Basel in November: top reasons to visit and guide for 2023

Interesting indoors to the cathedral in Basel

Are you wondering what Basel in November’s like? You’re in the right place! Discover what makes the city a fantastic place for a November break in this blog post.

As autumn turns to winter, the Swiss city of Basel becomes an enviable city break destination.

The city’s renowned for its wholesome art scene which can be appreciated whatever the weather – but it also has a milder and more forgiving climate than other Swiss regions, making it easier to explore.

Events take place throughout the month, from the city’s famous Herbstmesse – one of the most beloved festivals in Europe – to the Christmas markets which indicate the beginning of the Christmas period.

One of my best friends lives in Basel, so I’ve visited a couple of times in November (and plenty of other times througout the year!). Here’s what I thought of Basel in this transitional month, and why you should schedule a visit!

Reasons to visit Basel in November

From specific fairs and festivals (both in Basel and in nearby Swiss, French and German cities) to its atmosphere, there’s an array of reasons to plan a November trip to Basel.

Here are some aspects to the city in late autumn/ early winter that will make you want to visit!

1. Autumn Colours

View over the River Rhine with the Basel Skyline on the other side.

November’s a transitional month in Europe – some destinations, like northern Norway, are fully under the clutches of winter already – whereas southern Europe can still enjoy plenty of winter sunshine

If you visit Basel right at the start of the month, you might experience a city still holding onto the last clutches of Autumn. 

Merian Gardens – a fifteen-minute tram ride from the city centre – sprawls across eighteen hectares and burst into a riot of reds, oranges, and yellows in November before the trees ultimately fall to the ground. 

Also, don’t miss Kannenfeldpark, the city’s largest park and widely regarded as one of the best in the country for natural autumn foliage. 

Outside of the parks, the city itself becomes a canvas painted with these autumn hues. 

The River Rhine is bordered by trees adorned in their autumn finery; wrap up warm, grab a hot chocolate (the Swiss do some of the best in the world) and breathe in fresh air while walking right by the water. 

2. Basler Herbstmesse (Basel Autumn Fair)

Visiting Basel in early November? Don’t miss the Herbstmesse – one of the city’s most beloved events! 

Beginning on the last weekend of October and lasting for two weeks, well into November, Basel’s Autumn Fair is the largest and oldest amusement fair in the country.

It’s a sight to behold as squares and locations across Basel metamorphose into hubs of amusement. 

You’ll find a range of traditional and modern rides scattered across the city – think of the thrill as you hop onto a roller coaster at Messeplatz, or the giddy enjoyment of the merry-go-round at Barfüsserplatz

The towering Ferris wheel at Münsterplatz, with its panoramic views of the city, is an iconic symbol of the fair.

Stalls offering fun games and competitions line the festival grounds, their cheerful stallholders inviting passersby to try their luck. 

Winning an oversized teddy bear or a quirky souvenir becomes a cherished memory of the Basler Herbstmesse!

Then there are the culinary offerings.

Traditional Swiss food vendors set up their stalls, promising mouth-watering treats.

From hearty sausages and pretzels to comforting cups of hot chocolate, the food alone can be worth the visit.

3. Mild(er) November Weather

Historic cathedral in Basel in the winter months.

As Basel is fairly low-lying (about 261 m above sea level), it can be a lot milder in November than its high-altitude Swiss counterparts, often shrouded in heavy snowfall at this time.

A typical November day in Basel may greet you with a light dusting of frost on the rooftops and a crisp chill in the air. 

It’s not a warm November destination, but I’ve always found I can comfortably roam the city streets, admire the architecture of the Old Town, or enjoy the riverside views without freezing! 

In fact, even cycling along the River Rhine or jogging in one of Basel’s scenic parks are possible in November. 

Basel’s famous zoo is largely outdoors, and many of its inhabitants remain active, thanks to the milder winter weather. 

It feels fairly similar to London in November – so if you’re from the UK (or elsewhere in that part of Europe) the climate will probably seem quite familiar.

4. Seasonal Markets in Basel

Christmas themed houses on a stall in Basel festive market.

As the calendar pages turn and November progresses, Basel’s Marktplatz, or Market Square, undergoes a transformation. 

Once the Herbstmesse is complete, the air starts to fill with a distinctive festive feel. 

