Go wild in the water
If you’ve recently got into the urban wild swimming trend then hold onto your swimming trunks because Switzerland takes it to a whole new level. For a landlocked country, there are an incredible array of city centre river and lake swimming spots to dive into.
Locals in Basel literally float down the fast Rhine river currents, taking all their clothes with them in a specially designed waterproof bag so they can just step out the water, change and head home.
Or try a spot of sightseeing whilst swimming with a dip in the blue-green waters of the river Aare that runs through Bern. Here the outdoor baths at Marzili are in the shadow of Switzerland’s grand parliament building, and free to use.
Just three steps: stand on a board, paddle and keep your balance. Practice makes perfect at the certified SUP school of Switzerland. It is a great full-body workout, plus you get a free tan and a gorgeous view. Don´t be afraid to fall into the crystal clear lake every now and then. After all, it is refreshing during hot summer days. If you are looking for a challenge, team up with your best buddy at the dog SUP, where a man's best friend is also a man's best surfing bro. When you are ready for a change of scenery, a sun set yoga class is a great way to end your day.
Hawaii's current craze for stand-up paddleboarding comes to Lake Geneva. The idea is to stand upright on a long surfboard and use a paddle to propel yourself across the water. It's a fun way to travel, as long as you're prepared to fall in once in a while, and a good upper-body workout. There are plenty of other watersports, such as windsurfing and wakeboarding, on the lake. Book lessons at Tropical Geneva and reward yourself afterwards with a drink on the palm-fringed beach, a more secluded location than the main yacht-crammed marina.
Spend a day in a lido or at the lake
One of the biggest Swiss summer city traditions is to spend as much time as is humanely possibly by hanging out in one of the many public lido’s, called badis, on the river and lakesides. From dawn to dusk, you can easily spend a day, and even a late night, at a lido in a Swiss city.
Whether you lounge around on the wooden panels of the right bank, play a game of beach volley, enjoy a glass of Spritz from the container bar, or join the sun-hungry at the concrete structure of Pier West on the left bank - do ensure your body is in shape and your tattoos are all polished up. Walk up the left bank for the longest swim: the current takes you all the way to the lifeguard at Pier West.
Whilst the retro charm of Seebad Luzern is about as close to a beach club as you can get in Switzerland. Chill out on the sun deck, tuck into warm Panini sandwiches, freshly made ice cream and Caribbean themed cocktails.
Or get the true Mediterranean vibe by chilling out on a stretch of golden sand at the Lido di Lugano. The Italian speaking region of Switzerland is all about living the dolce vita, and the bathing area of Lake Lugano offers up beach volleyball courts, an el chiringuito style bar and even an open-air Cinema al Lago on summer nights.
These public swimming baths right on Lake Geneva and a popular social meeting place for Genevois of all ages, shapes and wallet-sizes. In summer it’s a lovely place to swim, lounge about in the sun and have a cheapish lunch on the large terrace of the Buvette. Plenty of events are laid on year-round, including music and poetry readings. If you’re up early enough, a great way to start the day in summer is by taking in a free live classical music concert from 6am.
Built in 1886, the St Johann bathing house is the ideal spot to dip your toes in Basel's fast-flowing river. The badi has shallow areas for non-swimmers as well as a river pool. Located in the centre of town, it has historically been a popular meeting place for Baselers young and old, particularly when the sun is shining. Recently renovated, but retaining its 19th century “wooden boat” feel, Santi Hans has been named one of the most beautiful pools in Switzerland.
With a 30m swimming pool that becomes an ice rink in winter, a wave pool, 10m waterslide and kids pool, this is a fantastic family destination in Bern. Designed by Rudolf von Simmer and Hans Beyeler, the complex was built in 1932-34 and, while it has undergone several updates, it is of cultural significance in the canton of Bern.
The swimming place to hang out in summer in Lausanne is this 1930s outdoor leisure centre, eternally popular when the sun comes out. There’s an Olympic-sized swimming pool for lane swimming, a large leisure pool with various water spouts and massage taps, a diving pool, plus ping pong tables, volleyball courts and loads of grass to lounge around on.
Looking out over the lake and the mountains on the French side, the promenade stretches along the waterfront, taking in the newly renovated Olympic Museum, the port from where the CGN passenger ferries leave for destinations around the lake, a children’s playground, a pedalo hire shop, a harbour and sailing club. The Place de la Navigation in front of the harbour hosts regular markets and music festivals. The promenade is particularly animated on a Sunday, when it feels like the whole of Lausanne deserts the streets of the city centre above to come and lounge, play and people-watch down at Ouchy.
Perfect places for an apéro
We might know it as cocktail hour, afterwork drinks or happy hour (or just basically any excuse for a drink), the Swiss however have a slightly more sophisticated drinking session called an apèro. Come six o’clock on a warm summers evening this is the main activity in a Swiss city, and there are plenty of places to enjoy a drink with friends.
Geneva has some amazing bars to grab fancy drinks, like the well-priced and inventive L’Atelier Cocktail Club...
Moored on the river as it flows out of Lake Geneva, Bateau Lavoir is a lovely spot to go for a drink, a light lunch or an apéro as the sun goes down. In summer the rooftop terrace is a great spot to linger, soaking up the sun with the sound of water lapping at the side of the boat.
A stylish locale that peddles wine, salami and cheese as its produce of choice, Consum is a favourite on the Basel bar scene. Situated in the heart of Klein Basel, the large windows invite you to peer in on your way past and the clever combination of cosy sofas for gossiping plus high tables for bar hoppers allows it to cater to different classes of drinker. The wine menu features Swiss vintages too, although the wine list is extensive and regularly updated to include wines and ports from around the world.
Or venture into the Bruch district of Lucerne, a converted cattle market that is now home to a cool collective shops, café’s and bars such as El Barrio where you can expect to dance to live Latin bands and knock back Tequila.
The Sulzer district of Winterthur has a similar regeneration vibe showcasing art, record shops and restaurants - all set in unique locations. Book in for a Zum Znacht on board Les Wagons, a quirky eatery in a converted train carriage that serves up themed food evenings with a surprise theme.
El Mojito Tropical Lounge is a throbbing summertime cocktail bar-cum-beach shack on a lakeside jetty in Lugano. Admire the view or the beautiful people, or both. Chill on deckchairs or dance to DJs. The mojitos, as you might imagine, are sublime.
Making the most of its position on the edge of Flon, Lausanne’s nightlife district, Friends Café is the bar of choice for many of Lausanne’s cool young things, attracted by its cocktail list, upbeat vibe and special events including DJ nights and after-work promotions. However the bar’s real coup is its funky rooftop terrace, which it throws open in summer.
The Sky Terrace bar perches atop the Schweizerhof Bern with delightful 360-degree views over the city’s Unesco World Heritage old town. It’s a swanky affair, with wooden decking, rattan chairs and conical potted shrubs. The menu’s light summer dishes are Orient-inspired – think mezze delights such as tabbouleh, hummous and kofta kebab – while soft lounge music creates a relaxing ambience in which to sit back and enjoy creative cocktails.
When it comes to a pool-party venue, Rimini is a bar that excels in chilled-backed atmosphere. With tropical foilage, oriental cushions and exotic cocktails, you could be forgiven for forgetting that you're only a few miles away from the Alps in this bohemian paradise.