Swimming in the Rhine | All you need to know

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Summer in Switzerland is almost like a celebration! After all those gloomy Winter days, when you finally see the sun shining, flowers blooming and birds chirping, you get a sudden burst of energy to tick things off and embark on all sorts of adventures possible!  One such adventure is swimming in the beloved Rhine river. Swimming in the Rhine is Basel’s most popular sport in summer and rightfully so. You could just soak in the history and culture of the city while swimming in the river. Afterwards, you can just cool off by grabbing a refreshing drink or a beer from a nearby Buvette (refreshment stall) while you dry yourself off on the banks of the Rhine in Kleinbasel. 

The temperature here in Basel is rising up these days, so if you’re new to Basel or just want a guide on how you can swim in the Rhine to beat the heat (or maybe just for sun) then read on. In this article we break down all the steps to ace that perfect day out – Swimming in the Rhine edition.

Step 1: Get a Wickelfisch swim bag for yourself

If you look at the Rhine in summer time, you’ll notice a lot of vibrant “floaties” like things in the river – these are the ever so loved Wickelfisch bags. These are brightly coloured, fish-shaped bags which are sold all over the city. What makes them super interesting is that these are water tight which keeps your clothes and possessions dry and they also provide a bit of buoyancy to swimmers. While you prep for the swim, just put all your essentials in this trusted bag before swimming off. I’ve literally seen a bunch of working professionals and tourists put their suits, laptops, passports and what not, very confidently in their Wickelfisch bags – so rest assured, nothing will happen to your belongings. There are small cabins specifically set up as changing rooms near the river, free of charge, so that you could quickly get your swimwear on.

Step 2: Gear up to Enter

Now that you’re all prepped, you’ve gotta find your sweet spot to enter the river…since the river is so long, one can get confused where to enter from. It is also important to do your research about the different spots for entering in regards to the water current and safety. The best and the most popular spot for entering is the river bank just below the Museum Tinguley. Most people swim between the Schwarzwald and Johanniter bridges and let the current take them downstream. My tip would be to enter as much upstream as possible and then just float downstream from there! You can check out the designated area and entry points here.

Swimming in the Rhine Map
Source: https://slrg-basel.ch/basler-rheinschwimmen/bach-ab-karte/

Step 3: Get set float!

Depending on your entry point, you’d get the prefect downstream flow while the Rhine shows you around the city 😉 You’d enjoy the summer breeze and historic views of Basel while the water current guides you down the stream. If you’d like to experience Swimming in the Rhine with a bunch of other people who’re as excited as you are…here are a few options you could explore.

Swimming in the Rhine | All you need to know | My Swiss Story 
Things to do in Basel
Source: Spike Art magazine
1. Accompanied swimming in the Rhine

The Sports Department of Basel-Stadt organizes an accompanied swim in the Rhine every Tuesday during the summer months of July and August. What I like about this is the fact that you’re accompanied by trained guards and it is a recurring event. You can find all the info here.

2. The Basel Rhine Swim

Of course, you always have the option to take a dip in the Rhine any time you want BUT the Basel Rhine Swim is an annual event that no avid swimmer can miss. This year it would be the 42nd edition and will be happening on August 16, 2022. During the annual swim, you can see the whole Rhine glitter with bright colored Wickelfisch. It is indeed picturesque. For all the info, click here.

swimming in the Rhine
My Swiss Story
Source: basellife.com

Before you dip in, please make sure that you follow the golden rules while swimming to ensure your safety.

swimming in the Rhine map
Swimming in the Rhine | All you need to know | My Swiss Story

10 Golden Rules to follow while Swimming in the Rhine:

  1. Stay within the zones marked in green.
  2. Swimming in the Rhine is only recommended for very good swimmers.
  3. Never swim alone.
  4. Make yourself visible, for example by wearing a colorful swim cap.
  5. Wear bathing shoes to avoid injuries.
  6. Keep away from bridge pillars, buoys, moored boats and ferries.
  7. Stay well away from river traffic: commercial vessels have right of way and cannot change course.
  8. Water sports of all kinds as well as bathing and swimming in the vicinity of the hydroelectric plant are forbidden. Sudden changes in the water level give rise to potentially fatal currents.
  9. Letting children swim in the Rhine with water wings is irresponsible.
  10. Owing to powerful currents, it is extremely dangerous to swim close to the arches of the Schwarzwaldbrücke

Step 4: Grab a snack/ beer/ drink 😉

Post your swim, you can refresh yourself and get some energy back with a cold beer or a mocktail. Whatever you prefer 😉 The locals usually drop by the buvettes which are basically small refreshment shops on the river bank. When the weather is pleasant, you’d find everyone rushing to get that perfect spot at their favorite buvette to meet up for coffee, drinks or dinner. Despite being small, buvettes are special because of the surroundings and lovingly designed open-air aesthetics.

With all the steps wrapped up, here’s something that you need to keep in mind if you’re planning to go swimming in the Rhine:

1. Make sure that you feel really comfortable in water, even at places where you cannot reach the bottom with your feet.

2. Make sure that you’re an experienced swimmer. You’d have to do quite some work in order to exit the water which includes partly swimming against strong currents.

3. Like I said earlier as well, it’s very important to get your entry and exit points right. Pre-decide the spot from where you’d b e exiting the river again. You have to plan this, as it takes some time to get all the way to the side.

4. Swim to the right of the river, as boats and even ferries uses the left part.

5. Before you enter the river, ensure that you’re feeling completely okay. Please don’t do this if you’re feeling sick, hungover or drunk.

Well, if you’re not a swimmer…or simply do not want to risk swimming in a river, you can still make most of your summer days by the Rhine. The bathing houses directly on the banks of the Rhine are a perfect place to relax and provide great access to the water. The Rheinbad Breite and St. Johann bathing houses are open from May to September, depending on the weather. Apart from that, you can also just chill at cute buvettes and sip on some great coffee/beer while glancing at the flickering, bright Wickelfisch in the Rhine.

I hope this article summed up everything you need to know about swimming in the Rhine – the true Baseler style. If you’re an experienced swimmer with some tips, hidden gems by the Rhine and more…I’d love to hear about that! Do drop a comment below. 😉

To read posts from June, click here

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