Had I taken the left turn then we might have had a completely different review, the airport at Basel, Switzerland is shared with Mulhouse, France and hence there are exits and both French and Swiss passport controls. Luckily I chose the right exit into Switzerland. However, as soon as my guide's car left the airport carpark we crossed into France and then over a roundabout and back into Switzerland. The border controls between the three countries as you can gather are not only not strict but as far as I could tell, invisible as well. Given a choice of 2 languages the Basel locals mostly speak German but sometimes Merci is used instead of Danke.
Following an evening drinking the local Feldschlösschen lager, descending the large number of steps from the hotel to the market place was a little challenging. "Just in case," my hotel was placed right next door to the University Hospital, luckily I did not need to use it. Wandering in Basel old town is not for the immobile due to the steep steps and narrow alleyways. However, there are many buses that can take you all over town and a comprehensive tram network too. Nearly all of the Hotels provide you with a travel card that will allow free access to these but it does not include the journey back to the airport so save some Swiss Francs for the bus or a cab back home.
The old town Market place is on the South of the Rhine and the market sells a variety of food items. Surrounding the market place are a number of shops selling chocolate and general goods. My first cigar shop visited was on the side of the square, the large Davidoff logo and impressive display windows certainly make the shop easy to find. A large selection of cigars is kept in a corner walk-in Humidor. An extensive range of accessories is also available, including some impressive marquetry in the form of a white stork on the top of some example. Crossing over the square towards the town hall (red building see picture), and heading up the hill leads to our second cigar shop, Pfeifen Wolf.
The friendly Pfeifen Wolf staff showed me a wide range of cigars from which I selected a couple of Limited Edition cigars for about 2/3 of UK prices and a Honduran Libertad Robusto which provided a fine smoke for the rest of my day's travels. Further up the hill, I found another Davidoff cigar shop and then another and another. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of cigar shops in such a small area. I later noticed that Davidoff sponsor some of the local events. By the top of the hill is the Art Museum and some clever mechanical fountains.
At the top of the hill is the Cathedral with its twin towers overlooking the Rhine. From the Cathedral, I wandered down to the bridges across the Rhine to see the Annual swimming event. Normally swimming in such a fast flowing river with large cargo ships and cruise ships full of Americans would not be advised. However this day over 1500 people floated past holding onto large orange and blue balls sponsored by local companies. As well as the 4 bridges, the other way across the river is by ferry, these are driven by cables running across the river and traverse across the river sideways like a giant crab.
Where as the south of the river is the Old Town, the south of the river is most definitely the new town. By the Mittlere Brucke (middle bridge) is a floating stage with performing bands that can be heard from some distance. The Greifen Gasse that leads down to the exhibition centre is lined with bars. The side streets leading off Greifen Gasse have more bars and clubs but be aware that the area enclosed by the river and Untere Rebgasse is the red light district. Untere Rebgasse is also the home to Jenni's Tabakblatt, the sole distributor of the Nicuaguran "Artist Line" hand rolled cigars.
The following day, I took sustenance in the form of a large freshly grilled sausage before I travelled further up the hill from the market place. Here, I found another Davidoff shop and the Mr Pickwick English pub. Further up the hill still are several cinemas and restaurants and the town's main theatre that produces mostly German language plays, ballet and opera. Not far from these is the SAS Radison hotel and Paddy Reilly's Irish pub.
As Switzerland is not in the EU, I paid a visit to the duty free shop on the return journey and picked up some bargain Cohiba Esplendidos for the boss.
Although Basel is a good place for buying cigars, there did not seem to be many people smoking cigars in the bars and restraurants, perhaps they all smoke at home? Perhaps another visit to investigate further? Basel is a lovely town in the summer with plenty to see for all ages. However with all those steps, I can't recommend visiting the old town in the icy winter or the slippery autumn.
|Cigares Munsterberg||Freie Strasse 81||CH-4051|
|Davidoff / Oettinger Cigares||Market Platz 21||CH-4001|
|Intertabak AG||Aeschenvorstadt 48||CH-4052||Opposite Peter Hahn shop|
|Jenni's Tabakblatt||Untere Rebgasse 27||CH-4058||Just outside the red light district|
|Davidoff / Oettinger Cigares||
|CH-4051||Kiosk sized shop near the art muesum|
|Davidoff / Oettinger Cigares||Steinenvorstadt 2||CH-4051||Opposite Puppet Muesum|
|Pfeifen Wolf||Freie Strasse 10||CH-4001||Along from the townhall.|
|Pfyffe Laade||Rumelinsplatz 15||CH-4001||Discovered on a later trip.|
For more information on cigars in Switzerland, visit Intertabak, the official importer of Habanos in Switzerland.
Easyjet have several flights daily from Standstead and Luton to Basel / Mulhouse
Our reporter stayed at the Hotel Rochat
Swiss travel guide to Basel
Useful information and excellent town plans at Switzerland Is Yours.
Related articles: More cigars and travelling