With its long days and balmy nights, summer is often the best time to explore Europe’s most popular capital cities. And yet, the downside is that temperatures can reach up into the mid-30s and beyond. Enjoyable for a short while—especially when sipping an ice-cold beverage on a continental terrace—but after a day or two, it can start to feel relentless. Sometimes, the only way to beat the heat is by relaxing near a glistening expanse of water.
As some of Europe’s most favourite capital cities are landlocked, you won’t be taking a dip in the sea. So, where to go when you need to cool off on a blistering summer day? We’ve uncovered the best urban swimming spots that are perfect for that much-needed revitalising plunge.
In the summer, the German capital’s lakes are brimming with Berliners in full relaxation mode. With 3,000 lakes, big and small, to choose from, picking the right one can seem daunting. Hidden in the northern district of Weißensee, near bustling Prenzlauer Berg, is Weißer See (White Lake). Boasting a sandy beach, the lake is also home to Weißensee Strandbad, an Art Deco facility complete with a children’s playground, a snack and drinks bar and picnic tables for entertaining. A day at this small but perfectly formed lake will give you that trip-to-the-lake feeling without having to travel too far. Sadly, there’s no naked sunbathing here, but that doesn’t stop some uninhibited locals!
During the height of summer, Spain’s capital gets hot, hot, hot. While most locals take the opportunity to leave the heat for cooler climes, the city is still popular with tourists who want to enjoy a slice of sunny Spain.
There are plenty of public outdoor swimming spots—such as Vicente del Bosque Sports Center—but if you want a more elevated experience, head to one of the many rooftop pools dotting the city. Most of these pools are in hotels so there might be an entry fee but they offer a relaxed atmosphere and dedicated bar service that can’t be beat. The Room Mate Oscar in Justicia allows non-guests at their relaxed bar and pool for a fee—book ahead to secure a spot. This stylish pool is more for bathing than swimming but the enchanting views of Madrid make it more than worthwhile.
Prague is one of Eastern Europe’s most popular destinations, and although the city freezes over come winter, the summers can get surprisingly sweltering. With the Vltava River strictly off-limits, head to the hipster-heavy Biotop Radotín. Located in Prague 16, Biotop Radotín is just a 30-minute train ride from the city’s main train station. Green fields and views of distant hills surround the facility, making it worth the short ride. The kidney-shaped pool is the only swimming spot in the Czech capital that doesn’t use chlorine— aquatic plants clean the water. Enjoy all the perks of swimming in a lake but with the mod-cons of a swimming pool.
With chic Parisians sauntering through the city’s narrow streets, a visit to Paris at the height of summer might call for a moment of respite. Although the Seine runs through the French capital, it’s off-limits for swimming. For the next-best experience, head to the Piscine Josephine Baker. Situated in a vintage barge, the 82-foot swimming pool—as well as a children’s pool and sauna—floats near the 13th arrondissement’s Bibliothèque François Mitterrand. This impressive feat of engineering boasts a retractable glass roof, perfect for tanning. Remember to bring your swimming cap as uncovered hair is not allowed!
Austrians love to spend their time submerged in water, that’s why you’ll find plenty of swimming pools—both public and private—throughout the capital. However, none reflect Viennese grandeur quite like the Schönbrunnerbad, which has been around since 1838. Located near Schönbrunn Schloss, the swimming pool is surrounded by lush greenery and will make you feel as if you are miles from the city. The 164-foot swimming pool has eight lanes, so you can get in your daily laps. If you prefer lounging to vigorous exercise, a second pool nearby hits the spot. Schönbrunnerbad also boasts a large terrace filled with sun loungers as well as a restaurant and spa.