One foot in the river

The first river baths were established in the 18th c. Ever since then, visitors to them have either relaxed and let themselves float along or swum against the invigorating current depending on temperament and endurance.

Austria’s countryside is crisscrossed with a large number of streams and rivers that are among Europe’s cleanest. Most of them are ideal for swimming. Several of the oldest riverside baths are along the Danube.

Lovely swimming spots with natural sand or pebble beaches can be found in the Danube wetlands in the Wachau, at Badeplatz Ardagger with its gravel islands or near Aggsbach-Dorf or Schönbühel, where swimming can be combined with a boat outing. There is a curious phenomenon there too. The Danube flows uphill in response to a counter-current.

The sections of the Danube at Weissenkirchen and at Greifenstein have shallow water along the shore and a weak current, as does the area around the mouth of the Pielach near Melk, on the southern bank of the Danube with its soft sandbanks.

Get a feel of fin de siècle bathing at Strombad Kritzendorf, where summer vacationers have been enjoying refreshing dips in the Danube since 1903. Once called the Riviera of the Danube, these river baths no longer charge admission yet they are still a pleasant place to enjoy summer with their soaring chestnuts and wooden witnesses to swimmers past.

Another river that has attracted swimmers for centuries is the Kamp. The water is not only soft but also a pleasant temperature. The many swimming coves along the river, the scenic beauty and not least, the red-and-white striped wooden bathhouse in Plank make the Kamp an inviting place to linger and enjoy.

Swimmers and boaters alike will have delight in the Ybbs – an inside tip is Hollenstein with its historic river baths from the early 20th c, its idyllic location, a big meadow for sunning with a well-tended beach area and a chance to explore the river with “pig troughs.”

The Erlaufschlucht, a 7 km long canyon and natural landmark along the Erlauf River, was just recently made accessible and offers fantastic sand beaches, caves and swimming coves. Less adventurous to reach is the natural river baths along the Erlauf in Purgstall, a town where the Erlaufschlucht also begins. The old swimming facility on one of Europe’s oldest natural rivers has been revived again and is refreshingly cool with water ranging in temperature from 16° C to 17° C.