Finished with Hygge - 3 - Christianshavn
East of the city centre (across the harbour) lies the bohemian neighbourhood of Christianshavn. Christianshavn began to be developed in the early 17th century by Christian IV as part of the fortifications of Copenhagen. Originally it grew as a merchant's town with influences from Dutch cities but it soon became incorporated into the City proper. Split by canals it has a nautical feel.
This walking tour will take in the best of Christianshavn, the ramparts, the canals, the old houses and churches, the harbour and the new Opera House. This tour definitely benefits going anti-clockwise as described, as all the sights and reveals are finer.
Note: The map (above) and photographs can be enlarged by clicking on them (opens in a new browser tab). On the map north is 30° clockwise, i.e. at 01:00 on an old school analogue clock.
The Metro station of "Christianshavn" on the M1 and M2 lines is the starting point for this tour (GPS 55.67224 12.59120). Alternative start points could be the Harbour Bus stops at Knippelsbro or The Opera.
Vor Frelsers Kirke:
The entrance to the metro station is in a pedestrian area (Christianshavns Torv), next to a busy road (Torvegade) and a canal (Christianshavns Kanal). Cross over the busy road (Torvegade) at the crossing by the canal, and take the narrow, cobbled road on the left (Overgade Oven Vandet) running alongside the canal in a north-easterly direction.
At the next crossroads (GPS 55.67332 12.59259) turn to the right Sankt Annæ Gade and the splendid spiralling spire of Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of Our Saviour) bursts into view. Go and take a look.
1 Consecrated in 1696 it is a jewel of Palladian-Netherlandic style - the interior is light and spacious. The tower and spire can be accessed for the outside (fee). Wooden ladder-stairs within the tower lead up to the bell tower. A door leads onto a viewing platform, and from there the spiral stairs can be climbed - the views are exceptional (perhaps the best high viewpoint in Copenhagen) but as height is gained the stairs become narrower and narrower and vertigo starts to rule.
To continue the journey pass the church and turn left (GPS 55.67238 12.59427) along Prinsessegade and continue, for 250m, to the main entrance of the independent kommune of Christiania (GPS 55.67426 12.59742), renowned for its alternative lifestyle. It contains a mixture of homemade houses, workshops, music venues and eateries. It is also renowned for its cannabis culture. Our tour will traverse the heart of Christiania, but if you feel that it is not for you then an alternative route is described in the following paragraph.
2 Go through the wooden arch marking the entrance to Christiania, and trend left then right to stay on the main route (Pusher Street). Keep going, straight ahead for 300m, until you reach the green recycling hall (Den Grønne Genbrugshal) (GPS 55.67300 12.60100).
Turn left here and continue for some 200m along "Fabriksområdet", until a turning on the left just past a 4-storey grey brick building (GPS 55.67415 12.60374). Turn left here and shortly you emerge onto Refshalevej, where a footbridge crosses the defensive moat. Go over this bridge to the other side (GPS 55.67489 12.60320).
If you wish to avoid Christiania continue along Prinsessagade for another 200m, to a junction with Refshalevej (xGPS 55.67541 12.59979). Turn right along Refshalevej, to where it bends left and the pedestrian bridge over the moat appears. Go over this bridge to the other side.
The area of Christianshavn north from here are a series of linked islands. The first is call Arsenal Island (Arsenaløen). North again is Frederiskholm, then Holmen, and finally (for now) Refshaleøen. These islands contain a mixture of historic buildings and recent developments, and a mixture of small businesses and residences.
3 On the north side of the bridge, turn right along the gravel track that skirts the side of the canal. Keep going to where the canal widens out next to a large, wooden boathouse (GPS 55.67768 12.60718).
Ahead on the left can be seen the the curved, black-roofed torpedo hall, followed by red-roofed boathouses. We will get a closer view of these later. To the right, behind the trees, is the grey bulk and chimneys of Amager Bakke. This is a waste-to-energy facility that also hosts a ski slope and a climbing wall. Our aim is just across the canal, but non-swimmers will have to use the bridge.
Turn left and follow the canal to where the gravel track turns left to join the road Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé and turn right to pass over the bridge (GPS 55.67896 12.60272). Immediately over the bridge turn right and take the stairs down to the canal side and go up the other side of the canal you have just come down. A row of terraced houses with neat gardens leads to a small landing jetty.
4 To the left the endless facade of the converted Torpedo Hall is unabashed. This one time maintenance hall for torpedo boats has been converted to 67 loft-style apartments. Ahead is an open passageway through the building (GPS 55.67855 12.60606) which leads to the boatyard where the innards of the building can be studied.
