In some cities they drink ice-cold spritzes on quaint patios; in others they find shade in verdant corners of pretty parks. When the weather hots up in Basel, however, there's only one thing on locals' minds: swimming in the Rhine.
Sure, slipping into a swimsuit and diving headfirst into a giant urban waterway would warrant a few befuddled looks in most parts of the world. In Basel, however, this remarkable river is a clean, safe and utterly exhilarating way to imbibe the city's unique summer culture.
Prefer to go with another flow? There are plenty of other ways to cool down, whether it's having a carefree dunk in a public fountain or catching some rays at one of the city's designated bathing houses. So if you feel like taking the plunge this summer, here are a few ways to dip your toes.
Float down the Rhine on a Wickelfisch
Nothing signals the arrival of summer like the sight of hundreds of Baselites bobbing down this mighty river with their fluorescent waterproof knapsacks in tow. These clever floatation devices – called wickelfisch – were invented right here in Basel and were designed to help swimmers keep their clothes and valuables dry and can be purchased from shops and tourist information centres around the city for £25.
With your belongings neatly stored, make for the riverbank behind Museum Tinguely for an easy entry point to the river. Once you're in, the aim of the game is simple: just relax and enjoy the views of Basel’s medieval centre as the Rhine carries you downstream until it's time to get out, at which point you can grab a beer from one of the riverside refreshment stalls while you dry off.
Lay your towel at one of Basel's bathing houses
If bobbing down a public river feels a tad too 'rustic', you'll be pleased to know that a more refined swimming experience is waiting for you over at the city's two designated bathing houses.
Occupying their own peaceful sections of the riverbank, Rheinbad Breite and St Johann boast large decking areas where groups of friends can sunbathe together for lazy afternoons under the pleasant Basel heat. Entry is around £5 for the day, which includes access to private changing facilities, with both open from May to September, depending on the weather.
Cool down with a soothing fountain soak
If you thought swimming in the Rhine was peculiar, wait until you see this. In peak summer, locals like to admire their city's beautiful architecture while enjoying a soak in one of the many resplendent fountains found throughout the old town and outer suburbs. That's right, fountain bathing is a longstanding tradition in Basel, and you'll often find people enjoying a relaxing dip as city life continues around them.
For an option that comes with some epic scenery, make for Pisoni fountain, which is overlooked by the 1,000-year-old Basel Cathedral, or for something a little more sedate, head to Schöneck-Brunnen fountain, tucked away in its own quiet, painterly square.
In partnership with Basel Tourism