Copenhagen Lakes

Copenhagen Lakes: Get to know one of the city’s most iconic landmarks

They say that in Denmark, you’re never more than 50 kilometers away from the sea. Water plays a significant role in the country’s culture and industries, and nowhere is better to see that than in its capital city. Today, we’re going to explore the Copenhagen Lakes, and tell you everything you need to know about the Lakes in Copenhagen.

If you look at a map of Copenhagen, lakes and other waterways dominate the relatively flat landscape. The most famous lakes in Copenhagen are Søerne, which literally translates to “The Lakes” in English.

These rectangular bodies of water are a popular spot for locals to hang out, and they do so regardless of the weather. Even if you’re only visiting this beautiful city for a few days, you should allocate a bit of time to check them out.

When you travel to Copenhagen’s main north and western districts from the inner city, you’ll probably notice The Lakes as you dart along on your bike. But why are they even there, and what can you do around them? Is it possible to swim in these bodies of water?

Let’s find out…

Where are The Lakes in Copenhagen?

The Lakes are pretty much unmissable when you look at a map of Copenhagen. These bodies of water divide Indre By, which is the Danish capital’s central district, with some of its closest neighborhoods.

At the bottom end, The Lakes border hipster Vesterbro and upscale Frederiksberg. As they jaunt upwards, Copenhagen’s main lakes cover the outer edges of Nørrebro and neighboring Østerbro.

When they come back around, The Lakes go along some more of Østerbro before completing their loop on the borders of Indre By and Vesterbro. The smallest lakes are close to Vesterport Station and the planetarium.

Copenhagen Lakes
Credit: Marianne Pedersen

What are the different Copenhagen Lakes?

Copenhagen’s lakes are split in three, with two separated by different roadways. At the higher end toward Østerbro, two bridges connect the inner city and Nørrebro. One is Dronning Louises Bro, which is the world’s busiest bicycle route if that question ever comes up in a pub quiz.

The other is Fredensbro, which is the closest one to Østerbro.

At the other end of The Lakes, Gyldenløvesgade — which connects the main street in the city center with Ågade between Frederiksberg and Nørrebro — acts as another barrier. Here is where you’ll see Søpavillionen, known locally amongst younger Copenhageners as “Chlamydia Castle”. Do whatever you want with that information; it might come up in a quiz if you decide to go out for a beer in the city.

Moving back to family-friendly talking points, Kampmansgade and Gammel Kongevej are the other two streets that allow you to travel to Frederiksberg — a neighborhood popular with young families. In the north, Østerbrogade is the other bordering street.

As for The Lakes themselves, Sankt Jørgens Sø is the southernmost of the Copenhagen Lakes. It’s cut in half by Kampmannsgade, with Vesterbro on one side and Frederiksberg on the other.

In the middle, you’ll find Peblinge Sø. This is the smallest of The Lakes, with Indre By on one edge and Nørrebro on the other.

On the other side of Dronning Louises Bro, you’ll find Sortedams Sø. The area between that bridge and Fredensbro borders Indre By and Nørrebro, with the other side having Nørrebro on one side and Østerbro on the other.

What can you do at The Lakes in Copenhagen?

Now you know where the Copenhagen Lakes are, you won’t need to worry about feeling bemused at some suddenly large bodies of water when traveling from the inner city into its neighborhoods.

Denmark’s capital city is famed for its quality of life, and these lakes play a significant role in this. You can enjoy several leisure activities here, and we’ve listed our favorite things to do below.

Bring your own beer

Copenhagen might be a short train ride away from Sweden, but the alcohol laws in Denmark are much more relaxed than in its Nordic neighbor. Beer is typically affordable, and the quality is high; this is, of course, the land of “probably” the world’s greatest.

On the few warm summer days each year, few things in Copenhagen are more enjoyable than going to a store to buy some cans or bottles of beer — and finding a public space to enjoy them. You’re allowed to drink alcohol in public in Denmark; the only conditions are that you’re not annoying or harmful to others.

