Carnival of Basel (Switzerland)
Let’s go to the other side of the border for a little bit, to go to Basel in Switzerland. The carnival of Basel (Basel Fasnacht) is very famous: it is the biggest in Switzerland. Listening to the Gugge-musiken (fanfares), the city comes to life during 3 days starting from the Monday after Ash Wednesday (in February or March depending on the years). In Basel, these 3 days are actually bank holidays so that everyone can enjoy.
Not to be missed at the carnival of Basel, Morgenstreich, a parade happening at the beginning of the festivities, i.e. at 4 am on the Monday! The atmosphere is very special: the town lights are all turned off, bringing out the lanterns and masks of the cliques (groups participating in the carnival). Only the sound of the fifes and drums rings out in the night, giving to the parade a unique (and sometimes scary!) atmosphere. After the parade, the tradition brings people to eat flour soup and to keep on partying in the bars of the town.
Another good event of Basel carnival, is the cortege on Mondays and Wednesdays afternoon. It is very impressive! I found the floats, the traditional masks of the carnival (including the waggis caricaturing Alsatian peasants) and the work on costumes fascinating. Here, carnival is a serious business and you can really see all the work that has been done. Don’t come with a costume in Basel, it’s not to be done! Only the members of the cliques are wearing costumes and take part in the parade. Cliques choose a theme according to local, national and international events of the year. It’s not always easy to understand references for foreigners!
During the cortege, cliques throw confettis, sweets and fruits. I heard it was best to have bought a plaquette beforehand (a small pin sold for the benefit of the carnival, that you can find everywhere) to receive sweets, rather than being bombed with confettis! I didn’t have any issue with my bronze pin (the cheapest) and I was quite happy to support this beautiful tradition.
If you want to know more about Basel carnival, I wrote a detailed report in French on my second blog Carnet d’escapades.
- Well-done floats and costumes
- The Morgenstreic, a unique moment to take part in at least once in your life!
- Very strong tradition of carnival: none from Basel would miss it!
I liked a little less
- It’s impossible to actively take part in the carnival, nor to understand everything!
My pictures of Basel carnival
Basel carnival is free. However, you can support the organisation by buying a pin (about 8 CHF for the cheapest).
You will find here all the useful information about the carnival, its history and the schedule.
It is not really recommended: parking is already not simple usually, but then it will be mission impossible… If you really want to, I’d recommend parking in Saint-Louis (French boarder town) and then come with the tram.
You can park on the stadium side near the boarder in Saint-Louis, which is only 5 minutes walk away from the tram stop « Saint-Louis Grenze » located in Switzerland. You can then take tram 11 until the stop Marktplatz (5/10 minutes) for example.
Basel is located:
- 36 km from Mulhouse (about 30 minutes drive)
- 64 km from Colmar (about 45 minutes drive)
- 136 km from Strasbourg (about 1h20 drive)
By public transport
The town center is only 10/15 minutes walk to Basel train station or can be accessed by tram from there. From Alsace, there are special trains to go to the carnival (including for Morgenstreich!). You can have a look on Voyages SNCF.