Similar spaces, different usage: A comparative study on how residents in the capitals of Finland and Denmark use cemeteries as recreational landscapes

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Several studies from the Nordic countries show that cemeteries not only fulfil an important societal function as places for the disposal of bodily remains; they are also recreational landscapes that people visit to reflect, experience nature or perhaps go for a walk with the dog. In this comparative study, based on PPGIS data collected between 2018 and 2020 from residents in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Helsinki (Finland), we explored the extent to which residents use urban cemeteries as everyday recreational landscapes. We also assessed users’ characteristics and the values they attached to the cemeteries. The results show that several of Copenhagen’s cemeteries were actively used for recreation, while those in Helsinki were used much less frequently for this purpose. Of the total 7276 mapped visiting points in Copenhagen, 16.5% were located within cemeteries, compared with 1.9% of the 4298 mapped visiting points in Helsinki, hence conclusions from Helsinki should be drawn with caution. Physical activity and experiencing nature were the most common values attached to cemeteries in Copenhagen, whereas social interaction, spirituality and tranquillity were most common for Helsinki cemeteries. The results also revealed that younger Danes were particularly inclined to use cemeteries for social interactions, physical activity and spirituality and tranquillity. In the discussion, we elaborate on spatial differences between the cases, such as the availability of other green spaces, the size of cemeteries or people living in proximity to a cemetery, as well as on differences in policies and practices, including how Copenhagen stands out in actively promoting municipal cemeteries as recreational landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number127598
JournalUrban Forestry & Urban Greening
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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