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Wonderful, wonderful swimming in Copenhagen

If you enjoy both travelling and open water swimming you’ll hardly need persuading of the delights in taking part in events in new locations. Even so, there are conditions. Previously, my criteria have been that the swim should be long enough to make the journey ‘worthwhile’ (whatever that means) and ideally it should be a scenic point-to-point swim in warm clear water with guaranteed good weather. The location should be easy to reach (preferably served by a budget airline) and there should be plenty of accommodation options.

Copenhagen easily fulfils the travel and accommodation criteria, but I was dubious about the others. A short, circular swim in a canal in a northern European city? But you needn’t worry because the swim is fantastic. There's also the added bonus that local swimmers are keen to welcome visitors and share their favourite swimming spots (scroll to end for details).

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Firstly, distance. The Christiansborgs Rundt (or Copenhagen Swim as it is know in English) is just 2km, which takes swimmers between 22 minutes and 90 minutes to complete, which isn’t really much time in the water for a weekend away. But this is a good thing as it leaves plenty of time to explore Copenhagen, without being too exhausted from the swim to do the exploring.

The swim is also intrinsically interesting as it circles a historic part of the city, taking in the Royal Library, the old stock exchange and the Christiansborg Palace, and passes under nine bridges and one long (and very dark) tunnel. When you can pack so much into a short distance, why swim further?

As for water temperature, I was pleasantly surprised. Although not tropical, at 18.9 degrees for last year’s race it was perfectly comfortable. I raced in a wetsuit (as did around 95% of the participants) but I swam on the course the previous day without and it was fine. Relatively shallow water and long northern summer days mean late summer temperatures are often in the high teens and can even break 20 degrees.

Copenhagen’s canals are connected directly to the Baltic, which in turn connects to the North Sea. The canal water is, in fact, sea water, which I hadn’t appreciated until I dived in and tasted it. However, the Baltic has some unique properties. Because of the large volume of fresh water flowing in from rivers, the salinity is much lower than other oceans – at between 0.5 and 1.0% compared to around 3.5%. It is thus brackish rather than saline. Salty water does flow in from the North Sea but because it is more dense than fresh water it sinks to the bottom giving the Baltic a steep salinity gradient.

The benefits of the canals being filled from the sea rather than rivers are that the clarity is excellent and the quality good. A downside is that the canals host a number of jellyfish and a few swimmers did get stung.

Finally, the weather. Well, sometimes you just have to take a chance and hope for the best. Last year we got it. Early morning cloud cleared away to blue skies. After my swim I spent the afternoon lazing on some wooden steps in bright sunlight while watching the elite swimmers complete five laps of the same course for the European cup 10km race. There are worse ways to pass your time.

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Danish swimmers ready to welcome international visitors

This year’s Christiansborg Rundt is scheduled for 27 August. But it’s not just the city centre where you can swim. Not far from the city are delightful beaches and other swimming spots – and local open water swimmers are keen to show them off to visitors.

For example, Copenwater is Copenhagen’s Club for Open Water Swimming based at Amager Strandpark, just outside of Copenhagen. It was founded in the Spring of 2015 and they hold multiple training sessions every week.  They are happy for visiting swimmers to join them either in the rougher sea conditions at the outside of the Strandpark or in the calmer water inside of the lagoon. Alternatively, you could hook up with Cool Kona, an open water swim community based in Roskilde, which is a 25-minute drive from Copenhagen.

So why not make a long weekend – or even a whole week – out of a trip to Denmark of the Copenhagen swim. Ideally, arrive a few days in advance, meet up with one (or more) of these local groups and try out a few more of the country’s swimming spots.

Enter the swim (either full 2km distance or 4x500m relay) at the Copenhagen Swim website:

Full details (including contact information) for the swimming groups are also on the Copenhagen Swim website at:

Other useful links for tourist information and accommodation are below:

Cover November17

Issue 8 November 2017

  • Tune up your stroke in preparation for winter training
  • Eight winter swimming events to enter now
  • Winter pre- and post-swim gear review
  • Plus, nutrition, technique, events, destinations, interviews and more of your stunning photography and swim stories

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