Clarification on the mapping of bathing places

We’ve recently had some discussion in the Swedish community on the mapping of bathing places (most of the discussion is here). And while we’re pretty much agreeing on how the mapping should happen we also want to let the global community weigh in on the topic (suggested by @pangoSE). If the same consensus stands here we would then try to clarify the relevant wiki pages, as we’re also agreeing on them currently being somewhat diffuse.

It should be noted that this is not a proposal to change the meaning of any tags, but rather working on clarifying the existing tag definitions.

bathing_place vs. public_bath

To begin with, we have the tags leisure=bathing_place vs. amenity=public_bath. Here the wiki is still somewhat clear, however it seems there are a lot of places tagged as amenity=public_bath which should instead be tagged as leisure=bathing_place. My understanding of the difference between these is that a public bath will have significant facilities, and the water areas be more akin to pools than open water, while bathing places will only have rudimentary facilities and usually be on open water.

In most cases, public baths are completely surrounded by fence or wall and require paying an entrance fee, while bathing places do not, however this is not a strict rule and should be specified using fee.

The naming “public bath” makes this all a bit confusing, but I assume it has similar origins to the British term “public school”.

Some images from the wiki and the web showing public baths

(note how while on a river(?) it is completely enclosed)

Some images from the wiki and the web showing bathing places

(note that while having a pretty significant tower it overall has the characteristic of a bathing place)

(note that while being fenced it it does not have the facilities of a public bath)

informal=yes bathing places

Currently, the wiki requires even bathing places to at least have a sign, however that can in practice be unnecessarily limiting on what can be mapped. At least in Sweden, there are many bathing places that are popular and well known, but because they are not managed by neither the local government nor some other grouping they are not signposted. For these we think it would make sense to formalize (as in, specify on the wiki) the usage of the informal=yes tag. That is, they would be tagged using leisure=bathing_place and informal=yes.

In some cases the local government does not want the place to be signposted because of some danger and will take down any signs put up, common examples include old quarries. And while a case could be made for not wanting to encourage consumers of OSM to visit these potentially dangerous places either I think it would make more sense to still map them, but include tagging to reflect the situation, possibly using the existing hazard key.

However, care should be taken that this should not be tagged to map any place happens to be suitable for bathing, like every bend in a river that happens to have a bit of sand as a beach. While hard to specify a strict minimum level, I think some good examples that would warrant tagging an informal bathing places (usually most of these will be true):

  • It’s generally known (at least by most people living nearby)
  • It has a generally accepted name
  • It’s suitable for bathing, more so than the surroundings (for example because a path is leading there, or because it’s the only beach on a lake that otherwise is completely surrounded by vegetation
  • It’s regularly used for bathing
Some images from the wiki and the web showing informal bathing places

See also the images of non-informal bathing places, but imagine without any facilities and possibly without mowed grass.
(old quarry, have been several deaths over the years but despite that it’s still very popular)


Next, there are a lot of places simply tagged with leisure=swimming_area, without either leisure=bathing_place nor amenity=public_bath. My understanding is that, following the “map what’s on the ground” rule, leisure=swimming_area is only intended to be used when the swimming area is clearly marked, as in the following image. Otherwise, the boundary to draw would be guesswork, and as most bathing places are in fact not limited (you can swim in the entire body of water if you want) it would end up with the entire water area being also tagged as a swimming area, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

(note the buoy lines in the water)

Furthermore, leisure=swimming_area should never be on its own, but rather always mapped together with a bathing places or public bath (though for public baths it might make more sense to use leisure=swimming_pool).

BUT, and at this point the wiki becomes actively contradictory, leisure=swimming_area notes leisure=bathing_place as a possible tagging mistake, despite having somewhat different meanings and Swimming and bathing referencing both tags separately. (added recently by @geozeisig, could you add some context to that?)


Finally, we have the question of names, especially as there are numerous cases where the name of the bathing place is identical to the body of water, the beach (if it has a name) or some other feature like a bay. We haven’t discussed this at length in the Swedish community, but my personal stance is that if the bathing place has the same name as some other feature, both should have a (identical) name= tag (even though that might look weird in the rendered map, but following the “don’t map for the renderer”-rule).

Next steps

We want to start by gathering feedback here. Is everyone agreeing on our understanding of the existing tags as described above? Is there something we’ve missed?

If all looks good we would then try to improve the wording of the existing wiki pages (both for the tags mentioned and the overview page Swimming and bathing). It would likely also make sense to improve the existing data to be inline with the definition on the wiki, possibly by creating a MapRoulette tasks.


