After a weather of “beschissenem Wetter” the sun and subsequently the “Gluthitze” has returned to Zurich. For many coming from North America this heat is nothing unusual, but it is hard to cope with given the fact that most places lack air conditioning, and those places that have it never turn it up as high as say a North American cinema.
As hot as it may be, summer is when Zürich really shines and shows that it is truly one of the best cities in the world. Contributing to the high standard of living is the number of public swimming pools and “baths”. Zürich has more places to swim than almost any other European city, which is fascinating given the fact that it is still landlocked.
These swimming pools (“Badi” in Swiss German) are mere minutes from every district in the city. There are 6 pools, 6 beaches/bathhouses on the lake, and 5 bathhouses on the Limmat, numerous areas to just swim at your own risk and 7 indoor swimming pools.
That adds up to 24 public pools, beaches and baths that are also supplemented by 8 school swimming pools that open to the public at certain times. The baths are so well organized that men not wishing to be harassed by women’s goggling eyes can swim at the Flussbad Schanzengraben (for men only). Women also have a private bath at Stadthausquai.
And if you live on the Gold Coast in places such as Herrliberg, you may have a beach for town residents only. Here you’ll have to put up with both men and women, but at least you can be socially exclusive.
Unlike many North American cities with lakes and rivers that post water quality hazards and closures of public swimming areas on a regular bases, Lake Zurich (Zürichsee) is renowned for its water quality, which is in fact so clean that many of the fish are dying as there is nothing for them to eat. This fact is welcomed by many swimmers as it ensures a degree of relief as they do not need to fear a Jaws-like fish devouring them while peacefully swimming at one of the lakeside baths.
One of my favourite baths is the Utoquai. Swimming here is like taking a trip back to 19th century Zurich. It was designed by William Henri Martin and built in 1890 as a bathing palace to accent the newly built quay along the lake. The original structure had four separate areas for men, women, boys, and girls. The sunbathing terrace on the roofs were added in 1908.
In the 1950s the bath house was almost demolished during a craze of rebuilding and redesigning the city. However, the people of Zurich then as now cherished their baths and would not allow this. In 1973 the boys and girls swimming pools were covered and turned into sunbathing areas. In the 1990s a sauna and massage area was added, making the bath usable year round.
If swimming isn’t your thing, but you’re still looking for a way to cool down try on of Zurich’s 1200+ water fountains with drinking quality water. Not only an excellent way to cool down, but save money and the environment.
Here is a list of the 24 swimming places in Zurich:
Summer Pools, Baths and Beaches (Lake & River):
Freibad Letzigraben (designed by Swiss author Max Frisch)
Flussbad Oberer Letten
Flussbad Schanzengraben (men only)
Frauenbad Stadthausquai (women only)
Flussbad Unterer Letten
Freibad Zwischen den Hölzern
(Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen in Winterthur www.marathonlanguages.com)