An urban beach, or city beach and sometimes beach club, is defined by urban planners as an artificially created environment in an urban setting that simulates a public beachfront through the use of sand, umbrellas and seating elements. It does not include swimming or any sort of natural sloping shoreline into the water (i.e. it is not a natural beach that happens to be in an urban area). The very point of the urban beach is to surprise and delight city residents, workers and tourists by inserting a beach atmosphere into an urban area that would otherwise be typical cityscape.
There are many variations of urban beaches. Urban beaches are often found along waterways, though some are inserted into town squares or other spaces far from water. The beach may be a seasonal installation over a roadway or parking lot, or it may be permanent. It is not necessarily public land though it is always open to the general public (sometimes with a small admission fee). As river or ocean swimming is not possible, many urban beaches include water features -- for example fountains, wading pools or misting towers -- for cooling off. Some urban beaches feature entertainment and food/beverage areas. A few include sports facilities such as beach volleyball.
Most urban beaches are designed to appeal to a general population, from families to young singles to older citizens. Despite the absence of swimming, swimwear is commonly seen alongside the more usual attire seen in major urban centres.
The popularity of urban beaches has increased in the early 21st century as the concept has been championed by urban planners, landscape architects and local politicians.
Although many cities had experimented with temporary sand installations for various festivals and artistic projects, the modern urban beach concept as a summertime public amenity in the middle of the city was popularized by the Paris-Plages, a program of seasonal urban beach installations along the Seine that started in 2002 and has been enormously successful. While some European urban beaches claim to predate Paris, all built since have been strongly influenced by its design elements and programming.
Many waterfront restaurants and bars around the globe have beach-themed sections, and as these have grown larger and added size and features there has been some crossover with urban beaches. For example, the two artificial beaches in New York City and many of the manmade beaches in German cities feature enclosed beach areas open to visitors, but the spaces are managed by private entities as food and drinks venues and close frequently for concerts and events. Strictly speaking, such locations are private enterprises and not true urban beaches, which can include commercial ventures but should maintain an atmosphere of public space.
This list is only of urban beaches as defined above, open to the public on a free or admission basis. It does not include fully private artificial beaches, natural beaches that exist in urban areas, playgrounds, dedicated waterparks or hardscape fountain plazas.
- Media related to City beaches at Wikimedia Commons