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6 fun things to do on a hot day in Switzerland

6 fun things to do on a hot day in Switzerland

As the weather in Switzerland gets hotter and hotter, the traditional summer activities of hiking and other sports start to become less appealing. To help you have a great time in the alpine nation without getting overheated, here are six fun things you can do in Switzerland that also keep you cool.

1. Swim in a Swiss lake

When visiting Switzerland for the first time, many are surprised that so many lakes are used for swimming. Unless clearly stated otherwise, Swiss lakes are clean enough to swim in, making them perfect for when the mercury goes above 25 degrees.

At the start of summer, the larger lakes in Switzerland in cities like Geneva, Zurich and Lausanne take a while to heat up, meaning water temperatures are only a toe-dipping 20 degrees. However, as the summer continues, these lakes become more welcoming, with temperatures peaking at around 25 to 28 degrees on a good sunny day.

For those who can’t wait to leap into the water but don’t want to get too cold, a rule of thumb is the smaller the lake, the faster it will heat up. Katzensee in Zurich, the Hüttwilersee near Frauenfeld and the Murtensee near Bern are good examples of smaller lakes that will warm up quicker and stay warm for much of the season. 

If you would rather not swim in open water, most councils (Gemeinde) in Switzerland have a municipal outdoor pool for locals to use. These heat up at the same rate as the lakes and are more likely to have facilities like restaurants and changing rooms.

Swimming summer lake Switzerland

2. Retreat to the Swiss mountains

As temperatures ramp up in the alpine nation, many locals choose to retreat to the Swiss mountains. While most of the snow may be gone, ski resorts take on a new lease of life in the summer as a hub for hiking and leisure holidays.

As they are at higher altitudes, temperatures in ski resorts and up mountains can be 10 degrees colder than in Swiss cities. As a result, many choose to use the sunny weather to hike in the mountains or spend the day in an indulgent hotel or spa resort.

Swiss mountains summer

3. Swim in a river in Switzerland

For those who are more adventurous, a new trend has arisen in Switzerland where families and groups of friends float down rivers together. From flotillas of inflatable boats stocked with food, drink and music, to those SUPing downstream, Swiss rivers are a great place to have a party with easy access to the cool water.

The most well-known river swim in Switzerland is on the Rhine in Basel, with hundreds of locals using the stream to cool off after a long day. In recent years, the Limmat in Canton Zurich, the Aare in Aargau and the Reuss in Lucerne have also become popular places to swim.

Of course, the strong current means that navigation is important, so make sure to check where you are able to float from and where you should get out. Hydroelectric plants, weirs, barriers and waterfalls are obstacles that should be avoided. Also, pay attention to signs that may prohibit you from setting sail, and if you do plan to swim, it is highly recommended to take precautions like wearing or holding flotation devices. Those learning to swim or people who are not strong swimmers are advised against swimming in Swiss rivers.

swimming Switzerland river Rhine

4. Go to a Swiss shopping centre

While air conditioning is not a common feature of housing in Switzerland, some of the larger malls and shopping centres instal A / C to make their customers feel more comfortable. Across Swiss cantons, there are several great shopping areas that locals retreat to when the weather is too hot. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Glatt Centre, Canton Zurich
  • Mall of Switzerland, near Lucerne
  • Volkiland, Canton Zurich
  • Fashion Fish Premium Factory Outlet, near Aarau
  • Landquart Fashion Outlet, Canton Graubünden
  • Métropole Lausanne, Canton Vaud
  • FoxTown Factory Stores, Canton Ticino
  • Meyrin Center, Geneva

Even if you are just browsing, a visit to the shopping centre can be a great way to stay out of the heat.

5. Visit a Swiss museum 

While not every Swiss museum will have air conditioning, the larger ones will usually try to keep the building cool. Visiting a museum can be a fun and engaging activity for the whole family during the summer holidays.

From science and innovation to arts and history, whatever your taste may be, there will be something for you. If you want to find out more, check out our guide to the best museums in Switzerland.

visit museum Switzerland summer

6. Take a boat ride on a Swiss lake

While it may not be indoors, taking a boat ride can be an excellent way to sample the Swiss landscape, while also staying cool. Every large lake in the alpine nation will have a boat cruise or service of some kind, especially during the summer.

Those at the front of the ship or on deck will be blasted with cool 10 to 20-knot winds once the boat gets going. However, do bear in mind that many of these areas are not shaded, so do not let the cool breeze fool you into not wearing sunscreen.

cruises Swiss lakes

Make sure you're prepared for the summer heat!

Whatever you choose to do during a hot day in Switzerland, it pays to be prepared by taking steps to make sure you and your family stay cool. During a heatwave, the official advice from the Swiss government is:

  • To avoid intense physical exertion
  • To keep your home and body as cool as possible
  • To drink plenty of fluids (at least 1,5 litres a day)
  • To have light, refreshing and cool meals
  • If you do exercise, compensate for the loss of salt
  • Do not leave people or animals in parked cars

So long as you take adequate precautions, hot days in Switzerland can be one of the most ideal times for a grand day out. Have an idea for another activity that keeps you cool during the summer months? Let us know in the comments below!

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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