Saunders 1865 | Moving to Basel

Moving to Basel

Are you moving to Basel? Situated where three countries meet in north-western Switzerland, Basel’s most commonly used language is Swiss German, although both English and French are widely spoken.  Basel is popular for its fantastic culture and history, plus having both France and Germany within walking distance.  Switzerland’s high standard of education, with a skilled workforce and an above average quality of life, the strong legal system, financial stability and planning reliability, benefits companies of all sizes, and their employees.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Basel report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

Putting Basel on the Map

Basel is situated in the heart of Europe, in a strategic position on both banks of the Upper Rhine river, lying between Germany’s Black Forest, the Vosges in Alsace, France and the Swiss Jura mountain range.  With excellent transport links to the three countries, the three river ports in Basel-Landschaft and Basel-Stadt focus on commercial cargo as opposed to passenger transportation.

The three railway stations command as much importance for Basel as does the EuroAirport, which is the country’s third largest airport.  Basel’s SNCF building and the central station share the same complex.  The formerly French SNCF railway has ceded the majority of its responsibilities to the Swiss company.  The Basel Badischer Bahnhof station, run by German Bahn AG, is in the northern part of the city with network connections to a number of German cities.

Basel’s two cantons, city and countryside, have a typically Swiss efficient and well-organised transport network.  The BVB in the city and the BLT in the rural areas consist of 12 city tram lines and many urban and rural bus lines.  Trains are faster than the bus services, and although the overall ticketing system is quite complex, discounts are always on offer.  Trams are the most common form of transport, and the distinctive green and yellow trams are extremely commonplace.

Intercity buses connect Basel to various cities.

Four fähri, or wooden ferries, glide gently across the Rhine transporting passengers to the other side.  Using the river’s current to get across, they are attached to cables to prevent them being swept always, ending up in the North Sea.

PubliBike is a cycle rental and bike sharing station.  More and more cyclists are opting to cycle to work rather than battling heavy traffic.

The Areas

Most expats find this a wonderful posting, with all the green areas, safety, efficient public transport, arts, theatre and music events.  Basel is a small and compact city influenced by three different countries.

One should note that the notice period on rental apartments is three months, so care should be taken – when you sign an agreement in Switzerland, it is enforced, whether or not you understood what you were signing.  It is generally better to sign a short-term contract than a long-term one.  Consultants are available to help in this regard, but they are quite expensive.  Rental properties are mainly unfurnished, which may mean without light fittings, a sink or curtains, so additional budget must be available.  Some apartments have stoves and fridges, and maybe even a washing machine in the basement, although this affects the rental price.  Refuse removal, water, heating and house and street cleaning may incur additional costs.  Central heating is usually standard in apartments.  The number of rooms advertised does not include bathrooms or kitchens.


The historical old city centre and St Alban are the most central areas and, therefore, the most expensive.  Mansions and more exclusive accommodation are the norm, with plenty of green areas.  The bars and nightclubs close at midnight during the week but open much later at weekends, the high-end shops offer all the big-name brands.  The ring road could spoil the peace and quiet in some streets, but the traditional daily market in the Renaissance-style City Hall square is handy for shoppers.


The southern districts are diverse; the amazing villas in Burderholz with its village feel but poor transport system may necessitate the need for a car, the cultural melting-pot of Gundeldigen, and the industrial charm of Dreispitz, one of the city’s fasting growing neighbourhoods.


These very popular residential areas form the western part of Basel, and highlights include Basel Zoo.  Should you sit at one of the nearby street cafes you may hear the sounds of Africa!  Bachletten has both expensive villas and post-war family homes, and all three areas have lovely green areas.  Terraced houses with gardens and lots of parks suit family living on the west side of the city.


This up and coming area has changed the city’s perceptions.  Where is used to be known as a far-from-popular district, it is now an in-demand neighbourhood, with Wettstein being one of the most sought-after suburbs in the city.


A former workers quarter, the diverse population lives here in harmony.  St Johann Park, aligned with Rheinuferweg, is immensely popular with joggers and walkers.  From this riverbank walk, all three countries may be visited.  On the downside, the abattoir, a waste-disposal plant and the cargo train station are all housed here.


Matthaeus, a populous neighbourhood favours singles and couples without children.  Small apartments are in demand, along with the larger, more upmarket accommodation near the river.  Claragraben is a vibrant shopping area, close to the international hotels and the city’s conference centre.  It is near the public park, Claramatte, which borders newly built apartment blocks.


