When my friend Romina told me we should visit Swiss city Basel to go “floating down the river Rhine”, I imagined it being a peaceful type of event. As I stood halfway out in the river, in the stride currents, watching a larger ferry roar up against the current I realised I’d been wrong. Oh so wrong.
But first things first. Basel is Switzerland’s 3rd largest city. Apparently, a lot of people only ever drive through this city, on the highway, and Romina said that made them believe Basel was an ugly, industrial town. I love discovering things thanks to locals, so of course I had to see actual-Basel instead of just passing through on my way to the airport in Zürich.
Upon arriving in Basel, we quickly found a parking spot underneath the train station, then headed upstairs for some food and a “Wickelfish” (a waterproof swim bag shaped like a fish, which floats with you in the river when you leave air inside, instructions comes with the bag). We then headed out to catch the tram to Schifflände, the station most people prefer getting off at when intending to float down the Rhine.
Ready – set – float?
Luckily, there was small cabins specifically set up as dressing rooms near the river, free of charge, so that we could quickly get our swimwear on, without having to risk failing on the «Mr. Bean-trick» out in public.
As mentioned, my friend had made this «floating down the Rhein» sound like a serene, relaxing event. I imagined just lazily floating around, my eyes half shut, holding on to the swim fish. Turns out, Rhein is a large, powerful river. I’m only saying this because you probably should have somewhat of an idea of what you’re up for if you’re first going to drive to Basel to do this.
In order to float/swim in the river Rhein, you should make sure you:
- Feel really comfortable in water, also where you cannot reach the bottom with your feet.
- Am a good swimmer, as you will have to do quite some work in order to get out of the water again (partly swimming against strong currents).
- Know where you’ll be leaving the river again. You have to plan this, as it takes some time to get all the way to the side.
- Swim to the right of the river, as boats and even ferries uses the left part.
- Feel 100% OK. Please don’t do this if you’re feeling sick, hungover and (this should go without saying, but I will still say it) please, please, please don’t do this if you’re drunk.
- Swim with someone else, just in case something happens
As long as you’re a competent swimmer, you should be good. I have to say, this is perhaps one of the coolest and fun things I’ve ever done in a city in Europe. If it were not for the fact we had to get going to catch our flight back to Norway, I’d totally get on that tram for another go.
Basel, and Switzerland in general, I definitely have to go back to as soon as possible, to see and explore more. The few hours I had in Basel definitely made me keen on seeing more, and I have to agree with Romina, it is a gorgeous city.
After floating down the Rhine, we only had time for a stroll through the city centre, this time crossing over Rhine on a bridge, seeing the Basel Minster and admiring the Kunstmuseum Basel – both sadly only from the outside (this time).
Definitely add Basel and the river float at the Kleinebasel banks of the Rhine to your Switzerland itinerary if you find yourself in the country during the summer months, and if you seek adrenaline and enjoy being in the water. I’m already daydreaming about going back!
More about swimming and floating in the river Rhine can be found here