My blog is a lifestyle site and so now and again I share my experiences of travelling around Europe. My last outing was at Christmas when I visited wonderful Antwerp, which I mentioned in my Five Favourite European Cities article. Now I want to talk about another hidden gem that I am currently exploring – Basel in Switzerland.
Getting To Basel
My regular readers will be aware that I like to travel by land and sea as much as possible. This is mainly because I believe that planes are one of the biggest direct causes of pollution in the upper atmosphere. I stopped flying 9 years ago but haven’t let it stop me enjoying travelling.
For this journey, I popped over to Paris on the Eurostar and then changed stations from Paris Nord to L’Est. I then took a one and a half hour train to Strasbourg before hopping onto a one hour train to Basel. Travelling through Strasbourg made me realise I need to spend some time there soon, possibly during Christmas time.
Getting To Know Basel
When I got off the train at Basel SSB railway station, I decided to walk the 20 minutes to the hotel rather than get on public transport. It was a great choice as I was able to check out some of the highlights of the historic city centre. It was, however, exhausting as there was a large hill running up to where our hotel stood. This was brilliant for my step count, though. Especially after spending hours on trains.
The colourful streets reminded me of Salzburg and were lined with trees. Many of the hotels and houses had plants climbing up them, making the whole place feel green and cosy.
After settling into the hotel, I walked back into the centre and found myself next to the famous Basel Munster Cathedral and overlooking the River Rhine. Plenty of restaurants, bars and shops lined the streets of this intriguing place.
Just a few hours into the holiday and I was already starting to fall in love with beautiful Basel. Look out for more of my posts about my experiences in Basel as I look back on my time in this intriguing European hidden gem.
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Many of you will know that I absolutely love city breaks. I always make sure I choose destinations that I can get to by rail or sea. In the past I have flown to so many places but now I make an effort not to fly as planes have been shown to directly pollute the upper atmosphere. So the Eurostar has become my preferred way of getting into Europe.
In the last ten years I have enjoyed some wonderful holidays. My idea of a good holiday involves great food, a little bit of culture and plenty of sightseeing (often involving a castle).
In this article I want to share the best European cities that I have visited so far. I am lucky enough to have been to Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, France and Denmark. Out of those countries, here are my favourite cities to visit by train.
As soon as I arrived in Zurich, I was taken aback by the enormity of its grand train station, which was packed with shops and exhibitions.
Zurich was a brilliant place to visit and I was happy to watch a show at the Opera House, take a boat across the immense Lake Zurich and enjoy the bustling centre.
Much like Luxembourg City, it is easy to get a train from Zurich to surrounding places of beauty. I particularly loved a day out where I went up a nearly vertical rail track (Stoosbahn funicular) and had an incredible feast up a mountain.
Influenced by Switzerland, I am now always looking for places to eat cheese fondu since trying it in the city of Zurich. I first saw this tempting fondu restaurant on Travel Man which you can check out for yourself on Youtube.
I have been to glorious Paris several times over the past twenty years. It feels like a home from home. The added bonus is that Disneyland Europe is nearby but even without this, Paris has plenty to keep me coming back for more.
Known for its fashion and food, Paris thrives on its history and grand architecture such as the Arch de Triomphe and the Louvre. Walking up to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower and then taking a lift to the top was an amazing experience which I will always remember happily.
Only one thing stops Paris being my Number 1
As much as I love the museums, the exquisite cuisine and the general vibe, one thing lets me down. Everywhere you go there are smoking rooms. Usually they are attached to the outside of cafes and restaurants so you have to walk through them to get into eateries. Often I have to eat in one of these rooms if a venue is busy and I hate the smell of smoke.
My recent trip to Antwerp was so much fun. I had picked Antwerp as a getaway destination based on some Pinterest pictures that I had seen. It turned out to be a great choice.
Antwerp was the most festive city I have been to and felt so safe and welcoming. It was also really affordable compared to many of the other places I have stayed.
There will be a more detailed blogpost about Antwerp which I will link here in future.
Luxembourg was just a two hour train trip from Paris. The train had two floors and was really comfortable. Although it is a small nation, Luxembourg has a lot to offer. There is plenty of history there and public transport is now free.
When I visited there in 2019 there was still a small fee to use trains and I popped on one to go and see some beautiful villages and a couple of historic castles.
The city was not too busy but still had a buzz about it. Everything was relatively close together and, due to it being one of the main EU administration places, there were lots of places to be entertained, such as the Luxembourg Philharmonie, where we enjoyed a magical concert.
Since being a kid, I always longed to visit the set of The Sound of Music. So when I got the chance to stay there I took the guided tour of locations. I also fell in love with this beautiful city, surrounded by imposing mountains.
A wide river splits the old and new halves of Salzburg. As a bonus, when I went it happened to be the Salzburg Festival and lots of classical music events and theatre plays were being put on.
Full of beauty
I developed an unexpected fondness for sauerkraut while I was there and had a great time exploring the houses of Mozart. Salzburg was breath-taking, full of nods to Austrian tradition and home to plenty of tasty baked goods.
After spending some time exploring Copenhagen, I was keen to spread my wings and make my way over to Sweden for the day. If you didn’t catch my Copenhagen recounts, check out Part One and Part Two here.
The Oresund Bridge
From Copenhagen, it is surprisingly easy to cross the sea into Malmo, Sweden’s third biggest city. This 16 km combination of bridges, tunnels and island crossings was established in 1999 and has replaced ferries as the main way to get from Denmark to Sweden.
I loved looking across the Sound, which is a busy section of waterway just north of the Baltic Sea. In 39 minutes I had transported myself from Copenhagen train station to the one in Malmo. Being a lover of Scandinavia and its culture, I was super excited to arrive in Sweden for the first time.
Before spending time in Malmo, I wanted to visit Lund, a gorgeous little town nearby. So I nipped on the train to have a look at this quaint historic town. I had hoped to see Lund Cathedral but there was a service on so we weren’t allowed to go in. Also it happened to be covered in scaffolding due to renovations. This tends to be a theme everywhere I go these days. Just my luck.
I did find time to pop into a lovely bakery for lunch and was well looked after. It felt as though Lund was a very welcoming place, with friendly people, a quiet feeling and some incredible views. I would love to move somewhere like Lund. Maybe one day…
Looking around this very modern town, I enjoyed the layout and flashbacks to the past, such as Malmo Castle, which was sadly closed on Mondays. Nevertheless I had a good walk around this beautiful city which had extensive parks, plenty of shops and eateries, and even the Swedish capital of Ikea.
The city of Malmo is easy to navigate by foot and has great transport links. With a thriving university, trendy restaurants and bars, and incredibly clean streets, Malmo is well worth visiting. I was impressed by its architecture, friendliness and all round welcoming vibe.
Back to Copenhagen for tea
After my trip to Sweden, I was soon back in Copenhagen for an evening meal. My mind was swimming with story ideas based on what I had seen that day. I absolutely loved my first taste of Sweden and decided I would go back again a few days later.
Thank you so much for reading about my travelling by rail. I am keen to encourage people to travel by train rather than flying because planes are such huge sources of atmospheric pollution. I hope that you will consider following my blog for more of the same type of content.