Reader question: Do people really swim to work in Zurich?
Whether you live in Zurich or not, you may have heard stories of people swimming to work (at least in the summer months). Is it true - and how easy is it?
Other than for people who tend swim-up bars or perhaps for police divers, the idea of swimming to work seems ludicrous for most of us.
This is particularly the case in most major cities. But Zurich, despite having a metro area population of around 1.5 million, is not most major cities - particularly when it comes to the city’s closeness to nature and its waterways.
Do people swim to work in Zurich?
Whether you live here or are just visiting, swimming is a popular pastime in Zurich.
The waterways are clean and accessible - and unlike most things in Switzerland they’re either free or very cheap.
Swimming in rivers and in Lake Zurich is free, while visiting a Badi - a Zurich abbreviation of Swiss swimming bath - will set you back a few francs but will allow you to access basic amenities like changing rooms, toilets and cafeterias.
Some Zurich residents have even managed to take advantage of the current of the city’s major river, the Limmat, to swim or float to work.
A story by Germany's Welt magazine in July 2022 spoke about the phenomenon of people swimming to or from their place of work in Switzerland's largest city.
"Some people in Zurich even swim to work (or, depending on the direction, home from their shift). They are easily recognisable from the bank as they have a waterproof, rope-tied swimming bag in tow in which to stow their day clothes and other belongings," the magazine wrote.
Although fewer Zurchers swim to work than claim they do, it does take place - and the fact that it is possible for part of the year is something truly special.
How can I do it?
Starting at Lake Zurich, the Limmat flows through the city in a north westerly direction.
There are points to get in pretty much along the entire river, with some jumping from bridges or pontoons and others climbing in from the banks.
If you do choose to jump in, make sure the river is deep enough - and never dive in head first.
One of the major advantages is the current, which strongly flows out of the lake and northwest towards the cantonal border with Aargau.
The strong current means you can float along the river without needing to put in too much effort swimming.
The disadvantage however is that the current - which continues in the same direction consistently - means even strong swimmers will be unable to swim back.
So if you do swim to work, there’s a fair chance you won’t be swimming home.
What about keeping my stuff dry?
Anyone swimming to work may want to take dry clothes and perhaps their phone or laptop with them.
One option is to use a waterproof swimming bag, which not only allows you to keep your stuff dry but acts as a buoyant inflatable pillow to help you float down the river.
There are several companies which make waterproof bags and bladders which are designed specifically for the purpose, including the Basel-based Wickelfisch.
There are several videos available online which show people swimming the Limmat, including for work.