Saturday, March 18, 2017

Zurich, Switzerland: The City of Public Baths and Outdoor Pools

If there is one thing that really stands out in Zurich during my visit last September, that would have to be the (many) public baths and outdoor pools. I never expected to see such a thriving public and urban bathing culture in Switzerland. The baths and pools were everywhere!

Well, luckily, it was a very hot mid-September and any hints of autumn coming were nowhere to be found. A few of the pictures below will show you just how sweltering hot it was in Zurich.

Frauenbad am Stadthausquai Zurich

This is the Frauenbad (Women's Only Pool/Bath) on the Limmat River in Zurich Old Town. 

Seebad Enge Zurich

This is the Seebad Enge, south of Zurich Old Town located in the district of Enge on Lake Zurich.


The city has undoubtedly a high density of badis on its rivers and lakes. There are officially 11 public baths and outdoor pools, and not to mention that many locals have a practice of just laying anywhere on the water’s edge for a sunbathe and a swim. I was not really expecting to see anything like this in Zurich but it does make sense because the city is surrounded by alpine mountains and fresh and clean bodies of water.

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BATHING CULTURE IN ZURICH

Because Zurich sits in a valley and on the basin of a lake, the city receives fresh water flowing from the Alps which is very clean and potable. The city’s water in fact is being supplied by its very own lake. Not that you drink directly from the lake, although some people swear it is perfectly fine, I, on the other hand, would have my doubts and would strongly suggest against it. I am sure the citizens get water from the lake which goes through a series of water treatment process. Switzerland is definitely blessed with nature’s spring and the lakes and rivers here are hygienic enough for bathing.

Had I stayed longer in Zurich, I probably would have indulged in the bathing culture scene. I read that this can be traced to the early Roman settlements in the city. The oldest public bath is the Mannerbad Schanzengraben circa 1864 (Men’s Only Pool) and the Frauenbad am Stadthausquai circa 1888 (Women’s Only Pool). Both are located in the Old Town, are still operating as it is and are very popular among the locals. In the evenings, both pools turn into a bar with (live) music and are accessible to both sexes. Hmm, looks like the Swiss do know how to have fun, huh.

Frauenbad Women Pool Zurich
Frauenbad Women's Pool Zurich

The very visible and strategically located Women's Only Bath/Pool (Frauenbad) on the Limmat River goes back to circa 1888. It is one of the oldest public baths in the city.

Frauenbad Women's Bath Zurich

The bath is located in the heart of Zurich Old Town.

And because this is Europe, taking your top off in the public baths and pools is just normal. This is however not as common as compared to a decade or 2 or 3 ago. The Dutchman tells me he sees fewer women baring their breasts in public now than when he was a kid. Well, I am certainly not a prude, although I do not go topless, I do not really mind other women doing it at all. It’s their own game, their own body, and they can do whatever they want =)

Speaking of the subject, prude, though. After living for almost 15 years now in mainland Europe (in the Netherlands), nothing shocks me anymore when it comes to the contrary. Last month, whilst sipping coffee in our favourite café in Utrecht and browsing this popular women’s local magazine, I saw, that they again (yes, this isn’t the first time), featured a series of vaginas up close and personal. Literally a photo of a shaved vagina on each full page and a profile of the woman who owns the said genital. I can only salute these women for their bravery. But, it is VERY confrontational. I would probably have had a horrified WTF-moment, but now, nothing surprises me anymore. I felt a bit awkward though glaring at 2 vaginas occupying a 2 full page spread of a magazine in a café full of people. Well, nobody really cared. Now that is also one of the reasons why I love living in Europe.

That said, the bared breasts I see on the many beaches and pools in Europe and in the badis of Zurich pales in comparison with this vagina article.

If Zurich is not an expensive city, I am sure it would have been seized by many long weekend wellness tourists. Because, aside from the public baths and outdoor pools, there are many spa resorts in town. Unfortunately though, I do not hear about wellness city trips to Zurich. Instead, I hear only about business trips. The fact is, my first trip to Zurich was business as well. If I have the opportunity to go back to Zurich, and not on a business trip, I will definitely check out the bathing culture in the city. I am not a spa person per se, but perhaps for a change, I will treat myself to a visit at the Thermal Bad & Spa. I saw a picture of their amazing rooftop pool and their century-old vaulted baths in a former brewery, that’s why.

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LIST OF ZURICH PUBLIC BATHS & OUTDOOR POOLS

So I have listed down the public baths and outdoor pools on the Limmat River and Zurich Lake below. I have also included a map of Zurich divided into districts. In  addition to this, I have indicated which district (Kreis) these baths and pools are located, so it would be easier to locate them. However, the saunas, spas and wellness resorts in town are not part of this list though.

Kreis 1 is the Old Town, which obviously is the starting point for anybody new in Zurich. A number of these baths and pools are old and many are located on Lake Zurich, which is not too far away from the Old Town. These areas are espectively, Kreis 2 (Enge) and Kreis 8 (Reisbach), both actually facing each other on Lake Zurich.

Moreover, after you scroll down through the list, you will find a link to the Zurich Tourism and InYourPocket guide websites for detailed information about these places.

Manifesta 11 Lake Zurich floating pavilion

The Manifesta 11 is a temporary landmark exhibition created by Swiss students. It is a floating pavilion on Lake Zurich showcasing an arts and culture exhibition, a bar and a swimming pool.

