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Great Tram Journeys of Basel – Routes 15 and 16

Sometimes, you just can’t think of anything to do but want to be entertained without much effort. Perhaps you have some visitors, or want to just look around a bit more of Basel than is possible in a short time on foot. So why not go on a tram journey? Nick Steven went for a ride on the Number 15/16 trams…

To Bruderholz and Back

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon as we strolled over the Mittlerebrucke to meet the number 16 tram at its Schifflaende starting point and travel through town to scale the heady heights of Bruderholz.

The 16 has done this route since 1972 although the very first tram 16 departed Bruderholz on the 15th May 1930. At various points in the route’s history the 16 has gone as far afield as Badischer Bahnhof and even Riehen Dorf.

By contrast, the 16’s sister route – the 15 – started life in December 1910 when it travelled between St. Johanns Tor and Hueningen. At various points in its history, the 15 also went as far as the St Louis Grenze and it was really during the 1920s that the route through Wolfschlucht up to Bruderholz was added. In 1968, the 15 and 16 more or less took over the roles of the 5, 15, 16 and 26 trams which were condensed into two routes. Together the 15 and 16 routes are described by the Verkehrsverein Basel as the “Panorama Line” and from this article you will see why.

As we arrived at Schifflaende there was a 16 waiting however it was not able to move until the number 11 had overtaken. Then, like a slow serpent the majestic Be4/4 + B4 engine and carriage combination rolled up to the tram stop for us to board. The tram slithered slowly through the centre of Basel giving us views of the Rathaus, the Kiosk at Barfuesserplatz, past the Theatre and to Heuwaage. From here it began the slow climb up Innere Margerethenstrasse past the Wellnesspark, through Markthalle and we crossed the railway lines at Margerethenstrasse into an expectant Gundeli.

The 16 then took us left into Guterstrasse and passing Mediamarkt it came to a halt at Solothurnerstrasse from where we could see a sight familiar to many an expat – the Migros Klubschule and opposite a Denner where bored students could get a few cans to take into class.

Passing through Tellstrasse we eventually arrived at the Heiliggeistkirche. This Protestant church was built in the early 20th century and comprises three naves with a huge side tower. It is an excellent example of unspoilt new-Gothic architecture. Opposite the church I noticed a Sutter’s baker’s shop open on a Sunday.

At the Zwinglihaus stop I spotted a Flohmarkt with rock and pop CDs and LPs advertised not to mention a hairdresser where travellers could no doubt go for a quick spruce-up before continuing on their journey. The Muenchsbergerstrasse stop boasts a cigarette machine and the possibility to change to bus 36. Passing through Leimgrubenweg and a Hyundai garage on the left the Be4/4 unit began to do the real work of the journey – the climb up Jakobsberg.

The upward journey took us past the Rudolf Steiner School and at Hechtliacker we got spectacular views over the whole city. Travelling through the Bruderholz suburbs we finally arrived at our destination – the Bruderholz stop. I noted that at this stop there is a grocery shop called Chaeshummeli, a bakery, a loo (maybe for tram drivers only) and a SonntagsBlick vending machine so the physical and intellectual needs of the weary traveller are clearly well catered for.

It was at this point that the 16 underwent a miraculous transformation and by pressing a few buttons the driver was able to convert the 16 to a 15. The journey was about to get exciting.

At 15:41 precisely, the 15 made it’s downward trail passing through Airolostrasse and Studio Basel where the imposing Restaurant Bruderholz looks over a row of shops including a butcher, florist and newsagent – I think. The tram shelter at Lercherstrasse is extremely well maintained I noticed.

The route through to Wolfschlucht is very pretty taking the traveller through some nice woodland and there is a kiddy’s playground nearby with what appears to be a swing, slide and roundabout. Eventually at Bruderholzstrasse the Lonza tower came into view. Here we notice that the Cafe Monio was open so one could enjoy a coffee before changing to the Bus 36. It was on the route to Tellplatz that we saw a grocery shop – Tutti Frutti – which is open until 10pm on a Sunday. This is such an exciting and vibrant part of town.

Passing the award-winning Kupferturm on Muenchensteinerbrucke we traveled back into Basel via the Denkmal then Aeschenplatz. The journey from the Kunstmuseum over the Wettsteinbrucke gave great views along the Rhine and we were eventually brought through Messeplatz back to the safety of Claraplatz.

What a great way to see the main sights of Basel in only 45 minutes.


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