Switzerland is a country most visited for its natural beauty especially its snow-capped alps. However, during the summer, glaciers melt and flow into rivers and lakes, making it perfect for a refreshingly cool swim during hot summer days. Wild swimming in rivers and lakes around Switzerland is a must-do quintessential summer experience. However, not all rivers meant for swimming. Find out more below on which rivers in Switzerland are actually safe to swim in with insider tips.
BEST RIVERS IN SWITZERLAND SAFE FOR SWIMMING
The Verzasca River’s source comes from the peaks above Sonogno from where it follows the Verzasca valley down to the Corippo fork and flows into the artificial lake. In summer, certain areas around Lavertezzo, with its calmer waters transform into natural outdoor pools where it’s safe to swim in the river. The emerald green water is very inviting and refreshingly cool. This is also one of the most picturesque spots with the medieval bridge ‘Ponte dei Salti’ running across the river.
Getting to Lavertezzo
Location: Ticino, Switzerland
By Public Transport
Take a train to Tenero, then a Postbus to Lavertezzo
Parking in the valley is regulated by the Verzasca Parking Card, sold at info points, kiosks, restaurants and tourist offices. The daily pass (CHF 10) or weekly pass (CHF 30) allows you to park in 33 places scattered along the Verzasca and includes a pocket map of the valley with tourist information.
Some parts of the Verzasca River are hazardous. Slippery rocks, underwater currents and icy cold temperatures are prominent dangers and you should pay attention to the warning notices around.
While at Verzasca Valley, adrenaline-junkies might want to try their hand at bungy-jumping off the 220m dam just like James Bond in Goldeneye.
Swimming in the Limmat River is a favourite summer activity for people living in Zurich. River currents, however, can be strong and fast. If you’re after a safer environment, check out these bathing areas for a more relaxed swim in the Limmat River.
Unterer Lettenis is Zürich’s oldest river bath. It was built into the Limmat River in 1909 and is now surrounded by an interesting cityscape. Unterer Letten has an attractive wooden structure housing that consists of public showers, changing rooms and with walkways out to a sunbathing platform. There is also a swimming pool for non-swimmers, a children’s paddling pool, and a 3-meter diving platform.
Swim down stream for more than 100 metres without worrying how to get out again – there is a catch-grid with ladders to stop you at the end of the pool. There is no entrance fee. Opening hours are 09:00AM – 20:00PM during May to September.
The Oberer Letten is a concrete-structure with swimming facilities with stairs into the 400-metre swimming channel in the Limmat River and a two-metre high diving platform. Water here is calmer and the place is popular with the younger, hip crowd. There are restaurants and sundecks along both sides of the canal and even beach volleyball courts. Lifeguards are on duty whenever the yellow flag is raised. Entry is free. Opening hours are 09:00AM – 20:00PM during May to September.
Getting to Unterer Letten and Oberer Letten
Location: Zurich, Switzerland
By Public Transport
To get to Unterer Letten, take Tram No. 13, 17 or 4 to Dammweg.
To get to Oberer Letten, take Bus No. 46 or Tram No. 13,17 or 4 to Limmatplatz to Kornhausbrücke.
Blue Zone parking is available along Wasserwerkstrasse.
Follow the locals and jump into the water, allowing the current to take you down stream towards the catch-grid at Unterer Letten. Currents are strong and swimming in the river is not suitable for children. Oberer Letten gets very packed during hotter days and finding a spot to put your things can be difficult. Try to get there in the morning or later in the afternoon.
The Aare River runs through Bern, Switzerland’s charming little capital city. During summer, you’ll spot plenty of locals and visitors jump into the Aare’s clear glacial-melt waters. The water is refreshingly cool even on hot summer days.
The Lorraine Bad is a fantastic starting point to go swimming in the Aare River from the northern side of Bern’s Old Town. The bathing water is somewhat colder than in the other pools since it comes directly from a groundwater source, but these temperatures give you the chance to swim alongside fish for an authentic outdoor bathing experience. Entrance is free.
