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Things to know about the bohemian community of Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen

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Just outside of Denmark’s Copenhagen is a colourful community that operates independently. They have their own laws, their own flag and their own way of life: this is Freetown Christiania, or just Christiania.

It’s a unique place that is so much more than just a neighbourhood in Copenhagen and holds an interesting history of its own. Travellers heading to Denmark will be tempted to stop by, as they should! But before you go, here are a few things you need to know before visiting Freetown Christiania, ranging from fun facts to rules and regulations.

Getting to Christiania

Freetown Christiania is a fairly popular town in Denmark, and one of the best as well! It’s easily accessible from Copenhagen, and you can get there by using the metro, bus, or even taking your bike for a sweet ride (Copenhagen is very pretty after all). Cars aren’t allowed within the community, or even the district, so don’t bother driving.

Christiania is located in Christianshavn and is one of the prettiest subsections of the country, so it’s well worth the visit!

What is Freetown Christiania?

What was once a military base has now become a bohemian haven on the outskirts of Copenhagen. The area sat abandoned for many years before residents finally returned and made it the neighbourhood we know today.

When it was abandoned by the military it was boarded up, but a group of hippies in the 70s broke it down and, over time, made it a safe space and their home. Though part of Denmark, Freetown Christiania operates as its own sovereign states and is independent from Danish government and law – hence, the name.

Things to do in Freetown Christiania

You may be mistakenly led into thinking that Christiania is quite small, but it’s not, and there’s surprisingly a lot to do here! Here are some top cultural recommendations.

1 – Go to the Christmas Markets

As with any European country, the Christmas market game is out of this world – especially because Denmark can get quite cold, and sometimes even snowy, this time of year. You’ll be treated to those classic charming stalls, lined with twinkling lights and bright baubles, and the air will be filled with the smell of baked almonds and mulled wine.

These Christmas markets take place indoors as well, so you’ll be able to escape the cold but still indulge in the festive atmosphere.

Christmas Markets

Image source:Contiki

2 – Buy a souvenir

If you want to buy yourself a little souvenir to remember your time in Christiania, there are loads of options! And after all, how often do you get to visit a bohemian heaven like this one? You need something to remember it by, and you can choose from t-shirts, magnets, as well as handmade jewellery and eclectic smoking pipes!

3 – View Copenhagen from the canal

If you’re looking for a moment of peace outside of all the brilliantly coloured restaurants and merchandise stalls, then you can head to a canal surrounded by trees. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverside, dotted by characteristically vibrant houses, and you can glimpse Copenhagen across the water.

4 – Visit ALIS Wonderland

A world famous skatepark, ALIS Wonderland was built by two friends born and raised in Christiania, so it’s infused with all that free-spirited local vibe. It got famous really fast and became a meeting point for Copenhagen’s skating community, as well as renowned skaters across the world, as well as street artists, and photographers ready to snap pics of the insane talent displayed here. 

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5 – Participate in Science & Cocktails

Science & Cocktails is a local weekly tradition that you absolutely cannot miss while you’re here. Taking place every second Tuesday, scientific presentations are given at the Christiania cinema, which becomes packed with people listening and enjoying chilled drinks. This event has been running since 2010 and has become a major hit amongst the residents.

This is a non-profit event, as well, so everyone involved works on a voluntary basis, from the speakers to the mixologists brewing up their own science experiments for you to enjoy. The presentations are in English, and they often turn into conversations between speakers and guests – so don’t be afraid to get involved and learn something new!

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Fun Facts about Freetown Christiania

1 – Christiania is a self-governing society

Christiania isn’t simply a town; it’s a way of living. Established in the early 70s, this alternative community has evolved into an autonomous, adaptable community with almost 1000 members. These members have all agreed 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 (kind of like The Vatican) 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! Kind and respectful tourists are very welcome to visit, of course!

2 – There are rules

Despite operating outside the laws of Denmark, Freetown Christiania has its own set of rules to keep the peace. Many of these rules are based on idealistic bohemian views. We’ll touch on some of the important ones for tourists to keep in mind below, but here are some that all inhabitants must obey.

Otherwise, you’re free to do as you please!

While hard drugs are very much banned, smoking and distributing weed is a big part of the lifestyle here. This, of course, lends itself to the community’s hippy roots, and the tradition has been kept alive and well. 

Pusher Street, or ‘The Green Light District’, is where the majority of the cannabis trade happens in Christiania. This trade isn’t technically legal as weed is not legal in Denmark, but the lines are a little blurry seeing as Christiania operates as its own state. Still, local government has tried to crack down on the dealings of Pusher Street, though it’s never stuck.

