Copenhagen Harbour Baths

Copenhagen harbour baths: your guide to going for a swim in the Danish capital

Few cities, if any, place a greater emphasis on their residents’ wellbeing than Denmark’s capital. Harbour baths in Copenhagen are an integral part of the city’s commitment to accessibility; they’re used as a tool for exercise throughout the year and are common meeting spots for socialising during the warmer months. 

Swimming and bathing have several benefits, including lower stress levels and better cardiovascular fitness. Regardless of whether you live in Copenhagen or are simply coming to visit, most of its outdoor bathing spots are open to everyone. 

Before you hop in the water, though, it’s vital to ensure that you know about the rules and where you can swim. We’ll cover both of those in this article, as well as other useful bits of information — such as on-site facilities. 

Here’s your guide to the best Harbour baths in Copenhagen…

Is it safe to swim in Copenhagen?

Swimming in Copenhagen is extremely safe, and the city has made a concerted effort to ensure that the water quality is good enough for people. All of its main waterways have minimal — if any — pollution. 

The Danish capital also encourages residents to upkeep the city’s water quality levels. GreenKayak, for example, lets you explore the city from the water for free and pick up any waste you see along the way. 

Although Copenhagen has relatively low water pollution levels, you still have a responsibility to keep yourself and others safe. You should only stick to designated areas; it’s strictly forbidden to swim in Nyhavn and The Lakes, for example. 

If you’re swimming in the winter, you should take an extra few steps to protect yourself. First and foremost, try to ensure that you swim during daylight hours; this makes it easier for others to see you, and will give you peace of mind. 

You might see some people jump in during the colder months, but it’s safer to ease yourself in via the ladders available — especially if you’re inexperienced. Jumping in can shock your body and potentially lead to a heart attack. 

Regardless of when you swim in Copenhagen’s harbour, it’s a smart idea to ensure that you aren’t intoxicated. If you are, you increase your chances of injuring yourself or others — or worse.

Can you swim in Copenhagen harbour?

Copenhagen’s main waterways have several swimming areas open to the public. In addition to diving boards, you’ll find several ladders dotted along the harbour to help you get back to shore once you’re finished with your dip. 

You’ll be able to spot where you’re allowed to swim in the harbour because these areas are very clearly marked. This article by Danske Radio (DR) includes a map identifying all the places you can legally swim in Copenhagen’s city centre. 

These swimming areas might seem like an annoyance, but they’re there for your safety and shouldn’t be taken lightly. You must remember that you’re sharing the harbour with boats, and you risk severe injury or death if you don’t respect these boundaries. It’s difficult for sailors to see people in the water. 

Another reason that the boundaries exist is that Copenhagen’s water quality is different in separate sections of the harbour. 

In recent years, the municipality has become stricter with swimming outside designated zones. If you’re caught, you can expect to pay a hefty fine as a congratulations for your efforts. 

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the red flag will be raised in instances where it’s dangerous to swim in certain areas. If you see one of these, adhere to the advice and do not go into the water.

Copenhagen Harbour Baths

What are the facilities at Copenhagen harbour baths?

The facilities at communal baths in Copenhagen depend on where you go. You’ll find changing rooms and showers in some bathing areas, though these are often only for paying members. 

(Side-note: If showers are available, make sure you use these before you get in the water. It’s essential for hygiene purposes.) 

In other cases, you’ll have a bathing pool that you can step into; others have platforms that you can lower yourself into the water from. 

If you’re planning to use Copenhagen harbour baths for winter bathing, we recommend bringing a couple of things. First, you should have warm clothing that you can change into quickly when you get out — because you’re probably going to be just a little cold. 

Denmark is pretty windy for much of the year, and that only gets worse outside the summer months. The last thing you want is for all of your stuff to blow into the sea, and it’s a good idea to bring something heavy to put on top of your possessions and stop this from happening. 

Unlike at many spas in Copenhagen, towels are not supplied at most harbour baths. Bringing one of your own should be the first thing that you pack. 

Many Copenhagen harbour baths will have lifeguards overlooking the water from mid-May to September. 

What do I need to wear to go swimming in Copenhagen harbour baths?

Swimming etiquette differs depending on where you go in the world, so it’s worth reading up on what you should and shouldn’t do in Copenhagen. Most people will go swimming in proper swimwear, whether that’s a pair of trunks, a bikini, or a full swimsuit. 

Like in the other Nordic countries, including Finland, nudity isn’t as huge of a deal in Denmark as it is in other parts of the world. It’s not uncommon to see people jump in with nothing on, so this is an option in some bathing areas if you’d prefer to bring your birthday suit. 

Do you need to pay to go swimming in Copenhagen?

One of the best things about harbour baths in Copenhagen is that the basic facilities are accessible to everyone. Regardless of whether you’re a CEO or a cleaner, you can use many public bathing areas free of charge. 

However, you can add a bit of comfort to your experience if you’d prefer. Many bathing areas have annual memberships, many of which are pretty affordable. When you buy these, you’ll get access to a changing room at the very least.

Some bathing clubs have a higher-end membership that permits sauna access. However, you’ll often need to join a waiting list for these — so it’s something worth considering if you plan to stick around for the long run. 

Where can you go swimming in Copenhagen?

So far in this article, we’ve discussed the basics of swimming in Copenhagen’s public areas. You now know about swimming etiquette, along with the facilities available for paying and non-paying members. On top of that, you’re aware of how you can stay safe when swimming in the city’s harbour water. 

Now that we’ve covered the most important information, we can begin looking at where you can go swimming in the city. 

Below, you’ll find our 10 favourite spots that the locals frequent…

Copenhagen Harbour Baths
Credit: Leif Jørgensen

Sandkaj, Nordhavn 

Nordhavn is a trendy new district between the older part of Østerbro and Hellerup, one of Copenhagen’s higher-end coastal suburbs. It’s a hotbed of modern architecture and an excellent showcase for how urban regeneration done right can result in excellent living standards.

One of the best things about Nordhavn is that you’ll find very few tourists here. During the summer months, almost everyone lining the water will be locals. If you can’t find any space to put your towel down, consider getting in the water instead. 

Next to the German Embassy and opposite the UN building, you’ll find a bathing zone that’s free to use. You can get into the shallow pool or jump into the sea instead; the choice is yours. 

It’s worth noting that you are not allowed to swim all the way over to the UN building, and you’ll find markers that clearly outline where you can go in the water. If you choose not to comply with these, you risk getting a significant fine. 

While it’s free to use the bathing zone and you can change on the shore, you can also buy a membership to use the locker rooms. If you plan on winter bathing, you might want to consider this; the changing areas will provide shelter from the wind and make changing into your regular clothes a little less unbearable. 

To get to this bathing area, take the metro or S train to Nordhavn station. Alternatively, you can hop on the metro to Sandkaj. 

If you want to cycle to Sandkaj from central Copenhagen, you can go up the waterfront past the Little Mermaid and Kastellet. If you keep biking north along the perimeters of Østerbro, you’ll eventually arrive in Nordhavn.

Find places to stay in Nordhavn.

Copenhagen Harbour Baths
Credit: Jacob Friis Saxberg

Islands Brygge

Islands Brygge is one of Copenhagen’s many renovated waterfront areas and home to some of the city’s most desirable properties. It’s also a popular spot for locals to hang out during the summer; you can do several activities here, including skateboarding, playing basketball, and jumping into the harbour. 

Islands Brygge is one of the most famous Copenhagen harbour baths, and you can enjoy a dip in pools of varying depths. You’ll also find several diving boards if you’re feeling a little adventurous. 

Entering the bathing area at Islands Brygge is free. However, it might be a wiser idea to come here early during the summer because everything gets pretty crowded. You can come back here after work to relax, and people watch, safe in the knowledge that you don’t need to jostle with the crowds for a spot on the diving board. 

To get here, all you need to do is get on the metro to Islands Brygge station. The bathing area is a short walk away once you get back to ground level. 

If you want to cycle here from the city centre, bike across either Knippelsbro or Lille Langbro. 

