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Eight of the best places to swim in Copenhagen

By?Laura Hall,?
Getty Images People enjoying the sun at Kalvebod Wave (Credit: Getty Images)Getty Images

Whether you're relaxing at the snail-shaped Kastrup Sea Bath or taking a harbour dip at Kalvebod B?lge, Copenhagen is a paradise for swimmers.

Copenhagen’s lifeblood is saltwater: the ribbon of blue makes its way from the former shipyards at Refshale?en through the ancient heart of the city and out to the clear waters of the ?resund Strait at the other end. No matter where you are in the Danish capital, you’re never far from it.

After a concerted effort to clean up the harbour in the 1990s, this blue heart of the city was transformed into a playground for people young and old. Commuters ride the bright-yellow electric harbour ferries as swans glide, seals frolic and cormorants dive to the depths. It’s an urban fishing destination, a paddleboarder’s playground, and above all else, a paradise for swimmers who cut holes in the ice in winter and throw themselves in headfirst all summer long in the many floating pools.

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The SpeciaList

A keen swimmer and a Copenhagen insider, Laura Hall?is the author of Time Out Copenhagen and works as a journalist covering Scandinavia from the city. Her Instagram tracks her swimming adventures in the region’s cold seas.

(Credit: Arina Fedosiuk)

One thing’s for sure: if you’re coming to Copenhagen, don’t forget your swim kit. It’s a great way to meet the locals.

Of the many places to take a dip in the city, these eight are the best.

Laura Hall Kastrup Sea Bath is known as "The Snail" due to its curving form (Credit: Laura Hall)Laura Hall
Kastrup Sea Bath is known as "The Snail" due to its curving form (Credit: Laura Hall)

1. Best for architecture lovers: Kastrup Sea Bath

Even if you don't swim, it’s worth taking a trip to Kastrup Sea Bath, or as locals call it, "Sneglen" (The Snail). Shaped like a snail shell – or the swirl of a Danish pastry – it sits at the end of a wooden bridge 100m out into the ?resund. On a clear day, Sweden glimmers on the other side of this channel, fed by the Baltic Sea.

The structure has a curving wooden wall around it that gradually rises up to an 8m-tall diving platform. All around, benches, pontoons and decks allow swimmers to find different entry points into the water as well as somewhere to sunbathe on sunnier days. The water is clean, deep enough to jump into from the top platform and its sandy bottom is often fringed with seaweed. On a sunny day, it’s a busy spot; even in winter, the city’s dedicated bathers decorate the decks with their towels and thermoses while they dip. During the darker months, lights set into the wooden bridge lead the way to the sheltered spot.?

Conceived as a fully accessible outdoor swimming facility by White Arkitekter, this living sculpture won a bronze medal for the best sports and leisure facility by the Olympic Committee in 2009, and was nominated for The Mies van der Rohe architecture award in 2007.

Address: Amager Strandvej 301, Kastrup

Website: www.taarnby.dk/kultur-og-fritid/vandet-i-byen/kastrup-sobad/

Astrid Maria Rasmussen-Copenhagen Media Centre The floating swimming pool at Islands Brygge includes diving platforms and paddling pools (Credit: Astrid Maria Rasmussen-Copenhagen Media Centre)Astrid Maria Rasmussen-Copenhagen Media Centre
The floating swimming pool at Islands Brygge includes diving platforms and paddling pools (Credit: Astrid Maria Rasmussen-Copenhagen Media Centre)

2. Best for a city centre swim: Islands Brygge Harbour Bath

The most popular of all the city's public pools, Islands Brygge’s floating swimming pool is a symbol of Copenhagen’s love for the water and pride in its clean harbour. Attached to the Islands Brygge harbour park, a swathe of green space with community centres, playgrounds and ice cream vans along the waterfront, the pool attracts locals and tourists alike to its 75m pool, family-centric paddling pools and a diving platform that's shaped like the prow of a ship, with 1m, 3m and 5m springboards.

Tip

Don’t be shocked: it’s not unusual to take a nude dip in Copenhagen, especially in winter.

It's not just a place to swim; it's an architectural masterpiece. One of Bjarke Ingels’ first projects in the city, it exemplifies his playful, innovative style, with a red-and-white striped tower and unconventional triangular spaces designed to always give lifeguards a clear line of sight. When it opened in 2003, it kickstarted a revolution in the city, marking the end of Copenhagen's heavy shipping and boat-building past and guiding it to a new age where the water was a recreation zone. It's so popular in summer that you often can't find a space to lay down a towel, but it's also in use at other times of year including winter, when two portable saunas are stationed on the cobblestones nearby. Water quality is checked daily, and lifeguards are on duty from June to the end of August.

