Liestal – an industrial hub in the medieval setting

Located 17 km (11 mi) south of Basel, Liestal is a vital, prosperous small town – the German-speaking capital of Liestal District and the canton of Basel-Country that has a small own agglomeration consisting of Frenkendorf, Füllinsdorf, Lausen, Bubendorf and Seltisberg.

“Liestal – in the middle” is the motto that aptly characterizes this city according to Lukas Ott, City President of Liestal. Indeed, it expresses Liestal’s open-mindedness and self-understanding as a bridge builder and cooperation partner – as the hub of a mobile company and as an important place of work and business in northwest Switzerland.

After a prolonged period of stagnation, the former industrial realm has once again given new life to it, as a large SME landscape has emerged primarily thanks to private initiative. Liestal has thus given new impulses and perspectives. In the last few years a dynamic has developed that makes Liestal an attractive place to live and work. And a very attractive place to visit. Despite being an industrial town, it possesses a unique charm thanks to a medieval cobbled-street Old Town and long-lasting rich traditions.

First of all this city is known for its festivals and unusual customs, but what else is there to see, what can you experience in Liestal and what kind of city aside from industrial is it? Let’s find the answers to all these questions!

Interesting things and facts about Liestal

Almost 60% of the entire territory of the city is occupied by forests

Liestal has an area, as of 2009, of 18.19 square kilometers (7.02 sq mi). Of this area, 2.99 km2 (1.15 sq mi) or 16.4% is used for agricultural purposes, while 10.68 km2 (4.12 sq mi) or 58.7% is forested.

12 % of Liestal’s population are atheists

On the religious level, the majority are residents who belong to the Swiss Reformed Church (more than 43% of the total population), while just over 28% of the city’s population are Roman Catholics. Weird, but 12% of the population that are left actually do not belong to any of the churches and are atheists.

The history of Liestal dates back to Roman times

The name Liestal was first mentioned in 1225, and the settlement dates at least from Roman times. The development of the town is due to its strategic location on the road between the first bridge over the Rhine at Basel and the St. Gotthard Pass.

The city wasn’t against Napoleon as the whole Swiss Confederation, but instead welcomed him

There was a long controversy between Liestal and Basel to begin with. In the 17th century, Liestal rebelled against Basel as part of the Farmers’ Rebellion and was occupied by troops from that city. Three leaders of the rebellion were beheaded in Basel.

That’s why, in 1789, the town enthusiastically hailed the French call for freedom and equality. It celebrated Napoleon, when he traveled through town in 1797. However, after his fall, the earlier subjection to Basel was re-established.

Liestal was chosen as the capital due to an uprising

In fact, the uprisings against Basel weren’t the only conflicts Liestal went through. The French July Revolution of 1830 also caused upheaval in Liestal. A provisional government was established, and then the town was chosen as the capital of a new canton on March 17, 1832.

How to get to Liestal?

By plane:

The nearest major airport is the Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. You can continue on from Basel by train from Basel SBB Railway Station. Liestal can be reached from the airport of Basel (EuroAirport) in approximately 45 minutes / 30 minutes (public transport/car) and from Zurich in about 75 minutes / 60 minutes (public transport/car).

By train:

It’s fairly easy to get to this city as Liestal railway station is on the Swiss Federal Railway’s Hauenstein main line, which connects Basel and Olten. It is served by five trains per hour to Basel, four trains per hour to Olten, and hourly trains to Bern, Lucerne and Zürich. Several trains a day operate through to Frankfurt and Berlin. The station is also the junction for, and terminus of, the Waldenburg narrow gauge railway, which operates a half-hourly train service to Waldenburg.

By car:

You’ll get to Liestal in no time by car as well, since the city is also located on the A3 motorway, between Basel and Zürich. Also when arriving from Basel or Zürich take the A2/A2 and get off in Liestal. Signs will help you to get to the city center. When arriving from Bern or Lucerne take the A2/A2 in the direction of Basel and get off in Sissach. Follow the signs to Liestal and take the exit at Solothurn/Waldenburg/Reigoldswil/Liestal-Altmarkt. The nature is splendid, your time is unlimited and you can make as many stops as you want – that’s why traveling by car has always been one of the most enjoyable ways to travel in Switzerland.

By bus:

Liestal is the main hub for busses to the surrounding villages. The station is the starting point of various bus routes and the Waldenburgerbahn provides transportation into the agglomeration as well as the middle part of Baselland. There are also connections to the Aeschenplatz in Basel. So, if you prefer going by bus, definitely pick any that offers tours and have an excursion on the way, which with the help of a professional guide will tell you lots of interesting things while you travel to your destination.

