Floating Your Rubber Boat Down River in Zurich
The Perfect Way To Cool Off In Zurich
As the Summer months wear on and some days it feels as if the Tropics have moved a dozen degrees further north, you can often see the people of Zurich floating down the Limmat. They have come up with an ingenious way of having fun and keeping cool. With swimming pools and the lakeside packed, locals have been taking to the river in droves.
Where To Begin The Adventure – Wipkinger Park
Starting Point: The GZ Wipkingen Park Near Escher Wyss Platz
Just along from Escher Wyss Platz there are people clutching an armada of inflatables of all shapes and sizes. Young and old launch themselves into the water on the steps of the beach-like area at Wipkinger Park, to float out of central Zurich and down river. The practice has become so popular that floating on your little “Böötle” is one of the hottest (or probably coolest) things to do to in Zurich to beat the Summer heat.
“Many people get out at Werdinsel” notes one local “but all you have to do is take your boat over the island and people go all the way to Dietikon”. Having asked how long it takes; they say “about 2 hours or so to Dietikon”. Only 15 minutes later we see them floating past us in their inflatable armchairs, beers in hand with a wide smile across their faces.
Some people begin their journeys from Hardbrücke, but we saw many starting a lot further upstream just after the weir. The route is mostly clear, however it must be noted that it includes some fast stretches of shallow and deep water areas (water level dependant) so do wear some sturdy footwear if you plan on taking a dip on the way.
It’s a beautiful journey down the river and a great way of seeing Zurich from the water.
Getting Out Just Before The Weir
At one point just before the weir you HAVE to get out – and there are lots of signs telling you to do this. You simply hop out with your inflatable and walk a short distance past the weir and get back in again.
This is where we got out just before the weir. In fact this is just before the “official” exit as there was a backlog of dinghys queuing up, so we got out slightly earlier. The exit is well signposted so you can’t miss it. In fact everything is really well signposted so you really can’t go wrong! (You can see the photo describing the where you get out above.)
There are also plenty of signs showing you where to get out at the end as well. We got out at Glanzenberg but you can also get out a little further in Dietikon.
Getting Out At Glanzenberg Railway Station
We had great fun. It’s a great Zurich experience – but I think you get more out of it being in a rubber ring or floating chair than in a dinghy – but it’s fun either way!
We saw all manner of inflatable boats on the river from lilos to floating chairs all the way to the ubiquitous flamingos – and do pack a dry bag to keep your phone and valuables dry. You can check out our tips just below.
- As we were a group of 4 people and had a large dinghy we all drove to Wipkinger Park where we dropped off the rubber dingy and two of us inflated it (and the donuts), whilst the other two went by car to Glanzenberg railway station to park the car in the car park there. They then took the train and tram back to Escher Wyss Platz and walked back to Wipkinger Park where we all got into the dinghy and donuts and took to the water. This is where we started at Wipkinger Park.
- The course is quite straight forward and it doesn’t matter if you take the right or left fork shortly after GZ Wipkinger and there are usually plenty of people to follow.
- The first hurdle is just to make sure that you get out in time before the weir – but this is pretty easy as it is very well signposted in advance.
- Once you have got back in the water you simply float down all the way to the end station at Glanzenberg, which again is well signposted from the water and disembark there.
- At Glanzenberg you will find a park with porta-loos (though they were not to be recommended the day we went!) and a large park area where people were deflating their inflatables and having picnics and chilling. The railway station is also right next to the park.
- Please bear in mind the latest regulations from the Zurich Stadt Polizei as indicated above.
By Public transport From Zurich
- If you are going by public transport from Zurich you can omit the car parking info above and go straight to Escher Wyss, walk along to Wipkinger Park and take the train back to Zurich HB or your home destination.
Map Showing Where to Start and Finish
What To Pack
- Sunglasses – on hot bright sunny days you will be glad of these! You may want to have a string attached them in case they fall off.
- Sunscreen – there are plenty of places to stop en route to reapply if necessary. If you’re prone to burning you may want to wear a hat and long sleeves.
- Wear crocs or rubber soled shoes to protect your feet from the rocks – this is more important if you are floating on on a rubber ring or similar than if you are in a dinghy!
- Use a dry bag and make sure you have tested it at home first – also make sure to fold and close it properly !
- In your dry bag you can take towels, money, refreshments, your phone and any chargers and even a picnic mat for when you get to Glanzenberg. Plenty of people were enjoying beers and drinks as they floated along and some were even enjoying picnics in their dinghys.
The river trip along the Limmat is a great experience to be had as it allows a new perspective of greater Zurich while cooling you down during the hot Summer days.
Before You Set Out – Good To Know
In Summer 2021 the Stadt Polizei made some safety announcements about things you need to do before setting off on your rubber dinghy or inflatable. They are asking that all beach boats and inflatables be clearly labelled with your name and address and telephone number (you can request their label stickers here – scroll down right to the bottom of the page). They also now state that on rivers you need to have a life vest with collar with a minimum buoyancy of 75 Newton for each person on board. The police recommend for safety reasons that the life vests be put on before the ride.
In addition, because of accidents occurring close to the Höngg weir, this area close to the opposite bank to where you get out is now classified as a “no go zone” and you will be made to keep to the left in this area.
Police rules and Regulations
Article written by Jan de Boer and Christina Fryer
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