Summer is here, the sun has got his hat on, and things are hotting up in Germany. Of course, not everyone’s a fan of the heat, and even the most ardent sun-worshippers among us will sometimes feel the need for a cool, refreshing outdoor swim.
Where to swim outdoors in Germany
Germany’s not exactly blessed with beaches, but what it lacks in sandy seashores it more than makes up for with idyllic, crystal-clear lakes and clean, emerald-green rivers. You may not wish to go au naturel, as the Germans are famously fond of doing, but even a swimsuited dip on a hot summer’s day is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest pleasures. Cool off in style with our pick of the top 10 outdoor swimming spots in Germany.
1. Elbstrand Blankenese, Hamburg
Escape the hustle and bustle of Hamburg for the tranquillity of Blankenese. Just a short journey on the S-Bahn delivers you to the picture-perfect suburb, where winding alleys, white mansions and a long stretch of the Elbe river beach transport you to the Mediterranean. Sip an ice-cold German beer and watch the ships sail lazily by.
2. Walchensee, Bavaria
Located within jaw-dropping mountain scenery, the crystal-clear, turquoise waters of Walchensee really have to be seen to be believed. Although the main beaches closest to the lake can get very crowded during the school summer holidays, those who venture further around to the south of the lake are rewarded with stunning views and secluded sunbathing spots. There’s even a cable car.
3. Langener Waldsee, Hesse
When the sun really starts to beat down, residents of Frankfurt escape to Langener Waldsee, a filled-in quarry located about 15 kilometres from the city and dubbed the “Mediterranean Sea of Hesse.” If you ever tire of lazing on the 900m beach, there is plenty of sailing, surfing, fishing, and beach-volleyball to keep you occupied. There is also a nude beach on the lake’s north shore. Entrance costs 4 euros.
4. Habermannsee, Berlin
Beat the crowds at Wannsee, Schlachtensee and Plötzensee and head to Habermannsee, a firm favourite among locals in Berlin. Nestled in an area of lush green woodland, this manmade lake dates back to the 1930s and offers a glorious slice of tranquillity within easy reach of the capital. The water is clean and clear, and there’s even an (artificial) sandy beach. There isn’t an abundance of Spätis in the area, so be sure to pack your own picnic!
5. Isarstrand, Munich
An oasis of calm in the middle of Munich, the easily-accessible Isarstrand is the perfect place to head if you just want a quick refreshing dip before heading out for drinks with friends in the evening. Although it can get crowded on sunny days, if you’re lucky enough to have a bike you can keep cycling south to find a spot all to yourself.
6. Timmendorfer Strand, Schleswig-Holstein
This one might be best saved for scorching days because the water is very cold – it is the Baltic Sea after all! But it deserves a spot on this list for its crystal-clear, aquamarine water, 6-kilometre stretch of white sand and friendly beach bars serving up ice-cold Radlers: sheer bliss. Not surprising, then, that the resort has been a famous spa and convalescence destination for Germans since at least the 19th century.
7. Fühlinger See, Cologne
Why settle for one lake when you can have seven? Roughly 15 kilometres from Cologne and within easy reach of Düsseldorf as well, Fühlinger See is actually a series of interconnected lakes offering a variety of water activities. Whether you simply want to relax in the sun at Blackfoot Beach (entry 4,80 euros) or try your hand at one of the many water sports on offer, the lake has something for everyone. It’s even the location for the popular Summerjam Festival.
8. Königssee, Bavaria
Set in the stunning Berchtesgaden National Park, about as far south in Germany as you can possibly get, the Königssee was formed by glaciers during the last ice age and is said to be the cleanest lake in Germany. Glide over the glittering lake on its famous electric boat, listening to the horns echoing off the steep flanks of the surrounding mountains, and then take a dip. The water’s chilly, but the surroundings are second to none.
9. Edersee, Hesse
Tucked away amid the ancient beech forests of Kellerwald-Edersee national park, you will find Lake Edersee. This 27km lake is a popular jaunt for swimmers, sailors and cyclists alike. Beyond simply taking a dip in the lake’s sparkling water, nature enthusiasts can explore the national park’s stunning valleys on foot or bike, visit the local wild animal park and even walk the tree-top-height Baumkronenpfad Edersee for some stunning views across the entire park.
10. Markkleeberger See, Leipzig
This former coal pit mine was flooded in 1999 and has been exerting a strong pull on residents of Leipzig ever since. Besides a paved trail encircling the entire lake that is ideal for cyclists, hikers and skaters, Markleeberger See boasts several swimming beaches, an artificial white-water rafting course, an animal paddock and a marina. There’s plenty of places to get a nice cold beer, too.
Ready to take the plunge? Don’t forget to pack your sun cream and have a great time cooling off while splashing about. If we’ve missed any of the best outdoor swimming spots in Germany, let us know in the comments below.