Basel at its very best is Basel during one of its cultural events, and the pick of this crowded calendar is the Winter Carnival – or ‘Fasnacht’ to the natives.
- When? 19th - 22nd March 2018
- Where? Throughout Basel
- Price: free
During this, Switzerland’s biggest winter carnival, the city streets are resplendent with costumed revellers and cacophonous marching bands creating an entrancing otherworldly atmosphere.
Unlike other big festivals you may have been to in the past, Fasnacht starts at 4am (!) with Morgestraich (the opening ceremony) on the Monday morning after Ash Wednesday. But trust us, it’s worth the early wake-up call.
At precisely 4am the street lights are switched off, leaving the carousers reliant on the dim hue of a few lanterns for visibility, along with the smaller lights on the heads of those participating in the event.
Then comes the procession of drummers, piccolo players and other marching musicians all spot-lit like fireflies, making for an ethereal experience like no other. Word of warning, however, any attempts to improve visibility through flash photography or any other disruptive lighting will be met by scorn by the locals.
The opening fete is normally capped off at dawn with a delicious breakfast of onion pie (Ziibelewaije), brown flour soup (Mählsuppe) and a good glass of wine or beer.
This wonderfully sets the tone for the next three days, where every active participant is costume-clad and the rhythmic drum-beat resounds through the streets and courtyards. If some of the events seem a little strange, don’t hesitate to ask one the friendly locals for a bit more context as they love sharing the stories and fables that make up Fasnacht.
The Carnival attracts around half a million people each year, adding great texture to this enchanting occasion. However, it also puts a strain on Basel’s hospitality so make sure to book soon.
- Get there: EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg is the closest airport. Use the tram and bus to get around when you don't want to walk.
- Stay: Find a hotel in the city centre.
*We do our very best to verify the dates of our events but please check with the official event provider before booking your flights. We would hate for you to be disappointed!