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Carnival in Basel. A city goes wild.

Welcome to the Fasnacht. The Fasnacht, Basel’s famous Carnival, lasts only three days, but locals prepare for it with unconditional passion and boundless creativity throughout the remaining 362 days of the year. Besides the Cliques (groups of drummers and piccolo players) and Guggemusik bands practising their instruments, people are hard at work designing and painting lanterns, writing lampoons in verse, sewing costumes and making Larven (masks) in the run-up to the Fasnacht. Although always satirical and humorous, the Fasnacht tends to focus on the social and political developments of the preceding year, so there is also a serious side to it. And the lantern painters often include important artists as well as lesser-known talents. For instance, the world-famous iron sculptor Jean Tinguely, who died in 1991, was responsible for designing many an impressive Fasnachtszug (a Clique’s overall

“look�). But what makes the Basel Carnival particularly special is its blend of anarchical chaos and well organized large-scale event. The incomparable atmosphere of the city during these three days captivates both locals and visitors and is hard to describe. But to convey at least an idea of what it is like, we have produced this flyer. And, of course, we hope you will come and see for yourself at the next Basel Fasnacht. We look forward to your visit!

Daniel Egloff Director of Basel Tourism

The roots of our Fasnacht. The Basel Fasnacht is Switzerland’s largest Carnival and the most important Protestant one in the world. It goes back to the medieval tradition of fasting at Lent before Easter to mark Christ’s suffering. However, a large part of its history has become lost in the mists of time, mainly due to the devastating earthquake of 1356, which almost completely destroyed the city, together with its historical documents. The oldest surviving reference to Fasnacht dates back to 1376 and tells of the “Böse Fasnacht” (evil carnival). The first mention of ballad-mongers (today’s Schnitzelbänggler) was in 1832; they were probably continuing the tradition of lampooning and satirical songs going back to the 16th century. The Morgenstreich, the pre-dawn opening of the Carnival, was introduced in 1835. And an impartial organizing board, the Carnival Commitee, was set up in 1910; it operates discreetly behind the scenes to protect the interests of the active participants (Fasnächtler). The Basel Fasnacht has remained virtually unchanged since then and is therefore over a hundred years old.

Monday – Morgenstreich and parade. The Basel Fasnacht begins in spectacular fashion with the pre-dawn Morgenstreich at 4 o’clock on Monday morning. All lights in the city centre are switched off, over 200 Fasnacht themes (Sujets) painted on lanterns start glowing in the dark, and the signal is given for hundreds of drummers and piccolo players to strike up the same march – a magic moment. After this picturesque start, people adjourn to restaurants where they treat themselves to the traditional flour soup (Mehlsuppe) and onion and cheese tarts (Waihe). In the afternoon, starting at 1.30 pm, some 12,000 Fasnächtler take part in the popular Cortège (street parade). The Cliques, Guggemusik bands and other participants march, or are carried on floats, past the many thousands of spectators. On Monday evening, the Schnitzelbänggler perform in specially designated restaurants and in cellars run by the Cliques. Through melody and verse in the German dialect spoken in Basel, they lampoon the most controversial and amusing topics of the previous year.

Tuesday – Children’s Fasnacht and Gugge concert. On the second day of the Fasnacht, hundreds of children continue the tradition of taking part, individually or in groups, in a light-hearted parade. Tuesday also offers a special opportunity to admire the painted lanterns of the Cliques, which are put on display on Münsterplatz, the square in front of the Cathedral. In the evening, the Guggemusik bands take over the entire squares at Marktplatz, Barfüsserplatz and Claraplatz for their concerts, which start at 7.30 pm and attract an enthusiastic audience.

Wednesday – a rousing end. On the final day of the Fasnacht, the artistic lanterns can be viewed on Münsterplatz until 11 am. At 1.30 pm, the Cliques and Guggemusik bands again take to the streets along the traditional parade route. In the evening, there is another opportunity to listen to the popular versifiers in many restaurants and Clique cellars. And the active Fasnächtler again populate the city centre until 4 am, rounding off the “three most beautiful days of the year”, tired but happy.

