In the middle of Denmark’s Copenhagen is a community that operates independently. They have their own laws, their own flag and their own way of life. Freetown Christiania, or just Christiania, is a unique place that is much more than just a neighbourhood in Copenhagen. Here are 8 things you need to know before visiting Christiania.
Christiania is a self-governing society
Christiania isn’t simply a town; it’s a way of living. The alternative community originally sprang up in 1971, after a group of homeless people turned an abandoned military area into a home. Since then it’s evolved into an autonomous, adaptable community with almost 1000 members, who have all agree to live by a certain set of principles which include fairness, equality, no taxes and having their own laws completely independent of the Danish government. This country within a city within a country is a vibrant, fun, and often controversial area that has worked with the local government to stake its claim on the land and be recognised as free. It’s a counter-cultural movement that is very hippy in style and is almost a large-scale social experiment to see if it really works. So far, it does! Tourists are very welcome to visit of course, but there are rules.
There are rules in Christiania
Despite operating outside the laws of Denmark, Christiania has its own set of rules to keep the peace, many of which are based off idealistic ‘hippy’ views. The first rule is zero violence. The community doesn’t allow guns, knives, bulletproof vests, hard drugs, biker’s or gang colours or stealing – anything that may promote violence really. Another rule in Christiania is to not run. Running means there’s something to run from or away from, and the culture of fear is something they like to avoid. There’s no cars allowed either, everyone gets around on bikes. You also can’t take pictures, but more on that later. Otherwise, you’re free to do as you please!
Marijuana is common, but not necessarily legal
While hard drugs are very much banned, smoking marijuana is a big part of the lifestyle in Christiania. The hippy element is alive and well and there’s even a specific area to shop for hash called the Green Light District. While the local government has tried to crack down on the dealings in Christiania, its never quite stuck and the Green Light District still has plenty of stalls selling weed. A word of warning though, police raids are frequent and while police may turn a blind eye to residents sampling some, they won’t stand it from tourists and you can be slapped with a fine or arrested.
The café scene is amazing
Freetown Christiania has something for every taste. They’re very multicultural in their way of life, and in their way of dining. The cafes are chic, cool and serve fresh produce for less than the rather expensive city of Copenhagen. The community is very vegan and vegetarian friendly, but you can find meat here, of course. Many places only serve organic, locally grown food, and sell based on a buffet-style so nothing is wasted. Find a spot outside on a big wooden table and relax.
Other Danish people don’t dislike the community
You may think Christiania is hated in Copenhagen but you’d be very wrong. Many Danes view it is a successful community thanks to its values. Meditation and yoga are popular there, its very green and eco-friendly, a hub for artists and entrepreneurs, and a place for drug addicts to go. The last one may sound strange, but they’re accepted in Christiania (as are others who think alternatively) and able to recover and thrive as part of the community. The ever-practical Danes view it as a win for there to be a place that exists differently and for society to try a new path.
They are leading the charge in sustainability
On the green front (we don’t mean the weed), Christiania is doing better than most cities. Along with the self-sustaining economy and no car policy, the community is also eco-friendly. There’s a Reuse Station for swapping and sharing goods (the rest gets recycled), they gather rain water and store it in tanks, have composting toilets in areas that aren’t connected to the sewage system and many buildings are fitted with solar panels or windmills. There’s even a communal bathhouse that gets hot water from the solar panels in summer! They’re committed to composting and even have ‘smell police’ who go around to make sure everyone is doing it properly. The community’s hippy roots have fostered a movement of caring for the planet and ways to make it work in daily life.
It’s super colourful
The hippy lifestyle enjoyed by Christiania residents has extended to the buildings, streets and transport. Many bikes and houses have colourful, bright walls or vibrant murals. In fact, there’s some truly amazing street art in the town. It’s a real treat for the eyes and senses to discover a place that expresses its creativity so openly.
Do NOT take your camera
Cameras and photography are a big no-no in Christiania. The photos you do see of the free town are all by professional photographers or people who were explicitly given permission by the community. There are signs requesting no photos or videos be taken upon entry and the locals will enforce this. Sometimes they may not even let you enter if you’re carrying a camera! For this reason, it’s recommended you keep your mobile phone in your bag while checking out the town, just in case someone thinks you’re trying to take a sneaky snap.