Could this be the most longed-for summer in years? It’s tempting to think so. After all the disruption of the last few years, the enthusiasm for getting out there has never been greater. And, happily, in Switzerland at least, that means a complete and bona fide reboot of the cultural calendar, with an absolutely jam-packed line-up of music festivals, pop-ups and blockbuster exhibitions. Here’s our pick of the best.
Born in Ukraine
In a nutshell There's a celebration of Ukrainian art and a look into the satirical side of Feminism.
Where Kunstmuseum Basel
When Born in Ukraine is on until 30 April and Fun Feminism is on until 19 March
Kunstmuseum Basel is an absolute must-stop for the culturally concerned at any time of year but, this summer, even more so. The museum is safely housing artworks from Ukraine's national museum and showcasing the amazing history of the country's artists. There's also a deep dive into the more playful and satirical side of Feminist art. Tip: make time for the permanent collection; oh, and check the website for a reliably busy roster of other happenings, too.
In a nutshell The Swiss version of Comic Con with all the weird and wonderful trimmings.
Where Brick Building, Hall 2
When 18-20 May
This gloriously wacky but totally welcoming geek-fest includes a sizable bill of cult-y, comic-culture goings-on. There are cosplay competitions, meet-and-greets with big-name telly and film stars with a chance to selfie at a walk-on Star Wars set with a whole bunch of fan-made props (hello R2-D2). There are also talks and demos from some of the world’s greatest cartoonists and, of course, the Nintendo gaming zone and the always fun Just Dance stage.
In a nutshell A celebration of the late works of Picasso.
Where Fondation Beyeler
When Until 1 May
As part of Picasso's big 150th birthday bash, the Fondation Beyeler is showcasing 10 stellar works from the last decade of his life which look at the role of artist and model. There are also exhibitions of works by American painter Wayne Thiebaud and Colombian artist Doris Salcedo. Sure, it’s a tram ride out of town, but the museum’s grounds are gorgeous, so make time to linger.
In a nutshell The best art show in the world returns with an enthralling international exhibit.
Where Messe Basel
When 15-18 June
Not just one of the most important events on Basel’s cultural calendar but the entire art world: for a week in June, around 250 galleries exhibit some of the most thrilling, forward-thinking contemporary art in the world at the city’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed Messeturm Basler. This year it promises work from no less than 4,000 artists from five continents. As always, more or less everything is for private sale, but four “public days” means you can mooch around and check out works from big names such as Dan Flavin and David Hockney. You can even book a guided tour via Artstorming on the Art Basel website.
In a nutshell An epic, spine-tingling celebration of military-style musicianship featuring the best players from around the world.
Where Kaserne Basel
When 14-22 July
No, absolutely nothing to do with ink: Basel Tattoo is, in fact, one of the world’s great music festivals. Second only to the Edinburgh Tattoo, the annual summer bonanza sees elite military bands from around the world descend on the city for an epic display of massed-band musicianship. This year's anniversary show '15 years of Basel Tattoo' is bigger and better than ever with a first appearance from Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas from Nepal, as well as bands from everywhere from New Zealand to Mexico.
In a nutshell A very cool, boaty-themed, late-summer music festival on the river.
Where Kleinbasel riverbank
When 8-26 August
This might be one of the city’s best-loved festivals, and for good reason. A well-curated roster of guest musicians perform on a floating boat to a happy, reliably up-for-it crowd of 50,000 people who come for the music, naturally, but also the fresh-made local beer, ace eats and feel-good vibes. The best bit? It’s all totally free, though guests are encouraged to toss small cash donations into the sailor’s net (it’ll make sense when you get there).
In partnership with Basel Tourism
Museums Night Basel
In a nutshell A nocturnal tour of nearly 40 world-class museums and cultural institutions around the city.
Where City wide
When 19 Jan 24
Each year Museumnacht, as it’s known locally, always has a buzzy, festival-like vibe as Basel’s museums offer a programme of events from 6pm-2am. A single ticket gets you entry to 39 cultural centres around the city (as well as free transport to out-of-town ’burbs such as Weil am Rhein where you’ll find the epic, Frank Gehry-designed Vitra Design Museum).
Naturally, with 200-odd events, you can’t do everything, but check the website for the roster of English-language events or simply go direct to the museums themselves and see what takes your fancy.