Outdoor swimming

by Tanja
Outdoor swimming in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city of water and there are many places to go outdoor swimming in Amsterdam. So where to swim in Amsterdam? There are six outdoor swimming pools in Amsterdam. But apart from crowded and noisy swimming pools, there are lakes and rivers to go swimming in open water in Amsterdam: the IJ, the Amstel river and the fresh water lakes Sloterplas, De Nieuwe Meer and Gaasperplas. And you can even jump into the water in the center of the city!

On the map below you’ll find places to go outdoor swimming in Amsterdam. Also added are children’s pools in Amsterdam’s parks: Vondelpark, Westerpark and Beatrix Park among others.


Open water swimming in Amsterdam Sloterplas

Sloterplas is probably the best place to go swimming in Amsterdam. Sloterplas is large recreational lake in Amsterdam West. On the North side of the fresh water lake, there is a sand 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 afterwards. The city council has placed special stairs to get in and out of the water.

Sloterplas is a 20-30 minutes bike ride from the center of Amsterdam. Tram 7 stops at Sloterpark.

RECOMMENDED READ: Amsterdam City Beaches

Outdoor swimming at Amsterdam Sloterplas
Sloterplas in the Amsterdam West has great outdoor swimming options. Across the lake you can see the (artificial) sand beach.

Westerpark paddling pool

At Westergasfabriek, past the Westerpark, there is a large green field that fills up with barbecues and get to get-togethers of Amsterdam’s inhabitants in summer.

Westerpark outdoor pool Amsterdam
Cool off at Amsterdam Westerpark.

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.

Secret location to swim: Oosterdok

Outdoor swimming in Amsterdam Oosterdok
Where to swim in Amsterdam? How about the city center!?

Oosterdok is the body of water just east of Central Station, 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.

Oosterdok swimming sign
Sign at Oosterdok: This is not an official swimming location. There is no surveillance. Swimming on your own risk. Pay attention to small children.

Apart from a great bar and restaurant, the Marineterrein has a large park along the water of the Oosterdok. When the heatwave hits Amsterdam, the people swarm to this location to jump in the cool water. The swimming area is locked off from the Oosterdok with a jetty, so it’s pretty safe to swim.

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.

Swimming in the Amsterdam Forest

The Amsterdamse Bos is a large woodland park (we call this a ‘forest’). It’s the largest recreational area in Amsterdam, three times bigger than Central Park in NY and excellent for long walks and runs. The Grote Vijver (Big pond) 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.

highland cattle
Highland cattle at gay cruisin’ and swimmers area at Nieuwe Meer, Amsterdam

Swimming in De Nieuwe Meer

De Nieuwe meer is a large lake in the middle of the Amsterdamse Bos. It’s popular for fishing and yachting. It’s big enough to find your own spot to go wild swimming in Amsterdam.

Maybe you’ll spot Highland cattle. Yes, you read it correctly.  There are Highlands wandering around the area. And there is a gay cruising area as well. Don’t worry, there is nothing to fear from either. Just keep your distance!

Nieuwe Meer, Amsterdamse Bos
De Nieuwe Meer is the large water at the Amsterdam Forest and you can swim there in summer.

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.

If 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!

Open water swimming at IJburg Island

IJburg is a suburb in the east of Amsterdam, easily reached by tram 26. It is an artificial island. In winter it can be windy and feel desolate, but in summer, when it’s hot, everyone wants to live on IJburg. The reason are its many places to swim in open water. IJburg is extremely well suited for swimming, tanning and even beach parties. Unfortunately beach bar Blijburg has been closed since 2019.

Outdoor Swimming in IJburg, Amsterdam
Swimming in Amsterdam East: the suburb island of IJburg

Wild swimming in the Amstel river

The Amstel river is not an official place to go swimming and therefore perfect for wild swimming in Amsterdam! Just follow the river from the inner city and after about half an hour you are out of the city and you can jump into the cool water.

There is no current in the Amstsel river, so you are safe. Just stay close to the shore as ships will pass. Always be careful with diving in the Amstel river: the water near the edges might be shallow. All along the river there are people swimming and resting in the grasslands along the Amstel. Take a bike ride and jump in when you feel overheated!

Swimming in the Amsterdam canals

sup in Amsterdam
Some rowing clubs along the river Amstel in Amsterdam rent canoes and sup.

Can you swim in the canals in Amsterdam?

Yes, you can swim in the Amsterdam canals. The Amsterdam canals used be an open sewer, but that was a long time ago. Nowadays, the water is so clean, that every year there is a swim in the Amsterdam canals organised for a good cause: the fight against the disease ALS. Even the Queen Maxima joined in the swim once!

Amsterdam council is taking further steps to make the Amsterdam canals suitable for swimming. 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.

Are people swimming in the Amsterdam canals?

Yes, people swim in the Amsterdam canals! 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

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 life guards, 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 outdoor in the wild in Amsterdam, except when it has been very hot for a very long period. When there is a ‘heat wave’ (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.

Quality of swimming water in Amsterdam

Sign: water poisoned with bacteria
Sign warning against poisonous water.

Swimming in affected waters can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, poor eye sight, head aches and skin rashes.

That is why the Dutch provincial authorities check the quality of the water of the recreational lakes every two weeks.

If these bacteria are found (it’s called in Dutch blauwalg), signs are put up to warn the public. Be ware, that blue-green algae are also poisonous for dogs.

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5 comments

I C July 29, 2012 - 08:47

“The problem is that there is a lot of garbage in the canals, especially bikes.” That moved me 🙂

Very informative ! enjoyed reading, Bedankt!

Reply
Sara July 22, 2013 - 15:31

You can read my mind! I’m just sitting in the Vondelpark, was looking at the brown water, thinking: Where in Amsterdam might the water be clear enough for a swim?
Thank you very much for listing all the places! 🙂

Reply
Tanja July 22, 2013 - 18:00

Glad to be of help! Enjoy the swim!

Reply
Richard Kilgour June 30, 2018 - 17:22

The map shows the Nieuwe Diep is OK for swimming, but there is too much lead in the soil, and should be considered “at your own risk”. The council recommends against it, and it is signposted:
https://www.amsterdam.nl/toerisme-vrije-tijd/parken/flevopark/zwemmen-flevopark-0/

Reply
Tanja July 3, 2018 - 07:58

Thanks for the warning. The Dutch authorities are extremely careful and if it’s really not safe, swimming will be banned.

Reply