Find places to stay in Islands Brygge.

Copenhagen Harbour Baths
Credit: News Oresund

Fisketorvet 

Fisketorvet is a little further away from the city centre than Islands Brygge. It’s not far from Vesterbro and the vibrant Meatpacking District, and the new Sydhavnen and Sluseholmen districts are also close by. 

You’ll probably have seen part of the district, but most likely from the sky; the iconic Cykelslangen cycling bridge runs through this part of the city. 

The bathing area at Fisketorvet is pretty extensive. You’ll find a swimming pool for children, along with a larger one that’s better suited to adults. Like Islands Brygge, you can also hop in the water from a diving board if you fancy doing so. 

Fisketorvet Havnebad is free to use, but it’s especially important that you stick to the designated areas here; Stromma has a stop here for its tourist boats, and you’ll also notice many people sailing recreationally during the summer. 

To get to this swimming area, it’s a short train journey from Copenhagen Central Station to Dybbølsbro. From there, it’s a three-minute bike ride or eight minutes away by foot. 

Copenhagen Harbour Baths

Kastrup Søbad

Amager is Copenhagen’s greatest outdoor playground and arguably the best place to enjoy being outside in all of Denmark. Not far from the airport, you’ll find one of the Danish capital’s most iconic structures and popular places to swim: Kastrup Søbad. 

The southern parts of Copenhagen, and pretty much all of Amager, can be particularly windy — even more so than the city centre. Kastrup Søbad helps solve some of that problem by offering a little shelter from the conditions on the outside. 

Some of the other harbour baths in Copenhagen that we’ve already mentioned have areas that are suitable for children. This, however, is not one of them; the sea is pretty deep here, so you should only use the area if you’re a good swimmer. 

At Kastrup Søbad, you can jump into the Øresund from diving boards that are three and five metres high, respectively. When the weather’s good, you can see over to the Turning Torso in Sweden — along with enjoying planes coming and going from Copenhagen Airport. 

To get to Kastrup Søbad, get on the M2 metro line to Femøren station. From there, it’s just over 10 minutes by foot to the sea bath. Alternatively, it’s around a 20-minute walk from Kastrup metro station — which is the next one along the line. 

From central Copenhagen, Kastrup Søbad is approximately 30 minutes away by bike. 

Copenhagen Harbour Baths

Amager Helgoland

Amager Strandpark is a popular spot for Copenhageners to soak up the sun during the summer months, and it’s a great spot to enjoy several watersports. If you fancy going for a swim, you’ll find a comprehensive bathing facility close to the entrance called Amager Helgoland. 

Amager Helgoland stands in the place of the former bathing area that was previously there and opened in 2008. It’s one of the most comprehensive harbour baths in Copenhagen, with a broad range of facilities. These include a unisex pool, plus one for men and another for women. 

This bathing area on Amager is open throughout the year; if you’re staying in Copenhagen long-term and want to make some new friends, you can join the winter bathing club and build up your resistance to the cold when the temperatures drop. 

To get to Amager Helgoland, you can get the metro to Amager Strand and walk to the beach park from there. Alternatively, it’s around a 25-minute bike ride from the city centre; you’ll see signposts to guide you in the right direction. 

Copenhagen Harbour Baths
Credit: Kevin Christopher Burke

Charlottenlund Søbad

Copenhagen’s northern suburbs have a diverse range of nature activities, and they’re particularly glorious to be in during the summer. In addition to several beaches, you’ll also find hiking and opportunities — plus places to enjoy a dip in the sea. 

Charlottenlund Søbad is one of the closest harbour baths to Copenhagen and within easy reach of the city centre. It looks somewhat similar to Amager Helgoland and has been around for over 100 years. Here, you can hop in the water year-round – along with enjoying tranquillity on the nearby beach. 

The sea bath has several additional facilities, including a changing area and a sauna with an excellent view out onto the Øresund. You can purchase one of several memberships, with some valid for one season and others year-round. 

