Take the Plunge in ParisParis plans to make the Seine swimmable by 2024. These cities should do the same with their rivers
Swimming in the Seine River is banned. It has been since 1923. That’s not stopped some from diving headfirst into its murky depths, even if there is the prevailing joke amongst Parisians that you’re more likely to die from the toxic substances in the water than drowning.
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of France’s capital, hopes to change that. By 2024 she wants the Seine to be clean enough for swimming. It is part of an environmental project aimed at bringing that year’s Olympic Games to Paris.
If the scheme succeeds, which is doubted by many experts, Parisians would no longer have to leave their bathing suits in the wardrobe. Which makes you wonder, what other cities should give their rivers a clean-up?
It’s good enough for a river cruise and a boat trip, but the Spree in Berlin is not ideal for taking a dip. The river flows 250 miles through forests, fields and industrial wasteland before reaching the capital, but the real issue is an inadequate sewage system, which can’t handle the city’s violent downpours. There have been projects and private initiatives to clean-up the Spree, but so far most of them have proven a damp squib.
Alternatively: To get even close to the feeling that you’re paddling in the Spree, you can take your trunks to the floating boathouse Badeschiff on Oak Street. It’s located directly on the river and the perfect place to chill out Berlin-style.
The English capital isn’t much better when it comes to taking a swim in the river. You only need to look upon the brown, dirty water and unforgiving current from Tower Bridge to know the Thames is not your best option. In the 1800s, tens of thousands of people lost their lives to cholera as a result of pollution in the Thames, and even though things have markedly improved since then, it still acts as an overflow for sewage after heavy rain in the city.
Alternatively: Taking a ‘natural’ swim in London is not the easiest thing but if you’re willing to travel, nearby Brighton has great beaches, traditional seaside fun and thumping nightlife entertainment.
Swimming may not be the main reason why people visit the capital of Netherlands – that’s mostly due to the Red Light District, café shops and the Anne Frank museum. But it’s also home to a multitude of canals that flow throughout the city. It’s not bacteria that will make you think twice about jumping in though, or the water being so salty that Comb Jellies have been found in its depths. No, it’s the fact that it’s full of garbage like bikes and whatever else residents and tourists have decided to throw away.
Alternatively: Try the large lake De Nieuwe in the middle of the Amsterdamse Bos, which is located in Amstelveen and Amsterdam. There’s fishing, yachting and plenty of space for you to find a secluded spot.
The third largest river in Italy flows through the ancient city of Rome before reaching the sea at Ostia. It might be traversed by architecturally stunning bridges, and attracts cyclists and joggers to its bank, but when in Rome do as the Romans do, and avoid taking a dip. Even during the days of the Empire, the waters of the Tiber were badly polluted and carried waterborne diseases. That’s why, beginning in 312 BC, the Romans began constructing the famous aqueducts to transport pure sources of water from the distant hills and mountains.
Alternatively: The All’Ombra del Colosseo swimming pool, open every summer, is just a three-minute walk from the Colosseum and includes bars and a restaurant. From June through to early September, pop-up pools can also be found along the banks of the Tiber as part of the Estate Romana festival.