Basel’s renowned Christmas markets (among the best in Europe) begin to emerge, blending seamlessly with the regular offerings of the Marktplatz. 

It’s an early opportunity to soak in a traditional Swiss Christmas experience. 

Wooden chalets adorned with twinkling fairy lights start to dot the square, each hosting a variety of artisan crafts, festive decorations, and seasonal treats.

From hand-blown glass ornaments to traditional Swiss gingerbread, these markets offer a treasure trove of Christmas-themed delights.

Whether you are a food enthusiast, a lover of local culture, or seeking to dive into the festive spirit, the seasonal markets in Basel in late November offer something for everyone. 

5. Gateway to Alsace Christmas Markets

Claire wrapped up in a coat on a bridge in Colmar.

As November draws to a close, Basel is a convenient gateway to the festive allure of the neighbouring Alsace region in France

Known for its picturesque towns and old-world charm, Alsace kicks off the holiday season with the opening of its famous Christmas markets (that rival those in Germany!) in late November. 

The region is easily accessible from Basel.

Last time, when I visited on the last weekend in November, I boarded a train to Colmar, which took less than an hour.

Then, I took the train to nearby Strasbourg to see their Christmas market, before returning to Basel in the evening. 

Colmar and Strasbourg are particularly renowned for their Christmas markets. 

They’re both fabled as storybook towns, with quaint half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets and in the festive season they transform. 

As you stroll through these markets, you’ll find rows of wooden stalls, each festooned with twinkling lights and Christmas decorations. 

Here, local artisans showcase their skills with a wide array of handcrafted goods, from traditional Alsatian Christmas decorations to hand-knit scarves and gloves. 

Local cusine also takes centre stage, with stalls offering traditional treats like pretzels, spiced cookies, and hearty Alsatian sausages.

Visiting Basel in late November is perfect if you’re visiting Switzerland but want to also enjoy a slice of the Alscace at Christmas!

6. Proximity to Other Swiss November Festivals

One of the unique advantages of Basel in November is its geographical proximity to various Swiss cities and towns hosting particular November festivals.

Basel has excellent rail connections, which make it a strategic base for day trips. 

The Zibelemärit or Onion Market (held on the fourth Monday of every November) in Bern stands out. 

This unique festival sees Bern’s city centre overrun with an incredible variety of onion-themed crafts and foods. 

The streets come alive with vendors selling intricately braided onion garlands, onion-themed ceramics, and even onion tarts!

If you venture towards Richterswil, a small town on Lake Zurich, you’ll encounter the Räbechilbi Turnip Festival

The highlight of this event is the grand procession of elaborately carved turnip lanterns that parade through the night! 

A short train ride away from Basel takes you to Aarau, home to the traditional Swiss “Carrot Market” or the Aargauer Rüeblimärt. 

This one-day festival is dedicated to all things carrots! 

A plethora of stalls showcase an array of carrot products, ranging from fresh produce to jams, cakes, juices, and even decorative items. 

In addition to these food-themed events, November also sets the stage for the internationally-acclaimed Lucerne Blues Festival.

Held in the beautiful city of Lucerne, about an hour’s train ride from Basel, this festival brings together some of the best blues musicians from around the globe. 

The soulful rhythms and expressive performances reverberate through the city, and the stages are home to everyone from seasoned performers to up-and-coming talents.

Things to do in Basel in November

Christmas signs above huts in Basel in December, with a church in the background.
  1. Take a leisurely stroll around Basel’s Old Town.
  2. Revel in the festive atmosphere at the Basel Autumn Fair, the oldest and largest fair in Switzerland.
  3. Admire the beautiful Rhine River, perhaps taking a cruise.
  4. Visit the Kunstmuseum Basel, home to the world’s oldest public art collection.
  5. Explore the Basel Historical Museum for a deep dive into the city’s rich past.
  6. Delight your taste buds at Basel’s vibrant Farmers Market in the Marktplatz.
  7. Marvel at the contemporary exhibits in the Fondation Beyeler, a renowned modern art museum.
  8. Explore the unique Tinguely Museum, dedicated to the works of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely.
  9. Relax and watch the world go by in the 500-year-old Basel Town Hall, a beautiful 500-year-old building.
  10. Browse the stalls and soak up the festive spirit at Basel’s Christmas markets, which begin to spring up by late November.
  11. Hop on a train to visit the Zibelemärit (Onion Market) in Bern or the Räbechilbi Turnip Festival in Richterswil.
  12. Plan a day trip to the neighbouring Alsace region in France, visiting the famous Christmas markets in Colmar and Strasbourg.
  13. Experience the local nightlife in the trendy Kleinbasel district.
  14. Visit the Gate of Spalen, one of the three remaining gates of the medieval city of Basel.
  15. Treat yourself to a performance at the Theater Basel, one of the most important and innovative stage venues in the German-speaking theatre landscape.

