IntroThings to do

Summer in Denmark

“Summertime is definitely the best season of all in Denmark,” I heard one expat say to another. ”It’s really a pity to leave and miss it,” she continued longingly. I suppose many expats do as the Danes do: flee to more weather-stable (read: warm and sunny) climates for their holidays. I can’t say I blame them, because the Danish summer can be so changeable.

By Bente D. Knudsen Pictures: Mayra Navarrete, Nordsjællands Kystlivreddertjeneste

However, a Danish summer day can be really beautiful. And with an early sunrise and late sunset, a summer day seems endlessly long.

I remember, before having children, how when the weather was nice, we would grab hot dogs, cold beer, and drive north of Copenhagen after work.

Here we would sit on the beach until the sun set, have a late evening swim, a barbecue on the beach, and then drive back in the twilight with a dark city sky ahead and the last twinkle of sun-rays still visible in the sky behind us.

Danish summers are unpredictable; honestly, they are.

You have to be prepared for both warm, wonderful days and much cooler, rainier ones. That’s the luck of an expat, compared to tourists: you do have the chance to experience and enjoy the good part.

And you have to be prepared to do just that. Change your plans and go to the beach when the weather permits.

And get over the coldness of the sea; you just have to get in.

As soon as your body is immersed, count to 10 (maybe longer), and experience how the body adjusts to the water’s max of 20 degrees Celsius (actually, a good temperature here).

Not going in will make you miss out on the essence of a Danish summer; the clean, soft and silky texture of sea water surrounds your body, feeling much less salty, or so it seems, compared to warmer seas, with your skin shrinking, and filling with goose pimples, to protect it from the cold shock.

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Danish bathing water is of top quality

The EU Commission publishes a yearly bathing report with focus on water quality, bacteria and health risks for beaches and lakes in all 28 EU countries.

Its aim is to improve the water quality for bathers in general in the member countries.

The latest Danish figures (2015) for 923 beaches and 114 lakes were reported to the EU, who concluded that almost 86 percent had the highest-quality rating of excellent and a total of 97 percent had a satisfactory water quality.

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Find the secret beaches

You have public and secret beaches in Denmark, but even the secret ones are public.

More interesting, of course, is to find the secret ones, the ones hidden away from the general public and where only those living in the area really know them.

The challenge, apart from their secrecy, is accessibility, both concerning public transport, but even more so with parking.

The secret beaches are often located in summerhouse compounds, where, for safety reasons, parking is limited.

Another disadvantage of secret beaches is that some may lack toilet facilities or you have to walk some distance to find them.

The best suggestion for finding a secret beach is to ask any Dane with a summerhouse where they go, get them to point it out on a map and consider driving there on a sunny day.

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Lifeguards on your beach

With more than 1,300 beaches, it is not possible to have them all equipped with lifeguards.

Only the 59 biggest beaches, the ones with the most guests and the best facilities, have them during the main summer months and even then they are mostly present during the school summer holiday ( weeks 27 to 33) every day from around 10:00 to 18:00.

Denmark has three different services guarding the beaches.

The Nordsjællands Kystlivreddertjeneste (North Zealand Life Guard Service) guard 21 beaches during the school summer holidays on the North Zealand coast. In Copenhagen City on two beaches it is Team Bade, and on 36 beaches all over Denmark. you can find the yellow and red towers from the Tryg Foundation’s lifeguard organisation TrygFonden Surf Lifesaving.

All beaches are free to use, but parking may not be. Find a complete list further down in the article.

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Beaches in the Copenhagen area

Going to the beach in Copenhagen? Take your bike!

On a hot summer day, Copenhageners will be on the move to the beach.

I recommend the three different harbour baths, if you don’t have small children. Small children will miss out playing in the sand and running along the beach in the water – but of course it is feasible to take them.

Swimming in the middle of Copenhagen harbour is a special feeling. The water is clean and safe, and there is a great five metre high diving board.

On the island of Amager, the Amager Strand Park has been extended and renovated, and has lots of facilities, and if you can live with the building of new apartments in the background, the Svanemøllen Strand is also a good and easily accessible option.

Otherwise, head north towards Charlottenlund Fort, Bellevue in Klampenborg, or the smaller beaches in Taarbæk and Vedbæk, or you could also go south towards the beaches of Køge Bugt, where around Karlslunde there are lovely beaches as well.

If you want to find larger beaches, with long stretches of sand and where, if you walk a little, you can have it more to yourself, I recommend heading to the North Zealand coastline.

Particularly, Hornbæk Beach and Tisvildeleje Beach are great for a day trip. They can be reached by car or train.

Calculate about 50 minutes by car and 1.5 hours by train. You have to go via Hillerød with the S-train and change there.

They all have parking facilities (go early though) and when you feel like ice cream or a restaurant, their small villages have ice cream parlours, coffee houses, and restaurants that are open during the school holidays.