Good to know. How a Fasnacht visitor can become an insider. There aren’t actually any official rules on how to behave during the Basel Fasnacht, but locals attach importance to certain customs and recommendations. If you follow these, you’ll soon feel like an insider.

General tips for the Basel Fasnacht. Pin your Blaggedde (Fasnacht badge) on your lapel so that it can be easily seen. Don’t paint your face or wear a fake nose or a silly hat – none of this goes down well at the Basel Fasnacht. The active participants’ freedom of movement is often restricted by their masks, instruments and other props, so you should try not to stand in their way. Always give them priority – also during their well deserved stops in restaurants.

Tips for an enjoyable Morgenstreich. Huge crowds always turn out for the Morgenstreich. So you should go early to the city centre to secure a place by the road-side with a good view. Wear warm, comfortable clothing and leave bulky bags at home. Agree on fixed meeting points and times with your companions in case you get separated from each other. Darkness is essential for the Morgenstreich, so don’t let off fireworks. And, please, never use a flash when taking pictures.

No Basel Fasnacht without the Fasnacht badge. “Me het e Blaggedde” – we’ve got a badge. As this motto suggests, visitors as well as locals are advised to buy a Fasnacht badge and pin it on their lapels. It’s virtually a point of honour, for the net proceeds from the sale of badges all go to the participating groups to help cover their costs. The badges come in copper, silver and gold. Or you can purchase the more expensive “Bijou”, a smaller, but particularly elegant variant. The badges are sold by street vendors, costumed participants, a number of kiosks and at special sales stands.

Travel to Basel in comfortable and eco-friendly style. The ideal way to travel to Basel is by public transport. But if you are dependent on private transport, it is advisable to leave your vehicle in a car park on the edge of the city. Basel’s buses and trams have a special timetable during the Carnival to take account of the large number of visitors. They also operate at night, taking you safely from place to place. If you are staying at a hotel in Basel, you also benefit from a Mobility Ticket, which enables you to travel by public transport free of charge throughout your entire stay.

Our special offer for you. Basel Tourism offers a special Basel Fasnacht package with which you can enjoy the colourful goings-on at particularly favourable terms. The offer includes: • Overnight stay in the hotel category of your choice • Visitor tax, VAT and service charges • Mobility Ticket (free use of public transport) • An original Basel Fasnacht badge For information, prices and reservations, contact Basel Tourism. Phone +41 (0)61 268 68 68 or online at More information about the Fasnacht. and Our thanks to the following for the photos provided. Peter Ziegler, Christophe Stucky, Thomasz Włodarski, Steffen Görner

Dates of the Carnival for the upcoming years. 2014: 2015: 2016: 2017: 2018:

10–12 March 23–25 February 15–17 February 06–08 March 19–21 February

Edition: October 2013

The Basel Fasnacht is always held in the week following Ash Wednesday. Dates of the Fasnacht for the upcoming years:

Basel Tourism Aeschenvorstadt 36, CH-4010 Basel Phone +41 (0)61 268 68 68, Fax +41 (0)61 268 68 70,

Grossbasel Kleinbasel Parade route Point of sales of the Carnival Commitee Lantern exhibition Exhibition of floats and props Carriage show Spectator stand Reserved for handicapped people Public toilets

All of Basel under one roof Enjoy gastronomic pampering in our two restaurants, visit the wine shop or the theatre and spend the night in the Art or Gallery Hotel. For those who want to take a journey into the past, we recommend the archaeological cellar with its miniature museum depicting the history of the city of Basel, nestled within the old city walls from the 11th century.

Experience the Teufelhof also during Basel’s carnival: The restaurant Atelier is fully prepared for �the most wonderful three days”, including a carnival bar in the courtyard. Here you can enjoy probably the best flour soup in the entire city – home-made from scratch. Cultural guest house Der Teufelhof Basel, right in the historic city centre of Basel, Leonhardsgraben 49 / Heuberg 32, CH-4051 Basel, T +41 (0)61 261 10 10,

Carnival in Basel  

The Basel Fasnacht is Switzerland’s largest Carnival and the most important Protestant one in the world. It goes back to the medieval tradit...

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