Address: Islands Brygge 14, 2300 K?benhavn S

Website: https://svoemkbh.kk.dk/islands-brygge

Getty Images (Credit: Getty Images)Getty Images

3. Best for families: Svanem?llen Beach

Copenhagen's newest urban beach, this 4,000 sq m swathe of sand has a pier, promenade and snack stand set between the chi-chi neighbourhood of Hellerup and fashionable Nordhavn with views of Svanem?lle power station. That’s not to say Svanem?llen Beach isn’t charming: set up with lifeguards in the late June-August season and designed for families with a gently shelving entry providing a great space for toddlers to play, it gets very busy in the summer. It's 130m-long pier also means there's an easy entry point right into the deep water for keen swimmers.

For a truer seaside feel, it makes sense to go to Amager Strandpark on the far south-east of the city, but this patch of yellow sand, which opened in June 2010, is only 10-15-minutes by bike from the winding streets of the old town, making it easier to fit into a day in the city. The water is clear and very clean: Copenhagen’s municipality introduced a zero-chemical purification technology using strong UV light to kill the bacteria in the water. Watch out for long distance swimmers gliding across the bay, beautiful yachts sailing from the nearby marina and pods of kayakers on still days.

Address: Strandpromenaden 36, 2100 K?benhavn ?

Website: https://svoemkbh.kk.dk/svanemoellestranden

Getty Images Bellevue Beach is synonymous with world-renowned architect Arne Jacobsen (Credit: Getty Images)Getty Images
Bellevue Beach is synonymous with world-renowned architect Arne Jacobsen (Credit: Getty Images)

4. Best for?1930s chic: Bellevue Beach

Bellevue Beach, 30 minutes' drive from the heart of the city, has been popular since the 1930s when architect Arne Jacobsen designed a beach complex where people could live, relax, holiday and swim. True to his completist form, he didn’t just design the white apartment buildings that line the mostly sandy beach here, he also designed lifeguard costumes, the jaunty blue-and-white striped lifeguard towers, the changing cabins and tickets, along with a restaurant and theatre that all overlook the sea. Not to mention all the interiors, right down to the theatre lighting.

Today, the 700m-long beach is backed by lawns and has a genteel air about it, plus all the soft white sand you can handle. Arne Jacobsen fans can take a guided architecture tour of the area; ice cream fans should look in at the nearby petrol station a 10-minute walk along the seaside promenade, which he also designed. It has an American diner feel and looks just like it did in 1936; most importantly, it serves soft serve ice cream with all the extras. Save the stress of fighting for a parking space and get to Bellevue Beach by train: Klampenborg Station is only a 10-minute walk away.?

Address: Strandvejen 340, 2930 Klampenborg

Phone: +45 3990 0695

Website: https://bellevuestrand.dk

Laura Hall Everything served at La Banchina is natural, organic, biodynamic and locally sourced (Credit: Laura Hall)Laura Hall
Everything served at La Banchina is natural, organic, biodynamic and locally sourced (Credit: Laura Hall)

5. Best for winter swimming: La Banchina

Christer Bredgaard's 16-seat farm-to-table restaurant in the redeveloped Refshale?en area of Copenhagen is catnip for foodies, boaties and swimmers alike. The small turquoise and white shack-like restaurant is perched on its own private corner of the harbour, where trees overhang the water, decks encircle it and behind them, a barrel sauna adds a dose of heat year-round, with a nearby garden hose, or the harbour, for a quick cool-down afterwards.

Refshale?en, the former shipbuilding area of Copenhagen, has seen huge changes in recent years, from being the industrial heart of the city to empty warehouses, and now regenerated as spaces for art, culture and activity. Nearby, the slopes of Copenhill, an urban ski slope on the top of a waste-management plant loom; La Banchina itself was once a ferry waiting room for workers in the shipyards and is now an iconic restaurant and swimming spot.

Both dinner and the sauna need to be booked in advance but it’s easy to rock up on a sunny day and buy a drink and food from the cafe, relax on the decks at the back next to the water, trail your hands in the cool water and swim in the calm, protected swimming zone. In the summer, those in the know arrive by boat, but in the winter you might well have it to yourself.