There’s going to be a bit of an awkward interpretation here on the difference in British English between bath and bathe.

Bath refers to washing yourself, while bathe is another word for swimming, but it isn’t helped by BE often referring to public swimming pools as “public baths”! :crazy_face:

leisure=bathing_place appears, to me at least, to refer to places where you can swim, so could / should be replaced by leisure=swimming_area

amenity=public_bath should possibly then only be used on areas such as Swimming and bathing - OpenStreetMap Wiki (which could also possibly be tagged as leisure=spa or tourism=spa_resort!)


Great initiative.

Your thoughts make a lot of sense to me (though I can’t say I have much experience mapping these kinds of places).

Just one thing surprised me:

Why? Are you suggesting we “double tag” the same area with two leisure tags? Or do you mean that there should be a bathing_place node near a swimming_area area? What would be the point of that, isn’t it just recording the same information twice? Of course, if you’ve looked at the data and this is how people map, I won’t complain if you document it in the Wiki :slight_smile:

I suspect this is partly because public_bath renders on the “main map” (OSM Carto) and bathing_place doesn’t…

Interesting, 66% of uses of leisure=bathing_place are in Sweden, but only 19% of all leisure=swimming_areas, 4% of all amenity=public_baths… I wonder why that is?


the use of swimming_area on nodes in Sweden is mostly a result of an import from Wikidata with incorrect tags.
I’m currently cleaning them up, converting them to bathing_place when no bueys can be seen on satellite.

See quest suggestions

I guess this is likely to be the most contested point of this discussion.

To me, there is a strong conceptual difference between a “bathing place” and a “swimming area”. A bathing place includes more than just the water; it includes the shoreline (usually some kind of beach), possibly even more past the shoreline (like a further area of mowed grass), facilities, etc. Otherwise, there would be no difference between a bathing place (as in my definition) and just any bit of water (e.g. the middle of a lake). As such, it is also the element that would usually carry additional information, like name=, toilets= and operator=.

Bathing places would usually just be mapped as nodes, as it’s usually not possible to verify the outline on the ground (especially in the water, where, unless there are buoys or similar, it stretches “indefinitely”, or at least as large as the body of water is). Though I could imagine them also being mapped as ways along the shore for long beaches and similar?

On the other hand, a “swimming area” is the specific area where you can swim. You can’t swim on land, therefore this tag cannot include anything else than the water; no beach, no facilities, etc. If taking a strict view of the words “swimming area” one could even argue that it needs to be situated in such a way, such that the water is deep enough (that is, it can’t be drawn all the way to the shore), though I think that would be impractical. Though there will usually be at most one swimming area per bathing place it should also be possible to use this tag to map separate swimming areas, for example on gender-segregated beaches or for deeper water that’s unsuitable for children (in both cases of course only if verifiable on the ground, e.g. through buoys or similar.

And yes, this would end up with places that use both of these leisure= tags, but I don’t think that should matter as they are conceptually different and is similar (very similar in fact) to the mapping of leisure=sports_centre and contained leisure=pitch.

Not unlikely, I guess together with clarifying the wiki the outcome of this discussion could also be used as a reason to update that in OSM Carto.

Hopefully it can become more globally consistent following this discussion!


Regarding the naming of the tags and the distinction between “bath” and “bathe”; I think that might be a hard problem to solve, especially without introducing entirely new tags which I’d like to avoid.

In Swedish the word is “badplats” (directly translated as “bath/bathe/bathing place”), and can be used in sentences such as “vi går till badplatsen” (“we’re going to the bathing place”). Google Translate actually translates it to “swimming area”, though I’ve never heard “swimming area” used in daily speech in English (but that might be because I’m not living in Britain?). The first english-swedish dictionary I get on google translates it as either “bathing place” or “beach”, the last of which is what I’d usually expect to hear in daily speech (but then again, I’m not a native speaker).

I don’t actually think that it necessarily must be wrong that the word means “washing oneself”. A very common (the most common?) use for a bathing place as discussed here is not actually to swim, but rather to lounge around and play in the water (though adults might want to go out into deeper water to swim, even if just to get away from others on the beach…). So “washing oneself” (as in “bath”) might not be 100% right, but it is no less wrong than “swimming” (as in “bathe”).

This also loops back to my understanding of what a “bathing place” conceptually is, i.e. that it’s not just a place where you swim, but also have areas for lounging/sun bathing, building sandcastles, etc.

So I think while not perfect the present tags should be just fine to use with some clarification.

I see, thanks.

