Nothing compares to the thrill of taking the plunge alone in the great outdoors. Whether you're a cold water cognoscente or just looking to dip your toe into this invigorating wellness activity, these wild (outdoor) swimming spots in Europe prove that the best things in life are free.  

So plunge in at the deep end with these free European al-fresco aquatic adventures.

The Baggy Point headland in England jutting out into the Celtic Sea
What sea life will you spot from Baggy Point? © tomholderimagery / Shutterstock

Baggy Point, England

Best for swimming alongside seals and dolphins

Swim through several secret sea caves at this delightful Devonshire dipping spot, including one tide-swept tunnel hidden from lily-livered landlubbers. You may even be lucky enough to share your swim with a seal, dolphin or porpoise, which are all often spied along this coastline.

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A river running through an urban area. Platforms either side of the river have many people lounging on them, with several swimmers in the river
Join the locals for a wild swim in Zürich's River Limmat © Westend61 / Getty Images

Upper Letten Riverpool, Switzerland

Best for city swimming

An urban oasis during the summer swelter, this 400m-long swimming canal in the fast-flowing River Limmat is a spot that attracts hundreds of swimmers. There’s a 2m diving board, plus a bar and beach volleyball fields.

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A clear pool of water surrounded by large grey boulders.
Find your own private plunge pool in Purcaraccia Canyon, Corsica © salajean / Getty Images

Purcaraccia Canyon, Corsica, France

Best for a nature-made infinity pool

The steep hike to the pools in Corsica's Purcaraccia Canyon is demanding, but worth the effort. Swim in – and slide between – a series of pools fed by crystal-clear mountain water, and enjoy unwinding in a nature-made infinity pool teetering on a waterfall edge.

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A man swims through the waters of Lake Bohinj, with mountains in the background and a cloudy blue sky overhead
Take a refreshing dip in the clear, cool waters of Lake Bohinj in the Julian Alps © Spanic / Getty Images

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Best for a chilly mountain dip

The Julian Alps offer top-class swimming, including the lovely (but costly) Lake Bled lido. However, travel down the road to Triglav National Park’s Lake Bohinj and discover wilder scenery for free. The Sava Bohinjka River provides a chilly thrill for flow-swimming fans.

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A vast, still lake surrounded by peaks at dusk
Explore offshore islands and swim in deep alpine waters in Lake Walchen © Luigi R. Viggiano / Getty Images

Lake Walchen, Germany

Best for a turquoise green soak

Bavaria is blessed with a batch of brilliant bathing spots, and the deep alpine lake of Lake Walchen, located in the mountains south of Munich, is one of the most spectacular. Gravel beaches surround the mineral-rich turquoise water, and there are offshore islands to explore.

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A large, still lake, with a settlement across the water at the foot of a mountain. Several boats are on the lake, and a wooden pier leads out into the water
Mountain gazing should keep you occupied between swims in the pure waters of Lac d'Annecy © Pidi / Getty Images

Lac D’Annecy, France

Best for natural hot springs

Heated by subterranean hot springs, this alpine lake near Annecy is unsurprisingly popular. Many lake beaches charge during the summer, but Plage d’Albigny à Annecy and Plage des Marquisats are free. Wilder spots can be found too – some with great cliff jumps.

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A view of a pathway leading down to the turquoise waters of Lago di Fiastra in Italy with green mountains in the background
Seek out a fabled submerged settlement – or just chill out on the beach – at Lago di Fiastra in Italy © Beverly Pritzi / Shutterstock

Lago di Fiastra, Italy

Best for underwater exploration

Camp beneath mountains on the north shore of this stunning beach-lined lake, and slide into the embrace of its gin-clear water. Take a snorkel – there’s much to explore, including a rumored submerged village.

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Hikers walk down a lush hill in front of a large lake.
Finish a hike with a dive into Loch Lomond © Jaroslav Moravcik / Shutterstock

Loch Lomond, Scotland

Best for the brave hearts

You need a brave heart to swim in Scotland, but the picturesque Loch Lomond – Scotland's biggest lake – might just tempt you in. This is the home of the annual Great Scottish Swim and also, apparently, a monster – albeit one without the celebrity status of its Loch Ness cousin.

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This article was first published July 2019 and updated June 2022

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