Excursion Tip: A Day at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein

A Day at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein

The Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra, founded in 1950, has continuously expanded its factory premises in Weil am Rhein into a campus since the late 1980s, engaging renowned architects. Around the VitraHaus, designed by Herzog & de Meuron – the company’s flagship store – you can admire buildings by Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, and SANAA, among others. In addition, there is a renowned design museum including a Schaudepot. And all of this is nestled in a parkland that harmoniously blends contemporary garden design with old cherry trees into the vineyards and orchards at the foot of the Tüllinger.

Especially now in spring, when the fruit trees are blooming, and the first colorful splashes can be discovered in the garden designed by Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf, it’s a worthwhile destination! The following pictures, which we took on our visit in early April, testify to this. From our now fourth visit to the Vitra Campus, we also bring tips for a day trip. I’ll show you how varied a day on the campus can be. Inspiring, educational, active, relaxing, enjoyable – you can have it all.

09:30 a.m.: Strolling along the Vitra Design Path to the south entrance of the Vitra Campus

The routes to the campus are as varied as the possibilities for spending the day there. For those, like us, traveling by public transport, you can either take bus line No. 55 directly to the VitraHaus from Basel Badischer Bahnhof. Or, you can take tram No. 8 from Basel station and ride it all the way to the Weil am Rhein Bahnhof/Zentrum terminal. From there, follow the Vitra Design Path to the campus.

The latter option is not only appealing because you pass by numerous Basel landmarks but also because of the engaging path design. The approximately 20-minute walk takes you past 12 showcases designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, where you can admire miniatures of modern furniture design classics. Thus, the Vitra Design Path provides the perfect introduction to our day at the Vitra Campus.

10:00 a.m.: Starting the Day Comfortably at Depot Deli

The Vitra Campus is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. However, at Depot Deli, located on the south side of the Vitra Campus right next to the Schaudepot, you can start your day at 9:30 a.m. with freshly squeezed juice, good coffee, and delicious sweet or savory dishes. My breakfast favorites: the Breakfast Bagel and the Ginger-Apple-Carrot Juice!

Another plus on a beautiful spring day: On the outdoor terrace in front of Depot Deli, you can not only enjoy breakfast but also soak up the morning sun.

10:30 a.m.: Admiring the Chair Collection at Vitra Schaudepot

Refreshed, we then proceed to the Schaudepot. The Schaudepot houses the extensive collection of the Vitra Design Museum. Originally, the main building of the Vitra Design Museum, designed by Frank Gehry, was intended as a collection building. However, today it hosts major temporary exhibitions. Instead, in the Schaudepot designed by Herzog & de Meuron, you get an insight into the collection. Currently, under the title “Colour Rush,” you can admire 400 collection objects arranged by color. An optical highlight. It’s also worth taking a free look downstairs, where you get an insight into the furniture and lighting collection.

Also worth seeing is the “Barragán Gallery,” located in the Depot Deli building. The permanent exhibition is dedicated to the Mexican architect Luis Barragán.

11:15 a.m.: Strolling Across the Campus to Oudolf’s Garden

Next, we stroll from the southern part of the campus, past Zaha Hadid’s Fire Station, once around the enclosed area of the factory grounds towards VitraHaus. The parkland between the southern and northern parts of the campus is freely accessible. Since our last visit in 2016, several attractions have been added here.
Carsten Höller’s 30-meter-high slide tower has been an attraction on the campus since 2014. Somehow, I didn’t notice it as consciously back then. The slide tower is free to access during campus opening hours, observing the instructions for use. And believe me: you shouldn’t miss the ride on the 38-meter-long tube slide.
New additions include Oudolf’s Garden and the garden house designed by Japanese architect Tsuyoshi Tane. From its roof, you can overlook Piet Oudolf’s 4,000 m2 garden paradise in all its glory. The Dutch landscape architect is considered a pioneer of more resource-efficient garden design, using multi-year and self-regulating perennial mixed plantings. Now in spring, lush green dominates, with a few yellow and blue accents. The garden is in full bloom from July to September.

12:00 p.m.: Drawing Inspiration at the Vitra Design Museum

The chairs placed in the garden would invite longer stays. However, we don’t want to miss a glimpse of the current exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum. Titled “Transform! Design and the Future of Energy,” this exhibition explores the radical transformation of the energy sector from a design perspective. It’s an interactive and highly inspiring exhibition that will linger in my mind for a long time.

1:00 p.m.: Lunch Break at VitraHaus Café

Breakfast at Depot Deli was several hours ago. Slowly but surely, hunger starts to kick in again. The terrace of VitraHaus Café, surrounded by blossoming cherry trees, is already filling up nicely. However, we manage to find a spot and share a bowl of soup of the day and a plate of lentil balls with market vegetables and mashed potatoes. The daily menu offers a manageable selection of regional-seasonal dishes at fair prices.

