swim zone

The harbour in Copenhagen

Photo: Astrid Maria Rasmussen

Copenhagen’s harbour has always played a central role in the city, reflecting its spirit. Once a fishermen’s and merchants’ port, it since evolved into an industrial dock 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 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 June 2021, Copenhagen also installed its first biohuts in the harbour. The biohuts protect fish in a vulnerable stage of their life cycle and contribute to increasing the population and creating a better harbour environment.

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 bike bridges on your way.    

Ny Bike city - photo credits VisitCopenhagen 24 (1).jpg


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 by the Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group in six confined areas delimited by buoys called “swimming zones”, and at an urban beach, all extremely popular with local residents and tourists. The first harbour bath 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 have 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.

Urban Rigger

Photo:Giuseppe Liverino

Facts: The harbour in Copenhagen

  • CNN: “Copenhagen is the best city in the world for swimming” (2019).  
  • 10 designated swimming areas are present in Copenhagen harbour.  
  • Copenhagen harbour is the capital's blue gathering point and it stretches about 12 kilometres from Kalvebod in the South to Svanemøllebugten in the North.
  • The first harbour bath opened in 2002 and the latest in 2022 with many more in the years to come as Copenhagen Municipality will start building more throughout the years 2022 and 2023.  
  • The public waterbus sails through the whole length of Copenhagen harbour, you can bring your bike on board for free, and it runs entirely on electricity. It’s actually the first project in the world where public transport on the water is 100% electric.
  • 6000 people are members of kayak and rowing clubs. 
  • 200 stand-up paddleboard users. 
  • 600.000 passengers use the public harbour ferries. 
  • 2 million people use the harbour every year, including 230,00 swimmers.

Copenhagen harbour districts 

Giuseppe Liverino


Website / Press photos

From new developments to the extensive transformation of old buildings and silos, spot the development happening around Nordhavn, the northern harbour, which has a sustainable footprint and both a new metro and harbour bus stop making it easy to access.

Christianshavn harbour
Daniel Rasmussen

The inner harbour

Website / Press photos

The inner harbour, Inderhavnen, features some of the most iconic canals such as the colourful Nyhavn and the Dutch-inspired harbour canals of Christianshavn. Here, you will also find the canals surrounding the Danish Parliament, Frederiksholm's Canal and Gammel Strand.

Maria Sattrup


Website / Press photos

Sydhavn, used to be focused on heavy industry and container ships. Now, it is a booming residential area with canals in the district of Sluseholmen, innovative use of old buildings, such as Gemini Residence, with silos converted into modern apartments, and communities into nature, such as Nokken and Musikbyen.

Copenhagen harbour shooting locations and story ideas

Experience first-hand how a focus on harbour development turned Copenhagen into a recreational, cultural part of the city. 

Other creative harbour initiatives 

The Copenhagen canals are packed with creative and interesting initiatives. From entertaining and wellness experiences to harbour festivities and competitions.

Winter bathing in Copenhagen

In the last couple of years, the City of Copenhagen has turned Copenhagen's former industrial harbour into a recreative area, making the sensation of a cold dip a popular winter activity amongst locals. Read more about where and how to experience it here.

Kalvebod Bølge winter bathing

Winter bathing in Copenhagen

Photo: Mellanie Gandø

Press photos  - the harbour in Copenhagen

Download a selection of pictures related to Copenhagen’s harbour. Press photos - the harbour in Copenhagen. The photographer must be credited.  

Other related press material

Giuseppe Liverino

Senior Manager - Press & PR