Skydebanehaven – A 70-year-old secret playground for Copenhagen’s children

If Vesterbrogade feels busier than most other parts of the city, that’s because it is – and it’s not just a feeling, it’s a fact: this is the most densely populated area in the (albeit small) country of Denmark. Its streets edge the main train station, Københavens Hovedbanegård (Copenhagen’s Central Station); it’s where its red light district lies along Istedgade; and it’s home to its greatest concentration of hotels. But in among all this jostle and bustle live families in close quarters, and tucked into the middle of it all is Skydebanehaven, or the Shooting Range Garden.

When navigating the streets of five-storey-high wall-to-wall apartment buildings, it’s easy to wonder if you’re in the right place, but once you’re inside the walls of the garden, a whole world of play and leafy greenery opens up. Likened to a New York City garden for the way it fills after work with chatting, coffee drinking neighbours, and kids splashing around in its concrete paddling pool (only in the summer!), this is a place where children have played since 1947.

At one end of the space is Otto Krabbe’s Square, where ornate planting, expanses of grass and benches laid out in half-moon formations welcomes those who come to walk, sunbathe or muse in peace. At the other end is a large, varied legeplads (playground) – last renovated in 2009 – that’s edged by Shooting Range Wall, a structure that looks fittingly like a fairytale castle, and was erected in 1887 to protect residents from the bullets that flew around when it was used as a shooting range.

Centre stage in this playground is a huge colourful parrot which – as a nod to its past – is peppered with ‘bullet holes’. It’s for climbing inside, crawling up and exiting via a giant slide. There is also a large rope structure that my kids call ‘the spiderweb’; various see saw-style pieces of equipment; a red, castle-like climbing frame; a zip wire and, in one corner, a more natural area, furnished with an Indian settlement of canoes, teepees and a totem pole. There are also bikes and scooters of all descriptions to freely borrow, some of which are painted as police cars, ambulances and fire engines. The space is home to a basketball court, large sand pit and outdoor table tennis table – and the area’s only sledge run!

Skydebanehaven is also one of Copenhagen’s ‘staffed playgrounds’, which means kids as young as six, and up to age 15, are free to play here without their parents. There’s a small blue aktivitetshus (‘activity house’), where two staff from the Kommune (council) are present to oversee the indoor use of a mass of board games, construction toys, table tennis, pool and table football – but note, they’re not here to ‘look after’ the kids in the sense of formal childcare.

On picnic tables outside the blue house are often stacks of paper and boxes of pens and pencils, laid out for those kids who need a quiet pause from the fun. As in most Copenhagen playgrounds, there’s a well-maintained toilet here, both unisex for general use and disabled.

Hours can be comfortably killed at Skydebanehaven, so pack a picnic, step out of the hubbub and relax in this place of peace and play.

Opening hours 

Staffed activity house
Summer (May to Sep): Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm; Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, closed.
Winter (Oct to Apr): Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm; weekends, closed.


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