Urban beach

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Urban beach at HTO Park in Toronto

An urban beach (also city beach and sometimes beach club) is an artificially-created environment in an urban setting which simulates a public beachfront, through the use of sand, beach umbrellas, and seating elements. Urban beaches are designed to surprise and delight city residents, workers, and visitors by inserting a beach atmosphere into an urban area that would otherwise be a 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, or food and 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. Although an urban beach may not have facilities for swimming, swimwear is commonly seen alongside the more usual attire seen in major urban centers.

The popularity of urban beaches increased in the early 21st century as the concept was championed by urban planners, landscape architects and local politicians.[1]


Natural urban beaches located at the sea have attracted tourists for a long time, such as the Copacabana of Rio, the central beach of San Sebastián or the City Beach in Stralsund. However, many of the urban beaches are used especially by the locals for relaxation. A good example of this is the beach of Barcola, which used to be connected to the center of Trieste by tram and now by bus. People of all ages take the opportunity to spend their free time or lunch breaks away from the heat of the city on the cool sea breeze.[2] There are even considerations to rebuild the sandy beach in Barcola, which was largely overbuilt by road construction in the 19th century.[3][4]

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.[5] The Paris Plages is the world's largest urban beach, and it transforms a stretch of the riverbanks into a beach experience complete with sand, deck chairs, and water activities.[6] While some European urban beaches claim to predate Paris, all built since have been strongly influenced by its design elements and programming.[7]

Beach bars[edit]

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.

List of beaches[edit]

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. [8]


  1. ^ "The Fun Is Real But the Beach Is Not". Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  2. ^ Mauro Covacich "Triest verkehrt: Fünfzehn Spaziergänge in der Stadt des Windes" (2012), p 93.
  3. ^ Da Barcola beach al "tubone" fino al park sotto le Rive: i tanti sogni irrealizzati nel cassetto di Trieste
  4. ^ "Barcola Granda: il rendering che mostra un nuovo lungomare." In: Trieste Cafe 11.02.2021.
  5. ^ "Which way to the beach? | Metro News". Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  6. ^ "Paris Tourist Office". November 30, 2023. Retrieved November 30, 2023.
  7. ^ "Modernes Leben - Goethe-Institut". www.goethe.de. Retrieved 2016-07-14.
  8. ^ Bolat, Alex. "Beach umbrella". Retrieved 2 October 2022.

External links[edit]