Basel is a city in northwestern Switzerland on the river Rhine. Basel is Switzerland’s third-most-populous city (after Zürich and Geneva) with about 180,000 inhabitants.
Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany. The official language of Basel is (the Swiss variety of Standard) German, but the main spoken language is the local Basel German dialect.
The city is known for its many internationally renowned museums, ranging from the Kunstmuseum, the first collection of art accessible to the public in Europe (1661) and the largest museum of art in the whole of Switzerland, to the Fondation Beyeler (located in Riehen). The University of Basel, Switzerland’s oldest university (founded in 1460), and the city’s centuries-long commitment to humanism, have made Basel a safe haven at times of political unrest in other parts of Europe for such notable people as Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Holbein family, Friedrich Nietzsche and in the 20th century also Hermann Hesse and Karl Jaspers.
The city of Basel is Switzerland’s second-largest economic centre after the city of Zürich and has the highest GDP per capita in the country, ahead of the cantons of Zug and Geneva. In terms of value, over 94% of Basel City’s goods exports are in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors. With production facilities located in the neighboring Schweizerhalle, Basel accounts for 20% of Swiss exports and generates one third of the national product.
The city has been a commercial hub and an important cultural centre since the Renaissance, and has emerged as a centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries in the 20th century. In 1897, Basel was chosen by Theodor Herzl as the location for the first World Zionist Congress, and altogether the congress has been held there ten times over a time span of 50 years, more than in any other location. The city is also home to the world headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements.