Basel’s Beautiful Historic Fountains — A “Cool” Choice!
As the temperatures are rising, Baslers are looking for ways to cool down. One obvious solution is to jump in the Rhein for a swim, but the water temperature there is still low at the moment. An alternative can be found in the many fountains located all over Basel, which can refresh you both with drinking water and a cool dip.
As you stroll through Basel, you you can find close to 300 well-maintained and beautiful historic fountains that are around every corner. Some of these fountains are of great cultural and historical importance—listed as historical monuments—and are considered a sort of calling card for Basel. More than 200 of these fountains are public fountains that are maintained by the IWB, who work year-round to carefully clean these fountains and ensure that the water dispensers are in impeccable condition.
The water is drinkable in all but a handful of Basel’s fountains, which are clearly marked with a sign stating “Kein Trinkwasser” (no drinking water). As drinking plenty of water on a hot summer day is a must, it is wonderful to have such a constant supply of free, cool, drinking water to refresh oneself, without having to purchase bottled water, which is not only expensive but an environmental burden. Because the fountains are constantly flowing with clean, drinkable, tap-water, a total of around 1000 m3 of water passes through them in 24 hours—that’s about one million liters of water per day! The constant flow of water in the pipes ensures that the pipes stay clean and the water remains fresh.
In addition to drinking from Basel’s historical fountains to keep cool, did you know that you are also welcome to bathe in them? Second only to a float down the Rhein, the nearly century-old tradition of bathing in Basel’s fountains is a favorite way to cool down among its residents. You will not only see children splashing about on a warm summer day, but also adults taking a cooling dip on their lunch break or enjoying an evening glass of wine with friends and neighbors in what seems like a free jacuzzi in the center of the city.
The IWB has prepared a map with the location of the more than 200 fountains—highlighting drinking fountains (Trinkbrunnen), non-drinking fountains like Tinguely’s Fasnachts-Brunnen by the Theaterplatz (Brunnen ohne Trinkwasser), as well as the 15 fountains best suited for bathing in Basel (Badebrunnen). You can get a copy of the map showing Basel’s bathing fountains (Brunnenkarte) at the IWB in the city center or online at
There are several fountains that are favorites for bathing. The beautiful 18th-century Pisoni fountain on the Münsterplatz has a large basin suitable for several swimmers and is located in a charming square shaded by chestnut trees. Another magnificent fountain suitable for bathing in Basel is the octagonal Gemsberg fountain. Here you can cool off in peace amidst the idyllic old town scenery. Braver bathers can dip into the fountain at the top of Spalenberg (Nischen-Brunnen), likely the coldest fountain in the city due to its shady location. But probably the most popular bathing fountain is the Schöneck Brunnen, located on the corner of Mühlberg and St. Alban-Vorstadt. It is not only big and deep enough to swim a few laps in, this historic gem’s location in one of the quaintest areas in the old town allows it to warm up nicely in the mid-day sun.
There is no legal basis for a “bathing ban” in any of Basel’s fountains, but based on size alone, some are unquestionably not suitable for taking a dip. The general rule is that everything is allowed, as long as there is no climbing on the fountain or the pipes and the fountain is not damaged by the bathers. In addition, bathers should keep the following in mind:
- The fountain should be easy enough to get into/out of, but should have a certain depth (eg, Tinguely’s Fasnacht fountain in front of the Theater is far too shallow).
- Furniture (eg, chairs) is not allowed in the fountains.
- Dogs are also not allowed in the fountains as the dog hairs would very quickly clog up the filter system. However, many of the fountains, like the ones adorned with a Basilisk (serpent/bird-like creature), have a little cup or basin near the bottom of the stand especially for dogs to help themselves to a cool slurp on a hot day or during a long walk.
- Other than swimsuits, no clothes should be worn in the fountains; bathers should not wash themselves with soap in the fountains; and application of sunscreen should be done in advance and not directly before or while in the fountain because it leaves an oily film on the water.
- Bathers should be considerate of others in the vicinity, such as not splashing passers-by with water, not leaving trash behind (particularly not glass containers that can shatter and leave shards), and avoiding noise in the evenings.
If you would like to learn more about Basel’s beautiful fountains, Spalentor Verlag has published the German-language book “Basel und seine Brunnen,” (Basel and its Fountains), which gives an overview of 246 fountains, with 384 great illustrations and text on their history, technology, and maintenance. This book costs CHF 29 and is available at the IWB CityCenter, at Bider & Tanner, or can be ordered directly online from Spalentor Verlag.Share