Check out my full guide to visiting Basel in winter by clicking here.

What’s the weather like in Basel in November?

Looking down the streets in Basel with buildings in the background.

In November, Basel starts to feel the chill of the oncoming winter, though it remains relatively mild compared to other Swiss destinations.

It’s a time when you might see your breath fog up in the morning chill, the cobblestones glistening from an overnight shower, or feel the comforting warmth of a café from the chilly air outside.

Here’s a table with the average weather for the month:

High Temperature8°C (46°F)
Low Temperature2°C (36°F)
Days of Rain10-12 days
Chance of Snowlow (but not impossible)

What to pack for a November trip to Basel

So, what to pack for Basel?

The first thing to consider is the city’s crisp autumn climate transitioning into winter.

It’s a time when temperatures range from mildly chilly to cold, so layering is key. Here are some essentials to include in your packing list.

Firstly, a warm, waterproof jacket is a must.

Basel’s November weather can be unpredictable, with the possibility of rain on some days.

A good quality jacket that can shield you from both wind and rain is essential to stay warm and dry.

Next, make sure to pack a sweater or two.

Opt for materials like wool or cashmere that provide good insulation.

They can be worn under your jacket for additional warmth on particularly cold days, or on their own on milder days.

Thermal underlayers are also worth considering.

These lightweight items can add a significant amount of warmth without adding bulk to your luggage or outfit. You’ll definitely want to pack these if you’re venturing up to the Swiss mountains.

Pair these layers with comfortable trousers or jeans.

Denim or other heavier fabrics will help shield your legs from the cold, especially during breezy days or chilly nights.

You’ll be doing a fair amount of walking, whether it’s exploring Basel’s Old Town or strolling through markets.

Therefore, comfortable, waterproof shoes are a must. They should be sturdy enough for cobblestone streets and warm enough to keep your feet cosy.

Lastly, don’t forget a scarf, gloves, and a hat.

These not only add an extra layer of warmth but are also easy to remove if you find yourself in a heated museum or café.

A compact umbrella could also come in handy for occasional showers!

Things to remember when visiting Basel in November

Interesting indoors to the cathedral in Basel

Be mindful of the following when you’re visiting Basel in November!

  1. Cold and Potential Snow: While Basel’s November weather is typically milder compared to other Swiss destinations, be prepared for cold and potentially snowy conditions. Ensure you’re dressed appropriately for the weather, layering your clothing and donning good quality winter accessories.
  2. Short Daylight Hours: The days in November get shorter, and the sun usually sets early in the evening. Plan your outdoor activities accordingly, ensuring you make the most of the daylight hours.
  3. Data Roaming: Switzerland isn’t part of the EU, which might affect your data roaming capabilities if you’re used to freely using data in EU countries. It’s wise to check with your service provider before your trip or consider a local SIM card.
  4. Currency: Switzerland uses the Swiss franc (CHF), not the Euro. Although most places in Basel accept card payments (if you’re UK-based, I use and recommend Monzo – click here to get a free fiver when you sign up), it’s always handy to have some local currency for smaller establishments or market stalls.
  5. High Prices: Switzerland is known for its high cost of living, and this remains true even in November. From dining to accommodation and tourist attractions, prices can be higher than other European cities, even in winter.
  6. Travel Insurance: Given the high cost of healthcare in Switzerland, comprehensive travel insurance is essential. It should cover potential medical emergencies, travel disruptions, and other unexpected situations.

Are you ready to visit Basel in November?

The temperatures may be cooling and the weather darkening, but Basel in November maintains plenty of allures! Whether you visit to enjoy the end of autumn at the Herbstmesse or to celebrate the start of the festive season, this Swiss city always has a lot to offer.

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