Wonderful Copenhagen
swim zone

Copenhagen harbour - Life on water

Copenhagen’s harbour has always played a central role in the city, reflecting its spirit. Once a natural fishermen’s and merchants’ harbour, it since evolved into an industrial harbour before transforming into a cultural and recreative space. 

Over the past 25 years the city of Copenhagen has taken measures that have resulted in the improvement of the water quality of its former industrial harbor, turning it into today’s recreational harbour with watersports such as swimmingkayaking, rowing and stand up-paddling, as well as urban farming and fishing, with organisations such as Havhøst growing Danish oysters and mussels inside the harbour.  

In Copenhagen’s generous spirit the harbour front has been kept open for public access, and it’s possible to walk or cycle around the entire harbour bassin, crossing the many beautiful bike bridges on your way.   

Among the various initiatives, dedicated underground basins have been introduced that retain wastewater so that in the event of excessive rainfall, it is not discharged into the port, but is retained so that it can later be discharged into the sewers. The basins can hold 260,000 m3 of wastewater, which is equivalent to 111 Olympic-sized swimming pools (50m).  

The water in the port of Copenhagen has become so clean that it is suitable for swimming. Bathing takes place in the three wooden port pools called “harbour baths”, Bjarke Ingels Group in six confined areas delimited by buoys called “swimming zones”,, and at an urban beach, all extremely popular with residents and tourists. The first harbour was designed by PLOT, a studio which included the now famous Danish architect Bjarke Ingels 

This new condition of the old industrial harbour  has led to the birth of new initiatives and ecosystems, which has turned the harbour into a new lively urban space designed for life. For instance, the floating student residences Urban Rigger, placed in the water to solve the lack of space for new student housing, kayak rentals and clubs, stand up paddling, cliff diving competitions from the Opera house’s rooftop, solar-energy powered boats to explore the canals, wakeboard, and jacuzzi powered by sea water overlooking the city. It is no coincidence that Copenhagen was declared the best bathing city in the world by CNN in 2019. 

Facts  

  • CNN: “Copenhagen is the best city in the World for swimming” (2019)  
  • 10 designated swimming areas are present in Copenhagen Harbour  

  • The first Harbour Bath opened in 2002 and the latest in 2020  

  • The public waterbus runs on electricity, you can bring your bike on board for free, and it sails through the whole length of Copenhagen Harbour  

  • 6000 people are member of a kayak and rowing clubs 

  • 200 stand up paddle board users 

  • 600.000 passengers use the public harbour ferries  

Harbour Districts 

  • Nordhavn, the northern harbour, an upcoming hot-spot for super-sustainable architecture, design studios and new gastronomy 

  • Inderhavnen, the inner harbour, the most buzzling part of the harbour featuring some of the most iconic canals such as the colorful Nyhavn, which is probably the most photographed spot in town, the Amsterdam-inspired harbour-canals of Christianshavn, and the canals surrounding the Danish Parliament, Frederiksholm’s Canal and Gammel Strand. 

  • Sydhavn, where the city used to put what the eye didn’t want to see: heavy industry and container ships. Now, it is a booming residential area, with a Venice-of-the-north feeling in the district of Sluseholmen, innovative use of old buildings, such as Gemini Residence, with silos converted into modern apartments, and communities into the nature, such as Nokken and Musikbyen, where people conduct an alternative lifestyle by the water. 

Shooting locations, experiences and story ideas

Experience first-hand how focus on sustainability turned Copenhagen into a recreational, cultural part of the ciity 

The harbour baths - public swimming areas in Copenhagen Harbour 
In Copenhagen you are never far from a swimming area, both in summer and winter. and during summer you can also go for a swim in the many centrally located harbour baths. While Amager Beach Park offers 4.6 kilometers of white sand beach, Islands Brygge Harbour Bath has five basins. 
 
The Green Kayak – get a free kayak trip in return for collecting trash 
GreenKayak is a Copenhagen based environmental NGO that engages volunteers in the fight against environmental pollution while kayaking. This UNESCO Green citizen project invites everyone to jump aboard a aayak and paddle for free under the simple conditions of collecting trash from Copenhagen’s Canals. Alone in two seasons, volunteers from all over the World collected 10 tons of trash from the sea. 
 
Havhøst – harvesting seafood in Copenhagen harbour 
Danish association dedicated to maritime cultivation. Through events and activities, the organization encourages the use of marine areas in cities and suburbs to allow people of all ages to try their hand at local and sustainable food production. With a starting point in education and outreach, the organization is working to share knowledge and strengthen a network of communities across Denmark brought together to invigorate our oceans as we grow food. The port of Copenhagen is among the cleanest in the world, allowing, among other things, the cultivation of edible mussels and oysters. 

Copenhagen’s bicycle bridges across the canals 
Copenhagen’s iconic bike bridges provide a perfect photo or video reportage opportunity for those interested in Danish lifestyle, architecture and design. If you would like to capture images of the busiest cycling hours, 7:30-8:30 and 15:00 – 16:30 are the ideal times. 

GoBoat – solar-powered boats made from recycled plastic bottles 
Discover Copenhagen from the water as captain of your own solar-powered picnic boat in Copenhagen's harbour and canals. You can rent a boat at the GoBoat pavilion next to Islands Brygge harbour bath and embark on a unique maritime experience. The boats are powered by solar energy, which is generated via the boat rental's photovoltaic roof at Islands Brygge in Copenhagen. The boats are partly made from empty recycled plastic bottles, and solar panels on the roof of the GoBoat pavilion provide power for up to 20 electric-powered boats. The next generation of GoBoats will be made from 100% recycled fiber materials from Vestas wind turbines - as soon as the technology is fully developed. 

The harbour circle – a 13 km cycling and walking path around Copenhagen Harbour 
The route snakes its way through the neighbourhoods Islands Brygge, Amager, Sydhavnen, Vesterbro, the Inner City, Holmen, and Christianshavn, so it is guaranteed to leave you with insights into how diverse Copenhagen harbour really is. The path mixes city life and raw nature in the best way. You will pass by historical attractions and up-coming areas being developed at the speed of lightning. You will see unspoilt green areas, houseboats, swim zones, architectural gems and much more. If 13 kilometres sounds like too big of a commitment, the route is designed so you can do shorter chunks of the route of 2, 4 or 7 kilometres. See the route and some of the attractions along the way on this map

Other creative initiatives 

Dipping zones – winter bathing in Copenhagen Harbour (press photos

Copenhagen Harbour’s waterbuses – public ferries running on electricity 

Copenhot - saunas and floating jacuzzis with water from Copenhagen Harbour 

The floating shelter – camp while floating on water in Copenhagen Harbour 

Kaj Hotel – life on a houseboat built with recycled materials 

Christiansborg rundt - a 2 km swimming competition taking place in Copenhagen Harbour 

Torpedohallen - a former military shipyard completely restored and turned into high end design apartments 

Kulturhavn Festival (end of august) - a festival celebrating Copenhagen Harbour as a cultural, recreative part of the city 

In-depth articles

The City of Copenhagen on the enormous pervading potential in the recreational development of the Harbour of Copenhagen ( from 2013, still valid). 

Press Photos  

Download a selection pictures related to Copenhagen’s Harbour. The photographer must be credited