Although not part of swimming in river water, you can also check out Marzili Pool (Freibad Marzili). The Marzili is perhaps the most famous outdoor pool in the capital of Bern. It is situated right on the Aare with beautiful views of the Parliament Building. Swimmers can safely swim lengths in the pool. There is also a children’s pool, a section for women only, and a diving pool. Free entry to the public.
Getting to Lorraine Bad and Marzili
Location: Bern, Switzerland
By Public Transport
Take Bus No. 20 towards HB Richtung Wankdorf and exit at Lorraine.
For Marzili, getting there by foot is the best option from the City Hall.
For visitors staying in accomodations in Bern, you will receive a Bern Ticket for your whole stay, which lets you travel for free on public transport in zones 100/101.
Parking is available around Lorraine Bad.
For Marzili, public parking is available at Marzilistrasse towards Dampfzentrale. Look out for the “Marzilibad” signage. More parking facilities can be found along the Aarestrasse.
Leave your things at the Marzili outdoor pool, walk upstream towards Eichholz beside the river and then jump in. The current is relatively fast, so you ‘ll be drifting down but remember to get out at Marzili! Walk up and repeat! This is suitable for strong swimmers only.
There are blue signs and red bars marking exits along the Aare River which you can grab on to get out. Check the water temperature for swim conditions here.
RHINE RIVER (RHEIN)
A swim in the Rhine River along Basel is a refreshing treat on a hot summer day: strong swimmers can get in between the Wettsteinbrücke and Johanniterbrücke bridges and let the current take them downriver. Swimming in the Rhine River is recommended for strong swimmers only.
However, there is a safe way to swim in the river without the strong currents dragging you along at Rheinbad St. Johann (St Johann bathing house).
Built in 1886, the St Johann bathing house or “Rhybadhysli Santi Hans” as it is known among the locals, is the ideal spot to dip your toes in Basel’s fast-flowing river. The purpose-built river pool is caged for your protection and there is a shallow area for children to play in. There is an entrance fee of CHF5 for adults and CHF3 for children.
Birsköpfli is perfect for a dip in the Rhine River and as an added bonus, there’s even a pebbled beach to lie on! Birsköpfli is the point where the Birs connects to the Rhine allowing for shallower and slower moving waters. This small river area isn’t too cold and is ideal for children to swim in.
Getting to Rheinbad St. Johann and Birsköpfli
By Public Transport
To get to Rheinbad St. Johann, take Tram No. 11 or Bus No. 30 from the city and stop at Johanniterbrücke.
To get to Birsköpfli, Tram No. 3 to Breite or Bus No. 36 to Nasenweg.
Rheinbad St.Johann is located right in the city and the closest parking is at Parkhaus City which is walking distance to the bath house and river.
There is a large parking place at Kraftwerk Birsfelden which will take 10-minutes by foot to Birsköpfli.
Grab yourself a “Wickelfisch” – a unique watertight fish-shaped bag that’s also a great souvenir! These bags are available at the tourist information centers.
While swimming in the wild can be a fun activity, it is also rather dangerous if precautions are not taken. According to the Swiss Lifesaving Society (SLRG), around 50 people drown in Switzerland each year – more often in rivers and lakes than in swimming pools.
Stay safe in Swiss rivers by following these rules:
- Only venture into open water if you’re a good swimmer.
- Don’t jump or dive into murky or unknown water.
- Don’t swim long distances on your own. Remember that even people who are very fit can experience weakness.
- The colder the water, the shorter the time you should spend in it. If you get too cold you can easily get muscle cramps.
- Don’t jump in the water if you’re too hot: after sunbathing your body needs time to adjust.
- Never let children go near the water on their own; stay within reach and keep a very close eye on them.
- Don’t swim on a full or empty stomach.
If you’re using a rubber boat or air mattress:
- Do not venture into deep water with air mattresses and buoyancy aids, as they won’t keep you safe.
- If you’re in an inflatable boat, wear a personal flotation device (PFD).
- Do not tie boats together, as it makes them difficult to manoeuvre.
- Do not exceed the load limit written on your boat.
- If you are not familiar with a particular stretch of river, check it out before you get in the water.
Let us know what are your best rivers in Switzerland safe for swimming are in the comments below.
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