6 countries with the cleanest open water spots in Europe

by | 22 Jul 2022

The feeling of freedom that you get from swimming in fresh open water with amazing views just can’t be beaten. And with its lakes, seas and rivers, Europe for summer has much to offer. But how do you know the waters are clean? Well the EU’s recent Bathing Water Report has graded Europe’s waters and, along with beauty, history, culture and great cuisine, these six countries have been named as having the cleanest open water spots in Europe.

Let’s countdown the cleanest open water spots in Europe…


Although this landlocked state might not be top of your list when you think about waters to swim in, Austria is a fantastic location for water lovers. And, if you need convincing, Austria’s magnificent lakes and sublime Alpine backdrop, combined with the fact that 97.9% of the country’s bathing sites ranked as excellent in the report, should have you heading for her shores.

If you love the sun, head for a lake in the region of Salzburg to enjoy natural beaches and one of the cleanest open water spots in Europe. Offering some of the best wild swimming spots, thrill seekers should head to higher altitude and take a dip with spectacular mountain views.

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Known for its azure waters and unspoiled coastlines, Malta’s waters scored a 96.6% excellent mark in the report. If you are looking for one of the cleanest open water spots in Europe, then look no further. One of the most sought-after swimming spots is the Blue Lagoon, on the coast of Comino. With its beautiful clear blue sea and flanked by white sand, the beach is perfect for swimming and snorkeling, with a myriad of picturesque caves to explore. Ramala Bay, with its unique bright orange-red colored sand makes for a beautiful spot, as does San Blas Bay, which is attractively enclosed by greenery and cliffs.

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Scoring an excellent 95.8% for its waters, Greece is always a popular destination. Steeped in history with a welcoming atmosphere, there are many spots from which to enjoy the water. With its many lakes and warm ocean temperatures, open water swimmers have many options. Particularly beautiful is Plastiras Lake. This huge man-made lake also offers rich biodiversity and many monuments of architectural and cultural interest.

The Greek Islands also offer some of the cleanest open water spots in Europe. Vlychada Beach on the Island of Santorini sits proudly under cliffs of volcanic rock. Away from the tourist hotspots, here you can expect relative solitude as you bathe in the waters and watch the colors of the cliffs change as the sun moves across the sky. On Mykonos, Platys Gialos is a beautiful beach from which to bathe, with a more vibrant atmosphere and crystal-clear waters.

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One of the best ways to get out to open water is to take a cruise and enjoy the frequent stops where you can jump off the deck and enjoy the open sea. And one of Europe’s most sublime cruise destinations is Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast. With its stunning coastline, flanked by rugged mountains and the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is blessed with some of the best open water spots in Europe. Enjoy beautiful vistas and dive into the waters, or simply sit on the deck, wet your feet and admire the ocean.

With plenty of opportunities for swimming inland as well, Croatia scored highly, with 95.7% of its waters rated as excellent, making it one of the cleanest open water spots in Europe.

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Boasting some of the cleanest water in Europe, scoring 93.3% as excellent, this warm and sunny destination has so much to offer visitors. Full of lakes, rivers and beautiful seas, Cyprus is also renowned as being very friendly and peaceful. Rugged mountains and picturesque countryside make the perfect backdrop to gaze at from the waters.

Limassol offers 16km of beachfront and clear waters where you can see fish swimming, with Button Beach being a particular highlight. Also a vibrant cosmopolitan city, Limassol is a fantastic location from which to enjoy Cyprus’ urban and natural delights.

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With 8,700km of coastline, Denmark boasts wild beaches and secluded coves as well as many inland swimming spots. Its waters scored 91.9% as excellent, making them some of the cleanest open water spots in Europe.

This is the perfect opportunity to take to the charming city of Copenhagen, see the sights and benefit from its well managed bathing zones, equipped with both floodlights, buoys, rescue posts, and rescue ladders. The perfect spot to stop by for a swim on a sunny day, there zones are also less crowded than many other spots. Or head down to one of the many rugged beaches and take a dip in the fresh oceans.

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If you are thinking of a summer getaway and are keen to enjoy the cleanest open water spots in Europe then take a look at our full collection of premium guided tours.

I'm a writer, editor and interview specialist with a lifetime's love of travel. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than meeting, and writing about, the world's leading destination experts and travel industry insiders. The thing I love most about writing for Insightful is that I'm always learning something new.