Taking a swim for a fresher feeling + testing 17 outdoor swimming places in Zurich

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Because I come from 'the country of thousands of lakes' = Finland, I’m used to swimming in natural waters. The water wasn't often that warm but there were saunas for warming up when needed.

The recipe for a perfect summer day in my childhood:

First to the sauna, then to the lake, then back to the sauna, then back to the lake... We did this for hours!

I remember sitting in the sauna and admiring the sparkling lake from the window. Soon I would feel too hot, and it would be so nice to jump into the cooling water among the fish.


The Lake Katzensee in Zurich reminds me of the lakes in Finland.

Looking for some blue space overseas

Since moving abroad 11 years ago, I've been looking for nice swimming spots when possible. Luckily I’ve been finding them too, for example the gorgeous beaches in Australia, and the turquoise waters in Central Europe.

I've noticed how swimming culture varies between countries, and what a privilege it is to be able to swim in clean waters that are not crowded.

This lake (Seelisberg) was lovely for a swim!

Being in water brings calm and clarity

Outdoor swimming combines many healthy elements: sensations and effects caused by water, fresh air, surrounding nature and often also the light and warmth of the sun.

Swimming affects to our blood flow and brain function. Being in water improves the mood. It helps us to relax and shut out external stimuli. Already seeing and hearing water – having ‘blue space’ – is good for us.

The Finnish word for enjoyment-oriented swimming, "pulikoida", has been translated into English as "splashing" and "dipping" but I'm thinking if there is an even more suitable word to describe the kind of swimming in which
💧you swim without a goal or rush,
💧you move according to the mood and ongoing situation, enjoying the landscape and the feel of the water and air.
💧you can float a while if you feel like it, then continue swimming, later you might stop on a rock to soak up the sun and look around before dipping into the water to swim again.
Dipping? Bathing? Splashing? Paddling? Leisure swimming?

My suggestion would be 'swimmeling' that (at least for me) sounds like moving playfully in the water. 'He was swimmeling again.' What do you say?

Untersee between Switzerland and Germany

How was my experience with the 17 outdoor swimming facilities in Zurich?

The outdoor swimming (Badi) culture in Switzerland was a happy surprise for us after moving here. The City of Zurich alone offers 18 outdoor swimming facilities/places and some of them are free of charge. In addition there are many other swimming spots.

I bought a season ticket and decided to go to all the outdoor swimming spots that it allowed.

At the end of this story is a list of my favorites and notes about the outdoor swimming places I visited.

 


A river spot not far from Flussbad Au-Höngg in Zurich

Some of the swimming facilities (like Freibad Zwischen den Hölzern) have cool, older architecture...

... and some, like Strandbad Wädenswil, have access to the lake.

Limmat and Sihl rivers shaking hands in Zurich


I was able to keep this swimming challenge relaxed enough, and I found myself always looking forward to the next swimming place. It seems I got bitten by a 'water bug': all these swims left me with an even stronger desire to swim outside.

For example, when I recently visited Helsinki, I went swimming in the Allas Sea Pool where you can swim either in the seawater or in a heated pool. What a fun perspective to view the city with its monuments and cruise ships passing by!

Also this week I have been swimming on three mornings, including today, and tomorrow (weather permitting) will be the Limmatschwimmen event: I'll jump into the river in the center of Zurich with many others, and we'll be swimming in the stream for 2 km.

PS. With this print I have created for all the lake-lovers, you get to carry the 14 largest lakes of Switzerland with you.

The pattern is currently available on canvas bags and wall prints. It comes with or without the names of the lakes.


View the Lake printed goods in the shop

Testing all the 17 outdoor swimming places of the City of Zurich (plus a few others)

I went swimming on weekdays when it's more quiet (timing makes a huge difference to the experience). The water temperature was 23 - 25 degrees Celsius. I visited only the adults’ pools.

I wasn’t focusing on the services, buildings etc. that much – my point of view was from the water/swimming, and of a middle aged woman who values nature and nice views and vibes.

I marked the visited places on a list, and some places I visited more than once.