4 – The foodie scene is amazing

Much like the rest of Copenhagen, Christiania has something for every taste. They’re very multicultural in their way of life and in their way of dining. The cafés are chic and cool, and they serve fresh produce for less than their neighbouring cities.

Vegan and vegetarian options are also very common as part of the community subscribes to this diet themselves, so you’ll have no trouble finding some yummy treats! You can of course find meat here as well, if that’s what you fancy. The food here is organic and locally grown, and nothing is wasted.

5 – Freetown Christiania is very well-liked

It may seem like Christiania is the kind of place that would be hated by other Danish locals, but if you think that you’d be very wrong. Many Danes view Freetown Christiania as a successful community thanks to its peaceful and fair values. They are also an incredibly green and sustainable area, priding themselves on care for one another and the earth. 

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.

6 – It’s a hub for artists and the free-spirited

Given its roots, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that Christiania attracts a certain kind of person. Meditation and yoga are popular practices amongst the locals, and many artists of all disciplines take up residence here, as well as young entrepreneurs.

In fact, Christiania has an exceptional live music scene with venues that cater to their own special atmospheres. From Jazz festivals, to amateur nights hosted in smoky bars, and jam sessions every Sunday, it’s a lively community filled with creative people that just want to spread joy to each other.

7 – They are leading the charge in sustainability

On the green front (we don’t mean weed), Freetown Christiania is doing better than most cities, as is common with its Scandinavian counterparts. Along with a self-sustaining economy and a no car policy, the community is very eco-conscious.

Recycling, swapping, and sharing goods is a common and important practice, as well as composting toilets, rain-water collection, and buildings fitted with solar panels and windmills. They even have a small ‘police’ force that patrols town making sure each inhabitant is doing their part correctly. The community’s hippy roots have fostered a movement of caring for the planet and ways to make it work in daily life.

8 – It’s super colourful

The artsy and free-spirited vibe of Christiania has extended to the buildings, the streets, and even the modes of transport. Many bikes and houses have bright and vibrant walls and murals decorating them. In fact, there’s some truly amazing street art in the town!

It’s a real treat for the eyes and sense to discover a place that expresses and embraces its creativity so openly.

Rules in Christiania

While it’s called Freetown Christiania, and is a hippie, open-minded space, this does not mean you get to totally let loose and forgo respectful attitudes. Christiania has a set of rules that you should follow if you’re hoping for a pleasant time in this community. Don’t worry if you forget any of these, there’s a sign outside of Christiania with a list of the most important ones for you to adhere to.

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1 – Don’t take photos

It used to be that as you entered Christiania you’d be confronted with a sign asking you not to take any photos at all! These rules have become a little more lax over the years – you can take photos while in Freetown Christiania, but you should be very mindful of who and what you are photographing.

No photos of Pusher Street

Pusher Street, or ‘the Green Light District’ is the street where all kinds of weed goods are sold. You’re free to roam here, of course, but photos here are banned because, as the sign in front states, selling weed is still illegal. You don’t want to accidentally incriminate anyone through your Insta photo dump. Make sure you pop your camera, and even your phone, in your bag while you pass through so no one mistakes you for taking a sneaky pic.

Ask permission before taking pictures of people

Even if they’re only in a small corner of your photo, you should always ask the locals for their permission to be photographed. Not only is this just common courtesy, it’s important to remember that Christiania is a town where over 1000 people live – this is their home, and they won’t appreciate tourists photographing them while they relax at their favourite cafés. 

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2 – Don’t buy any marijuana

As paradoxical as this sounds, given the nature of ‘the Green Light District’ and what Christiania is known for, it’s best that you not make any illicit purchases during your visit. Not only is it illegal, but many of the residents do not support the trade in the area and have asked tourists to help them stop it by not making any purchases.

Plus, police raids are frequent here, and though they may turn a blind eye to the residents sampling hash, they won’t stand for it coming from tourists and you could be slapped with a hefty fine or arrest.

3 – Don’t run

As the sign out front will state, running in Christiania ‘causes panic’. Christiania is a safe community and you have nothing to worry about on your visit, but because of the cannabis business police visits aren’t infrequent, and running may give vendors the idea that police are about. Not only that, it also just makes people think that there is something to be running away from, which is not a great feeling to be instilling in the locals. It’s best to keep an easy pace – and that way you’ll really be able to soak up the sights!

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