On the border of the Black Forest, with its beautiful green areas and attractive town centre, Riehen was named the highest quality of life municipality in Switzerland.  The Markgräfler Wiiwegli is an extremely popular hiking trail, meandering through a beautifully changing landscape.  The Erlenmatt has great quality flea markets.  Situated outside Basel, this affluent area is highly priced but seamlessly combines nature and culture.

Who Lives in Basel and Why?

With a population of 175,000, the city agglomeration is around 539,000, and it is the third largest city in Switzerland.  Nearly a quarter of the residents were born outside of the country.

A reliably stable economy, which continually showed growth even during the financial meltdown, Basel is a major industrial force, home to the Swiss pharmaceutical and chemical industries, with strong banking institutions that attract international investment and have done so for decades.  The cost of living is amongst the highest world-wide, but salaries are good.  Unemployment rates are low, standing at 3.9%.

Two multinational pharmaceutical companies, Roche and Novartis, were born here and bio-tech companies Ultragenyx, Roivant Sciences and Singulex have all recently opened European headquarters here.  Bio-Rad Laboratories, producer of clinical diagnostic products and a provider of life science research has also opened a facility in Basel, and so the city continues its impressive industrial growth.

The greater area achieves the highest GDP per capita.  Around one-fifth of the country’s value of exported products is generated here, in a region representing less than 10% of the Swiss population.

The Best Bits

Excellent living conditions, comparable salaries and a great outdoorsy way of life, Basel has just made it in at number 10 of the world’s best quality of living cities.

  • With 40-plus museums, which together cover almost 14.3 square miles, this is the Swiss centre of art, architecture and culture.
  • The Fastnacht Carnival, celebrated the week after Ash Wednesday, continues for four days. Starting at 4am on Monday, thousands of spectators line the streets to watch processions and floats, along with traditional music.  This is Basel’s most important event.
  • Women are expected to live 6 years longer in Basel. Good to know.
  • The Münster is the city’s premier landmark and stands on a hill with breath-taking views of the River Rhine.
  • The Altstadt, or Old City, displays 2000 years of history.
  • Musical Theatre Basel hosts shows such as The Rocky Horror Show, Thriller and Evita, along with dance theatre. Most theatres are offer free entrance on the first Sunday of the month.
  • Zoo Basel, affectionately known as Zolli, dates back to 1874 and will keep the kids entertained for hours. In 1471 a chicken was found guilty of laying a coloured egg – this was found to be in defiance of natural law.
  • The Rhine River. Swimming and cruising, or just enjoying the view.
  • Music festivals cover pop, rock, jazz, blues and classical, or on the Kulturfloss, or culture raft, with its unique stage in the middle of the river.
Bringing the Kids

The excellent standard of living, the centuries-old culture, a world-renowned level of education with great schools all over the city and plenty to do, makes Basel a destination of choice amongst expats.

  • The University of Basel, with 12,000 students studying towards their bachelor’s, master’s or PhD’s, has seven faculties. Five focal areas of life sciences, nanoscience, visual studies, sustainability and energy research, and European and global studies have positioned the facility amidst international competition.
  • Almost all residents, including expats, attend public schools. Free of fees, they are funded by taxes. Children in Basel would be educated mainly in German, with classes in both English and a second official language.
  • Bilingual schools teach the Swiss curriculum, in an equal amount of languages, probably German and English in this city.
  • Private schools are fee-paying, but very similar to international schools, offering either the International Baccalaureate or the Swiss or a foreign curriculum.
  • Despite the quality of education offered by the above schools, many parents prefer to send their kids to international schools, especially if it is a short-term relocation, but these schools are extremely expensive. There are three international schools in the city.
  • All of these different schools’ rate amongst the best in the world.
Relocating to Basel

One of the most favoured expat destinations, the great quality life and low crime rate appeals to many professionals.  This city of culture with the picturesque River Rhine flowing through it offers an excellent lifestyle.  Its consistently strong economy, with decades-old strengths in finance, attracts the cream-of-the-crop executives, with more than suitable accommodation in a choice of neighbourhoods.

However, immigration conditions must be followed, and valid documents are required to register at a new place of residence.  Suitable schools need to be found, preferably close to home.  This move raises many questions, all of which can be answered by an expert, local relocation agent.  Ease your and your family’s stress levels, our agent will assist with form-filling, enrolling at schools and helping with lease negotiations.


Beautiful Houses
Family friendly
Good Schools
Great Transport
Green space
Average Monthly Rent - Basel
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre FR 1,238
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre FR 1,061
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre FR 2,435
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre FR 2,025
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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Saunders 1865