Once, this was a workplace for 10,000 people. Today you can choose to see Refshale Island as a monument to its former glory, but the peninsula is also a breeding ground for some wild ideas and activities.
This rough industrial area is rapidly changing. Danish machinery and world-class ships were once produced here, but you will now find galleries, concert halls, sports facilities, beach bars, restaurants, space-rocket production… it’s as if just about anything is possible on the peninsula. And this includes organising the Eurovision Song Contest in a vast, deserted shed once used for shipbuilding.
Visitors can water-ski (for a fee) on a course at the entrance to the island, try their hand at go-karting, climb the world’s highest indoor climbing course, go kayaking, play beach volleyball – even indoors – or attend one of the many cultural events that take place here throughout the year. The metal festival, Copenhell, is the most high-profile.
But it’s also a great place to walk or ride a bike and observe the changing face of Copenhagen. Buildings come, buildings go. Where once was asphalt, plants are now popping up. Where once were plants, buildings are emerging.
On a cold winter’s day, when the place seems deserted, let your imagination run wild and try to picture thousands of people working in the gigantic B&W shipyard. The world’s first ocean-going motor ship, Selandia, was built here in 1912.
The shipyard closed in 1996. Today, the island is Copenhagen’s version of a frontier town, but the idea is that housing will eventually be built here. The former shipyard island will also be Copenhagen’s first CO2-neutral district.
Photo: Scanpix/Jens Nørgaard Larsen
DATA & LINKSRefshaleøen
- Ball games
- Bungee jumping
- Cultural history
- Flea market
- The peninsula was artificially created with landfill from the deepening of the Port of Copenhagen in the 19th century. In 1872, Burmeister & Wain (B&W) opened a shipyard here. The company also manufactured engines, but these were made in Christianshavn. Large ships were needed and Refshale Island had the space to build them.
- B&W was one of the world’s leading shipyards, partly because of production methods that meant the ships could be assembled indoors, in gigantic sheds. Some of these can still be seen on Refshale Island.
- The location is also significant in the history of the Danish labour movement. This was one of Denmark’s biggest workplaces, and strikes were not uncommon among B&W workers unhappy with their conditions. For decades, they were a real force in society, and a driving force in the labour movement’s struggle for decent wages and working conditions in Denmark.
- But from the 1970s onwards, competition from shipyards in Asia became increasingly fierce – and in 1996, it was finally over. B&W closed.
- Refshale Island was so named because on the map it looks a bit like a fox’s tail.
- Although the island was used for heavy industry for more than a century, much of it is green. There are many old trees, and grass, tansy and brambles grow where they can. In several places you see how nature gradually takes over an area after humans depart.
- In the water around the peninsula there are many fish, and anglers often set up their rods at Lynetten (a treatment plant), one of the places in the Port of Copenhagen where fishing is allowed.
- Most places on Refshale Island are accessible by wheelchair.
- Several restaurants/cafes in the area, but also a great place for a picnic.