Address: Refshalevej 141A, 1432 Copenhagen

Phone: +45 31 26 65 61

Website: www.labanchina.dk/en

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/labanchinacph/

Thomas Hoyrup Christensen - Copenhagen Media Centre With two pools for children, Sluseholmen Harbour Bath is hugely popular with families (Credit: Thomas Hoyrup - Christensen-Copenhagen Media Centre)Thomas Hoyrup Christensen - Copenhagen Media Centre
With two pools for children, Sluseholmen Harbour Bath is hugely popular with families (Credit: Thomas Hoyrup - Christensen-Copenhagen Media Centre)

6. Best for a quiet swim: Sluseholmen Harbour?Bath?

Modelled on the iconic Islands Brygge floating swimming pool – but off the beaten track at the end of the harbour ferry line – family friendly Sluseholmen Harbour?Bath?(also known as?"The Coral Bath") is a great place to meet the locals. With a large asymmetric basin made for swimming, a plunge area beneath a 3.5m dive platform and two pools for children, it's used like a local park by local families on sunny days. Lifeguards slather themselves with sunscreen and watch out for kids and jellyfish, while under the water, a netting system keeps the bigger fish out. Little silver fish and tiny eels hide in fronds of soft green seaweed in the paddling pool to the delight of neighbourhood kids.

Views down the harbour track past the modern waterfront complex and take in the turrets of the old town and Copenhagen City Hall in the distance. The swimming pool, as with Copenhagen’s other floating pools, is made of wood and built on floating pontoons, and has cold water showers to wash off the salt after a dip. Benches around the outside are placed at different levels, allowing visitors to sprawl out, sunbathe and enjoy the boat-like lilting movement of the water underneath the deck.

Address: Ben Websters Vej 69, 2450 K?benhavn SV

Website: https://svoemkbh.kk.dk/sluseholmen

Getty Images Kalvebod B?lge has brought new life to an office-heavy stretch of the harbour (Credit: Getty Images)Getty Images
Kalvebod B?lge has brought new life to an office-heavy stretch of the harbour (Credit: Getty Images)

7. Best for a quick dip: Kalvebod B?lge

Directly across the harbour from the Islands Brygge swimming pool, the looping waves of Kalvebod B?lge announce it as a different kind of place to play. This undulating wooden boardwalk, designed by JDS Architects to bring a little life to this office-heavy stretch of the harbour, was created as a playful spot for kayakers. Under its curves, it hides a kayak hotel along with a kayak slide and kayak polo area, with an outdoor urban gym on the top. Next to it, a cordoned off area beckons swimmers.

Behind a row of yellow buoys, protected from the boat traffic in this part of the harbour, swimmers of all ages enjoy the clean harbour water at all times of year. An electronic info board monitors water quality, and on warm days, coffee carts line the pavement and promenade nearby.

A floating hexagonal wooden pool, designed so it can be moved around the harbour, is also regularly docked here. This structure is especially useful for those wanting to take a quick dip in winter – a true Copenhagen pastime. In fact, there's life in the water here all year round; just nearby, an urban mussel farm serves a dual purpose: providing food and helping to keep the water clean.

Address: Kalvebod Brygge, 1560 K?benhavn V

Website: https://svoemkbh.kk.dk/kalvebod-boelge

Rasmus Hjortshoj - Copenhagen Media Center Sandkaj is surrounded by decks positioned to make the most of the sun (Credit: Rasmus Hjortshoj - Copenhagen Media Center)Rasmus Hjortshoj - Copenhagen Media Center
Sandkaj is surrounded by decks positioned to make the most of the sun (Credit: Rasmus Hjortshoj - Copenhagen Media Center)

8. Best for sunbathing: Sandkaj

The city's newest swimming spot is in the ultra-desirable neighbourhood of Nordhavn, home to some of Copenhagen's most forward-thinking architectural practices. Here, overlooked by the award-winning UN building and the lighthouse-like Tip of Nord? building, and surrounded by decks positioned to make the most of the sun, Sandkaj swimming zone is busy with bathers.

On a sunny day, all comers can swim in the pools marked by the yellow buoys, plunge into the dipping zone and relax beside the water in Nordhavn's ?rhusgade quarter, which is lined with cafes and has an urban beach-style vibe. Boardwalks lead to the lovely local swimming club, a cluster of wooden buildings floating in the harbour offering somewhere to change as well as a sauna for members.

The club offers seasonal swim sessions, including a full moon swim once a month. The team that run this swimming club are also responsible for another of Nordhavn’s unique play spaces: the public rooftop playground and outdoor gym facility on top of a multi-storey car park, Konditaget Lüders.

Address: Sandkaj 27-30, 2150 Nordhavn

Website: https://svoemkbh.kk.dk/sandkaj

BBC Travel's The SpeciaList is a series of guides to popular and emerging destinations around the world, as seen through the eyes of local experts and tastemakers.

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