As the pools and beach bars begin to wind down, we’re turning our attention to wilder waters. Here we’ve picked out the top spots for wild swimming in Europe
Away from commercial beaches and lidos, open water swimming promises a welcome break on the purse strings after summer splash-outs, plus it’s a fantastic way to discover beautiful views along the natural shoreline. Swapping man-made pools for cooler, natural open water spaces also comes with a number of mental and physical health benefits including improvements in circulation, stress responses and sleep quality. Here we’ve rounded up a few of Europe’s most gorgeous lakes and some stunning accommodation that sits shore-side.
Our picks for wild swimming in Europe
Swim in: Lake Como
A renowned hotspot for the world’s glitterati to hide away among the rolling green hills and technicoloured rustic villas, Lake Como offers an array of surprising secret spots to dip a toe into the inky waters. View the dramatic peaks rising from the lake on the edge of Lecco, bob among the boats at the traditional fishing village of Pescallo, or slip away from the bustling streets of Bellagio to its untouched beaches, accessible only via a coastal footpath.
Stay at: Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Guests can continue their water-based getaway at the iconic lakeside Art Nouveau palazzo, with a relaxing dip in either the T Spa’s peaceful infinity pool or the “water on the water” floating pool set in the hotel’s own T Beach. Otherwise, active appetites can be replenished with gourmet offerings at fine-dining terrace restaurant, La Terrazza Gualtiero Marchesi, the cosy L’Escale Trattoria and Wine Bar or T Pizza pizzeria hidden away within the hotel’s gorgeous flower gardens. When it comes to choosing a place to sleep off the thrill of the open water, Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s sumptuous rooms and suites all offer unrivalled panoramas of Lake Como life, both over the lake below and the private park backing onto the Grigne Mountains behind.
Rooms available from EUR 400 per night; grandhoteltremezzo.com
Swim in: Lake Geneva
Whether you choose to languor leisurely in the shadow of the historic Chateau de Chillon at Montreux or take a brisk splash among the waterfalls, Lake Geneva offers countless opportunities for a swim among its fresh waters historically revered by the French as a source of wellbeing and healing. The lake also boasts more than 100 public beaches and urban spaces for family fun throughout the season.
Stay at: Evian Resort
Evian Resort boasts more than a century at the heart of the traditional French wellbeing concept, located above the quaint historic spa town of Evian-les-Bains and built around the source of Evian mineral water. Fitness and wellness lovers can make use of a dedicated Sport & Adventure concierge on hand to help organise an array of water sports for all ages, including water-skiing and rafting over the Dranse rapids. Evian is also home to three world-class spas with extensive lists of expert treatments and programmes, and two beautiful hotels, including the magnificent 5* Hotel Royal and its Michelin-starred restaurant, Les Fresques.
Rooms at the Hotel Royal are available from EUR 296 per night; evianresort.com
Swim in: Lake Zurich
With its lake and river Limmat, Zurich offers a number of splendid opportunities for wild swimming. The water is cleaner than in most European cities and enjoyable to swim in with the possibility of jumping into the lake just about anywhere. The city has eleven official outdoor swimming baths on the lake and the river, many with facilities such as cloakrooms and toilets.
Stay at: Baur au Lac
Steeped in 175 illustrious years of tradition but with a polished finish and an unimpeachable reputation for world-class service, the five-star Baur au Lac is about as luxurious as it gets. 199 rooms and suites exhibit individual style – from Art Deco to English Regency – while downstairs, Le Hall, the popular spot for afternoon tea, is a decadent showcase of royal-hues, rich upholstery and plush carpets. Having won its second star in the 2019 Michelin guide, Baur au Lac’s Restaurant Pavillon is a gemstone in Zurich’s culinary crown. Chef de Cuisine Laurent Eperon creates dynamic, global interpretations of classic Swiss and French haute cuisine. Menu highlights include whole roasted sole, beef filet with a Béarnaise sauce and Swiss veal
Rooms at Baur au Lac are available from EUR 520 per night; bauraulac.ch
Swim in: Lake Bled
Slovenia is home to postcard landscapes and the world-renowned Lake Bled, which impresses visitors with its natural beauty and sheer size. Shrouded in myths and legendary tales, it’s believed to have special healing powers bestowed upon those who take a dip. As well as offering a fantastic freshwater swimming experience, it holds an island in the middle to which visitors can get across via traditional pletna boat.
Stay at: Vila Bled
Vila Bled offers charming accommodation perched above the water, away from the bustle of the main town. Enclosed by a castle and a church, the accommodation offers panoramic views over the park and the cool, clear waters of Lake Bled. Wind down with a morning with before making use of the exceptional spa facilities which include a massage parlour, a steam room and a Finnish spa.
Rooms at Vila Bled are available from £231 per night; vila-bled-hotel.hotel-ds.com