The Basler Herbstmesse — Basel’s Beautiful Fall Fair

October 28-November 12/November 14

The Basler Herbstmesse, now in its 552nd year, is the oldest and largest fair in the region, attracting over 1 million visitors each year from all over Switzerland and neighboring countries. For a two-week period each fall, visitors come to enjoy some of the more than 100 rides, taste traditional foods, and buy unique wares. Baslers young and old wait with anticipation for these two weeks, and after you experience it once, you will certainly understand why!

The fair officially opens at noon on the last Saturday of October (this year on October 28), which is signaled by the ringing of the bells of the Martinskirche, the church located on the hill between the Rathaus (city hall) and the Rhein. While the rides can be pretty expensive, all rides are free for the first hour of the fair, so you may want to get out there early and line up for a free ride or two.

What to Do at the Herbstmesse

The rides range from traditional carousels and similar entertainments for the youngest visitors, through attractions for everyone, such as the Ferris wheel and the swing rides, to stomach-turning rides with such names as “Super Chaos,” “Speed,” and “Swing Up.” In short, there is something for everyone!

Another memorable aspect of the Herbstmesse is the typical foods, many of which can only be found here. These include Magenbrot (an ultra-sweet, dense spice cake), Rosekiechli (rose-shaped fried dough covered in powdered sugar), gebrannte Mandeln (caramelized candied almonds), Käskiechli (cheese pie), Öpfel Küchli (apple rings dipped in dough, deep-fried, and served with vanilla sauce or apple sauce), Mässmogge (striped candy sticks filled with nuts), or Knoblibrot (garlic bread). Moreover, you can enjoy typical Swiss specialties, such as grilled sausages, raclette, cheese fondue, sticks of fruit dipped in chocolate, and so much more.

In addition to the rides and food, the Herbstmesse offers a large selection of artisan and craft stalls, which are located on Petersplatz, as well as the so-called “Häfelimärt” (dish market). Here you can find dish wares of all types, but also candles, hats, jewelry, pottery, soaps, spices, wooden toys and utensils, and many other types of hand-made crafts. It is a wonderful place to take care of some of your Christmas shopping early! Note that this site traditionally closes 2 days later than the rest of the fair—this year on Tuesday, November 14.

Practical Tips

Whether you are testing your nerves on the rides, browsing through the numerous stands for that one-of-a-kind gift, or trying some of the traditional Herbstmesse foods, here are a few tips to make your visits to the fair enjoyable and safe, particularly if you are going with your children: With the many rides and large crowds, it is very easy to get separated from your kids. It is therefore advisable to hold their hands whenever possible and to write your cell phone number on their hand or arm so that you can be quickly contacted in case of separation. There is a Polizei (police) booth set up at Kaserne whose time is predominantly spent reuniting parents with their children. Also keep in mind that the large crowds and loud setting make events like these prime targets for pick-pockets, so be aware and keep your wallet or purse securely in front of you (or at home!).

Herbstmesse Locations

The Herbstmesse is spread out across several squares throughout town; it is open 7 days a week, but the offers and opening hours vary depending on the location and the day of the week.

For more information about what is going on at which square, go to their website.