The Lakes are arguably the best place to enjoy a beer outside in Copenhagen. The shores are packed with Copenhageners when the weather gets good, and you’ll find various convenience stores nearby to grab a few.

If you can’t find any space along the water, Dronning Louises Bro has several benches for you to grab a seat and enjoy the manic cycling lanes.

Go for a run

The Danes consume a lot of alcohol, and it’s not uncommon to see people smoking when out and about. Both of those are without mentioning the high levels of red meat and pastry consumption.

Why are Copenhageners so slim and good-looking, then?

Simple: They’re an active bunch.

Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the Danish capital, and its flat topography makes it friendly for all levels. And if you’re looking for a running route, there are few — if any — better than The Lakes.

If you do one lap of The Lakes, you’ll cover 4.1 miles — which is roughly 6.5 kilometers. Of course, you can do a lap of fewer — or just one — if you’re not feeling that. For fewer crowds and peak aesthetics, sunrise is the best time to grab your sneakers and hit the trail.

When running around The Lakes, you’ll need to cross several streets. If you’re trying to beat a personal best, constantly stopping at red lights (and you will get scorned if you try crossing them before they turn green!) can get a little irritating. Our advice: chill out and enjoy the views.

Take it easy with a walk

Does the thought of running make you sick to the stomach? Good news: The Lakes are just as pleasant to walk around.

It’s not uncommon for Copenhageners to enjoy a Sunday stroll around these bodies of water or to do likewise in the evening. You’ll also probably hear a lot of awkward conversations as you walk around, namely because it’s also a popular place for Tinder dates.

The distance around The Lakes is the same as if you were going to run, and the walk will take you a few hours if you do all of them. You’ll find plenty of detours, though, and you might want to head into the different neighborhoods as well — so you should consider allocating a full day.

Sit down and enjoy your surroundings

Sure, the Danes are an active bunch. However, they also know when to take things easy. If you’ve been on your feet all day, there are worse places to sit down than on the shore of The Lakes.

You’ll find several benches dotted around all of The Lakes, and it’s an excellent place to sit down with a cup of coffee or something to eat. Sunset is arguably the best time for people-watching, but beware that it’s also pretty busy around then.

Go for a boat tour

During the summer, Copenhagen comes to life. The locals shake off the cobwebs of that long, dark, and windy winter; sometimes, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re in Southern Europe.

One of the most fun activities to do on The Lakes in Copenhagen during these months is to hire a paddling boat and take to the water. You’ll notice these darting around as they’re shaped like a swan; the water is relatively calm, so you shouldn’t need to worry about any sudden waves.

If you want to rent a boat, you’ll need to go to Søernes Bådudlejning. This is next to Dronning Louises Bro on the Nørrebro side of Peblinge Sø.

Ice skating

Generally speaking, winters in Copenhagen are a lot milder than in many cities in Scandinavia. However, the Danish capital will have a significant cold snap every three years or so — and when that happens, many of the city’s waterways freeze over.

Once the ice reaches a certain level of thickness, you can ice skate and play hockey on some of The Lakes. However, this is a rare occurrence — so you’ll need a bit of luck to coincide with your visit.

Can you cycle around The Lakes in Copenhagen?

Cycling is one of the most popular activities in Copenhagen, and for many, it’s also the primary form of transport. Considering that The Lakes are one of the Danish capital’s best recreational areas, it’s natural to question whether you’re allowed to cycle around The Lakes.

The shores of The Lakes are pedestrianized, and you’re therefore not allowed to cycle down there. However, you’ll find clearly-marked bike lanes at street level. Moreover, you can use the various tunnels to travel between different districts; this is particularly effective if you need to get from Østerbro to Vesterbro or Frederiksberg.

When cycling around The Lakes, you’ll need to get off your bike at Gammel Kongevej and Kampmannsgade to step down to the street.

Can you swim in The Lakes, Copenhagen?

Swimming is a popular activity in Copenhagen, and you’ll see people hopping in the water year-round. The city center has numerous designated harbor baths, and you’ll also find areas to swim in both Nordhavn and Sydhavnen.

Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to swim in The Lakes in Copenhagen. If you’re caught, you can expect to pay a fine.

Why do The Lakes in Copenhagen exist?

Having read this far, you’re probably wondering why the Copenhagen Lakes even exist. The area is somewhat artificial, but it also existed in a different form before becoming what it is today.

The Lakes started out as a stream but were modified to protect the city from attacks. Later on, they became a source for people to get drinking water in Copenhagen — but this stopped around 70 years ago.

In the 20th century, a proposal was made for a potential ring road around The Lakes — but the project was abandoned. Along with being a popular recreational area today, these bodies of water are also a protected area.

Copenhagen Lakes

What can you do around The Lakes in Copenhagen?

In addition to the numerous activities you can do on the shores of The Lakes, you’ll also find numerous enjoyable experiences in close proximity. To help you get the most out of your experience, we’ve listed our top picks below.

Cafés

Few cities in Europe can compete with Copenhagen’s café culture. Coffee is a huge deal here, and sheltering from the cold with a hot drink is one of the best ways to enjoy a bit of hygge.

Around The Lakes, you’ll find various places to grab a coffee and a pastry. One of the most popular places is Original Coffee, a chain with several stores throughout Copenhagen. If you choose to sit indoors, you’ll also enjoy a pretty view looking out on The Lakes.

Kaffesalonen is just off Dronning Louises Bro, and its yellow and red outdoor signage is nigh-on impossible to miss. In addition to coffee, this is an excellent place to enjoy a spot of brunch or dinner. It’s worth booking ahead, though, because it can get pretty crowded in the summer.

During the summer, you’ll also see numerous pop-up cafés on the shores — as well as on Dronning Louises Bro.

Bars

How does sitting down with your friends or partner and enjoying a cold drink on a warm evening sound? If you answered “good”, you’d be pleased to know that The Lakes are dotted with numerous bars for you to enjoy.

At the top end of The Lakes in Østerbro, you’ll find Søernes Ølbar. You’ll spot this place pretty easily as it’s always packed, and the outdoor seating area is pretty sizable. The interior is rustic and cozy, making it a great place to chill if you don’t fancy embracing the outdoor elements.

Søernes Ølbar has dozens of beers to choose from, with its beverages coming from Denmark and elsewhere on the globe.

Also close to The Lakes is Léanowski Bar, a fun establishment on Fælledvej. It’s just off Nørrebrogade and in a quarter of the Nørrebro district, where you’ll find a whole range of places to drink.

Léanowski Bar is easy-going and mainly frequented by a younger crowd. You can play several games here, including board games. Beers are well-priced; if you’re coming with a group of friends, five Tuborgs for 100 Danish Kroner is the way to go.

Restaurants

Copenhagen’s food scene has emerged from ordinary to astonishing in recent years, and The Lakes provide the perfect setting to grab something to eat.

One of the most popular restaurants close to Copenhagen’s Lakes is Cafe La Pausa. The venue is located just off the intersection where Gyldenløvesgade becomes Ågade; here, you’ll find various high-end dishes with a decent wine menu to choose from.

Of course, you can visit Copenhagen without trying some traditional Danish food. If that’s what you’re looking for, Restaurant Søpromenaden — which is on the corner of The Lakes in Østerbro — is one spot you should consider checking out.

Restaurant Søpromenaden has an extensive lunch and dinner menu, featuring a significant number of smørrebrød dishes and other classics like flæskesteg and frikadeller. 

Shopping

If you ask Copenhageners where to go shopping, The Lakes probably won’t be at the top of their recommendations. However, you can find a few places to get what you need in close proximity.

Close to Søpavillonen and on Gyldenløvesgade, you’ll find a variety of sports stores where you can buy attire for that run you’re planning. You can also purchase supplements, such as protein powder to help you recover afterward.

The top end of The Lakes on Østerbrogade also has various stores, including a Flying Tiger outlet. On top of that, you’ll also find various clothing stores and places to buy flowers.

