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Basel is a beautiful Swiss city that’s becoming more and more popular to visit and for good reason.
But one thing that often leaves travellers stumped is knowing what the correct Basel pronunciation is.
There are so many incorrect ways of pronouncing it, so it’s important to learn the correct way out of respect for the locals.
Luckily for you, I have been to Switzerland and spent a lot of time in Basel, and I’m here to provide a complete guide on how to pronounce Basel.
So let’s get on with it…
🇨🇭 When planning a trip to Basel, I recommend using:
✈️ Flights: Skyscanner
🏨 Hotels: Booking.com
💵 Hostels: Hostelworld
🗺 Tours & Activities: Viator and GetYourGuide
🚗 Car Rental: Discover Cars
🚌 Transport: Flixbus
🏥 Travel Insurance: Safetywing
💻 VPN: Surfshark
As I said, there are many incorrect ways to pronounce Basel, some of the most common include “bay-sel”, “base-el” and “b-eye-sel”. All of these are incorrect, and there is only one right Basel pronunciation.
The correct Basel pronunciation is “bah-zel”. “Bah” is like the noise a sheep makes, and “zel” is said how it looks. Put them together and that’s how to pronounce Basel.
One of the main reasons there is a mispronunciation on some parts is because of the word basil, the herb. In the US, it’s pronounced “bay-sel”, and Basel looks very similar so it’s understandable why this mistake is made.
On the other hand, most people in the UK pronounce basil as “bah-zel”, so it’s pronounced the exact same way as this picturesque city in Switzerland.
Of course, when you visit Basel, you might find that the locals pronounce Basel with an accent, but this is the case with anywhere in the world. As long as you are pronouncing it correctly and not saying “bay-sel” then you are doing fine.
There are slightly differing pronunciations of Basel, as it’s a city right on the border with Germany and France, so the two nations have different ways of saying it, and even spelling it. The French prefer Basle.
You might wish to watch YouTube videos on how to pronounce Basel to help familiarise yourself before you begin your trip. They’re always useful to help you hear how it should sound rather than reading it which can be hard to translate into sounds sometimes.
Basel isn’t the most popular place in the world for tourists, so it does require some research before hand such as this article learning how to pronounce it, what there is to do there, and in some cases, even which of the Basel airports to fly into.
But to summarise, the correct Basel pronunciation is “bah-zel”, and you say it exactly as it looks when broken down. It’s quite easy to pronounce once you understand which is the correct pronunciation.
How to pronounce other Swiss destinations
If you are visiting Basel, you might also be visiting some other beautiful destinations across Switzerland. Geneva, Zurich, Bern, etc. are all pretty easy to pronounce, so I haven’t included them on this list. Instead, I’ve opted for some beautiful towns and a village which are a little harder to pronounce. Here are the correct pronunciations for Grindelwald, Interlaken and Gstaad.
Grindelwald is one of the most famous villages in Switzerland, and it’s clear to see why. It’s a stunning village surrounded by the Alps and it’s the perfect post-card-worthy destination. But it can be quite hard to pronounce.
The pronunciation depends on if you want to say it in English or like the locals. In English, it’s pronounced “grin-del-wall-d” so it’s exactly how it looks.
But the correct and more authentic pronunciation is “grin-del-vall-d”, so you simply change the W sound to a V, like you are speaking German. It’s an easy adjustment but one that locals will appreciate.
Interlaken is another beautiful destination in the mountains, with a huge and picturesque lake too, hence the name.
This time, the pronunciation is pretty much the same across English speakers and Swiss locals. And the good news is that it’s pronounced more or less exactly how it looks.
Interlaken is pronounced, “in-ter-lack-en”. Pretty easy, right? You just sound it out.
Gstaad is actually what you picture when you imagine a Swiss town covered in snow amongst the Alps. It’s absolutely breathtaking.
But the name looks quite intimidating, but once again, it’s just a case of sounding it own.
Gstaad is pronounced as “guh-staa-d”. When I was learning to speak German in school, my teacher used to tell me that German words are actually very easy to say- you just pronounce every single letter. And this philosophy applies in Switzerland most of the time too.
What language do they speak in Basel?
But as amazing as all of those other destinations are, let’s get back to Basel. It’s important to know what language is spoken there before visiting too. If you know anything about Switzerland, you might know that there is more than one language.
There are 4 official languages in Switzerland, but in Basel, the official language is German. But not normal German, Swiss German. The official Zurich language is also Swiss German.
Swiss German is a dialect of German which has random aspects of French. The best way I’ve found of summarising this is with the phrase “thanks a lot”.
If you speak French or German you might see a funny issue here. In Swiss German, it’s “Merci vielmal”. So it is quite literally one French word and one German word. It’s pretty fascinating.
But if you speak High German, then you will be okay in Basel as it’s used for official things in the city. And if you need a translator app, use German as the locals will still understand what it means.
So the language in Basel is Swiss German.
Basel Pronunciation: FAQ
Below are some questions related to the correct Basel pronunciation along with my answers.
The Swiss pronounce Basel as “bah-zel”.
Basel is incredibly close to the French and German borders of Switzerland. The Germans prefer Basel and the French prefer Basle. Both names are used, but Basel is much more common.
Basel is pronounced in the UK as “bah-zel”, the same as the herb basil.
Conclusion: Basel Pronunciation
And there you have it, a complete guide to the correct Basel pronunciation.
There are lots of common mispronunciations, so hopefully, this article has taught you the right way of saying it.
Remember, the correct way to pronounce Basel is “bah-zel”. Pretty easy once you’ve said it a few times out loud, right?
Enjoy your trip to Basel, it’s a wonderful city and you are guaranteed to love it! 🙂