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Danes take their public spaces seriously. And in their decades-long effort to improve the quality of life in the capital city—pedestrian malls revamped parks— they’ve also rerouted the sewage lines to clean up the harbor.
Today, the water is so clean it’s tempting to jump in anywhere, and harbor swimming—with official beaches and baths boasting inventive designs—has become an essential part of life. Cooling off has never been so appealing with these visually stunning swim zones, not to mention the lively bars and restaurants popping up along with them. It’s become a favorite pastime in the city and the place to be.
Islands Brygge, a floating dock created by starchitect Bjarke Ingels—one of whose diving platforms look like the bow of a ship—opened in 2003, starting the craze. Next came the lap pools of harbor bath Fishketorvet (aka Copencabana) and the lagoon-like Sluseholmen, with a shape inspired by corals. All three are seasonal and overseen by lifeguards.
For the more adventurous, there are the unpatrolled swimming zones open year-round, including the picnic-friendly stepped decks around the funky Krøy- ers Plads development in Christianshavn. Close to bustling Nyhavn, the similarly tiered Kvæsthus Pier is an oasis of relative calm. Refshaleøen, a burgeoning cultural precinct in a former shipyard area, has a summer bar called Baby Baby (Refshalevej 151; 45-5122-8488) near the just-opened Søndre Refshalesbassin swimming zone. But it’s La Banchina, in the shipyard’s old ferry terminal, that offers the full experience—a New Nordic restaurant, a natural-wine bar, and refreshing dips off its jetty. “We started out slow in 2016, but this year it’s been crazy,” says owner Christer Bredgaard of the crowds. He’s added a sauna for the winter months. For other sporty aquatic activities, like kayak polo or Flyboarding, head to Halvandet, a bathing zone at the northern end of the shipyard. And perhaps the most interesting of all is the swimmable sculpture Kastrup Søbad (Amager Strandvej 301; 45-3076-0235), outside the city center at Amager Strandpark. It’s a spiraling architectural gem called “the Snail” by locals.