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Open Water Swimming in Zürich

27/03/2013 17:19 GMT | Updated 27/05/2013 10:12 BST

On a recent visit to Zürich I was surprised at what an open water swimmer's paradise this city could be.

A combination of lake and river swimming facilities means that the city of Zürich has one of the highest densities of swimming facilities in the world.

As a result the locals have developed a real swimming culture, jumping into the lake or river at every opportunity - but visitors aren't excluded, here's a quick guide to some of the swimming options that await you in Zurich.

Cold water swimming

  • Call me soft, but I always think that open water swimming is best tackled in the warm weather of summer. However for the hardier swimmers you might fancy tackling the Samichlaus event held in December each year.
  • For the Samichlaus, swimmers kick off from the Limmat River's Pier 7 and swim 365 feet to the Frauenbad Stadthausquai - the water is obviously going to be so cold that it's painful. The upside? They give you some hot soup when you reach the end.

Women-only swimming

  • You can swim on the Limmat River in the heart of Zurich's old town at the Frauenbadi. Built in 1837, the Frauenbadi is Zürich's oldest bathing facility - a closed rectangular wooden construction with plenty of space for sunbathing. The facility by day is restricted to women only.

Men-only swimming

  • The Flussbad on the Schanzengraben is the male equivalent of the Frauenbad - bordered by Zurich's old city wall and the Botanical Garden

River swimming

  • The Flussbad Oberer Letten offers a 400-meter long swimming channel in the Limmat as well as a 2-meter high diving board; two beach volleyball courts; and a petanque pitch.
  • There's also a swimming channel in the Unteren Letten with a retention safety screen at the end to catch you if you get carried away. Also features a 3-meter high diving board.

Lakeside swimming

  • The Seebad Enge offers both mixed and women-only swimming. Both pools have access to the lake and deliver panoramic views. Lakeside saunas are also a treat.
  • A women-only swimming pool, a men-only swimming pool, a mixed swimming pool, 3 rafts and 1.8 and 3.2-meter diving platforms, and a sauna - all makes lakeside swimming at Utoquai a joy.
  • Opened in 1922 as Zürich's first beach, Mythenquai offers 250 meters of sand for swimming and sunbathing.

Nightlife

What is surprising about many of Zürich's swimming facilities is that once the sun goes down they transform into the coolest places to hang out and meet up with friends.

  • Barfussbar - by day the Frauenbadi is women-only, but at night it turns into Barfussbar - welcoming both men and women to a barefoot bar, perfectly lit to capture the atmosphere of the old town.
  • Riminibar - by day, the Flussbad Schanzengraben for men-only swimming, by night the Riminibar, where the atmospheric green light makes dappled reflections in the water for the young mixed crowd.
  • Filmfluss - for two weeks in summer the Unterer Letten river swimming area transforms into an open-air cinema.

Events

  • There's two key events in Zürich this summer that I'm in training for:
  • Lake Crossing - July. It's a one mile swim and can take up to one hour. The start is at the Strandbad Mythenquai and the finish is at the Strandbad Tiefen-brunnen.
  • River Swim - August. A 1.2 mile swim downstream along the Limmat River from the Stadthausquai to the Oberen Letten. The largest field recorded has been 4.200 swimmers.

There's a lot to look forward to in the waters of Zürich this summer.

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Information and tours: The website of the Zürich tourist board is a great starting point for everything you need to plan your visit to the city.

Public Transport: Pick up a ZürichCARD at the tourism service center at Zürich Airport. You can get a card that is valid for either 24 or 72 hours - the benefit is that it gives you free public transport (including the train to and from the airport) as well as access to all the city's museums.

Accommodation: I stayed at Hotel Platzhirsch on Spitalgasse in the heart of Zürich's Niederdorf area. Perfect location for exploring the old town and nights out. Really good wifi throughout the hotel, plus they'll lend you an i-Pad while you're there.