Denmark and its capital, Copenhagen, are surrounded by water, and despite the country’s short summers, its beaches and harbours are some of the most popular spots for recreation and exercise all year round. Winter bathers take to the icy water like Vikings in the coldest months, and harbour baths like Islands Brygge are usually crowded on warm summer days.

Local architects and entrepreneurs revamped many of the harbour baths and coastlines close to the city in the 2000s to make them more attractive for recreational use, and some of their work is being used as inspiration for other Nordic and Northern European countries.

We feature some of the hot spots below and you can find more examples from Denmark in ISCA’s MOVEment Spaces Collection of Good Examples.

Amager Strandpark

Located south of Copenhagen close to the airport and Øresund’s bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden, Amager Strandpark (Amager Beach Park) is a man-made oasis for Copenhageners and visitors alike. Once a deserted swamp, this part of the coastline was transformed into a sandy beach in the 1930s and was renovated into a multipurpose beach park in 2005, when the architect firm Hasløv & Kjærsgaard designed a two-kilometre-long artificial island and lagoon to create more space for beach activities. Over 70,000 visitors can flock to the beach on a single day during the summer, and the water is used all year round for swimming and winter bathing, windsurfing and kite surfing, canoeing, sailing and fishing. The seafront is a popular spot for running, beach volleyball and football, parkour and strength training, rollerskating and blading, picnics and play.

Established in 1934, developed by Hasløv & Kjærsgaard and Hoffmann/Boskalis JV in 2005

Kastrup Sea Bath (Kastrup Søbad)

Kastrup Sea Bath is one of many architectural gems of the Ørestad region of Copenhagen. Conceived as a fully accessible outdoor swimming facility, Kastrup Sea Bath transformed an overlooked brownfield site into one of the most enchanting, recognisable and popular leisure destinations in Denmark. This is an architectural pearl and a truly magical place that offers good swimming opportunities with protection against the wind. Facilities include changing rooms with showers and lockers. For those interested in taking the plunge, there are 3 as well as 5 metre diving boards on the platform. At night, spotlights embedded in the wooden deck create a beautiful indirect lighting effect at the Sea Baths.

Developed by Tårnby municipality in 2005

Islands Brygge Harbour Baths

Islands Brygge Harbour Baths is one of the most popular outdoor swimming spots in Copenhagen and part of the four public Harbour Baths in the main canal. There are five pools in all, two of which are specifically for children and diving towers of 1, 3 and 5m. In the summertime lifeguards overview the facilities and also check water quality. Rather than imitating the indoor swimming bath, the Harbour Bath offers an urban harbour landscape with dry docks, piers, boat ramps, buoys, playgrounds and pontoons. There is a lawn in front of the pool where you find lots of room for sun bathing, picnics, ball games. During the colder months, there is a local winter bathing club using the facilities.

Developed by Copenhagen Municipality in 2002

Kalvebod Brygge Wave

Kalvebod Brygge Wave provides a connection between the water and the office buildings looming over the river. It represents a series of platforms above the river that take into account the wind and sun conditions to attract locals to the waterfront. The new recreational area blends together with cities existing infrastructure and connection networks. The pier allows for a flexible public space to host events and is perfect for the kayakers who use the harbour, who now have a kayak slide and a ‘kayak hotel’ storage facility. The new waterfront is welcoming to walkers, joggers, cyclists, skaters, swimmers and kayakers and also tourists who enjoy the exceptional view out over the harbour.

Developed by Copenhagen Municipality in 2014