Best places to swim in cities: Top 10 urban swimming spots

LA BAIGNADE, CANAL DE L'OURCQ, PARIS

Naughty swimmers have been breaking the rules and taking a dip here for years but 2017 is the first time in decades that swimming has been legal in the canal at La Villette in the city's north-east. Swimmers are corralled in three large floating pontoons and the sheer giddy pleasure of taking a dip close to the heart of the city in what was once a murky, polluted waterway is enough to draw hundreds of Parisians on warm days. Water quality is rigorously tested and the cool factor is present in spades.

ISLANDS BRYGGE HARBOUR BATH, COPENHAGEN

At the heart of the city, the Harbour Bath evokes the chic minimalism of an Arne Jacobsen chair. Rinsed and refreshed by the Baltic Sea, there are five pools here, two just for kids plus a diving tower. Nearby cafes provide essential sustenance while the local ice-cream shop, Bryggen 11, dispenses truly sensational taste treats. Open from 1 June to 30 September, although the city's true Vikings swim here right through the chilly Nordic winter.

BADESCHIFF AN DER ARENA, BERLIN

Trust boho Berlin to have a hypercool urban pool made from a repurposed barge, afloat on the city's not-so-swimmable Spree River. At 30 metres long the Badeschiff combines an Ibiza-like vibe with beach volleyball, hammocks, a DJ spinning techno for the hipster crowd and a proper cocktail bar. At night the pool is floodlit from underwater, suspending swimmers in a pearly, space-odyssey light.

SERPENTINE LIDO, HYDE PARK, LONDON

The L-shaped Serpentine at the centre of London's Hyde Park has been a favourite swimming spot for over 150 years. Swimmers are confined to a 100-metre long area, with views of London's statuesque treasures above the trees. It's shallow, and you'll probably feel bits of greenery stroking your legs, but the flora keeps it clean. The Lido Café is one of the capital's best secrets, fabulous for a post-swim brunch. Open weekends in May and daily from 1 June to 12 September, 10am to 6pm.

SANDS SKYPARK INFINITY POOL, MARINA BAY SANDS HOTEL, SINGAPORE

Spanning the triple towers of Singapore's bayside Marina Bay Sands Hotel like Noah's Ark come to rest on Mount Ararat, this is the uber-rooftop pool. Hoisted 57 floors above the city, the long, narrow crescent of this infinity pool is backed by a sumptuous array of sun loungers shaded by manicured palms. At its best when the sun haemorrhages against the evening sky and Singapore twinkles below. Is it any wonder nobody is swimming, only looking? One drawback – the pool is for hotel guests only.

BADESCHIFF, VIENNA

Lash two barges together on a canal off the Danube River, fill with water, tack on a restaurant, a casual café/cocktail bar with a roof deck, a sundeck, gym, mini bowling alley and a soccer cage and voila, Badeshiff. Located on the edge of the Ringstrasse, which lassoes the posh centre of this elegant city, the pool draws a mixed crowd of city slickers, students and visitors in the know.

ASTORIA PARK POOL, QUEENS, NEW YORK

Midway between the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and the Hells Gate Bridge, with views of Manhattan's Upper East Side, this is the granddaddy of New York City pools at 100 metres. It also comes with a distinguished sporting pedigree, as the qualifying venue for the US aquatics team for the 1936 and 1964 Summer Olympics. Note the official What to Wear warning: "We may choose to check men's shorts for a lining if we can't tell if they are wearing a bathing suit."

ROYAL BAR BEACH CLUB, MOSCOW

About 10 clicks from the Kremlin, this swanky enclave on the Moscow Canal dishes up one surprise after another. There's white sand, heated pools, sun beds and a bar and a club restaurant with Japanese and Italian menus, all for a modest fee. Summer in Moscow is brief but fierce and crowds pack the riverside parks, but the 1000 ruble per day fee keeps numbers down. For a considerably higher fee there is a VIP Club – this is Russia after all – with fewer people who really have no business wearing skimpy bathers.

SZECHENYI BATHS, BUDAPEST

Like your pool served with a dash of style? Oozing glamour and elegance, this ornate, neo-baroque wonder is the Zsa Zsa Gabor of swimming pools. There are 18 pools here with different mineral properties and temperatures, indoor and outdoor, including one big swimming pool. Genteel breast stroke laps are fitting to the occasion but get in before the crowds if you want a workout, and don't neglect the super massages.

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SCHWIMMBAD UNTERER LETTEN, ZURICH

One of Zurich's several lake and riverside lidos, this is the city's original river bathing pool, more than a century old and a local favourite. You need to work to fight the river current, and many swimmers jump in at the upstream end of the 100-metre enclosure and allow themselves to be carried to the catch-grid at the downstream end of the pool. The kiosk sells ice cream and tapas plates.

See also: Beyond the beach - Australia's 11 best places to take a dip

See also: This hole is one of the world's most incredible swimming pools

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