When sightseeing in Basel, you will encounter the Middle Ages at almost every turn. Although Basel itself doesn't have a palace or a castle, visitors with an interest in medieval fortifications and knights will truly get their money's worth in the surrounding area.
In Canton Basel-Landschaft, known as Baselland or Baselbiet for short, you will find a wealth of castles set in the picturesque landscape of the Jura. An especially large number can be found in the Arlesheim district, which borders Basel to the south. Some of the castles are well-preserved, while others have fallen into disrepair. Each has an exciting history of its own, packed with conflicts, battles and conquests.
Here we are only able to present a small selection of the host of palaces and castles near Basel. If you are looking for other places to visit, you are sure to find something on the Baselland Tourism Association website.
Schloss Birseck is the landmark of Arlesheim which it has towered over majestically since the 13th century. It is one of four castles on the Birseck ridge and is also known as Untere Burg (lower castle) or Vordere Burg (front castle). The castle complex is the largest and most important of the Birseck castles, although the keep now lies in ruins.
The outer bailey – the actual Schloss Birseck – is still in use today. The tower, chapel, great hall and battlements were renewed in a neo-Gothic style in the early 19th century by the then-owner, so do not reflect the original appearance of the castle.
The castle now stands within the present-day Ermitage, Switzerland's largest English landscape garden, which along with the cathedral is another highlight for tourists in Arlesheim.
Burg Reichenstein is also one of the Birseck castles near Arlesheim. It was originally called Obere Burg (upper castle) or Ober-Birseck (upper Birseck). Its current appearance is something out of the ordinary as the building you can visit today was only erected in the 1930s. No historical or archaeological advice was taken for the free reconstruction so today's castle has more to do with the architect's romantic ideas than the original appearance.
Burg Reichenstein is only rented out for festive occasions and is otherwise not open to the public. But it is worth talking a walk to see it, if just for the impressively scenic hiking trail that links the Birseck castles.
Only ruins remain of Farnsburg castle. Built around 1330, the medieval castle was stormed in a peasants' revolt during the revolution of 1798 and burned down to its foundation walls. The rubble was not cleared away from the complex until the 1930s. Thanks to extensive restoration work, you can still gain a vivid impression of the scale of the original castle complex today.
The ruins are open to the public at all times and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, thanks to their elevated position.
Schloss Bottmingen stands out from the other palaces and castles near Basel as it is the only palace in the area to be surrounded by a water-filled moat. It was built in the 13th century as a castle with a water-filled moat, which is still obvious today owing to its typically medieval layout. At the beginning of the 18th century, the palace was rebuilt in baroque style and used as a country residence. It has retained this appearance until the present day.
The grounds and the castle courtyard can be visited for free during the day. The rooms are used as a restaurant and for festive events.
Schloss Wildenstein was built in the 13th century and is one of just two hill-top castles to have survived in the Baselbiet area. Over the centuries, the castle was transformed into a typical palace during the course of countless conversions by various owners.
Today, Schloss Wildenstein belongs to Canton Basel-Landschaft and is used for cultural events because of its unique atmosphere. The palace can only be visited as part of an event or on a free guided tour by the Friends of Schloss Wildenstein association. You can find the dates on the canton website.
But Wildenstein is worth a visit, even without going inside. It can be reached from the nearest village of Bubendorf on a roughly 45-minute hike through a nature reserve. Information boards and 3D display cases along the circular trail tell you more about the eventful history of the castle.
The ruins of Burg Pfeffingen are the largest castle ruins in Baselland, the origins of which date back to the early 12th century. The remains of the large keep and frontal walls in particular are a characteristic sight and can be seen from afar.
Conflicts, attacks, sieges, battles and, last but not least, neglect on the part of the last owners caused the castle to fall into disrepair in the 18th century. From 1931, the remains of the keep, gateways, bridges, defensive towers and outer wards began to be cleared and restored. Following its last major refurbishment, the impressive ruined complex has been open to the public again since 2017.
The ruins of Burg Neu-Homberg, which is also known as Homburg, offer breathtaking views of the surrounding Jura mountains. The remains of the thick walls of the keep, outbuildings, curtain wall and gateways offer an impressive insight into the former castle complex.
The way up to the castle has been designed as a themed trail. A host of display boards offer compact information on life as a knight, which is fascinating for children and adults alike.
Finally, we would like to present a genuine palace near Basel. Schloss Ebenrain was built as a country palace in the 18th century, making it one of the few palaces in the area not to have begun life as a castle complex. The palace itself with its large grounds was built by well-known Swiss baroque architects and is still considered the most important late-baroque country residence in northern Switzerland.