Historic buildings in Basel on the bank of the Rhine River.
© Basel Tourismus.Photo: Teddy Verneuil

Basel’s most exciting museums and galleries this summer

This charming city is packed with cultural goings-on during summer. Here’s our pick of the best venues and exhibitions

Written by Time Out. Paid for in partnership with Basel Tourismus.

Basel’s connection with art runs deep, demonstrated to the world via the annual Art Basel, a famous, glitzy fair that brings the art world’s movers and shakers to the Swiss city each year. But art in Basel isn’t a once-a-year happening – culture is part of the lifeblood of the city, year-round. This can be seen and experienced wherever you go, thanks to a superb selection of museums, galleries and other cultural hubs.

Below, we’ve highlighted our favourite art hotspots across the city and the various special exhibitions and events taking place over the summer months. And remember that you get the most from these venues by using a BaselCard, a free card given out to anyone staying overnight at a hotel in Basel, entitling visitors to hefty discounts (including a 50% on some attractions), free Wi-Fi, free bus and tram rides, and ‘guest bike’ rental, which makes for a great way of navigating between museums. Find out more about the BaselCard here.

Uncover a new side to an icon of the art world at this special exhibition taking place in one of Basel’s most heralded galleries. The show traces the influence of Spanish Renaissance artist El Greco on Pablo Picasso across 40-ish works, drawing on the Kunstmuseum’s existing collection as well as bringing in prestigious new works from around the world. And if you’re visiting the Kunstmuseum on a Wednesday, be sure to stick around for the Yard Summer Music sessions. These evening parties feature buzzy DJs spinning tunes out on the venue’s picturesque patio, with cocktails available for full summer vibes.
Picasso – El Greco: Jun 11-Sep 25
Yard Summer Music: Wednesday evenings in July, August and September

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2022 marks the 25th anniversary of Fondation Beyeler, a highly acclaimed art institution in a beautiful location (a luscious, green park in Riehen, surrounded by water lily ponds, cornfields and vineyards) that focuses on modern and contemporary art, all housed in a striking building designed by architect Renzo Piano. As it happens, this year also marks the 150th anniversary of avant-garde artist Piet Mondrian’s birthday, so to celebrate the two milestones, Beyeler is hosting a major retrospective of the Dutch artist. Make the most of the gallery’s glorious setting at one of its free Sound Garden events, where musicians will perform live sets – anything from hip hop to Hawaiian – as the sun sets.
Mondrian Evolution: Jun 5-Oct 22
Sound Garden: every Wednesday evening from June 29

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Founded in 1834, this esteemed performing arts company showcases theatre, opera and dance, covering established productions and also generating its own original work. In 2021, the Basel Tastemakers group was formed to encourage Basel and Switzerland’s many international residents to enjoy the theatre’s world-class programming, with specially curated performances taking place every few weeks, accompanied by cocktail receptions and special guests. Upcoming Tastemaker events include a futuristic interpretation of Philip Glass’s innovative opera, ‘Einstein on the Beach’.
Einstein on the Beach: Jun 16

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For something a little different, try Museum Tinguely, a playful, creative take on a museum that focuses on letting viewers experience art through interaction. Holding the largest collection of work by Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, the venue was designed by famed Swiss architect Mario Botta and is located on the banks of the Rhine, providing yet another reason to visit. As well as its year-round experimental programme and the fascinating Schauatelier (a glass-fronted conversation studio where guests can watch a team of conservators in their daily work), the museum also stages several special exhibitions each year inspired by Jean Tinguely’s mind-bending world.
Summer opening party: Jun 7
BANG BANG: Translocal Hi:stories of Performance Art: Jun 8-Aug 21

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If you’re looking for somewhere to stay as you soak up all that culture, our tip is this gorgeous, five-star number on the riverbank. As well as providing the ideal location from which to hop between galleries and museums all day, Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois also houses some impressive objects of its own, thanks to a considerable collection of antique furnishings and valuable artwork. And once you’re done with museums for the day, try the hotel’s ‘cocktail experience’, a two-hour journey through the history of cocktail-making, with plenty of tastings along the way to set the scene.

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