How to get around?

Luckily, Liestal is small enough to be easily explored on foot. The Old Town is very beautiful and is the first thing you should see. You can easily reach the city center from the railway station within 5 minutes on foot. The city center is medieval with houses dating back to the 13th century. The city itself lies at the junction of two valleys marking it as an important local center for public and private transport. So, go by public transport that is very well-thought out and coordinated, or rent a car, or even a bike while you’re in this city.

If you faced any difficulties getting around, you can find out everything you need or get some help at the Tourist Office, which is located at the Dichter- und Stadtmuseum at Rathausstrasse 30.

Useful tips for those heading to Liestal

Not to get into an awkward situation or end up low on anything, you should know about certain things pertaining Liestal and its life. Beware that most stores close at 6:30PM Mo-Fr. Stores close by 5PM on Saturday and nothing is open on Sunday. Exceptions are the stores around the train station and the Denner at the Wasserturmplatz.

If you’ve got a lot of baggage, there are luggage lockers at the train station costing from 5CHF. But keep in mind that, if you leave your luggage for more than 24h it will be taken to the Lost&Found at the ticket counter (open Mo–Fr 6.30am–7pm, Sa 7am–6pm, Sun 9am–6pm) and you will have to pay an extra fee to get your stuff back.

Where to stay and grab a bite?

There’s a great many of nice places to choose from: hotels, inns, Swiss holiday farms, holiday cottages and apartments, as well as hostels and rooms rented out to tourists by locals, are to your disposal in Liestal. That’s why you won’t have a problem finding a place that’s going to suit all requests. You won’t find yourself out in the streets in any case, that’s for sure. Still, don’t forgo the procedure of booking in advance, as some hotels are fairly popular and often booked out. You can take a look at such places as Hotel Bienenberg, Kulturhotel Guggenheim, B&B Villa Burggarten, B&B Rotes Schaf with more than moderate prices that include breakfasts, Bad Schauenburg and Seiler’s Hotel at Rheinstrasse 93.

The absolute favourite among the visitors is Engel Swiss Quality Hotel. The family-run hotel is located in the beautiful Old Town of Liestal, a 15-minute train ride from the center of Basel and its exhibition center. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the property. The restaurant serves traditional Swiss cuisine. The rooms are very spacious and have a private bathroom and a TV.

Besides, among the hotel’s amenities there are several halls for celebrations, one of them with an area of 400 square meters. Another pleasant thing is that the walk to the Liestal train station takes only a few minutes, this way you won’t even have to catch a taxi or get into the whole public transport thing straight out of the railway station.

Liestal can offer a lot of wonderful places to eat as well. Many of them are located at Kasernenstrasse. You may take a look at Restaurant Alti Braui, Krone and Café Bar Farbklex. Restaurant Ziegelhof at Zeughausplatz serves 15 the best Schnitzel in town and Restaurant Pine at Benzburweg 18 offers a really good Pizza. Scenari and Hitchy’s Rockbar are nice spots to have a drink and if you want to dance the night away go for Club Modus, at Eichenweg 1 or Club Escape, at Lausenerstrasse 22.

Shopping in Liestal

Liestal offers many shopping opportunities. Every region in Switzerland has got it specialties, and Liestal is not an exception. So, first of all, buy some Baselbieter Rahmtäfeli, the local specialty that is small cream candies. They can be found at the local Migros or Coop at very allowing prices.

Also, there are a few shops to buy clothes, food and souvenirs around the Rathausstrasse. There is a local crafts market one Wednesday a month as well as a Flea Market a few times over the year. If you like big-scale shopping, just go to Basel (15min by train) or even Zurich (50min by train).

What is the weather like in Liestal?

Summers, which are the most favourite time to visit Liestal, are rather humid and warm, so bring along an umbrella. September is drier though still very warm, which makes it a great time to linger here for a while. In addition autumn already starts to work its magic on the trees in surrounding forests and city parks, which creates a serene and a little melancholic mood in Liestal, perfect to sort out your thoughts under the last warm rays of sunshine. Winter is not less magical and always filled with various snow-involved activities both for children and adults. Spring is rather wet as well as pretty cold, but there are still lots of clear sunny days. Every season has its charm; even the rainy days can be full of fun, if spent in a proper place. And there are a lot of such in Liestal and its neighborhood.

What to see and do in Liestal?

Best of all, Liestal is known for its rich cultural life and fire festivals, but that’s not the only things that await you in this city. Let’s see what else is there to experience in Liestal!

Walk down the Rathaussstrasse and take a photo in front of the Törli!

