AbstractWe present an application of generative adversarial networks (GANs) to reconstruct the sea level of the North Sea using a limited amount of data from tidal gauges (TGs). The application of this technique, which learns how to generate datasets with the same statistics as the training set, is explained in detail to ensure that interested scientists can implement it in similar or different oceanographic cases. Training is performed for all of 2016, and the model is validated on data from 3 months in 2017 and compared against reconstructions using the Kalman filter approach. Tests with datasets generated by an operational model (“true data”) demonstrated that using data from only 19 locations where TGs permanently operate is sufficient to generate an adequate reconstruction of the sea surface height (SSH) in the entire North Sea. The machine learning approach appeared successful when learning from different sources, which enabled us to feed the network with real observations from TGs and produce high‐quality reconstructions of the basin‐wide SSH. Individual reconstruction experiments using different combinations of training and target data during the training and validation process demonstrated similarities with data assimilation when errors in the data and model were not handled appropriately. The proposed method demonstrated good skill when analyzing both the full signal and the low‐frequency variability only. It was demonstrated that GANs are also skillful at learning and replicating processes with multiple time scales. The different skills in different areas of the North Sea are explained by the different signal‐to‐noise ratios associated with differences in regional dynamics.