It seems nearly impossible to evade the red-hot burning summer in Prague. In every non-air-conditioned building, on every sun-baked street, and in each sweltering bar awaits a menacing, pervasive wave of unbearable Central European heat that is strong enough to stifle even the most intense summer lovers.
So what does one do in land-locked Prague to find comfort in such sticky, icky times? If you are neither a mallrat nor interested in visiting the movie theaters to sample Hollywood´s latest batch of blasé blockbusters, then the best way to beat the heat is to find your nearest pool or swimming hole and happily swim your worries away.
Prague has a wide variety of swimming areas to choose from, varying from top class aqua parks, to colorful neighborhood pools, to the more natural rybnika (pond). So whether you are in the mood for a fun-filled water amusement park, a cultural experience at the public pool amongst local Czechs, or a relaxing swim in the middle of nature, you are sure to find something you will like.
The most modern swimming area with far and away the most attractions is Aqua Palace Praha in the village of Čestlice, located just a few kilometers from Chodov shopping center. The entire facility covers over 9,000 square meters, most of it being indoors, and offers a huge assortment of activities for those that love the water, including six toboggan rides, three big slides, and a ride called the Spacebowl which caters to those that may wonder what it would feel like to be flushed down a toilet. It looks a lot more fun than it sounds.
Aqua Palace also offers a wave pool, an outdoor “Wild River” which takes you through and around the complex via a serpentine flowing stream, Jacuzzis, a lap pool, and plenty of kid´s areas for children of all ages.
The prices range according to what day of the week you are there and are also based on how long you stay in the park, but generally you´ll pay between 145 CZK for an hour and up to 650 CZK for the whole day. A towel, bathrobe, and locker are provided free with the price of admission. Additionally a free “Aqua bus” transports guests from the Opatov metro station to the park every 30 minutes.
On the other end of the spectrum is perhaps Prague´s most classic and famous swimming area Plavecký Stadion Podolí in Prague 4. This complex is over 50 years old and a relic of the Communist era in Czechoslovakia. Built as the preeminent grounds for swim competitions, the outdoor pools are flanked by a huge set of mainly superfluous metal bleachers and are at the base of a rocky hill, creating a unique sight for swimmers.
Podolí, as it´s often referred to, has two outdoor pools (50 meters and 33 meters), one indoor pool (50 meters), a huge grassy area full of sun bathers in different stages of undress, and lockers which can be used by offering a 100 CZK deposit. Admission is 95 CZK for one hour and 140 CZK for three hours.
Up away from the city in an area that is known for its striking natural beauty one can find the most breathtaking setting of all of Prague´s swimming pools, in the park at Divoká Šárka, perched amongst the hills of Prague 6.
Located a tranquil walk from the tram and bus stop Divoká Šárka, a path guides you through the forest until arriving at the swimming area Koupaliště Divoká Šárka, which is nestled in picturesque green valley. Inside one has two pools to choose from; either the standard pool or the icy cold stream fed pool. If you can get over the difficult first few moments, the fresh feeling of swimming in natural spring water is exhilarating and invigorating.
Other features include a large grassy knoll to sunbathe on, a ping pong table, and all the basic food and drinks one can come to expect from a Czech občerstvení (snack/refreshment seller). Entry is only 60 CZK and does not include the price of a locker.
For an experience that is refreshing, both in its soothingly cool water and in its authentic Czech style, check out a small community swimming pool. There are many spread out amongst Prague but the one that exemplifies the fun of a neighborhood pool can be found at Pražačka in Žižkov.
Packed into a little area which may be a little bit difficult to locate (keep walking along the fence past the football fields until you see the water), once inside you´ll find all the colorful people that represent Žižkov. Large families, groups of exuberant teenagers, tattooed muscleheads and more pack into the pool and splash around with reckless abandon. To the side of the pool is a large grassy area, with loads of people soaking up sun while enjoying ice cold beer and tasty klobasa amongst other goodies that are sold on site at two locations. Entry is 100 CZK and a plastic wristband key is provided for the use of lockers.
If you are into visiting a place with the local feeling of a neighborhood pool and the natural setting of an area like Divoká Šárka then you should head off to one of the swimming rybníky (ponds) that can be found around the more rural areas of Prague.
One such place that captures the true atmosphere of a Prague rybník is Koupaliště Motol in Prague 5. After enduring a somewhat long bus ride from near Anděl shopping center and a few minute walk, visitors are rewarded with an idyllic scene unfolding in front of them, with a large pond situated in the middle of a wooded area, surrounded by green grass, and full of people enjoying the sun and cool water. It´s safe to say that you may be the only non-local in attendance, so brush up on your Czech skills if you want to order some Kofola and Klobasa at the food shack. Entry is 50 CZK.
These pools and many more like them across Prague offer an interesting and cool escape from the punishing heat of summer and are excellent places to mix in with the Czechs from the local neighborhood. So grab your suit and your sunscreen, and dive on in!
Where do you cool off in the summer? Share your favorite swimming spots with us on our Facebook!
Update 23.8: the website www.koupalistepraha.cz (in Czech only) is a great resource for information on swimming places in Prague, complete with photo galleries. Also: want to know whether a lake or pond is safe to swim in? Check out this link (again, Czech only).