Törli is the town’s most recognizable landmark. In the past, it protected the south entrance to the city and now concludes the Rathausstrasse (Town Hall Street).The upper town gate was preserved unlike the lower gate which was demolished in 1827. The foundation originates from the 13th century, the clock tower was built in 1554.Until 1959 the entire transit between Basel and the Hauensteinpass went through the old town gate.

Roam the picturesque Old Town!

The Old Town is situated on a rocky outcrop between the Ergolz and Orisbach rivers and between Basel and the Jura Mountains. The town is fan-shaped, consisting of a wide main street (Gassenmarkt) and two side streets. It is very beautiful and medieval with houses dating back to the 13th century. The entire old town of Liestal is listed in the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites. Besides this, the Depot of Archeology of Basel-land, the Frenkenbrücke (bridge), the Munzach which was a Roman farmhouse, the Roman aqueduct and the Cantonal Archive of Basel-Landschaft are listed as Swiss heritage site of national significance as well.

The upper gate (Törli landmark); Thomasturm; remains of the Stadtmauer on the Büchelistrasse; Old Town Mill (1422); Town Hall (1568) that is a council chamber with cabinet windows (16th-17th century); Burgunderschale – a silver, partly gilded shell of Charlemagne, captured by the Liestal host Heinrich Strübin in the Battle of Nancy (1477); Reformed town church (today’s figure from the 16th / 17th century) with early gothic door, slabs and choir stools with flat carving from 1506; former Korn- and Zeughaus (built around 1530) are well worth your attention too. So, take time to wander around all these places.

Go hiking!

It’s one of the most popular activities in Switzerland. A lot of people come to this country just for the sake of roaming the endless trails and paths.  Indeed, it’s hard to find another country as rich in natural wonders and sheer beauty that Switzerland. It’s unforgettable and breathtaking wherever you set your foot. There are a lot of beautiful hiking trails in the countryside around Liestal too. For example, Wasserfallen Hiking Area is among the most frequented ones. It boasts of having several mountain restaurants and a high wire park aside from picturesque scenery. There is a cable car to the top as well, what will make a wonderful ending to your trip.

The routes are very well-marked and maintained, so you won’t get lost or injured, if you are careful enough. There are plenty of various routes’ maps on sale or in the Internet.

There are both summer and winter trails available, but you still should get the current information from you hotel or the Tourist Information at the aforementioned Dichter- und Stadtmuseum Rathausstrasse 30 to avoid planning going up the path that is closed or ending up stranded somewhere because of bad weather or the lack of preparation or information.

Make a round trip Liestal – Bad Schauenburg – Schartenfluh – Gempen – Sichteren – Liestal for some really scenic views and relaxation!

This is probably the most popular route in this region. From the station in Liestal there is a long, but rarely steep climb up through the Röserental to the Schartenfluh. There is a string of vantage points one after another along the main valley, and the whole area is covered with a dense network of pleasant paths and tracks. From the Schartenfluh there is a magnificent view down into the Birstal and away in the distance towards France. Then, after the Solothurn village of Gempen to Sichteren, the route goes back down towards Liestal on the other side of the mountain. The landscape here is one of wide fields and a sea of fruit trees. At the end of the tour, it is worth making a diversion to see the beautiful Old Town of Liestal.

Enjoy a fantastic view from the deck of the Aussichtsturm!

Located at 614 m above sea level, the observation deck on top of the look-out tower allows you to see as far as Basel, and even France and Germany. All around you can see the valleys and high planes of the Jura mountain range. If you want to prolong your experience, there are several hiking trails to reach the tower (open all year, 0.50 CHF entrance fee) and the restaurant (open Sundays and Public Holidays 7am to 6pm).

Participate in Fasnacht (Carnival) celebrations!

The Liestal’s Fasnacht is strongly influenced by the Basel’s Fasnacht, albeit with a lot of locality. It begins with some prehistoric events – following the old date of the “Burefasnacht” – on the Sunday before the Morgestraich of the Basel Fasnacht with a large street parade.

This one is the largest of northwest Switzerland after the Cortège of Basel Carnival. A concert of the various Guggenmusik on the eve shortens the waiting time to the Chienbäse. On the following Monday and Tuesday the Schnitzelbank singing takes place, while the Wednesday afternoon is the day of the children, again with a street perfomance and a mask ball. On the following Saturday, Carnival will be concluded with a concert of Gugge, the so-called Cheruus (Kehraus), six days after the beginning of Carnival. The celebrations are really fun and you’ll be pulled in no time at all, so better set aside some quality time to get lost in this madness.

