Have you ever heard of Freetown Christiania? I hadn’t either until very recently. If you like Amsterdam, you’ll love Christiania. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed such a place could exist in today’s era of overbearing, oppressive governments. So what exactly is Freetown Christiania? I would describe it as stepping into a time machine and being transported back to a mini Woodstock (although Woodstock predates my time this is something like what I imagine it must have been like). That’s the atmosphere anyway but for all intents and purposes it would appear to a be a tiny self-contained, self-governing community or to put it another way: a libertarian’s dream. Wikipedia describes it as follows:
Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania) is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (84 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen. Civic authorities in Copenhagen regard Christiania as a large commune, but the area has a unique status in that it is regulated by a special law, the Christiania Law of 1989, which transfers parts of the supervision of the area from the municipality of Copenhagen to the state. It was closed by residents in April 2011, whilst discussions continued with the Danish government as to its future, but is now open again.
Christiania has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Its cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004. Since then, measures for normalising the legal status of the community have led to conflicts, police raids and negotiations which are ongoing.
Among many Christiania residents, the community is known as “staden” (“the town”), short for “fristaden” (“the freetown”).
Christiania is nothing like anything else I have ever seen, heard of or even imagined. You will find it nestled inside of Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen. Copenhagen is exactly what you would expect of a Scandinavian city, clean, orderly, rather expensive and everything operates with the precision of a fine Swiss watch. Getting there is something like an little “Alice in Wonderland” trip. You take the metro to Christianshavn station walk straight down Torvegade to Prinsessegade and make a left at Vestergaard Mobler (it’s a furniture store). Continue down Prinsessegade and pass Vor Frelsers Kirke (The Church of Our Saviour) on your left, or perhaps you might want to stop here and climb its famous “corkscrew spire” for a phenomenal view of the city (Christiania included). The first intersection you come to after the Church has an entrance to Christiania at the corner on your far right. Up to this point you are still in a normal every day Scandinavian capital city but just a few meters down the winding path in front of you will transport you into a completely different world.
There is another, more clearly marked entrance further down Prinsessegade on your right.
Unfortunately I cannot show you much in the way of additional photos. Google street view doesn’t work there and Christiania has two peculiar rules “no photos” and “no running”; they say it makes people nervous. You can check out the gallery on Christiania’s website but most of them are old and don’t do the place justice. All I can really tell you is that it’s like a modern day hippie commune. You will find lots of live music, delicious organic food, cheap (for Denmark) beer and of course more weed than you can shake a stick at. Weed (and I’m not even sure what else) is sold completely freely in Christiania; even more so than in Amsterdam. You will notice little tents like things with army camouflage stuff on them, this is where you can buy your weed or hash if you prefer. Beware, this stuff is nuclear strength. Our tour guide, a veteran of the place, smoked an entire joint by himself and got so stoned that he forgot where he was taking us after walking for two hours in the wrong direction.
All in all Christiania is best experienced in person. Get yourself some organic BBQ, a Christiania beer, a huge joint and enjoy some reggae music in one of the freest places in the western world.
I have never been to Denmark, but I have been to a similar place, albeit on a much smaller scale (12,500 square m) in the beautiful town of Ljubjana, Slovenia, called Metelkova. It’s a weed smoking, hippy skater vibe (or at least it was when I was there several years ago) and is another great place to go hang out with some more enlightened souls.