The Boreas Basin is located in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea between Northeast Greenland and Svalbard. Towards the east, it is bounded by the ultraslow mid-ocean Knipovich Ridge. Here, we present a 340-km-long seismic refraction line acquired during the expedition ARK-XXIV/3 of research vessel Polarstern in 2009, using 18 ocean bottom seismometers. It crosses the central Boreas Basin from the Knipovich Ridge to the Northeast Greenland margin. Thus, the line provides the first reliable crustal structure information of this basin. In addition, the gravity data acquired parallel to the seismic refraction line are used to calculate a 2.5-D gravity model. The P-wave velocity model shows an unusual ∼3-km-thin oceanic crust with seismic velocities less than 6.3 km s−1, indicating the absence of a significant oceanic layer 3. Mantle velocities vary between 7.5 kms−1 in the uppermost mantle and 8.0 km s−1 at approximately 15 km depth. The low velocities within the upper mantle may be explained by 13 per cent serpentinisation, which is negligible at about 15 km depth. Furthermore, the S-wave velocity model shows low Vp/Vs ratios in the mantle, indicating a highly serpentinised mantle at shallow depths. The gravity model has crustal densities between 2.3 and 2.9 g cm−3, which also point towards the absence of a significant thick oceanic layer 3. The results of our seismic refraction line and other geophysical data indicate that the entire Boreas Basin opened at ultraslow spreading rates since at least ∼28 Ma. No evidence for an extinct spreading ridge in the centre of the Boreas Basin was found.