Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Basel, Switzerland, Rhine Loop Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length: 7.1 km (4.4 miles), terrain flat except for one small hill near the end

Basel running routes:
Basel Rhine River Run
Basel Allschwilerwald Trail Run
For more running routes, see Route List.

Basel is a busy, industrial town, located on the edge of seemingly everything. The west side of town borders on France, the north side borders Germany, and there are huge factories all around this center of the chemical industry, home of Novartis, Hoffmann-La Roche, Clariant and Ciba.

But the center of town, perched above the Rhine River, is beautiful and has lots of natural spots.

This run follows what I consider the best running trail in Basel: the Rhine riverside. There are quiet paths along both sides of the river, and you hardly get the feeling that you're in the middle of Switzerland's industrial powerhouse. People swim, row and kayak in the river, paddle dragon boats, water-ski and cross sides in scenic wooden ferries that look a bit like Chinese junks. These ferries are motorless, and use the water current to push them from side to side.

We'll start the run in the heart of town at the main bridge, the Mittlere Rheinbrücke. This is the site of the original bridge, built 800 years ago. It joins the two old parts of town, the main Grossbasel side with Kleinbasel (little Basel) on the north side, which was built as a bridgehead.

Mittlere Rheinbrücke, our starting point
The main tram lines cross over this old stone bridge, and the Les Trois Rois grand hotel sits off to one side.

Run northwards over the bridge, then turn right to run along the water's edge in Kleinbasel. There are wide steps going down to the water here, and it's the main hangout in town every nice afternoon and evening.

The riverfront in Kleinbasel
Now just run along the water the whole way, eastwards, for 3.5 kilometers.

You will soon come to the next bridge, the Wettsteinbrücke. After going under the bridge, you have a choice of either running down near the gravel beach or up along the quiet, villa-lined street.

Soon you will come to Solitudepark and then go under the next bridge, the
Schwarzwaldbrücke (Black Forest Bridge, the forest begins in Germany, just a few kilometers north of here).

After the bridge, you can run down the dirt trail to the water's edge again if you prefer. Fishermen's huts line the riverside in this part, with their spanned nets waiting to be lowered by cranes into the water. Occassionally, the riverside path ends and you have to run up to the street again before the next section of path appears.
Fishing huts, nets and Birsfelden Dam, with the Hörnli in background
At the Birsfelden Hydroelectric dam, cross the river to the south bank. Running over the dam, the water will be up at your level on the left side, and way down below you on the right. The dam produces electricity for 200,000 neighboring homes.

NOTE: If you want do some hillwork and see more nature, you could keep running east instead of crossing the dam, and in just 3 kilometers you will reach the Hörnli hill, where you can follow hillside paths through woods and fields. The backside of the hill is in Germany.

Now you will turn right and run westwards, back towards the center of town, in the Rheinpark along the south bank. The path crosses a bridge over a wild mountain stream, the Birs, at Birskopf, and back under the Schwarzwaldbrücke car- and railroad bridges. Just past the bridges, you can also choose to run down below along the river bank or up along the quiet St. Alban Rheinweg street.

Soon, you'll pass the old city gate and walls on the left, then the St. Alban church. You could take the little Mühlenberg street that curves upwards to the left to avoid the stairs at the end of this street straight ahead. Just at the Wettsteinbrücke bridge, the path ends: there are only cliffs along the riverbank ahead, below Basel's cathedral, the Münster.

Rittergasse
If you run to the end, take the stairs up to St. Alban-Graben, cross the street and take the first right to turn onto Rittergasse. In a couple of blocks you'll come to the impressive gothic red-sandstone cathedral. Take a close look at the detail-work, which comes right from the middle ages.

Münster cloisters
Just to the right of the front door, you can enter the cloisters, beautiful covered walkways around the courtyards where monks earlier meditated. Continuing out back, there is a terrace overlooking the river, a big teeny hangout in the evenings.

Continue around to the other (west) side of the Münster, run through the Münsterplatz square towards the right side, and run west along Rheinsprung, with its palace museums. Just run straight downhill to our staring point at the Mittlere Rheinbrücke.
The last bit of the run, coming down Rheinsprung

1 comment:

  1. I'm back in Basel this week and re-ran the route in hot weather. This time I jumped into the Rhine near the dam: really refreshing and there was only one dead fish!

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