Wine and the Rhine: six of Basel’s best bars

As aesthetes ready themselves for this year's Art Basel, we appraise the city's top spots to enjoy a glass of wine, making the the most of the city's unique location on the border with Germany and France to select six of the best wine bars to visit

Words by Bart de Vries

Basel Bars
Drinkers enjoy live music on the pavement outside Flore, a wine bar in the centre of Basel

When I told Miron Landreau, the owner of one of Basel’s best wine bars, that I was writing a guide to the city for wine lovers, he said, quick as a flash: ‘That’ll be thin’. Thankfully, Landreau’s Flore isn’t the only bar filling the gap to which he jokingly refers: the city now counts a host of mostly small and specialised watering holes.

With barely 200,000 inhabitants, Basel is a heavyweight in medicine and the arts. Two pharmaceutical giants (Novartis and Roche) made the city and canton one of the wealthiest and most international in Switzerland; every third person is an expat. Basel’s location on the border with Germany and France only reinforces this distinctive trait, one which is reflected in the city’s wine offering.

Basel swimming
Basel's tradition of 'Rheinschwimmen', which often ends with a glass of local wine on the embankment

The Rhine is Basel’s defining feature. Mediterranean air flowing into the Rhine Valley through the Belfort Gap (the saddle between the Jura and Vosges mountains) makes Basel one of Switzerland’s warmest cities. In summer, temperatures often reach 30ºC and higher. On those days, the city shows its true colours. Baslers assemble at the unrivalled riverside Museum Tingeley, dedicated to the Swiss artist known for his fascinating kinetic sculptural machines, to jump into the Rhine and let themselves go with the flow while holding on to their possessions, neatly packed in a Wickelfisch, a fish-shaped bag that can be used as a watertight floating cushion when rolled up. As a reward, there is a glass of regional wine at one of the buvettes (pop-up bars) on the embankment downstream. Except for Fasnacht, Basel’s UNESCO-protected protestant carnival festivities and the wintery counterpoint to the summery Rheinschwimmen, the city doesn’t get any livelier.

Basel now counts a host of mostly small and specialised watering holes

The rhythm of the city is set by a small number of annual events of which Art Basel, the world’s biggest modern art fair, has by far the greatest international allure. Come mid-June, the airport is crowded by the private jets of the beau monde who fly in to hunt for the works of the hottest new talents and the established 20th-century masters. But once the professionals and collectors have got their fixes, Art Basel, this year from 13-16 June, is a grand pop-up museum for everyone who is willing to pay the ₣68 (£59) entrance fee. The city also boasts two world-class art museums, the Kunstmuseum, known for its Holbeins and Picassos, and the private Fondation Beyeler. Given yourself Stendhal syndrome? Basel has the solution: a pill or, better, a glass of wine.

Six of the best wine bars in Basel

Basel wine bars


Flore feels like an authentic, old French bar and bistro. Opened in 2015, it focuses on organic and biodynamic wines. The name is a nod to Café de Flore in Paris, the Florastrasse around the corner and the flower shop that was once located on its premises. The scruffy wine list is not regularly kept up to date, so be prepared to end up with a different vintage or another wine altogether, but members of staff are very helpful and happy to let you try several wines before you settle on one. With roots in the Loire region, Landreau has a knack for Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, hence his fully justified recommendations for Yannick Amirault’s wild, dark-berried St. Nicolas de Bourgeuil Malgagnes and Juchepie’s dry but honey-ish Les Monts Chenin.

Klybeckstrasse 5, Basel-Matthäus

vino e/y vino

‘The wine scene in Basel is relatively new,’ says Liliana Sciascia, who started her wine bar vino e/y vino eight years ago with two partners. ‘Back then, we were one of the first. Compared to Zürich, Switzerland’s small glitzy metropolis, things in Basel are understated,’ she continues.

Vino e/y vino is located in Basel’s Markthalle, where retailers and gastronomists used to buy their fruit and vegetables. Under its imposing reinforced concrete cupola from the 1920s, about two dozen hugely popular eateries now offer simple but tasty meals covering most of the world’s cuisines. Vino e/y vino, specialising in Spanish and Italian wines, allows you to bring your meal into the bar provided you buy a bottle of their wine. Alternatively, you can buy a glass or bottle, Artuke’s Finca de los Locos, for instance, and take it to one of the communal tables.

Steinentorberg 20, Markthalle

Cafe Gupi

Café Gupi

Across the Passerelle des Trois Pays (Three Countries pedestrian bridge) in Weil am Rhein (Germany), Café Gupi is another excellent wine bar. Run by the brothers Christoph and Johannes Schneider of Weingut am Schlipf in the same town, it is the perfect place to taste a gentle Gutedel. The German incarnation of Chasselas, the grape variety with origins on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, is also a specialty of Markgräflerland, the southwestern-most corner of Germany. Gupi, an acronym derived from Gutedel and Pinot, and the label under which the Schneiders sell their experimental wines, is more than a channel to push their own bottles. Gupi proudly serves beautiful Spätburgunders, Burgundies and Jura wines at reasonable prices, like Christoph’s personal favourite, Ganevat’s Les Grands Teppes Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay.

Römerstraße 1, Weil am Rhein

Basel wine bars

Les Trois Rois

For a more refined setting, the bar at Les Trois Rois, the city’s venerable luxury hotel on the Rhine, should be your port of call. All self-respecting wine bars in Basel have a selection of Swiss wines but Les Trois Rois has the broadest, including wines from no fewer than five local wineries, including the biodynamic KLUS177 and Weingut Riehen, run by the talented young winemaker Silas Weiss. Or try a wine made from one of Switzerland’s exciting indigenous grape varieties, such as Besson-Strasser’s piercingly fresh Räuschling or Nicolas Zufferey’s Petite Arvine, while lazily sitting back in one of the leather sofas, red velvet armchairs, or, weather permitting, on the terrace overlooking the river.

Blumenrain 8, Altstadt Grossbasel

La Huninguoise

As the Basel agglomeration extends into France and Germany, you can find some of the better bars across the borders. La Huninguoise is just a short stroll along the Rhine from the Novartis campus in Huningue (France). Once inside, the cosiness of the bric-à-brac tables and decoration make you easily forget the slightly non-descript building. La Huninguoise has wine, mostly organic or biodynamic, from every region in France (plus a small selection from other countries), with a penchant for Alsace. Your glass of Camille Braun or Valentin Zusslin Riesling may be accompanied by live music and/or the superb cheeses of Antony, the renowned cheese affineur from the nearby Jura. There is also a shop on premise but be aware that you can only bring six bottles per person tax-free back into Switzerland.

10 Rue de France, Huningue


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Renée Bar and Club

If the arts have kept you busy into the evening, there is always Renée Bar and Club. Located in the underbelly of Basel, although for an out-of-towner it may feel more like a middle-class neighbourhood, live music is what Renée does best – accompanied by Champagne and cocktails. But with Zind Humbrecht and Ziereisen, to name just two, even the choice of wines won’t have an aficionado complaining. What better way to re-energize for a fresh day of galleries than with a Lahèrte Frères Les 7, a wine that uses all Champagne’s ancestral grapes, paired with some live jazz, rock or a DJ set.

Klingental 18, Altstadt Kleinbasel