Valhalla Bar Basel - Viking Restaurant Review with Kaitlin Felix
To celebrate Norsevember, a world-wide online event celebrating all things Vikings (books, comics, games, movies, history, food, drink...), I'll be hosting a series of special posts with a few of my Viking-minded friends from around the world. The topic: Viking Restaurants from around the world!
Kaitlin Felix, the author of The Seeing Trees as well as an upcoming novel featuring Gyda the Grim from her short story Waverunners, lives in Switzerland and took some time to check out Valhalla Bar Basel; this Viking-themed treasure features not only an incredible food and drink menu that would make Thor's stomach grumble, but live events including Viking live music nights and quizzes! Here are Kaitlin's responses to the Norsevember Restaurant Review Questionnaire...
Rate each category on 1 (low rating) - 5 (high rating):
Food Menu ★★★★★
Merch *Did not see any
In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a vast hall, set aside by Odin for warriors and fighters of the highest calibre. Valkyries choose the bravest of the slain from battlefields and bear them to glorious afterlives. Half go to Freyja’s Folkvangr, while the rest are welcomed in Valhalla. Companions and enemies feast together, drink each other under the tables, and fight – all in preparation for the most glorious and world-shattering battle: Ragnarök, the fiery renewal of the world.
Valhalla Bar in Basel, Switzerland, lives up to this vaunted description.
"Companions and enemies feast together, drink each other under the tables, and fight – all in preparation for the most glorious and world-shattering battle: Ragnarök, the fiery renewal of the world."
At the beginning of October this year, a good friend and I took the train up to Basel. We had a hotel room, none of our children, and an entire evening to pillage and plunder. After a tasty dinner at a Roman-themed restaurant, we ventured out like Valkyries to find Valhalla.
Located beyond the usual high-street bars and restaurants, but not too far, this place proved to be an experience of its own. When we arrived, I felt certain Odin himself couldn’t turn out something better. This hung in the entry way, and while my rune-loving friends might squint sideways at it, I thought it was a badass touch.
Translation: “Welcome to Valhalla's walls, where neither fear nor discord lurk. Be our friends and enter to be equal among equals. Drink our drink. Linger the night. Receive the old gods’ power.”
Only open for just over a year, Valhalla already has the feel of a well-loved pub. The place has it all - giant platters of food, tubs of booze, cool décor, and music to rip out your eardrums. Co-owned by modern-day Viking Raphael Bonato with two friends, the care and attention to detail is evident in every seam and corner.
What arrested me immediately was the size. Most bars in Zurich city are rather cosy. Valhalla was welcoming and expansive, like a winter night spent basking around a mead-hall’s hearth.
Across the indoor area, rustic timber tables were paired with fur-lined benches. Stuffed armchairs occupied a snug corner. To the left of the bar, a large space was available for events. Valhalla is known for its live music nights and quizzes. The night before I visited, they held a Lord of the Rings quiz. Fate was not on my side for that one!
After hanging up our jackets, my friend and I moved outside, passing through a large doorway and onto the patio. Here there were more tables and benches. Strings of lights lined the edges and an awning was ready to catch any rainfall. This was a Friday, yet the night was quiet and fair. Most of the patrons sat together like companions home from a raid, talking and drinking and eating.
I wanted to sit among the benches, but my Swiss German is somewhat lacking, and I can be shy in crowds. We looked on from a corner before moving back inside for drinks.
Drinking & Feasting
With an extensive drinks list, we were spoiled for choice. There were cocktails, beer, and liquor, but the real treat was the variety of mead, or “met” as it’s called in German.
Having already split a bottle of excellent wine, I was tipsy and feeling the Norse spirit rise like fire in my belly. I ordered the original mead, with no extra flavouring, though later I ordered the juniper infusion, which was excellent. I eyed the cranberry, but missed out on trying it in favour of a glass of Oban single malt to end the night. (I do like a good full-bodied Scottish whisky!)
The mead came in a metal cup, a bit like a Moscow Mule. It was cool and sweet. The honey was strong, and so was the cheer. I sipped it slowly to savour the experience. Though I didn’t ask, I wonder if buying a bottle to take home would be possible.
Having already had dinner, we did not order food. But as we stood at the bar chatting with a few patrons and waiting for drinks, huge platters whizzed by our heads. Stacked with fries and burgers and doused in sauces, the amount of food would have had Thor’s mouth watering enough to fill the sea!
The names on the menu card were intriguing:
Music & Events
I said before that Valhalla is known for its music, and though we did not have a live band that evening, Raphael himself commanded the music booth, choosing songs that would have made any skald headbang. A few of my current favourites played, including Saltatio Mortis’ version of My Mother Told Me, in Old Norse, of course.
After a search, I found a Spotify playlist for the bar, so if you’d like a flavour of what they play on any given night, take a look!
"I said before that Valhalla is known for its music, and though we did not have a live band that evening, Raphael himself commanded the music booth, choosing songs that would have made any skald headbang."
The rest of the evening was spent laughing and talking with another group that joined us at our table. They were friendly, welcoming, and enthusiastic about our visit. Which very much reflected the vibe of Valhalla. This is a place where truly all are welcome, no matter your background or familiarity with the scene. It was a thoroughly exhilarating evening, one to be repeated!
On our way out, we encountered a new friend. Whether greedy Fafnir or fierce Jǫrmungandr, such a serpent can only be honoured with its own table beside the door. A toothy greeting and a fanged farewell, but still an invitation to return and experience a night full of legends and myth.
"A toothy greeting and a fanged farewell, but still an invitation to return and experience a night full of legends and myth."
So the next time you find yourself raiding or trading in Switzerland, feast at Vallhalla Bar Basel. Thanks to Kaitlin for her review!
More Norsevember restaurant features to come!
Joshua Gillingham is an author, editor, and game designer from Vancouver Island, Canada.