the harbour sauna

The year is moving through fast … the winter sauna is now set up and open at the harbour swimming pool at Islands Brygge.

the south harbour

looking north up the harbour towards the historic centre of the city from Cykelslangen - the cycle and pedestrian bridge near Fisketorvet


Obviously the harbour is a major asset for the city … after all Copenhagen was established here and prospered because of the harbour for both merchant trade and for a naval port.

The south part of the harbour below Langebro - the major bridges over the harbour at the south end of the old city - was busy wharves and commercial basins through into the 1950s and 1960s but, in terms of the history of the city, was relatively new as the land on either side had not been reclaimed from the sea until the late 19th century. 

Before that, this part of the harbour was a wide bay between Frederiksberg on the north shore and the Island of Amager on the opposite side. 

Vesterbro and the bay in 1860

These extensive port facilities were linked to a rapid growth in the population from 1850 or 1860 onwards so new meat and fish markets were built here to handle the large quantities of food coming into the city and then later there were wharves for the coal and diesel brought in for the power station.

Actually the harbour is still amazingly wide … some 330 metres wide just before Fisketorvet.

There was extensive new development in the late 20th century - mostly for offices but also a hotel on the city or west side - on Kalvebod Bygge below Langebro - and on the east or Amager side - along Islands Brygge - there is a line of large older apartment buildings, set back behind the commercial wharves, that was workers housing dating from around 1900 - but, since the late 20th century, land and some of the large redundant industrial buildings further south, including massive silos, have been converted to apartments and there are new apartment buildings on south under construction and nearing completion. 

Generally the architecture is inoffensive but generally flat roofed and large and depending on cladding rather than architectural form for any effect. It’s not that any outrageous or highly novel buildings are needed … people usually get tired of anything Post Modern fairly quickly or, come to that, get tired of anything trying too hard … but a little more colour and certainly more architectural features that create light and shade to have an effect across the blocks might have helped and more use of interesting sight lines through to buildings behind would reduce the impression of a string of boxes. Not much of this is bad architecture - just slightly boring architecture and easy architecture that barely does justice to the amazing setting. Future generations of architects and builders will probably look at this as a wasted opportunity.

looking across the harbour to to the buildings along Kalvebod Brygge from Islands Brygge

catching the sun



20 March 2018

This photo was taken today when walking back along the quayside at Islands Brygge on the east side of the harbour.

There had actually been snow in the morning and it had been cold enough to settle but at lunch time the cloud lifted and by mid afternoon the sun was out … low but surprisingly warm and people came out to make the most of it. 

It’s been a grey and dull Spring where February and March in Copenhagen can be clear with blue skies … cold but bright. So far this year there have not be many opportunities to sit outside and people who live in Copenhagen do sit outside … they take ownership of the streets at every opportunity and the city and the planners know that and wherever possible provide seating … so here it's a long curved bench with a high back to keep off the wind and trap the sun.

This is far from being a new use for street space ... using public space for leisure or exercise or just for sitting to watch the World go by is basically the way people here have worked out to live in a tightly-packed urban space so there are paintings in the National Gallery from the 18th century that show the citizens of Copenhagen promenading on the ramparts or sauntering across the squares. 

This area along the south part of the harbour - in front of a line of large apartment buildings from about 1900 - was busy commercial wharfs through the 1950s and 1960s but as the port facilities were moved out then the area was made into a very popular harbour-side park. Close to here is the harbour swimming area that is used all through the year - with a temporary sauna there in the winter - and the wide areas of grass on either side of this sitting area are used for sport, outdoor exhibitions and events. 


the outdoor library at Islands Brygge

Islands Brygge in the Autumn

Autumn at Islands Brygge


Autumn seems to have come early to Copenhagen this year. Nobody was swimming in the harbour baths at Islands Brygge today although I have seen some - the hardy or the foolhardy - swimming there on much much colder days than this.

But the park was still being used … by a group being put through an exercise regime and by a group huddled under umbrellas having a picnic and there was a group on bikes being given a lecture … my guess … this was one of the events for the 850th anniversary of the city being celebrated this week and next.

The quay here was a bustling part of the port through into the 1950s and 1960s with cranes and gantries and railway lines for loading and unloading the ships. Some of the evidence from that working port survives but not much. 

The park is crowded in the summer with people laid out in the sun … and watching people laid out in the sun ... and being seen ... a really good example of the way the city has been very careful about providing good space for people to colonise and use.

Even if it was a bit cold and wet today, this really is Our Urban Living Room ...... the subject of a major exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre back in January.

The quay of Islands Brygge in the early 20th century - before the construction of Langebro.

The apartment buildings on the right and the buildings of the sugar factory - the ornate gable in the distance - and some sections of the gantries and parts of the railway track survive

it’s not just sunbathing and swimming at Islands Brygge 


100% Foreign from Metropolis is now at Amager Kulturpunkt, Øresundsvej 6 until 20 September (photograph by METROPOLIS)



The harbour park at Islands Brygge is not just about sun and swimming …. far from it.

For the recent Harbour Festival there were bands and groups performing and Kulturhuset, about half way down the park, has a full program of events through the year including jazz concerts, dance sessions, hosting a Sunday flea market. 

Over the summer Metropolis staged several events here including their exhibition of photographs - 100% Foreign - about immigration to the city - with the personal stories of 100 refugees who have arrived in Copenhagen and made their homes here since 1956.

Also, close to Kulturhuset, is Bryggens Book Cupboard … a curious and amazing example of what happens when you give citizens outdoor space they can use for anything. They use it for anything … including a free book lending service.


Bryggens Book Cupboard

The book cupboard came as a thought to share 

as well as to create a common place on the pier where literature lovers 

and others can find a good book, meet and be inspired.

You can put in all the books you want. 

Put useful books you think could tempt others.

You are welcome to take the books you want.

However, there is a maximum of 3 books a day,

this is to avoid hamstring.

You are welcome to take 3 books again tomorrow :)

We will try a team order.

Help us keep the cupboard in order so it always seems inviting.

We hope to use that diligent, good reading!


Søren & Thomas