Basel Historical Museum – Museum of Music

Basel Historical Museum – Museum of Music

Basel Historical Museum – Museum of Music
4.5
Speciality MuseumsHistory Museums
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
With over 3,300 objects to its name, Basel Historical Museum is in possession of Switzerland’s largest collection of musical instruments. Spread over three floors, the Musikmuseum boasts some 650 European instruments spanning five centuries of music history from the oldest drum dating from 1571 and a highly ornate viola da gamba by Joachim Tielke (ca. 1704) to the Weber Unika Orchestrion of 1925. The twenty-four cells of the former prison serve as showcases in which visitors can admire the instruments while calling up countless samples and additional information on an interactive screen. While touring the museum you will therefore hear all sorts of music, from the familiar to the bizarre.
Duration: 1-2 hours
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Neighborhood: Altstadt
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Most Recent: Reviews ordered by most recent publish date in descending order.

Detailed Reviews: Reviews ordered by recency and descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as wait time, length of visit, general tips, and location information.

Popular mentions

4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles66 reviews
Excellent
45
Very good
17
Average
3
Poor
0
Terrible
1

permia
Ireland61,404 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sep 2022
Undoubtedly one of the best collections of musical instruments we have seen, they span numerous centuries.

Ones from the Medieval and Renaissance times were great to see. A tromba marina collection comprising the triangular stringed instrument that was very popular is one of the treasures.

A venerable looking bagpipe and a horn from a tusk are fascinating.

Wind, stringed, keyboards, harps, drums and organs from various heritages are all beautifully displayed.

All set in a section of the Lohnhof former prison complex. Preserving one former cell with its robust metal door adds to the atmosphere and sense of history of the place.
Written January 3, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Gary S
West Palm Beach, FL20 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2022
Good place to learn Basel's history. In Old Town and easy to get to. Worth going. Use your Basel Card to get in for 1/2 off. Can spend as little as an hour up to about 3 hours touring there
Written September 19, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mikatu
Basel, Switzerland342 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023
I went there without great expectations and had a great time.
Of course, if you are into musical instruments you are gonna love it but even if you are not this will be a great museum. Every room has a bottom you can press to listen to the instruments.
You get to know a bit more about the instruments and the culture but also get to see the insides of this old convent and former prison.
Written August 21, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Nathalie D
4 contributions
1.0 of 5 bubbles
Apr 2021 • Couples
Suppose to be free 1st sunday of each month
We arrive the furst sunday of april and was told because its easter it is not free ....
First she told us its 5 chf then when we want to pay she says oh no its 10 ... well no thanks good bye
Written April 4, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Thank you for your valued feedback. We have never had such a case and regret your bad experience. This is a valued local service that our customers have been happy to rely on for many years. Please kindly note that our free entry offer does not include personal guided tours. All prices are listed on site and on our website: www.hmb.ch/en/museums/musikmuseum. We will do our best to ensure that any future visit is a thoroughly positive experience. Yours sincerely, your HMB team
Written June 15, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

zuv
Bucharest, Romania33,359 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2022
A very interesting museum! You will be able to see a lot of old musical instruments, some of them totally out of the ordinary. There is a section dedicated to the materials used to make musical instruments or some of their components, starting with natural materials and ending with their synthetic substitutes. Also, there is a small section dedicated to the sounds produced by birds and the instruments that try to imitate these sounds.
You need about 90 minutes to visit it. At least an hour.
The area where the museum is located, Lohnhof, is extremely picturesque.
Written January 12, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mfb
France89 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jailhouse Blues

Once upon a time, not so long ago (1835-1995) in Basel’s Old Town, there existed a prison—which had, long, long ago (1070) been an Augustinian monastery. End of fairy tale. Leaving a goal to sit in the heart of Basel on prime real estate did not make good business sense, thus a plan was proposed to convert the property into ritzy apartments. Fortunately for the citizens of Basel and its museum goers, the task proved too difficult to execute, so instead of becoming a posh place for the few, the prison became the largest musical instrument museum in Switzerland.

Along with its collection of Basel Fastnacht fifes and drums, the museum is home to about 3,000 European musical instruments (dating from the 16th to the 20th century) 600 of which are on view. The rest are in storage but accessible to music students.

Financed by private donations, the outer shell of the prison has been retained as have the prison cells and the original herringbone pattern parquet, restored to a rich lustre. The cells’ black walls and four-metre high ceilings provide the perfect décor for the glass cases of drums, stringed and wind instruments. At the foot of each cell is a touch-sensitive flat screen, placed at a height convenient for both adults and children alike; where, in three languages, you can read the history of each instrument and hear it played either alone or in a musical composition.

