Living in Munich means being able to head to a lake after work to cool off in summer, which in my opinion, is one of the very best things about Bavaria. I much prefer jumping into an ice-cold lake for a half hour swim instead of faffing around in a humid swimming pool changing room, before ending up in chlorinated water, surrounded by people who can’t swim lengths in a straight line.
If you’re wondering where to cool off in the heat, I’ve made a list of my favourite places to head to:
A trip to Cafe Forster in Schondorf, Ammersee is a lovely way to while away an afternoon. Entrance costs just a couple of euros, and there’s a huge grassy area where you can lay out your towels and set up your parasols (available to hire). Toilets are available, changing rooms are clean and the cafe sells savory dishes and plenty of ice cream. The water’s pretty shallow for a good few metres, meaning it’s great for kids, and it’s lovely to swim around the yachts and watch the steam boat puff around the lake.
Maybe my favourite place for a swim, the Osterseen offer the most wonderful FKK area, just a short walk from the See Madames – without a doubt, the coolest kiosk in Bavaria. The water is clear, there is plenty of room to sunbathe, and fish baguettes are a short walk away.
The Buchsee is a tiny lake to the east of the more popular Starnberger See, in Münsing. It’s privately owned, and entrance costs 1 €. You can lay down on a grassy slope (there’s plenty of room and people are nicely spread out), and the water’s deliciously warm. After you’re done swimming, head to the beer garden next door for homemade Bavarian dishes.
Not everywhere at the Sylvensteinspeicher is great for a swim. I discovered that having waded through metres of mud and tangled weeds to end up in the lake. However, if you head to the most eastern point of the lake, there’s a lovely shallow area that’s great for kids. There’s not much swimming to be done there, as it’s so shallow, but you can sit in the water and read your book in peace, with few people to disrupt you.
It does take over an hour to reach the lake from Munich – perhaps more a weekend activity with a picnic, than a quick after-work cool-off.
Just north of Moosach, the Feldmochinger See‘s easy to reach by bike. The southern part of the lake is dedicated to naked swimming, the western part is great for BBQs and volleyball, and families have plenty of space to relax on the western side. It’s just 5 metres deep (thus pretty warm) and there are lots of stunning blue dragonflies to see in the summer.
I used to visit the Erholungsgebiet Oberndorf, on the southwestern tip of Wörthsee, at least twice a week in summer. The jettys lead you to deeper water, meaning it’s not ideal for families with small kids, but if you don’t have to worry about offspring, it’s beautiful. Especially first thing in the morning, when you have the jetty all to yourself.
You have to pay 6€ to park at the Pilsensee’s campsite, but you’re then on a (busy) strip of land with toilets, a pizzeria (pizzas are surprisingly good), and plenty of lakeside shade. The Pilsensee can be fairly stony, so wear bathing shoes if you have them. The water’s shallow for metres and metres, making it a family favourite.
One of Bavaria’s oldest (and deepest, at almost 200m) lakes, with very clear, pure water (you can drink it), the Walchensee has a turquoise glow that is reminiscent of the Caribbean. It is cold though – it rarely gets above 18°C, but it’s a dream to jump into after a hike up the Jochberg on a summer’s day. The best bathing spot is at the south-west of the lake, by Einsiedl, but you can jump in from pretty much anywhere.
An hour and a half from Munich, you can reach the Bavarian Sea. The Chiemsee offers a real holiday feeling – museums, palaces, fresh fish and plenty of swimming opportunities. It’s also a great place to learn to sail.
Naturbad Maria Einsiedel
OK, it’s not exactly wild swimming, but the natural pool at Maria Einsiedel (close to Thalkirchen), is glorious. Entrance costs 4.10 € and the pool’s open until 8pm on the summer’s hottest days. It’s a sprawling complex, and you can easily find a peaceful spot to picnic at, or else dangle your feet in the 400m long natural canal that flows through the grounds. If you haven’t brought your own picnic, the beer garden has grub.