So a swimming area is a part of a larger body of water (such as a lake, river or the sea) that is specifically marked for swimming, and the mapped area only includes the water. A bathing place is any spot that is used for swimming or bathing, as long as the criteria for mapping it apply (e.g. well known, regularly used). It may have facilities, but it doesn’t always do (see your example of a disused quarry). Then it makes perfect sense that when there’s a swimming area it’s also a bathing place.

The conceptual distinction makes sense to me, and it’s much clearer than what is currently documented in the Wiki.

And I have a few more questions:

  • What is the practical value of adding a bathing_place node when there is already a mapped swimming_area nearby? Isn’t that implied?
  • Would it make sense to eventually review all swimming areas mapped as nodes (also outside Sweden) and change them to bathing_place if the area for swimming / bathing isn’t clearly marked?
  • The Swimming and bathing page of the Wiki suggests another method: putting a sport=swimming tag on either a node on the riverbank or on a natural=beach. What is the difference between that and a bathing place? In other words, when I’m mapping a new one, how do I decide between the two approaches?
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Hi Jan,

I like your ideas about bathing places and agree to your thoughts. I do not have any problem in distinguishing in betweeen bathing_place, swimming_area and sport=swimming tags, they all make sense to me. The only thing I would not like is tagging a name twice (if the case is given), once to a waterbody and again to the bathing place as this would push the inflational use of the name tag.

I do not see a problem here because the tag wouldn’t be bath_place or bathe_place but bathing_place and that is the correct term for a place suitable for swimming and dabbling around in the water.

A swimming_area can be a kind of public bath with lots of facilities or a marked area on any water body suitable and safe for swimming. Accoding to the wiki, the tag swimming_area refers to the first, an “enclosed natural water area inside a facility”. So it makes sense to me to additionally map the bathing_place to make clear that this swimming_area is not part of a (managed) facility.

No, the wiki says you should place a node (or area) and tag it as leisure=bathing_place plus sport=swimming or leisure=beach plus sport=swimming. To me this makes sense only if the place is suitable and safe for swimming, which is not always the case. There are bathing places as well as beaches at very shallow waters which would not really allow you to swim but just to dabble a bit in the water. Such places are sought after by families with very little kids because of safety purposes.

So the additional tag sport=swimming gives you an option to differentiate between these to variations

I think this may be due to the fact that Sweden has so many natural waterbodys suitable for swimming and without man_made restrictions (private property, only for fishing etc.) compared to other countries.


Good question, I guess technically a swimming_area could imply a bathing_place.

Anyone know of any similar pair of tags with such an implication? If not I don’t think we should introduce such a scheme; I just think it would be confusing and harder for data consumers (as they’d have to check two tags).

I would think so, more consistency = easier to use (and map). Provided of course no one objects to the descriptions of the tags provided here (gonna let it go at least a week or two before doing any edits or even changing the wiki).

I’m not too fond of using sport=swimming for bathing places, and would consider removing that suggestion from the wiki. That wiki says “A place where people can swim for sport” about that tag (emphasis mine), and that to me implies something like lines in a pool (image from the wiki).

I guess there could exist bathing places with a part of the water designated for swimming, in which case one could have a separate leisure=swimming_area+sport=swimming (sounds redundant at first, however, one could see it as “swimming area” not specifying swimming for sport in which case it makes sense).

Otherwise one gets back to a previously mentioned issue; pretty much all open water can be used for sport swimming, and I don’t think we want to tag all water with sport=swimming :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Hm, I guess it would be pretty rare in practice for both to have an identical name, at least in Sweden it might often be that the bathing place is called something like “Trollsjöns badplats” while the lake is called “Trollsjö” (so similar and one based on the other, but not identical). But I still think in case the name is identical it should still be included on both elements, as they both have a name and it just so happens to be identical.

Hmm… unless we also start a campaign to also add a bathing_place near all swimming_areas, data consumers will have to check multiple tags.

There is this picture which shows sport=swimming on a node without leisure=bathing_place.

Is the picture outdated then and should show both tags? That’s fine but still doesn’t explain how to decide between natural=beach and leisure=bathing_place. Is it only a bathing_place if there isn’t a beach?

That makes sense in principle but… there are over 1700 places tagged natural=beach sport=swimming. “Sport swimming” in demarcated lanes is very rare on beaches (if it exists?) so in all likelihood the vast majority of these are mostly used by people who are just “taking a dip”, going for a short swim that can’t really be called sport.

The Wiki is supposed to document how people map, not how a small group of editors agree they should map, so removing the suggestion (without a big retagging effort) does not sound like a good idea to me. It seems more worthwhile to come up with a definition so the two approaches can peacefully co-exist.