Witness the unbelievable blazing fire stunts during the Chienbäse!

In many areas of Basel-Country, bone-fires and torch-light parades form the prelude to carnival, which coincides with the one being celebrated by the city of Basel.

Chienbäse is a particular Fasnacht tradition of Liestal. On the Sunday night after Ash Wednesday, the night before the Morgestraich in Basel city, a procession begins of people, a group of fifers and drummers, along with lantern bearers. They are followed by men and some women wearing special robes and carrying huge burning bundles of pinewood chips (called Chienbäse, the Alemannic German for “pinewood besom“) and marching in the traditional Basel manner through the medieval town center along the Rathausstrasse, entering through the city gate from the south. In more recent decades the Chienbäse have been augmented with carts carrying bonfires, with flames often reaching as high as the houses. And can you believe that some torches weigh nearly 50 kg?! The participants (most of them are understandably members of the sports club) have prepared their own torches during the previous weeks.

Between the torch-bearers, iron wagons filled with waste wood are pulled along in full blaze. In the narrow darkened alleys, the torches and blazing wagons give off an eerie glow. By the way, the famous fire wagons originated in the 1930s, but they were so dangerous at the time, that they were officially allowed only in 1962.

The origins of the custom are open to speculation. It is often identified as a “pagan spring ritual” due to the archaic qualities of the fire spectacle, the earliest report of a procession of torch bearers dates to 1869. A tradition of bonfires before Lent has a longer history of attestation, dating from at least the 16th century.

Popular in the past, it is even more so nowadays. The parade is attended by thousands of spectators from Switzerland as well as from countries around the globe, closely packed on either side of the small street. So, if you’re in Liestal around this time of the year, be sure: either you planned it or not, but you’ll get in the whirlwind of festivities along with the whole town. The sight of Chienbäse processions and stunts with fire that are sometimes incredibly dangerous is unforgettable and the experience – absolutely unique!

Celebrate the 1st of August – Swiss National Day – with fireworks!

The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291 and Swiss National Day is celebrated on this anniversary. There are major celebrations all over the country with live reenactments in Schwyz, but the one in Liestal is even more striking and unusual: there are parades with music and fireworks on the Sichtern.

Find out what happens during «Santichlaus-Ylüte»!

The “Santichlaus-Ylüte” held on December 6th is a noise custom with wintry hue. At night, the children of Liestal gather with large cowbells and small bells in the alley, and then, under a great deal of noise, pass through the streets of “Stedtlis”. If can stand excessive noise, the best advice is to staff your ears with something, as it’s practically impossible to hide from these sounds even indoors.

Get involved in Bannag!

As in many Basel-based municipalities, the Bannag is part of the annual program in Liestal. On Monday before the ascension, the men and children of Liestal move out in four groups to cross the borders of the village. As one of the last municipalities, the train is traditionally accompanied by drumming and whistling sounds, as well as by popping from the front and guild guns. The men wear flower-bedecked hats and carry a walking stick. In the last few years, this tradition has created a fierce controversy, including legal skirmishes.

In protest against the pure men’s feast day that have arisen for several years, four days later, on Ascension Day, the alternative family Banntag goes on.

Enjoy a huge variety of interesting exhibits at the Museum.BL!

Museum.BL (together with Baselland Archaeology) holds a collection of over two million! originals from the fields of natural science, archaeology, ethnology, art, and photography. A considerable part of these is attractively and understandably presented according to the individual subject areas. A separate exhibit is dedicated to the silk ribbon industry, of course, which used to be the most important industry in the area. The museum is known even beyond the regional borders for its exciting and modern special exhibits which also attract the interest of children and adolescents as well as school groups. Temporary exhibits on various subjects are additionally on display.

If you got hungry while exploring the museum, don’t worry – there’s a café inside the complex and if you want to buy a souvenir or a related to the exhibitions thing, there’s a museum shop. All in all, it’s going to be well worth your time!

Spend some time with the animals at the Tierpark Weihermätteli!

The Tierpark Weihermätteli, located directly inside Liestal, is a significant, much-visited institution in the Basel region. The variety of animals is, indeed, as impressive as the beautifully designed park on the edge of the forest. That’s why this animal park invites you to walk and to linger. And linger you will, especially, if you are with children, because this is home to numerous animal species that can be observed and caressed, if allowed. They are, among others, Dartmoor and Shetland ponies, Merens ponies, Vietnamese hens, mini pigs, dwarf goats, Welsh black-headed goats, booties, mirror sheep, domestic sheep, lamas, Scottish highland cattle and waterfowl such as swans, ducks and geese.