If you go outside the school holiday weeks they will be much less crowded, but also seem more “dead”, apart from sunny weekends.

Read also our article The North Zealand seaside tour for more inspiration and tips on where to go and what to see. Read MORE

A small tip from John Heine Mogensen, head of Nordkystens Livreddertjeneste; when lifeguards are present on the beaches they will update the weather reports regularly on the website.

“As the winds can be very different from the North Zealand coastline, compared to the Øresund coastline, a cloudy day in Copenhagen, might be a beautiful sunny one on the North Zealand coastline, so I can only recommend checking the weather of the beach you want to go to. It could still be worthwhile, even if, when looking out your own window, it does not seem to be a good day for a beach excursion.”

Vesterhavet versus the interior waters: Kattegat, Storebælt, Østersøen and Øresund

Vesterhavet is the Danish name for the North Sea coastline, and here the sea is much rougher and more dangerous than the calmer interior waters surrounding the rest of Denmark.

If you are going to Vesterhavet, the police actually recommend to head for a beach with a lifeguard present. The undercurrents are particularly strong there and take swimmers by surprise.

The interior waters are much calmer, but of course always be wary of strong winds and rough seas.

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Find here a complete list of all the beaches with lifeguards present

Nordsjællands Kystlivreddertjeneste – all beaches on the North Zealand Coastline with lifeguards.

During the school holiday ( week 27 to 33) you should be able to check for daily weather forecasts on their website www.livredningstjenesten.dk.
Hundested
Gråstenvej
Liseleje V
Liseleje Ø
Lille Kulgab
Stængehus
Tisvildeleje V
Tisvildeleje Ø
Strandbjerggård
Rågeleje
Smidstrup
Gilleleje
Strandbakkerne
Dronningmølle
Villingebæk
Hornbæk V
Hornbæk Ø
Langebro
Grønnehave
Snekkersten
Espergærde

Team Bade – Copenhagen City beaches with lifeguards. Information in Danish on Facebook/ Team Bade
Amager Strand
Svanemøllen Strand

TrygFonden’s beaches with lifeguards can be found in different parts of Denmark

Jutland
Skagen Sønderstrand
Tornby Strand
Palmestranden Frederikshavn
Løkken Strand
Blokhus Strand
Grenaa Sydstrand
Den Permanente Badeanstalt
Moesgaard Strand
Saksild Strand
Fredericia Østerstrand
Søndervig Strand
Hvide Sande Sydstrand
Henne Strand
Vejers Strand
Rindby Strand
Lakolk Strand

Funen
Kerteminde Nordstrand
Nyborg Strand

Zealand and Lolland
Marielyst Strand
Enø Strand
Feddet Strand
Hundige Strand
Ishøj Strand
Vallensbæk Strand
Brøndby Strand
Sluseholmen Havnebad
Fisketorvet Havnebad
Islands Brygge Havnebad
Charlottenlund Strandpark
Bellevue Strandpark
Furesøbad
Rørvig Strand ved Kabelhuset
Gudmindrup Strand
Høve Strand

Bornholm
Balka Strand
Antoinette Strand

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Ever heard of a Blue Flag beach?

Denmark is one of 46 countries participating in the international eco-label programme with the most Blue Flag beaches; in 2017, a total of 224 Danish beaches will have the blue flag flying.

In Denmark, Friluftsrådet, the Danish Outdoor Council, runs the Blue Flag Programme.

On the website, blaaflag.dk, a nice map has them all listed, also in English. According to the Danish Outdoor Council there is a lot of prestige (and tourism) in the Blue Flag eco-label, and Danish municipalities put a great deal of focus on having them.

Apart from water quality, they also focus on availability of parking and toilet facilities, lifesaving and first aid equipment, the availability of an emergency phone close to the beach. Some of them have lifeguards present on the beach (during school holiday weeks).

Blue Flag Centre

Another nice option with children during the summer is to  participate in the many fun and exciting activities at a Blue Flag Centre and learn more about the sea and coastal environment.

There are 14 Blue Flag Centres in Denmark, run in cooperation between the local municipalities and the Blue Flag organisation.

They are usually located in a harbour area and not on the beach.

Havnsø Havn, Kalundborg Municipality

Vandmanden – Rørvig, Odsherred Municipality

Tunen – Odden Havn, Odsherred Municipality

Sidesporet, Holbæk Municipality

Værkstedsvognen, Faaborg Municipality

Fjord & Bælt Centret, Kerteminde Municipality

Blå Flag Center Sønderborg, Sønderborg Municipality

Fiskeriets Hus, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality

Fjellerup Naturcenter, Norddjurs Municipality

Grenaa Naturskole, Norddjurs Municipality

Blå Flag Center Landkrabben – Ballen havn, Samsø Municipality

Det rullende Blå Flag center, Slagelse Municipality

Fjordhuset, Karrebæksminde, Næstved Municipality

Northsealiving, Thyborøn, Lemvig Municipality