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The annualSkagen Winter Swimming Festival takes place in late January

Winter swimming in Denmark

Foto: Skagen Turistbureau

If you thought winter in Denmark was about cosy slippers and glowing candles, you'd only be half right. It's also about diving into extremely cold water for an extra winter thrill. Find out all you have ever wanted to know about winter swimming in Denmark. 

Brr. Why in the world would anyone want to go swimming in the sea in wintry Denmark? You might well ask. For many of us, the thought of dipping a toe into icy cold water is enough to have us running for the hills (though, as you may remember, we don't have so many hills in Denmark). But up here in the north, winter swimming is seen as healthy for the body, good for the mind – and more than a little refreshing. It's one of our top things to do in the winter. 

Winter swimmers in North Jutland.

Foto:Mette Johnsen

What's up with Danes and winter swimming?

We love our cold dips - so much that we have our own festival dedicated to winter swimming - and have been throwing ourselves into cold water on dark days since the end of the 19th century, when the first winter bathing establishment was established in Copenhagen. Helgoland Badeanstalt on Amager was just the start of a winter bathing trend - and soon similar establishments cropped up all over Denmark. From the very beginning, winter swimming has been associated with health and well-being, with benefits for body and soul.

Why winter swimming is good for your health

Winter bathing really took hold in the 1970s, and until recently, it was these children of the flower power generation who kept the tradition alive. More recently, the health benefits of a freezing swim have made it super trend again as a winter activity. 

Research shows that winter swimming can strengthen the immune system and speed up blood circulation, among other key benefits. An icy dip also releases adrenaline, noadrenaline, serotonin, cortisol and dopamine, which means that a winter swim can have you feeling warm and fuzzy. Fitting, for the capital of cosiness, no?


Where to go winter swimming in Denmark

Denmark's long coastline gives you 8,700 km of opportunities to embrace, including wild wintry beaches and more secluded harbour baths (typically man-made spots with a little shelter from the wind when you get changed). If you're in Denmark in January, don't miss the Skagen Winter Swimming Festival at the end of January. Up here in the far north of Denmark, the tradition of winter swimming is strong, and you will find many beautiful places to winter swim - often with an associated sauna. Almost all Danish towns and small towns also have their own winter swimming clubs.

The annualSkagen Winter Swimming Festival takes place in late January

Foto:Skagen Turistbureau

Copenhageners also have plenty of popular spots to choose from - from the historic Helgoland Bathing Institution on Amagerstrand, to the urban Islands Brygge Havnebad (perfect for thawing out at one of Bryggen's many cosy cafes and restaurants afterwards) . Or how about combining the cold dip with a food and wine experience? La Banchina on Refshaleøen offers swimming, dining and a sauna for a winter warm up. If, on the other hand, you are just looking for a quick and close dive close to the city centre, you should try Copenhagen's new "dipping zone" -  a mobile, architect-designed swimming circle that is currently located by Kalvebod Bølge and opened late 2020.

The new mobile all year bathing zone by Kalvebod Bølge in Copenhagen Harbour
Foto: Zinna Mac-Eochaid/ Fokstrot
A couple enjoying the hot tub and sauna at CopenHot in Copenhagen
Foto: @lammaigal

Denmark's best saunas

What's a wintery swim without a sauna to warm you up again? You can choose between everything from urban saunas to wilderness saunas - and even floating saunas. Copenhot, in Copenhagen, offers a spa experience out of the ordinary. Enjoy a glass of bubbles and fresh winter air in a floating hot tub (yes, you read that right), or enjoy the sea view from a delicious sauna. They're currently relocating, but keep an eye out for when they get a new spot! The view at Lynæs Surfcenter in North Zealand is also well worth experiencing. After a refreshing dip in the fjord with the aptly names Isefjord, you can get warm in a beautiful sauna with sea views or a bubbling wilderness bath. 

The Sauna at North Shore Surf in Løkken, North Jutland
Foto: @espensakariassen
Barrel sauna at Lynæs Surf Center in North Zealand
Foto: Cornelius Ledang

Last but not least: stay cool!

Although winter swimming is a popular and healthy trend, there is no reason to throw common sense overboard. The sea is not to be joked with – especially not in winter. Never swim alone, familiarise yourself with current and wind conditions, and follow the general advice for winter swimming. If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, avoid winter bathing. And always ask your doctor if in doubt. And remember – there is no shame in changing your mind!


Foto:Daniel Rasmussen - Copenhagen Media Center

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