Manifesta 11 Zurich

For reference, this is the map of the City of Zurich and its 12 districts (Kreis):


Most baths and pools are concentrated in Kreis 1, 2, 6 and 8.

KREIS 1 (OLD TOWN - LINDENHOF QUARTER)

1. Männerbad Schanzengraben (Badweg 10) – The oldest public bath in the city dating back to 1864. This is a Men’s Only Pool. In the evening the pool metamorphoses into a bar called ‘Rimini Bar’ accessible to both sexes.

2. Frauenbad am Stadthausquai (Stadthausquai on the Limmat River) - One of the oldest pool dating 1888. This is a Women’s Only Pool and perhaps the most popular in the city as this is visibly seen on the Limmat River just behind the Zurich City Hall on Stadshausquai. In the evening, the pool turns into a bar called ‘Barfussbar’ (Barefoot Bar) accessible to both sexes.

3. Manifesta 11 aka ‘Pavilion of Reflections’ – This is a temporary arts, culture and bathing landmark in the city situated on Lake Zurich, on the corner of Quaibrucke and Utoquai (Niederdorf Quarter bordering Reisbach). The floating pavilion exhibit hosts an open-air cinema, a bar and a swimming pool designed by Swiss students to showcase the bathing culture in Zurich.

Stand Up Paddle SUP Zurich

Yup, the stand-up paddlers. As you can see, for safety purposes, they have an option to lock one of their legs with a chain to the board.

KREIS 2 (ENGE QUARTER)

4. Seebad Enge (Mythenquai 9) – This is a very popular and busy pool frequented by the chic people in the city. The location is not too far away from the Old Town, just right behind the pier near Burkliplatz. I read that people come here to hang out and be seen, and what most people do here is to check out each other. Now I find that quite amusing.

5. Mythenquai Beach (Mythenquai 25) – This is the only bath area in Zurich that has its own beach. There are also water sports available here such as boating and the new craze, stand up paddling (SUP). Yup, we saw a number of these stand-up paddlers!

Seebad Enge Zurich
Seebad Enge Zurich

This is Seebad Enge, not too far away from Zurich Old Town.

Enge Harbour Zurich

KREIS 6 (UNTERSTRASS QUARTER - LIMMAT RIVER)

6. Flussbad Oberer Letten (Lettensteg 10) - This is the Upper Letten River Pool which is more popular among the younger people. The bath area turns into a bar called ‘Pier West’ in the evening.

7. Flussbad Unterer Letten (Wasserwerkstrasse 141) - This is the Lower Letten River Pool, also popular among the younger group. In the summer, they screen films in the evening.

KREIS 8 (REISBACH)

8. Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen (Bellerivestrasse 200) – One of the oldest public baths in the city opened circa 1886. The swimming pool is circular and is set on the lake itself. There is a large meadow here where people can play sports.

9. Seebad Utoquai (Utoquai) – Another one of the oldest public baths circa 1890. When it opened men and women were allowed to bath together for the first time in Zurich. This wooden pontoon on Lake Zurich is one of the busiest in town.

10. Chinawiese (Zurichhorn) – Also called as Blatterwiese, this is near Fischtube and Lake Side Restaurant where we ate for dinner one evening. A rocky shore it has so most people come here to sunbathe and picnic instead.

Enge Harbour Zurich
Enge Harbour Zurich

This is the Enge Harbour in Kreis 2 (Enge Quarter) and locals just camp here to sunbathe and swim.

Lake Zurich

This is Lake Zurich and looking towards Kreis 8 (Reisbach) where Seebad Utoquai and Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen are located.

KREIS 4 (AUSSERSIHL)

11. Open Air Pool Letzigraben (Edelweissstrasse 5) – This facility has a number of swimming pools and one of which has artificial waves.

KREIS 7 (HOTTINGEN QUARTER)

12. Dolder Sports (Adlisbergstrasse 36) – This facility offers more than just swimming. It has a mini golf area, an ice skating rink and of course, a restaurant. A cool place if you want to do all these activities in a day. I am sure great for families.

KREIS 10 (WERDINSEL)

13. Flussbad Au- Höngg (Werdinsel 2) – Swimming at the Werd Island. I guess this place is for those who want something outside of the city centre and who prefer something different.

KREIS 11 (AFFOLTERN QUARTER)

14. Seebad Katzensee (Katzenseestrasse) – Swimming with nature is the theme of this place. It is not that far from the city but it offers an idyllic place to relax, away from the hectic shadows of city life. The lake is part of the nature preserve area so there are swimming and camping restrictions here.

Enge Harbour
Stand Up Paddle Lake Zurich

Here are a few public baths and outdoor pools outside the city on Lake Zurich:

15. Seebad Richterswil (Schwyzerstrasse 18) – Located in Richterswil
16. Hallen- und Seebad Schmerikon (Aabachstrasse 14) – Located in Schmerikon
17. Badi Egelsee (Rütistrasse 1) – Located in Bubikon
18. Strandbeiz Stampf (Strandweg) – Located in Rapperswil-Jona
19. Steebadi Egg am Griefensee (Rällikon 34) – Located in Hinteregg

To read about these places, please visit one of these sites:

Outdoor Baths and Pools in Zurich by Zuerich Tourism
Swimming and Relaxing on the water’s edge by InYourPocket

Manifesta 11 Floating Pavilion Zurich
Seebad Enge - Enge Harbour Zurich

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Travel Period: September 2016
Destination: Zurich, Switzerland

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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