My favorite places were all natural waters so they are listed first:


1. Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen – Lake Zurich In a lovely spot near the city center. Spacious. You can start swimming straight from the shore (deep enough) and rest on the rocks or the floating docks when needed. Beautiful mountains in the background.
2. Seebad Katzensee – Lake

About 7 km from the city center. The water felt as soft as the cotton clouds hanging above the lake. Reminds me of the small lakes in Finland. The lake deepens nicely.

3. Seebad Enge – Lake Zurich

The view from the water is enchanting: the water fountain nearby, ferries and sail boats going by, Alps in the distance… A cute spot in the armpit of the city.

4. Strandbad Mythenquai – Lake Zurich

Sandy beach (rare in Zurich), also grass areas, spacious, gets the morning sun, lovely view to the city and to the mountains… This place I visited the most this summer.
5. Flussbad Au-Höngg – River Limmat

Nice green surroundings between Sihl and Limmat rivers. It's fun to dive into the water and let the current be your engine.
6. Strandbad Wollishofen – Lake Zurich

Nice small spot surrounded by a long wooden pedestrian bridge and cute old buildings, not too far from the city center.
7. Flussbad Oberer Letten - River Limmat Normally crowded but in the morning not so many people, lively, in a more urban environment, close to the city center, surprisingly spacious decks, cool dip in the stream

8. Seebad Utoquai - River Limmat

A handy location in the city, a quick acces into the open lake, historic structures, one can see water and fish through the wooden floorboards too.
9. Frauenbad Stadthausquai - River limmat For me this is not an ideal for swimming as one can only swim in a small lakewater pool inside of the structures, yet a beautiful buildings and super central location in the old town, in the end of the river.
10. Flussbad Unterer Letten - River Limmat Surrounded by wooden structures, you can swim or flow in the stream of the river. An option also to walk further and jump into water earlier to swim longer. The place is a bit too popular for my liking but a handy location with an industrial milieu.

 

The remaining seven places are all pools (with no natural water)

There were no huge differences between them. Some of them have more interesting design or more beautiful surroundings though.

11. Freibad Heuried Gets lots of sunlight and somehow has more energy than some other places. Nice seeing the green Uetliberg mountain near by. The place has a modern touch, it’s recently renewed.
12. Freibad Allenmoos I had the pool basically for myself so it might have affected to the experience. Trees and lots of green lawn around. A classic Badi.
13. Freibad Letzigraben

Surrounded by big lawn areas, a comfortable atmosphere and nice older architecture. A duck joined the swim which was cool!

14. Freibad Seebach This has also had a classic Badi feel to it, green around the pool is a plus. One can see planes because of the location close to the airport.
15. Freibad Zwischen den Hölzern Further away, about 6 km from city center, quiet, lower energy, large lawn areas, near forest and vineyards. Dressing rooms are on the floor below with beautiful plantings and mossy stones.
16. Freibad Auhof Midday on Thursday there was only one other person in the pool. A red kite (Milvus milvus) flew over, and also some planes as the airport is not too far.
17. Flussbad Unterer Letten, pool side
Rather small pool, not so much light because of the surrounding structures. The place is often crowded as it’s close to the city and free. Next to the pools is the river access enriching the experience.

 

You can find information, including photos, on each swimming place at Badi aktuell website.

 

Resources

What impact do seas, lakes and rivers have on people's health?
Tim Smedley, 15 Mar 2013

Why Being Near The Water Is Good For Your Mind and Body

Melissa Matthews, 23 May 2017

There’s a Scientific Reason Why Water Is So Calming
Markham Heid, 3 Sep 2020

Does living by the coast improve health and wellbeing?
Benedict W.Wheeler,  Mathew White, Will Stahl-Timmins, Michael H.Depledge, 6 March 2012

Why Being Near The Ocean Can Make You Calmer And More Creative, Why The Ocean Calls To Us, According To Science
Carolyn Gregoire, 12 Sep 2014, Updated 6 Dec 201

How Swimming Changes Your Brain And Makes You Mentally Healthier
Melissa Atkinson, Last Updated 3 March 2022

 

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