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 an own small 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 vast SME landscape has emerged primarily thanks to private initiative. Liestal has thus given new impulses and perspectives. In the last few years, a dynamic development has made Liestal an attractive place to live and work as well as an enjoyable 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 takes its origin from the Roman era

The first reference of the name Liestal dates back to 1225, while the first settlement is thought to be established in the Roman times. Town’s strategic location on the road between the first bridge over the Rhine at Basel and the St. Gotthard Pass conduced to its development.

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, during the Farmers’ Rebellion, Liestal rose in revolt against Basel. As a result, the city was occupied by troops and three leaders of the uprise were beheaded in Basel.

For that reason, in 1789, the town joined the French to fight for freedom and equality. In 1797, when Napoleon traveled through the town, the citizens celebrated him with hope. After his fall, however, Liestal had no other choice but to submit to Basel.

Liestal was chosen as the capital due to an uprising

In fact, the riots against Basel weren’t the only conflicts Liestal went through. The year 1830 saw another upheaval in Liestal caused by the French July Revolution. In that event, a provisional government was established, and afterward, on March 17, 1832, the town became the capital of a new canton.

How to get to Liestal?

By air:

The Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is an international airport 3.5 km from Basel and is the nearest major airport to Liestal. You can continue 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:

As the railway station of Liestal is on Hauenstein main line, which connects Basel and Olten, making it quite easy to get to the town by train. The railway connects Liestal with Basel and Olten with five and four trains running every hour respectively. There are also hourly trains to Lucerne, Bern, and Zürich. Leistal railway station is also the junction for the Waldenburg narrow gauge railway, which provides trains to Waldenburg every half an hour. As well as that, several trains run through the station to Berlin and Frankfurt.

By car:

It won’t take much time and effort to get to Liestal if you travel by car because the city stands on a major motorway A3, between Basel and  Zürich. Also, you can take the A2/A2 if you are going to Liestal from Zürich or Basel. Signs will help you to get to the city center. Use the A2/A2 and head in the direction of Basel if you are arriving from Lucerne or Bern. Follow the signs to Liestal. 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:

The city’s central bus station provides buses to the majority of 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. Buses also run 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 exciting 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 terrific 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 creates an old medieval atmosphere, with houses built way back in the 13th century. The city makes an important local transportation hub as it lies at the joint of two valleys. 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 of Liestal and its life. Keep in mind that most stores are open till 6:30 PM from Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, stores normally close by 5 PM, and on Sundays no store is open. The only stores that can stay open on Sunday are those near the train station and the Denner at the Wasserturmplatz.

In case you have a lot of luggage, you can leave it in the lockers at the train station for about 5CHF. Beware that if you don’t collect your baggage within 24 hours, it will be transferred to the Lost&Found office at the ticket counter. The opening hours are 6.30am–7pm from Monday to Friday, 7am–6pm on Saturday, and 9am–6pmon Sunday. You will be charged an extra fee to take your baggage back.

Where to stay and grab a bite?

There are a great many of beautiful 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 favorite among the visitors is Engel Swiss Quality Hotel. The hotel is run by a family and is situated in the marvelous Old Town of Liestal, just 15 minutes from the center of Basel by train. 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 excellent 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 its specialties, and Liestal is not an exception. So why not try the local specialty, Baselbieter Rahmtäfeli – small cream candies. They can be found at the local Migros or Coop at very allowing prices.

Around the Rathausstrasse, you can find a myriad of clothes, food stores, and souvenir stores. On one Wednesday every month, a local crafts market takes place. There is also a Flea Market, but it is open only a few times a year. If you are looking for a big-scale shopping, Basel or Zurich would be a better option offering much more. You can easily take a train there from Leistal.

What is the weather like in Liestal?

Summer, which the most favorite time to visit Liestal, is 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. Also, 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 for sorting 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 slightly wet as well as pretty cold, but there are still lots of bright 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 abundant 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.  It stands at the end of the  Rathausstrasse. The foundation of the building was constructed in the 13th century. To this day, the upper town gate has been preserved while the lower gate was unfortunately demolished in 1827. The bell in the tower, built in 1554, is one of the rare Ave Maria bells in the Basel region and bears an inscription from the Gospel of Luke: AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA DOMINUS. In the past, Törli secured southern entrance of the town, and until 1959 the transit between Basel and the Hauensteinpass went through the old town gate of Törli.

Roam the picturesque Old Town!

