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 harbour, turning it into today’s recreational harbour with watersports such as swimming, kayaking, 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 basin, 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 that 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 seawater overlooking the city. It is no coincidence that Copenhagen was declared the best bathing city in the world by CNN in 2019.