Basel Fasnacht 2019

Event Dates: 
11 March, 2019 - 04:00 - 14 March, 2019 - 04:00

Basel Fasnacht is just around the corner!

When: 11 - 13 March 2019, 4 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Where: Basel city centre

For more information on Fasnacht traditions and history, get Peter Habicht's book Lifting The Mask, which you can find at the Bider & Tanner bookshop. You can also find lots of information here and here. The book and links will tell you about the differences between a Clique and a Gugge, what a Schnitzelbangg is, and how to avoid getting stuffed with confetti by Waggis.

There are two unwritten rules that are, I freely admit, my personal pet peeves: don't use flash photography at Morgestraich. Not only will your pictures be devoid of atmosphere, Fasnacht participants get blinded by the flashes going off every other second. And: do dress up in a costume and mask on one of the evenings - ask your Basel friends to lend you one or get one in a second-hand shop - but don't dress up in a costume and then paint your face, Halloween-style. Face painting is a big no-no at Fasnacht.

Here are some English Show pointers:

Fasnacht starts with the Morgestraich at 4 a.m. on Monday morning, 11 March 2019. Trams and buses run all night. Don't even think about getting into town by car, you'll have to park way outside of the city centre. Try and get there by half 3 at the latest - head for Barfüsserplatz or Marktplatz if you want to be in the thick of it.

Alternatively, try side streets off Marktplatz: the Andreasplatz is lovely, Rümelinsplatz will also be packed with Cliques, Spalenberg, Martinskirchplatz, Freie Strasse - all good places. I personally like standing on the steps at Kohlenberg with a view down to Barfüsserplatz and up Steinenberg. But again: get there early!

Just before 4 a.m., try not to get too distracted by all the people chatting away around you, stop talking so that you're in the moment, and focus on the street lights - those first few seconds when they're turned off and the fifing and drumming starts up is quite something.

After you've roamed the streets for a bit, head into one of the many restaurants and bars that are open and have some traditional Fasnacht food: Mählsuppe (burnt flour soup - sounds disgusting, tastes delicious), Ziibelewaije (onion quiche) or Kääswaije (cheese quiche).

The official parades (called Cortèges) with all the Cliques, Gugge and Waggis wagons start on Monday and Wednesday afternoon at half past 1 and go on until about 6 p.m. After that, it's all groups to themselves as they wind their random way around the small streets in the old part of town. Have a wander up Spalenberg, Gemsberg and along Nadelberg late at night and soak up the Fasnacht vibe. There's drumming and fifing all night long, though the crowds tend to thin out towards the morning.

Fasnacht Tuesday is the children and family Fasnacht, beginning in the early afternoon. Head to the Münsterplatz for the lantern exhibition that starts on Monday night and lasts until Tuesday night. It's a lovely place to be, especially at night, with all the lanterns lit up and small Fasnacht groups providing the background soundtrack. Tuesday evening is the big Guggemusik night, with Gugge concerts on stages set up at Barfüsserplatz and Marktplatz.

Thursday morning 4 a.m. signals the end of Fasnacht. If you're still awake, head to the city centre for that last hour between 3 and 4 a.m., because that's when everyone, but everyone goes out for a last round of drumming and fifing and it's utter chaos. Most of the big Cliques finish Fasnacht with one last rousing march just before the clocks strike 4 a.m., the group standing in a circle as they play their farewell to Fasnacht. Recommended: the Basler Bebbi Clique, who finish with a grand flourish in front of the Safranzunft in the Falknerstrasse near Marktplatz at 4 a.m.

Just after 4 a.m., don't get run over by the many cleaning trucks with their orange lights flashing away as they sweep up the last remnants of Fasnacht. By 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, the streets are clean, the trams are back on track, and it's as if Fasnacht never happened...

Another pointer: as you're walking around Fasnacht at night, go into the various Clique cellars for a drink or a bite to eat. Some of them are beautiful old cellars with vaulted ceilings, lined with lanterns. You'll find cellars along Bäumleingasse, Gerbergässlein, Nadelberg - in fact, pretty much everywhere, and they're signposted, so you can't miss 'em.

- Anna Wirz