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Taking a dip in nature doesn’t always have to mean braving the waves on a beach holiday.
Across Europe, there are plenty of river swimming spots that are clean, accessible and safe. From bustling city centres to beaches hidden deep within beautiful national parks, there’s something for everyone.
It’s worth noting that not every river is safe for swimmers. Make sure you avoid spots with strong currents, deep waters and dangerous hazards, and follow local guides about where it is safe to jump in.
The destinations on this list are all known for water sports and some even have lifeguards during high season. So take a look at our list of the cleanest rivers in Europe to swim in.
For a city centre swim: Flussbad Oberer Letten in Zurich, Switzerland
The water quality in most of Switzerland’s rivers and lakes is high with the Federal Office of the Environment (FOEV) saying that they are swimmable “practically everywhere”.
The River Limmat’s Oberer Letten riverside bath is one of the few places you can take a dip in clean waters in the centre of a city. The swim spot is a popular meeting place for locals and has a 400-metre-long channel with a 2-metre-high diving platform.
There’s also a pool for non-swimmers, two beach volleyball courts and a boules pitch.
Just a stone’s throw from Zurich Main Station, the concrete bathing pool built in 1952 is free to enter. This complex also has a sun terrace where you can lay out with a book, enjoy the sun and dry off once you come out of the water.
If you are feeling peckish after a swim, there’s a restaurant and bar nearby for all your snack and drink needs.
For clear turquoise waters: Voidomatis, Greece
The river Voidomatis in Greece is one of the cleanest in Europe. This 15-kilometre-long waterway has been part of the Vikos–Aoös National Park since 1973 and doesn’t face any environmental challenges.
Its name means “the eye of the ox” and comes from the fact that these animals have clear blue eyes like the waters of the river. This makes the Voidomatis great for wild swimming but be aware of its cold waters. Despite Greece being a relatively warm country, the river’s temperature is roughly 4 degrees celsius in all seasons.
Rafting and other river sports are also popular here as well as trekking through the beautiful nature park that surrounds the Voidomatis.
For a natural infinity pool: Loriga River Beach, Portugal
Inside the Serra da Estrela Natural Park in Portugal is the Loriga glacial valley. The waterway that runs through it is fed by springs in the mountains and surrounded by an area of outstanding natural beauty.
One of the best places for a wild swim here is the Loriga River Beach where there is a natural infinity pool. The temperature of the water depends on the season but it can be cold so be prepared for a chilly dip.
During the official summer bathing period, you’ll also find a cafe, lifeguard and other facilities at this blue flag beach. It’s likely to be busy when it’s hot, so it’s worth turning up early if you want a spot to lay out your towel.
For warm summer waters: The Kopla River on the border of Slovenia and Croatia
Slovenia has 48 official bathing areas where water quality is regularly measured. These are made up of 18 natural bathing sites where there are more safety measures and facilities for you to use and 30 bathing areas where you swim at your own risk.
In the southeast on the border with Croatia is the Kopla river – one of the warmest in the country. During the summer months, temperatures in its lower streams can reach 30°C.
As it runs downstream, it becomes a slow-flowing waterway, perfect for a dip in the balmy waters. Up near its source, the waters are higher, rougher and less suitable for swimming but offer a great opportunity for some river rafting.
And, if you are looking to make a trip of visiting the Kopla River, there are plenty of campsites and glamping spots along its length.
For Europe’s Grand Canyon: Pont d’Arc in the Ardèche, France
Running through France’s Gorges de l’Ardèche, this winding stretch of river and the surrounding rock formations are often referred to as Europe’s Grand Canyon.
The Pont d’Arc itself is a huge 30-metre-high natural rock bridge that has been shaped by the waterway. Underneath the picturesque rock formation are sandy beaches that are most popular with kayakers, while the cliffs attract rock climbers.
Its clear waters are also perfect for swimming during the summer months and you can even make a lap underneath the arch itself. This particular stretch of river is likely to be very busy during the high season so turn up early if you want a quiet swim.
For the cleanest water in Europe: The Lobau River, Austria
Austria has the cleanest bathing water in Europe, according to the European Environment Agency. Nearly 98 per cent of its bathing areas – where people regularly swim – were given an ‘excellent’ rating last year.
While there are plenty of clear blue lakes to choose from, Austria also has rivers that are perfect for wild swimming. Just east of Vienna, the Lobau River runs through the Donau-Auen National Park.
Much of the area, alongside its wildlife and plants, is protected, but there are specific spots that are approved for bathing. Within the National Park and in the waters of the Upper Lobau, you are allowed to swim at the Dechantlacke, Panozzalacke, Danube-Oder canal pools II + III, and the Stadler Ford.
However, swimming is prohibited in all parts of the Lower Lobau except for the natural swimming area in the Schönauer Au.
Pick up a map from local tourist services to make sure you don’t fall foul of any restrictions and enjoy some of the cleanest waters in the whole of Europe.