Amsterdam is a city of water and there are many places to go outdoor swimming. In this article, you will find out all the best places to swim in Amsterdam, apart from the six outdoor swimming pools. The places to go outdoor swimming are the Oosterdok, the Amstel river, the IJ and IJburg, and the recreational fresh water lakes of Sloterplas, De Nieuwe Meer, and Gaasperplas.
Swimming in Amsterdam Sloterplas
Sloterplas is one of the best places to go swimming in Amsterdam. Sloterplas is a large recreational lake in Amsterdam West. On the Northside of the freshwater lake, there is a sandy beach (see large photo above the article). The bar and restaurant Hotel Buiten offers food and drinks on warm days on its terrace.
On the western shore of the Amsterdam Sloterplas you can go open water swimming and lie in the soft green grass afterward. The city council has placed special stairs to get in and out of the water. A watersports center rents out canoes, sailing boats, SUP and more.
How to get to Sloterplas lake
Sloterplas is a 20-30 minutes bike ride from the center of Amsterdam. Take tram 7.
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Kid’s pool at Westerpark
At Westergasfabriek, past the Westerpark, there is a large green field that fills up with barbecues and parties of Amsterdam’s inhabitants in summer.
!!! There is no water in the paddling pool at Westerpark in 2020 because of Coronavirus restrictions!!!)
There is also a large paddling pool for children. If you want more peace, walk up the pool, place yourself along the water and dip your feet in while you read a book. Best way to spend a summer’s day in Amsterdam.
Swimming at Amsterdam Oosterdok (Marineterrein)
Oosterdok is the body of water just east of Central Station. This is the old ‘inner harbor, and who knew: you can swim in here! Between the NEMO museum (the green ship-like building see photo) and the Maritime Museum lies the ‘Marineterrein‘. A few years ago this area opened to the public.
The harbour is not an official swimming location. But there are many swimmers already. In order to become an official swimming spot, the area’s water quality will measured for two years and score consistently well during this time.
To get here, follow the main road from Central Station to the Maritime Museum and walk around it. You will find a large wall with a gate to enter.
There are many spots to dive into the river Amstel. And when it gets hot, you will find people swimming everywhere. One of the more popular places to hang out, is near Amsterdam’s only sky scraper, on the east side of the river.
The Amstel river makes a band here, and on a good day, there are dozens of boats gently rocking on the cool water. In front of bar/restaurant Thuis aan de Amstel, there is a large grass field to chill. The water is easy to reach and there are steps to get out.
Outdoor swimming at De Nieuwe Meer
De Nieuwe meer is a large lake in the middle of the Amsterdamse Bos. The lake is popular for fishing and yachting. Find the bike road that circles around the lake and you will find many spots to jump in the water. Near the southwest end, there is also a small sandy beach and a place to drink and eat.
On weekends, you can enjoy a nice boat ride at the lake for a few euros by taking the small ferry. It sails right across the Nieuwe Meer to the Amsterdamse Bos (forest). Here, you can enjoy a pancake restaurant
The Nieuwe Meer is also a popular cruising area for gays and there are highland cattle walking around freely. Don’t worry, there is nothing to fear from either. Just keep your distance!
Swimming at the Amsterdamse Bos
The Amsterdamse Bos is a large woodland park (we call this a ‘forest’). It’s the largest recreational area in Amsterdam. It’s three times bigger than Central Park in NY and excellent for long walks and runs.
The Big Pond (Grote Vijver) at the Amsterdam Forest is perfect for swimming, especially for children. There are showers, toilets, and a café. You can also rent canoes and water paddle bikes. When the sun sets, get out of there because mosquitoes take over.
At Amsterdamse Bos there is a lot more to do than just swimming. There are exciting paths that run above the water. You find these ‘speeleilanden’ near the open air theatre (Openluchttheater).
Swimming in the IJ-water
The IJ is the large body of water directly behind Central Station. Although it is a busy shipping area, the water of the IJ is fairly clean. You can take the ferry to NDSM and go swimming at the Amsterdam city beach of Pllek. Or take you bike on the ferry to Amsterdam Noord and explore the route along the IJ -water.
When you bike east from Central Station you will see different islands (Java-island, KNSM-island and Zeeburg) where on warm days, people are swimming. Kids jump off bridges, though this is dangerous. Always be careful with passing ships and shower after swimming. Check your body for bugs!
Swimming, SUP and surfing at IJburg
IJburg is a suburb in the east of Amsterdam, easily reached by tram 26. It consists of 6 artificial islands, constructed for housing. In winter it can be windy and feel desolate, but in summer, when it’s hot, everyone wants to live on IJburg. The reasons are its beaches and many places to swim in open water.
In 2020 the beach and beach bars are open. There is also supervision for the beach and water. Though due to Corona the beach will be monitored. When there are too many people, probably it will be closed.
Swimming in the Amsterdam Canals
It’s possible to swim in the Amsterdam canals, but it is not safe. The Amsterdam canals used to be an open sewer, but that was a long time ago.
The problem is that there is a lot of garbage in the canals, especially bikes. Diving or stepping on bicycle parts can be painful. So I do not recommend it.
There are people who swim in the canals in Amsterdam. Every year since 1841, there is the Royal Amstel Swim. Participants swim underneath 6 historic bridges in the Amsterdam canals to promote clean water around the world. It’s in September when the water is not so cold (but still cold!). People also drown in the Amsterdam canals, but that happens mostly when they piss in the canals while drunk.
Gaasperplas recreational lake
Gaasperplas is similar to Sloterplas, but it’s much further out, direction southeast. The recreational facilities are much better though at Gaasperplas. Apart from a great beach, shops, toilet facilities and even lifeguards, Gaasperplas hosts a camping site, a sailing club and you can rent canoes and windsurfing. Gaasperplas is easy to reach by metro.
Dangers of outdoor swimming in Amsterdam
It is not dangerous to swim outdoors in the wild in Amsterdam, except when it has been very hot for a very long period. When there is a ‘heatwave’ (hittegolf) in Amsterdam, the natural open water can get poisonous.
Typically you’ll find a layer of ‘scum’, a thick dirty green and blue layer floating on top of the water. It’s also is quite smelly. The so-called algal blooms or blue-green algae produce some toxic bacteria which are harmful for humans and animals.
You can check the quality of the water in the the Netherlands at zwemwater.nl.