The Old Town lies on the left bank of the river the Ergolz. In the center of the town stands Stadtkirche Liestal, an evangelical church. The town with its medieval houses originating no later than the 13th century makes it a nice place for leisurely strolls. The whole area of Liestal old town is part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites. As well as this, the list of  Swiss heritage site of national significance includes the Munzach (in the past one of the Roman estates)the Depot of Archeology of Basel-land, the Roman aqueduct and the Cantonal Archive of Basel-Landschaft, and the Frenkenbrücke (bridge).

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!

Switzerland, being a place of natural wonder, is popular with hikers. 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 with such rich nature and sheer beauty like Switzerland. It’s unforgettable and breathtaking wherever you set your foot. The countryside around Liestal has got a lot of scenic hiking trails, 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 the Internet.

There are both summer and winter trails available, but you still should get the current information from your 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.

A fascinating route to take from Liestal!

This is probably the most popular route in this region. Starting from the station in Liestal a long gentle ascent leads to the Schartenfluh through the Röserental. Walking along the main valley, you will be exposed to a magnificent view of the area covered with a filigree of paths and trails.  An impressive vista of the Birstal and distant land stretching towards France opens up in front of you at the Schartenfluh. Then the route takes you past the Solothurn village of Gempen to Sichteren, slowly descending in the direction of Liestal on the other side of the mountain. Here vast fields and hundreds of fruit trees make up the landscape. To finish the tour, you can walk to Old Town of Liestal to enjoy a meal with a view of beautiful old streets.

Enjoy a fantastic view from the deck of the Aussichtsturm!

At the elevation of 614 m above sea level, the observation deck provides an excellent view that stretches as far as Basel, and even France and Germany. The surrounding valleys and high plains of the Jura mountains eminate serenity. 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 7 am to 6 pm).

Participate in Fasnacht (Carnival) celebrations!

The Liestal’s Fasnacht is strongly influenced by the Basel’s Fasnacht, albeit with a lot of localities. 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 in 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 performance and a masquerade ball. On the following Saturday, Carnival will be concluded with a concert by 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!

Many parts of Basel-Country celebrate the Chienbäse, which is observed at the same time as the one in Basel. As a tradition, carnivals are organized all over the area with bonfires and torch-light parades as the main feature.

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 the last few decades, it has become popular to celebrate the Chienbäse with carts carrying bonfires whore flames often soar 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.

Blazing iron wagons are pulled along the streets, and torch-bearers, walking alongside, perform their tricks. The flames and people in the narrow alleys make an eerie mystic scene. The famous blazing wagons were an original invention of the 1930s. However, as they were considered too dangerous at that time, it was only in 1962 that they were officially allowed to be part of the celebration.

The origins of the custom are open to speculation. Many consider it to be a “pagan spring ritual” owing to the olden features of the fire spectacle. Bonfires have been a way of celebrating many holidays since at least the 16th century. The first known procession of torch-bearers is known to be the one in 1869.

Popular in the past, it is even more so nowadays, thousands of spectators from many countries attend the parade, crowding densely in the narrow streets. 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 is sometimes incredibly dangerous is unforgettable and the experience – utterly unique!

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

The 1st of August marked Swiss National Day as well as the establishment of the Swiss Confederation, which is dated 1 August 1291. There are significant 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 stuff 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 battles.

In protest against the pure men’s feast day that arose 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 houses a unique collection of a wide range of objects from the field of nature and culture of the region. Over the course of its growth, the museum collected many archeological finds, historical artifacts, and folklore objects. In 1975, the museum acquired the unique silk ribbon collection, which used to be the most important industry in the area. The museum attracts many visitors of all ages; adults, adolescents, and even children. Its permanent and temporary exhibitions make it well-known not only locally but also far beyond the regional borders.

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 a big raffle, pony rides, barbecue, fries, hot dogs, cüpli bar. This is a must for young and old because the festive atmosphere is great!

Visit the gorgeous medieval Wildenstein Castle!

The Wildenstein Castle, the only survived castle in Basel region, 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 cozily 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 exciting visit to the museum, huge 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 trendy excursion destination in the region of northwestern Switzerland and 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. One of them is Augusta Raurica, which was once a Roman city with about 20 thousand citizens. These days, you can still see some architectural structures of that era: temples, Curia, a theatre, a forum, and several other buildings. The Roman settlers supplied Augusta Raurica with water from Lausen through an underground tunnel, whose remains can still be visible at the Heidenloch.

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. It will take you less than 20 minutes to get there. The traffic connection is perfect and frequent, and you’ll be able to return to Liestal any minute you decide to.