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Swimming in Amsterdam

Where to Swim in Amsterdam

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

There are plenty of places where you can swim in Amsterdam.

June 2023 Amsterdam Weather Forecast: Sunny and warm summer weather. Perfect weather for picnics in the park and a refreshing dive or swim.

Fortunately, Amsterdam has many public indoor- and outdoor swimming pools, officially approved natural spots, and a good number of ‘wild swimming’ locations.

Map of Swimming locations in Amsterdam

Choose your swimming hole right here:

Blue = indoor and outdoor swimming pools
Green = official and unofficial open water swimming spots

Click on each icon for more information.

Amsterdam – Venice of the North

Amsterdam is often called the “Venice of the North.” No wonder. No less than 24% of the city consists of water: two rivers, 165 canals and several lakes.

1 in 3 Amsterdammers swims in open water
1 in 20 Amsterdammers swims in the canals1

The largest bodies of water are the river IJ, the natural lake Nieuwe Meer and the man-made lakes Sloterplas and Gaasperplas.

Most famous, of course, are the canals. But you can not — or at least should not — just go swimming anywhere you want.

Our map shows the location of swimming pools (blue icons) and natural swimming spots (green icons) — both official and unofficial.

Official and Unofficial Amsterdam Swimming Spots

Borneokade, Amsterdam
Swimming spot at Borneokade, Amsterdam. Some spoilsports in the area say they noise of playing kids is a nuisance, and have been trying to get the city to prohibit swimming here.
Photo © Thomas Schlijper. Used by permission.

Each of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands publishes an annual list of officially-approved swimming spots.

Between May 1 and October 1 the quality of the water at these swimming holes is checked weekly by local water boards and by Rijkswaterstaat, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.

Hygiene and safety along the waterside is taken into account as well.

Official spots tend to be well-maintained. Some have facilities such as public toilets or snack bars.

Signs inform visitors of rules, possible hazards, and the quality level of the water — which normally ranges between good and excellent.

If health risks arise, such as the presence of blue-green algae, signs will go up as well.

Unofficial swimming locations are not frequently checked for water quality, hazards (e.g. deep water, contaminated soil), and other issues.

Outdoor Swimming in Amsterdam: Health Risks and Safety Tips

Swimming in open surface water, whether in approved or unapproved locations, is always at your own risk.

If you get your feet caught up in a discarded bike, fall ill due to the presence of algae, or get injured in any other way (e.g. by glass on the beach), you’re on your own. (Hint: this is not America; you can’t sue to your heart’s content.)

Swimming in Amsterdam
Unofficial swimming spot in the busy river IJ

When swimming at nature spots, try not to ingest any water in order to prevent stomach- and intestinal problems, or worse.

If there is boat traffic, stay away from it.

The water may be very deep even while it is relatively shallow near the wall, and the temperature of the water may sharply differ in places. Be wary of under-cooling and cramp.

It may be a good idea to wear water shoes.

Shower as soon as possible after swimming.

In short: use your common sense.

Swimming in the Canals of Amsterdam

The annual Amsterdam City Swim raises money to help eradicate the deadly disease ALS from the world. In 2023 it takes place on Sunday, September 3.

On warm days lots of tourists and locals alike think it’s a good idea to swim in the canals of Amsterdam.

It is not (albeit with a few exceptions: see the map).

The ambition of Waternet, Amsterdam’s water authority, is to someday have the water in the canals clean enough for people to swim in.

That said, while officially the canals are not designated as swimming water, there is now a yearly Amsterdam City Swim event — organized as a fundraiser for research into underexposed diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).2

Why Swimming in Amsterdam Canals is Unsafe

The quality of the water in the canals has greatly improved in recent years. The completion of a project to connect all of the city’s 3000+ houseboats to the sewer lines certainly helped.

That project was completed in 2018. However, that doesn’t mean the canals are free of effluent and other wastewater. Sewage lines can and do break, and sometimes they overflow when there’s a sudden deluge of rain.

Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam
Some canals, such as the Prinsengracht, are simply too busy for people to safely swim in.

If that isn’t enough to dissuade you from diving into a canal, consider this: Every year the city fishes between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles from the canals.

It’s easy to get your feet tangled in discarded bikes, shopping carts, and whatnot.

Many also have lots of boat traffic, making swimming there unsafe.

It’s not that people don’t swim in the canals at all. Throughout the city there are small jetties from which you can easily enter and exit the water — and lots of people do.

No one seems prepared to say whether or not it is illegal to do so (possibly since nobody wants to be held liable if something bad happens).

Amsterdam canal swimming
In July 2010 soccer fans lined the canals to celebrate the Dutch National Football team after it finished in second place in the World Cup soccer tournament. This man took an impromptu swim — with police officers looking on (and laughing)

Waternet simply says “You cannot swim in the canals.” But in reality there are certain spots (e.g. Borneokade and Bogortuin) where a more-or-less official blind eye is turned.3

It’s certainly illegal to jump off bridges. Then again… this is Amsterdam:

Street photographer Thomas Schlijper captured these kids enjoying the water at the junction of Prinsengracht and Reguliersgracht.

Rivers, Channels, Bridges and Other Off-Limit Spots

Swimming in rivers and channels is forbidden and life-threatening. So says Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment responsible for Holland’s waterways. 4

river swimming
In most rivers swimming is prohibited because it is dangerous

Rijkswaterstaat, whose officers patrol the waters in yellow boats sporting the letters RWS, is authorized to issue fines of €140 per person.

The Rules

It is forbidden to swim

  • in the traffic lanes on the rivers
  • in channels
  • near mooring spots (even if no ships are currently moored there)
  • near bridges, sluices, weirs or floating demarcation lines
  • near ferries and their routes
  • in and around harbors

It is also illegal to jump or dive off bridges and sluices. Jumpers can easily get injured, for instance by waterlogged pieces of wood that float just below the surface.

Some bridges, particularly in waterways close to the river IJ, carry dutch-language signs stating that swimming in the area is forbidden.

You’ll see such signs near sluices as well. The signage makes reference to “BPR” which stands for Binnenvaartpolitiereglement — Inland Waterways Police Regulations.

Rivers and Channels: Specific Dangers

  • Swimmers are ‘invisible’ to captain and crew of cargo ships. And even if they were to spot you, there’s no way for the ship to make an emergency stop or an evading maneuver
  • The undercurrent of passing ships can suck swimmers underneath the water
  • Passing ships can create significant waves, strong and high enough to wash away children playing near the water’s edge
  • The current in rivers can be unpredictable and can, for instance, be significantly higher just outside cribs
  • Swimmers caught in changing currents and wildly different water depths can suffer cramps and undercooling

Yes, you can drink the water from the canals of Amsterdam

More Amsterdam Tourist Information


  1. Marc Kruyswijk, Meer Geplons in Amsterdamse Grachten, Parool, March 1, 2016
  2. Before and during this event the water quality is constantly checked by Waternet. Floating and submerged trash is removed, and extra sluicing is performed as well
  3. In Dutch this is called gedogen — a word that cannot be properly translated because it describes a typically Dutch situation in which something that is illegal is, under certain circumstances, nevertheless tolerated.
  4. Rijkswaterstaat is responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands, including the road network, waterway network, and water systems.

Last updated CET (Central European Time)

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