architect Mario Botta now houses the Bank for International Settlements.
Photographs: Getty Images; Alamy