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Basel

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View of Basel Cathedral© Basel Tourismus

Basel, the capital of the half canton of Basel City, is in north west Switzerland, at the point where the Rhine bends northwards. It borders on both Germany and France and is part of the Upper Rhine Euroregion, which covers the border area of the three countries.

Basel is the centre of the Swiss chemicals and pharmaceutical industries. The well-known pharmaceutical firms Novartis and Roche not only have their roots in Basel, but also the headquarters and some of their production.

The Rhine divides the city into two parts. On the left bank is Grossbasel (Greater Basel), and on the right is Kleinbasel (Lesser Basel.) The traditional enmity between the two is reflected on the one hand by the bust of the so-called Lällekönig ("tongue king"), at the Grossbasel end of one of the Rhine bridges, who sticks his tongue out at the right bank. Kleinbasel repays the compliment in its Vogel Gryff carnival, where the traditional carnival figures dance on the bridge demonstratively turning their backsides to their rival.

Basel is not only an important European rail hub and the centre of the freight division of the Swiss Federal Railways, it also has an airport, EuroAirport, which it shares with the French city of Mulhouse and the German city of Freiburg. (Most of the airport is built on French territory.) Switzerland's four Rhine ports are also in or close to Basel.

History

The city developed from a Roman military camp built in connection with the Roman colony of Augusta Raurica (now Augst). It became the seat of a bishop in 740. Its first Rhine bridge was build in 1225-6. In 1356 much of the city was destroyed in an earthquake. The university – the oldest in Switzerland - was founded in 1460, and the city became a centre of learning and culture of European importance. It joined the Swiss Confederation in 1501.

  • Canton: Basel-City
  • Area: 37 km2 (14.29 sq miles)
  • Population (city): 193,396 (2011)
  • Population (agglomeration): 500,562 (2011)
  • Height above sea level: 244 m (800 ft)
  • Language/s: Basel dialect of Swiss German, High German

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