Landmarks

The Lakes are a landmark in and of themselves, but they’re not the only point of interest in the area that they cover. Bordering one edge of Søerne is Kartoffelrækkerne, which translates in English to “The Potato Rows”. These iconic houses were first built for workers but have since become some of Copenhagen’s most desirable properties to live in.

On the Nørrebro side of The Lakes, next to Dronning Louises Bro, you’ll also notice several neon signs on some of the buildings there. Perhaps the most iconic is the Irma hen, which has been there since the 1930s. At night, we recommend coming with a tripod and getting a beautiful image for your photo collection.

Also close to The Lakes is the unmissable Mærsk Tower. This structure is part of the University of Copenhagen; at the top, you can enjoy a free view of the city on weekdays.

How do you get to The Lakes in Copenhagen?

Getting to The Lakes in Copenhagen couldn’t be simpler. As one of the city’s most central locations, it’s well-connected by public transport and easy to reach even without. Below, we’ll go through all of your options.

Bus

Many of Copenhagen’s buses operate around The Lakes, and a lot of them travel into different suburbs too. You’ll find plenty of stops along the way; the 5C to Copenhagen Airport is one bus that you can get to reach The Lakes from Herlev, Nørrebro, and other outer suburbs like Brønshøj.

Bike

Getting to The Lakes in Copenhagen is probably easiest done by bike. From the inner city, you only need to cycle up Gyldenløvesgade or up Bernstorffsgade and down Gammel Kongevej. The former of those will take you around five minutes or so.

If you want to reach The Lakes from Nyhavn, you can bike up the waterfront and through Østerbro. From Rosenborg Castle, simply bike up Sølvgade, and you’ll reach The Lakes in little time; this is another option if you’re coming from Nyhavn, though you’ll need to go up Gothersgade first.

Train

Copenhagen Central Station is not far from The Lakes, but you can also get the S-train to Nørreport or Vesterport — both of which are nearby. A little further afield is Østerport; from there, you’ll need to walk up Dag Hammarskjölds Allé in the opposite direction of Kastellet and Marmorkirken.

Metro

Copenhagen’s metro system is small but effective, and getting to The Lakes is pretty straightforward if you choose this method of transport. Nørreport is within walking distance of The Lakes, and Forum is arguably an even better option.

Both Forum and Nørreport are on the M1 and M2 lines; the M1 runs from Vanløse to Vestamager, with the M2 operating between Vanløse and Copenhagen Airport.

By foot

Getting around Copenhagen by foot is pretty straightforward, and walking to The Lakes is a good option if you don’t want to take public transport or rent a bike. From the city center, you can walk the entire way up Gyldenløvesgade until you reach The Lakes.

Alternatively, you can walk down Bernstorffsgade and along Gammel Kongevej; you’ll eventually find yourself at the Planetarium, and Sankt Jørgens Sø is just behind.

You can also walk from Rosenborg Castle to The Lakes by going along the bike route we mentioned earlier in this article; if you want to get to these bodies of water from Nørrebro, simply walk along Nørrebrogade until you reach Dronning Louises Bro.

Copenhagen’s lakes are a huge contributor to the city’s quality of life

The Copenhagen Lakes are one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and they’re an important meeting spot for locals. They’re pretty busy year-round, but in the summer is when they truly come to life. You’ll see long-term couples jaunting close to lovers on their first date, along with friends enjoying some chit-chat and runners looking to boost their fitness levels.

If you ever wanted to see why Copenhagen scores so highly in virtually every quality of life index, The Lakes are the perfect place to see everything for yourself. Not far away, you’ll find a good selection of places to eat and drink — plus seasonal activities that get the most out of the bright and dark days.

Regardless of whether you’re coming to visit or live in Copenhagen, The Lakes will almost certainly become one of your favorite spots. And no matter your reason for being in the Danish capital, learning the lay of the land before you arrive is a good idea.

If you’re planning an overnight stay, there are hundreds of hotels to choose from in Copenhagen.

So, why not check out our article outlining each of Copenhagen’s main districts?

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