Outside the cells are centuries-old keyboard instruments of varying construction. One cell provides a hands-on display of piano and organ works. Finally, for those of a more lugubrious bent, there remains one untouched, vacated goal cell.
What struck me was that each instrument must have its own untold tale of a journey through the hands of craftsmen and musicians, across lands and into the care of people who sheltered or neglected them through decades of war, famine and pestilence until they landed, sometimes a century or four later in the hands of restorers, who then repaired, cataloged and mounted them in black display cases beside a little white number.

One of the more fascinating instruments on display is the Serpent. Once described as unlovely and bullocky, it is, as the name suggests, an S-shaped instrument, with curves encompassing up to 2.5 metres of hollow wooden tubing. Originally, Serpents were made from a block of walnut wood, the size of the finished instrument. The block was split down the middle, then both halves were hollowed out like a dugout canoe in the form of an ‘s’ then glued together. The final s-shape was hued from this reassembled block and covered with leather. Apparently, Serpents made this way are still more desirable than those made from high tech materials like fibreglass and owing to advances in carpentry, and probably glue too, are much easier to make than they once were.
How Serpents came into being isn’t known exactly, only that a Frenchman, Canon Edmé Guillau was (forgive me) instrumental in its invention and design. The Serpent was probably built by an instrument maker to the Canon’s specifications.

Prior to the 16th century, most music was written for the church and performed, without accompaniment, by the pure human voice (plainsong). Because low pitched notes sung by male voices lack volume, the Serpent was developed to fill that gap, thus it slithered its way into the church in 1590 and accompanied the male voice for the next 200 years.

Not to be outdone by the French, the English also developed their own Serpent, but constructed it from curved overlapping conical sections and bound it with varnished cloth strips or covered it with a leather sheath. Either way, it needed to be re-enforced with metal bands making it more durable, if less airtight than the French instrument. Its durability proved rather useful to the military, in turbulent 18th century Europe, because it could be played during marches, in battle and even on horseback.

From military bands to rural churches not possessing organs, the Serpent slid into the orchestra pit, until improvements in instrument design lead to its replacement by louder brass instruments like the tuba. This is not to say that you no longer hear the Serpent being played—just that you are not aware of it. Used in film sound tracks and commercials, it is also making a comeback with some musicians and especially in recreations of historic music recorded on the original instruments.

If you’d like to hear how a Serpent sounds you could try this link: http://www.oddmusic.com/clips/serpent.mp3 or better yet, hop on tram number 3 to the Musikakademie and visit the Music Museum in Basel.

Wheelchair accessible, the museum is closed Mondays, open: Tues, Wed, Fri 14-19h; Thu 14-20 and Sundays 11-16h.

Happy Day: 1st Sunday in the month free admission.
Happy Hour: Tue, Wed, Fri 18 - 19 h; Thu 19 - 20 h free admission. Different prices apply for some special exhibitions. Free entry with the Oberrheinischen Museumspass or the Schweizer Museumspass
Guided tours : 1st Thursday of the month
Written December 12, 2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

chessboard
Basel, Switzerland156 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2014 • Couples
The Music Museum of the Basel History Museum (Musikmuseum) displays a lot instruments from the middle ages to the present in execellent manner. There also special exhibitions, at the mment about the pop-history of Basel in the last 50 years.
Written May 13, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

tromba61
Oakwood (Montgomery County), OH673 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2013 • Friends
If you have any interest in musical instruments, this is the place for you. Baroque trumpets, trombones, drums, keyboards, recorders, bassoons, organs, violins, guitars, saxophones, and Turkish crescents.

Exhibited in the cells of a former jail, the displays and lighting are great with sound samples and explanations with electronic interactivity. One cell is displayed as it was for a prisoner.
Written May 9, 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

BobStamford
Stamford, UK719 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Dec 2019
We found this by accident - it is absolutely outstanding, huge range of musical instruments all with accompanying podiums allowing you to hear the music as well as teaching you about the instruments
Written December 10, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
Many thanks for your positive feedback. We are happy you have enjoyed your visit at our museum and hope to welcome you again in the future.
Written December 11, 2019
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

133Christine
Adelaide, Australia40 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2013 • Business
If you have ever studied an instrument, then you will be intrigued by this compact little museum. So many early instruments in their collection. A couple of chances for hands on, though would have liked to have a blow on them all!
Written June 29, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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