Grocery Shopping in Basel
The cost of living in Basel Switzerland overall is relatively high, compared to other countries, so take a deep breath when you go into a grocery store, and be sure to look at the prices before buying something, especially if there is a service component involved (i.e. the butcher or cheese counters). Meat is especially expensive, but often goes on sale. I remember one time I went to the meat counter, before a barbecue to buy two smallish shish kebabs (meat and vegetables on a wooden skewer) from the deli counter and it came to 34 CHF. Ouch! Luckily, Basel is not the most expensive of the Swiss Cantons, so it could be worse. Be sure to take advantage of sales, often indicated by the word ‘ACTION or AKTION’. Other than the standard sales, you can often find even better prices on weekends. Check the websites and the flyers to find the best deals.
There are two major chain grocery stores in Basel, Switzerland: Co-op and Migros. You might find that the supermarkets in Basel are smaller than the supermarkets you’re used to, especially if you’re from North America. They don’t keep as many brands or flavors, but everything is there for the most part. There still might be some things from home that are not sold here, but you’ll be able to find almost everything you need.
If you find you have a preference for one chain or the other, you might want to get a loyalty card at one or both of them (Supercard at the Coop, Cumulus card at the Migros). Denner is a chain of discount grocery shops. It’s a good place to get the basics, and generally has a broad selection of reasonably priced wines, beers and spirits. It’s a great place to go shopping before you have a party!! There are other supermarket chains in the city (Aldi, Lidl), but you’ll come across these less frequently than those listed.
The chain grocery stores are generally open from 8am-6pm on weekdays (but some of these stores close over the lunch hour). There are some that stores that are open earlier as well as later (till 7 or 8pm). On Saturdays, these chain supermarkets normally have later opening hours and earlier closing hours. On Sundays, these shops are usually closed. If you go to the SBB train station, or to Barfusserplatz, you’ll find stores open as late as 10pm, seven days a week.
If you don’t have time to go shopping or simply don’t want to, the LeShop program by Migros will allow you to order groceries online and have them delivered to your door, or have them ready for you to pick up. This is very convenient, and I suggest you try it at least once to see if you like the service.
Family Run Shops
There are also lots of smaller family run shops all over the city, which are often open till 10pm. These generally have the basics available, and are more for convenience than for a full shopping trip. I have not encountered any grocery shops open later than 10pm.
Shopping for everything else in Basel
Going shopping in Basel isn’t too different than anywhere else. If you want to shop at a mall, the major malls are located on the outskirts of the city, and are usually open till 8pm on weekdays. Stores close earlier on Saturdays, and are generally closed on Sundays. Around Christmas, many stores have extended hours and stay open on Sundays, but not all, so be sure you check before you decide to do your holiday shopping!
There are also smaller shopping complexes located across the city, as well as individual shops. Most of the larger chain stores accept credit and debit cards, and cash. Personal checks are generally not accepted.
Large shopping centers
St. Jakob-Park – is a three-level mall with over 50 shops and restaurants. It’s located across from the St. Jakob Gartenbad, and is accessible by the number 14 tram as well as bus number 36 or 40.
Stücki – Is a two-level mall with over 100 shops and restaurants. There is a food court, as well as a children’s play area. You can reach Stücki by tram 8 or 17, as well as with bus 36; get off at Kleinhüningen.
Other shopping areas
You definitely don’t need to go to the two malls to find everything you need. There are less concentrated shopping areas across the city. One of the major shopping areas is located on Freiestrasse, in the heart of the old town of Basel. In addition to the numerous shops and cafes, there are often street performers and decorations depending on the season.
There is also another large aggregation of stores near the Claraplatz area. The department store Manor is a Basel staple where you can find almost anything, in addition to having a full size grocery store.
There are also shops, restaurants and bars located on Steinenvorstadt, as well as movie theaters, cosmeticians, and other businesses.
Late night shopping
Shopping outside of regular business hours is difficult to find. Many shops at the Basel SBB train station are open till 9pm. There are also late night grocery stores around the station.
Cross – border shopping
If you want to take advantage of your proximity to Germany and France, you can do some shopping across the border. The easiest access to cross-border shopping, in my opinion is the Rhein Center in Germany. Located just across the border in Weil am Rhein, the Rhein Center has a wide variety of shops including a massive grocery/department store (Marktkauf), and numerous, smaller specialty shops. There are also movie theaters and a gym. If you shop across the border, make sure you are aware of what and how much you can bring back. The number 8 tram goes directly to the Rhien Center making it very easy to get to.
Remember to always take your passport when crossing the border; your residence permit is not enough. In addition to the cheaper cost of goods in France and Germany, you might be eligible for a refund on foreign VAT. Generally, you can get a form at the customer service department of the shops across the border, where you’ll have to fill in some information and attach the receipt. You take this to the French or German border, with proof you’re not from the country, and they will stamp your VAT form. Then, when you are next at the same shop, you bring the stamped form to the customer service desk, sign and date it, and hand it to them. They’ll give you cash back for the VAT. These stamped forms usually expire between 3-6 months, so don’t wait too long to claim back your VAT.