Wickelfisch swim bags were invented specially in Basel. If you want to swim in the Rhine and drift along with the current, you won't need to walk the whole way back along the river bank in your swimsuit afterwards. The handy, colourful swim bags are waterproof and keep clothes dry so you can take them with you. When you get to the finishing point, you can have a shower and get changed using the facilities provided before enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of cake in the sunshine and watching the river and the hustle and bustle of the old town. You can buy a Wickelfisch swim bag from the Tourist Information offices at Barfüsserplatz or the Swiss Railway Station (SBB).
To make sure it is safe to swim, the swimming zones in the river are clearly marked. The swim route starts on the banks of Kleinbasel near Museum Tinguely and finishes just before the Dreirosenbrücke bridge. The red marker buoys serve to protect swimmers as well as boaters from accidents. Incidentally, you can easily get to the starting point near Museum Tinguely by public transport – which is free of charge with the BaselCard.
The water quality of the Rhine is checked continually. In recent years, the water quality was even certified as being "excellent" – better than the water in the region's outdoor pools. However, the SLRG (Swiss Lifesaving Society) recommends not drinking the river water and not swimming underwater if possible.
If you want to swim in the Rhine while in Basel, you don't need any special qualifications. However, only good swimmers are advised to swim in the river. The SLRG also checks to make sure that certain safety requirements are met. These factors can change on a daily basis and determine whether people are allowed to swim or not. They include water quality, water temperature, water volume, the weather and any blockages or construction sites in the river area, for example.
You can obtain a detailed overview of all the important safety measures from the Basel branch of the SLRG. The following points serve as a guide if you want to swim in the Rhine in Basel:
For your safety, lifeguards and Rhine police boats patrol the Rhine in Basel. If necessary, the emergency services can be contacted quickly by radio.
Only good swimmers are permitted to swim in the Rhine in Basel. Because of the current, it is not enough just to float along in the water. For families with children, there is supervised swimming by the river banks. If you are visiting Basel with children, take a look at the best places to visit in Basel with children and families.
Once a year, the Basel branch of the SLRG (Swiss Lifesaving Society) organizes a supervised swim in the Rhine where thousands of people float down the Rhine together for around two kilometres. They store their clothes in the handy Wickelfisch swim bags so they can head straight into the city after their swim. The participants of the Basel Rhine Swim receive refreshments, medals and Rhine swimmer certificates at the finish. The Basel Rhine Swim is famous worldwide and attracts large numbers of tourists to the border city each year.
But even if it's not time for the organized Rhine Swim, you can go for a refreshing dip in the river on hot summer days. Float right through the picturesque old town, helped by the slight current – and experience a very special tour of the city.