2:00 p.m.: Joining an Architectural Tour of the Vitra Campus

Shortly before 2:00 p.m., we head to the meeting point for the architectural tour in front of VitraHaus. The architectural tour was actually the main reason for my visit to the Vitra Campus back in 2012, and even now, 12 years later, I don’t miss the opportunity. Architectural tours are offered daily in two to four time slots and last two hours. It may sound “long,” but trust me, even during my second participation, time flew by.

During the tours, you not only receive a lot of background information on the history of Vitra and the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein but also benefit from exclusive insights into buildings that are not publicly accessible otherwise. This includes the conference pavilion designed by Tadao Ando. Or – my highlight of this tour – the glimpse into the oval production hall designed by the architectural firm SANAA, completed at the end of 2012. Impressive is also the visit to Zaha Hadid’s Fire Station. The lack of right angles and color accents create astonishing sensory illusions. Moreover, from the roof of the Fire Station, you get a completely different perspective of the simple, monolithic Schaudepot.

By the way: Between May and October, on Sundays and public holidays, guided tours through Piet Oudolf’s Garden are also offered alongside the architectural tours. You can find more information about the offerings here: Guided Tours and Workshops.

4:15 p.m.: Coffee and Cake at VitraHaus

After the architectural tour, we head back to VitraHaus. We’ve been so engrossed in exploring the surroundings that we haven’t even taken a peek inside the flagship store with its showroom spread across four floors. It’s best to start the tour at the top in the loft, which you can conveniently reach by elevator. From here, you get a fantastic panoramic view of the campus. Afterwards, you can draw inspiration from the beautifully arranged living spaces of various styles. From Monday to Saturday, interior design specialists are available at the integrated Interior Studio for personalized consultations. For specific inquiries or assistance with orders and configurations, it’s advisable to schedule an appointment in advance – alternatively, spontaneous visits are also possible.

Following my own recommendation from 2012, I indulged in a slice of Black Forest cake for my afternoon snack at VitraHaus Café. Quite handy, having a blog. Even 12 years later, the cake tastes excellent to me.

4:45 p.m.: Take a Peek Inside the Vitra Campus Circle Store

For those considering sprucing up their living space with a few furniture pieces after exploring the flagship store, I recommend making a stop at the Circle Store. Here, you’ll find used furniture from Vitra and Artek, as well as other accessories such as sample, exhibition, and display pieces. Prices vary depending on the condition of the products. This concept offers the opportunity to acquire high-quality furniture at a reduced price.

Good to know: The Vitra Campus Circle Store is only open from Thursday to Saturday (10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.).

And before we know it, it’s past 5:00 p.m., marking the end of our day at the Vitra Campus. For the return journey to Basel, we take bus line 55, whose final stop, Basel Claraplatz, is directly across from Volkshaus Basel. The Boutique and Design Hotel, newly opened in 2021, had long been on our bucket list. For those looking to combine their day trip to the Vitra Campus with a short stay in Basel – definitely recommended. Alternatively, you can conclude the day with a walk along the five-kilometer-long Rehberger-Weg. More information can be found in this blog post.

Practical Tips for Your Trip to the Vitra Campus

The Vitra Campus is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. There is a public walking path through the campus, passing by attractions such as Zaha Hadid’s Fire Station, Carsten Höller’s Slide Tower, and Piet Oudolf’s Garden including the Garden House. Also free of charge are the Vitra Design Trail and the Rehberger Trail. On this page, you’ll find all the essential information to plan your visit.

For visits to the Schaudepot and the Vitra Design Museum, admission tickets must be purchased. The combined ticket costs 21 euros (regular price). A single entry to the Schaudepot is 12 euros, and to the Vitra Design Museum is 15 euros. An overview of the current exhibitions can be found here: Exhibitions at the Vitra Campus.

Architectural tours are offered in German, English, and on selected weekdays also in French. The individual ticket costs 16 euros. For a combined ticket including admission to the special exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum and the Schaudepot, you’ll pay 35 euros. If you want to be on the safe side, purchase the ticket including a time slot for the architectural tour online in advance.

From Switzerland, it is recommended to travel by tram No. 8 to the Weil am Rhein/Zentrum stop, including a 20-minute walk via the Vitra Design Trail. For those with limited mobility, take bus line No. 55 from Basel Badischer Bahnhof (or from Basel, Claraplatz) to the Weil am Rhein, Vitra stop. The Swiss Travel Pass (GA) and the Swiss Federal Railways Day Pass are not valid on both routes, and a connecting ticket must be purchased.

The Vitra Campus also hosts exciting events and talks on contemporary topics. This year, many events revolve around sustainable construction. Additionally, the Vitra Campus organizes special Family Days. An overview is provided in the event calendar of the Vitra Design Museum.

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