How about: beach with sport=swimming is commonly used and fine, but beach and then separately bathing_place with sport=swimming is a more detailed mapping, because it allows you to give the bathing place a different name than the beach, or show the spot on a long beach that is used as a bathing place.

Good point about there being bathing places where you can’t swim. The same can be said for beaches, some are definitely more suitable for swimming than others (and verifiably so).

I’d say so. The written comment says tag it as leisure=bathing_place plus sport=swimming or leisure=beach plus sport=swimming so the pic should show both of the tags.

natural=beach may stand alone but for precise mapping it can be an additional information to bathing_place. Not every bathing_place includes a beach, many popular bathing_places have a rocky surrounding. Again a long beach must not be a bathing_place all over, there may be popular spots for bathing/swimming and others not suitable. So these 2 tags are complementing each other imho.

I think they should be considered orthogonal; while most beaches are suitable bathing places it shouldn’t be too hard to find examples where this is not true (for example because the water is contaminated or has dangerous currents). And of course there can be bathing places without a beach (instead having cliffs or grass all the way to the shoreline).

While I know this point-of-view is not uncommon here and can make sense, I don’t think it should be limited to this (and in fact often isn’t, look for example at the “possible tagging mistakes” boxes).

Would documenting both approaches (natural=beach+sport=swimming and leisure=bathing_place) while mentioning that leisure=bathing_place is to be preferred work for you?

That way we can steer people in the right direction while not forcing anything and hopefully allowing the “better” tagging to eventually take over, as well as documenting the possible cases for data consumers?

This makes a lot of sense to me! Of course I’m not some sort of Wiki gatekeeper or mapping guru, just reading this as an interested OSM contributor.

It would be good to hear from more members of the community.

A final note: The idea of a “bathing place” as an abstract concept of a place where people enjoy open water is closely related to the idea of a “bathing water” as defined in the EU bathing water directive.

They have a wonderfully bureaucratic definition.

A bathing water is any element of surface water where the competent authority expects a large number of people to bathe and has not imposed a permanent bathing prohibition. This does not include swimming and spa pools, confined waters subject to treatment or used for therapeutic purposes, or artificially created confined waters separated from surface water and groundwater.

The good thing about this directive is that it requires EU member states to identify bathing spots where they monitor water quality, and the criteria used to identify locations sound remarkably similar to the ones you mentioned above for mapping a bathing_place. The UK follows the same system. I know this because there was a local campaign last year to get a popular wild swimming spot in my city recognised as “designated bathing water”.

We already have a tag for mapping the ID of such a “bathing water”, ref:EU:bwid. It is barely used: of over 22,000 designated bathing waters in the EU+UK only 61 have been mapped, rather inconsistently, on the lake, beach, beach resort, or the precise location where water quality is measured. It sounds like the tag should go on the bathing_place node, and if the tag bathing_place becomes more widely used, that’s also a good motivation to map more designated bathing waters with ref numbers…

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That directive, or rather the national database of EU bathing waters in Sweden, has actually been part of this discussion in the Swedish forum, though mostly in the form of “how can that data be so bad?” :stuck_out_tongue:

But it is very good that you mention it, that is definitely something that should be mentioned on the wiki, including the ref:EU:bwid tag.

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I do not know who may create these names but in real life people do not use such names. I have regularly visited various popular bathing places with friend and I have never ever anyone heard saying “Let’s meet at the Greenlake bathing place” or “what about a swim at the Greenlake bathing place”. People say “Let’s meet at the Greenlake” or “come with us to the Greenlake for a swim” and the like. So if the name of the location is “name-of-the-waterbody”_bathing_place then I would not see any additional value in adding this name to the bathing place node.

Another thing is when a water body has more than one bathing places but in such cases these places will have real names to distinguish between them and not just the name of the water body plus bathing_place.

That will of course be highly dependent on the local language. I fully agree that your examples sound strange for English, but for Swedish it is in fact very common for a bathing place to be called (including in everyday speech) something “badet” (example) or “s badplats” (example).

Have fun mapping the spots of bathing places:

Have fun mapping the bathing places

Hundreds of kilometres of fine white sand on the southern Baltic coast

This seems to me like a pretty clear case where leisure=bathing_place should not be added (because no particular point is more suitable for bathing than any other), or possibly by mapping it as a way coincident with the shore/coastline.

The type of place I think @osmuser63783 refers to is something like the following, where while the beach is a long one (even if not as long as your example) most people are concentrated at/around the text “Rullsand”, where all the paths go to. In such a case there is a spot that can be roughly represented by a single node that is more commonly used as a bathing place.

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