Time will fly, that’s why set aside at least 3 hours to wander around, observe, play and take lots of photos. Your kids can ride a pony, if they like. It’s really cheap and will surely bring them lots of joy.  So, relax and unwind, learn and marvel, and have fun! One thing is for sure: both young and old are thrilled by this animal park.

Go to nearby lying Reinach to see more animals at the Tierpark Reinach!

The Tierpark Reinach was founded in 1969 by private initiative. From 2011, the association began to redesign the park, and today this animal park houses fallow deer, dwarf goats, ducks, geese as well as various ornamental birds. The park is open all year and the admission is free. Besides, on a Sunday in June the Animal Park Festival takes place here with big raffle, pony rides, barbecue, fries, hot dogs, cüpli bar. This is a must for young and old, because the festive atmosphere is absolutely great!

Visit the gorgeous medieval Wildenstein Castle!

The Wildenstein Castle is the only preserved castle in the Basel region. It is located south of Bubendorf (a municipality of Liestal) in a side valley of the Hintere Frenke. The way along the footpath from Bubendorf station to the castle takes up about an hour.

In 1293, Heinrich von Eptingen adopted the name “von Wildenstein”. Under his son Gottfrid, Wildenstein experienced a storming of the castle by the Berners and Solothurns because of a break in the land of his owner. The extent of this damage and that of the Basel earthquake of 1356 are not known. In 1380 Henmann von Eptingen sold the castle to the siblings Elsi, Götzmann and Markwart of Baden. Later several owner changes took place. In the vicinity of the castle the “Rappenkrieg” was amicably settled in 1594.

In 1995, the canton of Basel-Landschaft acquired the Wildenstein, and today cultural events take place here.

Bundle up cosily with a book during one of the meetings at the Dichter- und Stadtmuseum Liestal!

In the middle of Liestaler Stedtli is the poet and municipal museum Liestal, short DISTL. Its permanent exhibition, on three floors, gives an insight into the life and work of eminent poets (Georg and Emma Herwegh, Josef Viktor Widmann, Carl Spitteler, and others) as well as the history and customs of the city of Liestal.

Together with his private partner, the “Poete-Näscht” book quiz, it is a meeting point for those interested in culture in the Old Town. In addition to the permanent exhibition, special exhibitions on literary and cultural history topics are presented. The program is rounded off by a wide range of evening events: readings, lectures, shows for the little ones and poetry slams.

So, look for an interesting visit to the museum, extensive rummage in the books of the Antiquariat or one of the events!

Visit the Museum für Musikautomaten!

Located a short ride away from Liestal, the Seewen Museum of Music is home to one of the world’s largest and most famous collections of Swiss musical cans, record sales, watches and jewelry with music works and other mechanical music automats from the 18th century to the present day.

The museum of automatic musicians, a museum of the Swiss Confederation, is a very popular excursion destination in the region of northwestern Switzerland and in the Schwarzbubenland. It offers a varied annual program and attractive cultural events. The modern museum building is oriented to its geographic surroundings and takes up the harsh yellow tone of the Jurakalk in color and material.

Discover Liestal’s countryside!

There are lots of wonderful spots to drop by around Liestal, starting from natural sites and ending with architectural ones. For example, go to Augusta Raurica. About 2000 years ago there was a Roman city with 20’000 citizens close to Augst. Today you can visit several witnesses to that time: a theatre, a forum, Curia, temples and so on. Moreover, the Roman settlers brought water to Augusta Raurica from Lausen through an underground tunnel. At the Heidenloch there are pieces of the Roman Water Pipe to visit.

Make a trip to Basel!

It’s a city that needs no advertisements – an important financial and industrial center of Switzerland, a cradle of Swiss higher education, a city that is claimed to be the cultural capital of this rich and stunning country. Indeed, Basel is an incredible city where old medieval coexists with new modern; a cosmopolitan corner that bustles with students and once in a while turns into a magical entity, all brimming with sounds and vibrant colors of Carnival, safely protected by the Basilisk – a mythical beast with the head of a rooster and a snake’s tail, one of the symbols of the city that kills everything in its sight with just one glance.

Thankfully, contrary to its formidable and powerful protector (often found crowning monuments and fountains around the city), the city is welcoming and the locals are if a bit reserved (that’s just their Swiss nature), but very friendly and helpful. So, why not get to know the locals and their way of life, discover all the secrets and mysteries of this city, have a gastronomic tour around one of the richest in culinary traditions corners of Switzerland, if you are some 20 km away from it. Less than 20 minutes and you are there. The traffic connection is very good and frequent and you’ll be able to return to Liestal any minute you decide to.

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