Continue through to the other side of the torpedo hall and turn left then first right onto Kanonbådsvej. To the right are the old wooden boathouses now converted into trendy offices for architects and media companies. Continue down Kanonbådsvej to the last of these boat houses and turn left onto Leo Mathisens Vej (GPS 55.68209 12.60725).
Head down Leo Mathisens Vej and go straight across Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé onto Fabrikmestervej. This leads to a bridge over a canal into a car park between gantry cranes. Proceed to the far side to a stunning harbour panorama (GPS 55.68372 12.60135). To the right is the military area of Nyholm and the retired frigate FDMS Peder Skram. Then the harbour entrance with Nordhavn beyond. A green patch marks the Citadel and then the harbour front leads to Amalienborg with the dome of the Marbel Church behind. The spire of Christiansborg is followed by the dark blocks of the modern Royal Theatre Playhouse. Finally close by is the Opera with its flying roof defying gravity.
5 With the aid of two bridges make your way to the front of the Opera House. This is the prime axis, across the harbour it splits Amalienborg square, the statue of Frederick V and the Marble Church. The Opera House itself is a thing to behold. Behind the glass and metal encased foyer is the pumpkin- shaped, maple wood auditorium. Being part of the audience for a performance there is a memorable experience.
Beyond the Opera House, another bridge leads to the Harbour Bus stop (GPS 55.68160 12.59952). Currently building work prevents access to this island, so instead walk down the south side of the Opera House to the next bridge. Go across this bridge and the next one on the left to land on Takkelloftvej between converted warehouses and boathouses (GPS 55.68031 12.60148). Turn right and follow the canalside over a shared pedestrian and cycle bridge, past the newly developed Paper Island (Papirøen).
6 A gateway on the left leads into the Kuglegård which is worth a peek. This was a historical naval base and also used as a store for canon balls (kanonkugler). Unsurprisingly this is now occupied by trendy offices and shops.
The canal leads to a 3-legged bridge (Trangravsbroen) (GPS 55.67766 12.59900). Take the right fork that leads towards an open area in front of an old warehouse. In summer this is an outdoor food quarter. Just before the first of the wooden sheds turn left onto Strandgade (GPS 55.67786 12.59788).
7 Go 100m down Strandgade to an opening on the right that leads to a dock (GPS 55.67726 12.59695). On the right the old warehouse is now called the North Atlantic House and contains a culture house representing Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The warehouse and dock has been a business area for trade with those islands for over 200 years.
Walk past the dock, along a paved area, to regain Strandgade (GPS 55.67654 12.59471), or, alternatively, walk along the harbourside for 100m to where a fenced off area guides you back to the same point. Continue down Strandgade and cross Christianshavn's canal where the colourful Christianshavn Færgecafé is found (GPS 55.67565 12.59248),
8 We have returned to the heart of old Christianshavn. There are two choices here, either carry on straight down Strandgade to the busy junction with Torvegade (GPS 55.67364 12.58913), or turn left and then first right, to go down Wildersgade to meet Torvegade, and then turn right to get to the crossing with Strandgade. Both routes have interesting old buildings, but Wildersgade is a bit less busy and has more variety in its buildings.
9 Cross the busy Torvegade and continue to the gates of Christian's Church (GPS 55.67270 12.58771). If the church is open it is worth a look inside for its unusual galleried boxes that give the impression of a theatre.
Follow the road (right and left) around the church and continue straight along Nikolai Eigtveds Gade (between buildings) to the edge of Christianshavn Canal (GPS 55.67192 12.58528). To the right is "The Circle Bridge" and beyond "The Black Diamond". Cross the Circle Bridge (Cirkelbroen) (GPS 55.67246 12.58376) - an adventurous swing-bridge designed by the artist Olafur Eliasson - and continue along the harbour front to the cycle bridge Lille Langebro (GPS 55.67074 12.58148).
10 Behind the trees the ramparts of Christianhavns defences rise up. To access them turn left down Langebrogade for 100m and take the path on the right, rising up through the trees, onto the path the runs along the top (GPS 55.67045 12.58309).
Take the path along the rampart to where it bends right to go round the end of the defnesive bastion that protrudes into the moat (GPS 55.66921 12.58547). Continue in then out again to the next bastion (GPS 55.66892 12.58952). In again, then where the third bastion turns out again, next to a children's playground take a set of stairs down to the road (Christians Voldgade). Turn left and at the junction with Amagergade turn right (GPS 55.67034 12.59210).
11 Amagergade is renowned for being the outdoor film location for the 1970's classic, Danish television comedy show "Huset på Christianshavn." The show still gets repeats to this day on the national television channel, or on catch-up.
At the end of Amagergade turn left onto Torvegade (GPS 55.67124 12.59363). A couple of blocks down Torvegade brings you back to the starting point at Christianshavn Metro station (GPS 55.67224 12.59120).
Notes on the Amalienborg axis: