Christianshavn, Holmen & Refshaleøen

Did you know that Copenhagen's coolest upcoming area is a bit out of the city? Check out our Copenhagen neighborhood guide for "the islands".
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Copenhagen classics and cool newcomers

Christianshavn, Holmen and Refshaleøen may very well be connected but they are in fact three quite different neighborhoods. What they do have in common is that all three are artificial islands in extension of each other.

While the famous King Christian IV, who had been inspired by the canals of Amsterdam, built Christianshavn in 1617, Holmen was built in 1680’s for navy purposes while Refshaleøen was built for industry in 1868. Though the islands are now quite old, Holmen and Refshaleøen still make up some of the “new” neighborhoods in Copenhagen.

Broens Gadekøkken
Street food at Broens Gadekøkken at Inderhavnsbroen in Christianshavn right across from Nyhavn

Where is Christianshavn, Holmen and Refshaleøen?

The small archipelago is divided from the Indre By by the port of Copenhagen and borders Amager to the east. You can get from Nyhavn to Christianshavn by bike or walk along Inderhavnsbroen or via Knippelsbro if you’re driving, walking og cykling. You can reach Holmen and Refshaleøen taking the yellow harbor bus if you want to avoid the long bike ride.

Map of Christianshavn
Tucked in between Indre By and Amager Christianshavn Holmen and Refshaleøen are some of Copenhagens coolest hotspots

Christianshavn – nostalgia and free spirits

With the gorgeous old buildings and enchanting life by the canals, Christianshavn will mesmerize you immediately. Christianshavn is one of the areas in Copenhagen where you will find some of the oldest buildings from the 17thand 18thcenturies, among others Vor Frelser Kirke – the church with the very noticeable 95 meter spiral spire.

Most famous – or infamous – is perhaps the freetown of Christiania, a former military base in Christianshavn, which was occupied by autonomous hippies in 1971. People settled in the old buildings, created their own unique neighborhood and built colorful houses along the water. Throughout time Christiania has been subject to much turmoil due to drug trade, which takes place in the infamous Pusher Street. While Pusher Street can seem a bit rough other parts of Christiania can be quite idyllic. Take a stroll through the village, eat vegan, try the local beer and check out the cool houses and the quirky architecture.

You should stay in Christianshavn if…

  • you want to eat breakfast or lunch by the water.
  • Christiania seems like a place you wouldn’t mind hanging out.
  • you want to stay central but with a bit of edge.
  • exploring Refshaleøen, Holmen and Amager is also on your agenda.
SUP in Christianshavn
Enjoy life by the canals of Christianshavn Photo Kim Wyon

Holmen – opera and a rural feel

This little cluster of islands is a zen oasis between lively Christianshavn and the rough, upcoming cool spot, Refshaleøen. Though not much is happening here, you will find world famous gourmet restaurant, Noma and Also Holmen is home to The Royal Opera House, which is based on a little island of its own.

Today Holmen is primarily a residential area with new apartment buildings offering a laidback luxurious lifestyle by the water as well as it is a creative area with cool startups. Though you are technically part of Indre By you get the feeling of being in an almost rural setting, surrounded by water.

Holmen is the place to stay if…

  • you want to stay in an Airbnb – there are no hotels in Holmen.
  • you enjoy the quiet life close to the city.
  • kayaking or daily swims are on your agenda.
  • you want to explore Copenhagen off the beaten track.
Copenhagen Opera House
Copenhagen Opera in Holmen Copenhagen

Refshaleøen – the Wild West of Copenhagen

20 years ago this concrete peninsula was basically just leftovers from an industry that collapsed in the 90’s. There’s definitely a bit of ‘Wild West’ going on though Refshaleøen is geographically located on an artificial island east of the city. Technicalities aside this little gem is a ‘must experience’ when you are travelling to Copenhagen. Perhaps the most hip and creative area you will experience even though it feels like it’s far from the city.

If climbing, skiing or bungy jumping is your thing, Refshaleøen is for you. If you love flee markets and contemporary art, Refshaleøen is for you. Do you just want to eat, drink and relax? Then Refshaleøen is also for you. Home to some of Denmark’s best restaurants such as Alchemist and Amass as well as Noma close by, this is the place to go if you want to go all in on the dining experiences. However, Refshaleøen may be even more famous for Reffen – a giant street food market offering tasty street food from all over the world in a heavenly, trendy-trashy atmosphere.

Urban Rigger
Urban Rigger unique student housing in containers on the water Photo Daniel Rasmussen

When walking – or cycling – around Refshaleøen you quickly sense that this place is a product of creative thinkers. There are no hotels and only few people living on the island (for now!) You will find luxurious student apartments in containers on the water, old warehouses that are turned into restaurants, offices or galleries, houseboats in all shapes and sizes and cute little bars by the water, such as La Banchina.

Visit Refshaleøen if…

  • you are in Copenhagen for more than 2 hours.
  • streetfood and cold cocktails in the summer sun is your idea of a good time.
  • adventure activities such as skiing, climbing, etc. is for you.
  • you want to experience the hippest and most dynamic part of Copenhagen.
Wine dine and indulge Reffen Street Food in Copenhagen offers a laid back atmosphere and great food

8 must do things around Christianshavn, Holmen and Refshaleøen

Only a few years ago Christianshavn was a poor, working class area with a lot of turmoil around Christiania, while Holmen and Refshaleøen were somewhat abandoned. Today these areas may very well make up the most innovative area of Copenhagen – a place to dream, create and enjoy life. Let’s have a look at 10 things to see, do or taste around Christianshavn, Holmen and Refshaleøen.

CopenHill – go skiing! 

When great minds are allowed to think big, CopenHill happens! A waste management center, which also functions as an artificial ski slope and hiking area. Enjoy a day on snowboard, go climbing or get a workout while you enjoy the view.

Go sailing – rent a boat

Join a guided tour around the canals or rent your own boat and explore the waterways of Indre By, Christianshavn and Holmen. A great way to get a new perspective – and not least to see the beauty of Christianshavn from the water!

Rent a boat or join a canal tour and experience Christianshavn from the water Photo Martin Heiberg

Reffen – eat, drink and enjoy the sun

Reffen is Copenhagen’s biggest street food market with more than 50 food stalls located in a sustainable colorful container village. Pasta, beer, tacos, smørrebrød, ice cream, burgers, you name it! It’s all right here and it’s absolutely delicious.

La Banchina – cold drinks, cold dips and life as it should be

A small restaurant located at a little harbor in Refshaleøen. La Banchina is the perfect mix of great, organic food, natural wines and a maritime atmosphere combined with the Danish concept of “hygge”. Enjoy summer days on the pier, jump in the water and heat up in the sauna.

La Banchina
A popular hangout La Banchina in Refshaleøen Photo Kim Wyon

Alchemist – eat like you’ve never eaten before

This is not just any restaurant! It’s more than what is on your plate! At Alchemist you will experience holistic dining where science, technology, art, performance and gastronomy come together in a unique set up. A meal never to be forgotten.

Copenhagen Contemporary (CC) – living art

Need some inspiration? Look no further! At Copenhagen Contemporary, also known as CC, you will find art in all its forms spread over 7.000 m2 in the former B&W welding hall. With a mix of installations, performance, video, paintings and much more you can look forward to entering a room of art with no boundaries.

Halvandet – it’s like a beach!

The harbor club with the beachy vibes, Halvandet, was one of the first places to open on Refshaleøen. Here you can indulge in champagne, cocktails, great food and snacks while enjoying the sun and the view of Copenhagen. Play volleyball, go for a swim or how about a game of petanque? The choice is all yours!

Christiania – let yourself loose

Though the police come to visit from time to time you have absolutely nothing to worry about as long as you don’t take photos while walking through Pusher Street. This place may not stick to the rules at all times but don’t let that get in the way for you to experience a unique, free spirited village in Copenhagen.

Freetown Christiania in Christianshavn Copenhagen Photo Kim Wyon

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