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Laps of the goddesses

Zurich bath house © Laps of the goddesses Zurich bath house

This women-only bath house on Zurich's Limmat River leads a delightful double life. A barefoot Angie Kelly takes a look.

You don't have to take your clothes off to enjoy the retro charms of Zurich's Frauenbadi.

Swimming baths by day, cool music venue by night - Frauenbadi is a magnetic multi-tasker with so much shabby chic charm it lures many a coffee shopper as well as keen dippers, sun lovers and general riverside loungers.

But unlike the many other outdoor swimming venues on Zurich's waterfront, this one is just for girls.

The pretty, wooden art nouveau building in the old town centre has two pools - one for serious lappers, the other for non-swimming lollers.

It also has two sunbathing spots - one hidden from passing boats behind the lovely timber facade - the other perfect for gals happy to smile and wave on the pier facing the jostling and busy river traffic.

It's daytime persona is delightfully girly - brollies, retro changing booths, pastel coloured spaces, vintage decor and pastries offer unashamedly feminine appeal. Ditto the shop and juice bar.

Random acts of kindness have resulted in a small library for visitors' enjoyment (your German probably needs to be up to scratch) while vintage photographs provide an apt finishing touch to the yesteryear tableau.

By night, Frauenbadi frocks up and transforms into a venue for all kinds of fun such as tango dancing, jazz band gigs and classical music concerts when it becomes Barfussbar with sexy lighting and musicians taking centre stage on a deck accessed via a bridge over the loller's pool.

During our visit we were sorry we were going to miss much of the summer line-up which included live latin music, African bands and singer-guitarist ensembles.

In the spirit of equality, blokes are allowed in on Wednesdays and Thursday, but only after 8pm. At night, there is a deck-protecting requirement that all shoes be left at the door so when it comes to evening revelry, you bring your twinkle toes rather than your dancing shoes.

Located in the Old Town, the pool and sunning decks have views over the Romanesque twin-towered Grossmunster church, Zurich's most recognised landmark. Imposing by day, magical by night.

The Limmat River's water is so clean and clear it's not only safe for swimming but looks as if you could drink it. You can't, but once purified it is channelled into the city's water system. In summer, the water temperature can reach up to 20 degrees making long stays at Frauenbadi easy.

What a great idea for Sydney with our miles of harbourfront and the gift of longer months of heat than this very grown-up, sophisticated Swiss German city. Anyone?

The writer was a guest of Switzerland Tourism.


FAMILY FRIENDLY: Freibad Allenmoos; see

MEN ONLY: Mannerbad Schanzengraben; see

LUXE ROOFTOP: Thermalbad and Spa; see

Website note: Take the translate option on each of the three sites above to convert from German to English for opening times, dates and transport details to each venue.



Fly Swiss International from Sydney and Melbourne to Zurich. See

Get around Switzerland with a Swiss Pass, or


Frauenbadi and Barfussbar; Stadthausquai on the Limmat River waterfront between Burkliplatz and Munsterplatz, Zurich. Opens for 2014 European summer on May 10, operating until September, CHF 7 ($8.85).


Sorell Hotel Rutli, zahringerstrasse 43, Zurich, Rooms from 260 chf ($327).



© Laps of the goddesses
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