To get to Charlottenlund Søbad, get the train to Charlottenlund Station. From there, it’s a short walk to the bathing area; you’ll see the light blue huts without too many issues. Alternatively, it’s a 30-minute bike ride from Copenhagen’s inner city

Copenhagen Harbour Baths
Credit: Niels Elgaard Larsen

Halvandet

Halvandet is a bit of a hidden gem, tucked away next to Refshaløen on the upper end of Amager opposite the city centre. So, if you’re looking for a quieter experience than you might get elsewhere in Copenhagen, this might be the place for you. 

At Halvandet, you can swim in Copenhagen’s harbour between mid-May and mid-September; the area you’re allowed to go for a dip is pretty small. Here, you’ll also find a beach club that hosts parties and various other events during the summer — while you’ve also got excellent street food and bars nearby at Reffen. 

To get to Halvandet, your best choice is by bike. It’s around 20 minutes from the city centre by bike; you can cross the bridge from Nyhavn and cycle in the opposite direction of Christianshavn. 

Alternatively, you can get the 2A bus towards Refshaløen.

Copenhagen Harbour Baths
Credit: Jens Cederskjold

Kalvebod Bølge

Kalvebod Brygge is one of Copenhagen’s numerous regenerated inner-city waterfront areas. But despite being a stone’s throw away from the main part of the capital, it’s not frequented by tourists as much as you might think. 

At the top end, you’ll find Kalvebod Bølge — yet another fine example of Copenhagen’s commitment to accessibility. This strip has an outdoor gym, along with places to hop in the harbour and cool off once you’ve completed your workout. 

Like many of the places we’ve mentioned on this list, Kalvebod Bølge is suitable for both swimming in the summer and winter bathing. The bathing zone is completely free to use and open 24/7. 

Getting to Kalvebod Bølge is straightforward; it’s not far from BLOX or the city hall. If you’re coming from Amagerbro or Christianshavn, you can bike across Lille Langebro or Knippelsbro to get here. 

Copenhagen Harbour Baths
Credit: Ann Priestley

Havnebadet, Sluseholmen

Sluseholmen is a little out of the city centre. It’s one of Copenhagen’s newer districts and features several modern apartments. Like Nordhavn, it’s popular for outdoor activities — and if you choose to move to the southern parts of the city, the bathing zone here is worth checking out. 

The bathing area at Sluseholmen is open from the beginning of June until late August. You’ll find pools of varying lengths, including some for children. The deepest pool ranges from 3-5 metres. 

Sluseholmen’s harbour bath is entirely free to enter, and lifeguards patrol the area during the summer months. 

To get to Sluseholmen, you can get the train to Sjælør and change for a bus towards the area. Alternatively, it’s a straightforward 20-minute bike ride from central Copenhagen. 

Søndre Refshalebassin

Finishing off our list of the best harbour baths in Copenhagen is Søndre Refshalebassin, a stone’s throw away from Refshaløen. This bathing area is close to the intriguing Urban Rigger student housing complex and has a reasonably-sized designated swimming zone close to the shore. 

The bathing area at Søndre Refshalebassin is open year-round. You won’t find any changing rooms or the like, though, so it’s worth making sure that you can change into your warmer clothes quickly if you plan on winter swimming. 

To get to Søndre Refshalebassin, you’ll need to hop on two wheels and cycle 15 minutes from central Copenhagen. The bathing area is free to use. 

Communal baths in Copenhagen are enjoyable and accessible

Copenhagen has done a thorough job of creating a city with the highest possible quality of life for its residents. While the cost of living is pretty high, you don’t need to have a huge salary to enjoy yourself; there are plenty of free activities, as most Copenhagen harbour baths highlight. 

The waterfront in central Copenhagen has spread its bathing areas out relatively well, making it easier and safer for you to enjoy a temporary escape from the summer heat or some good old mentality-building when the weather gets colder. 

Everyone is welcome at the Danish capital’s communal baths, regardless of whether they’re a visitor or local — and it’s an excellent way to meet Copenhageners. 

Copenhagen is big on rest and recovery, and one of the best ways to recuperate is at one of the city’s many spas. So, why not check out our article and book yourself a spot? 

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

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