Lifestyle & Culture

Christiania is evolving from squatter town to Copenhagen’s most eclectic experience

Captivating and controversial, the once notorious “anything goes” Christiania section of Copenhagen is changing ever so slightly. But it remains a must-visit attraction in this fabulous Danish capital.

This independent commune of Copenhagen is known for its progressive lifestyle, colorful buildings, beautiful nature, some excellent restaurants, yoga, meditations, and artisan products. The country’s popular Christiania Bikes  (see photos below) was founded in the 1972 when squatters moved into abandoned former military barracks.

christiania-color-and-barracks-dsc_4662

THESE FORMER ARMY BARRACKS WERE TAKEN OVER BY SQUATTERS IN 1971 AND DECLARED THE AUTONOMOUS, COMMUNAL COMMUNITY OF CHRISTIANIA. WITH BUSINESSES AND HOMES,  THEY BLEND IN WELL WITH THE ECLECTIC STREETS. (ALL PHOTOS BY IVANA AVRAMOVIC.)

With more people moving in, Christiania changed into the communal Freetown Christiania, where you cannot buy property, but you can apply and pay rent to the community, not the city or private landlords.

Entering Christiania, a tourist attraction and a place you could buy hash freely on the street, you are greeted with bright artsy murals and three rules to abide by while in Christiania – no running, no photos and no hard drugs.

Well, that was during my first visit in 2015.

The rules have been removed, “no photos” signs covered by pink hearts and the hash stands on the area’s most famous Pusher Street removed by the residents in early September.

New signs at the entrance and exit of Christiania have been put up asking visitors to buy their hash elsewhere.

Why this change?

On August 31, an incident outside of Christiania that involved shooting between the police and a person who was allegedly leaving the area with the earnings of the day changed all that. Stands on Pusher Street were demolished and removed by the residents end of August and signs went up asking people to buy their hash elsewhere. (Just for the record – soft and hard drugs are illegal in Denmark.)

On Thursday, residents of Christiania agreed to have video surveillance put up along the Pusher Street.

Long a legendary destination

“You have to go to Christiania if you are ever in Copenhagen,“ two college students told me during their visit to my home town in the Balkans more than 20 years ago.

So when I visited the amazing city of Copenhagen for the first time in 2015, I dragged my travel buddy to Christiania to see what they were talking about.

And once I learned about the recent development I had to go back during my visit earlier this month and see for myself how it had changed. And take those photos I couldn’t capture the year before!

So here are a few ….

P.S. Those college students were right – if you are in Copenhagen, you have to visit Christiania. Even if it takes you 20 years to get there. Where else are you going to find such an eclectic place? There’s no place else like it. Christiania is a unique experience in Europe.

christiania-entrance-dsc_4615

Christiania Entrance

You can get a feeling of the art and colors that await you from the mural at the entrance to Christiania. Until recently, photos were not allowed due to illicit activities, and this was the only image you could capture before you go in.bike-not-christiania-but-for-transport-dsc_2662

Christiana bikes

Christiana Bikes

Christiania Bikes, famous throughout Denmark, are made in this unconventional community.

christiania-sign-buy-hash-elsewhere-dsc_4686

Bikes are omnipresent in Copenhagen in all shapes and forms, used to transport yourself, children, dogs, guitars or anything else that needs to move from Point A to Point B.

You will want to go home and do the same even if you have not yet developed the Danes’ level of fitness.

Support Christiana …

Since an incident just outside of Christiania in Copenhagen on August 31, residents have put up a sign asking visitors to buy their hash elsewhere.

They also removed the stands on Pusher Street, wanting to live in a peaceful community without incidents or a need for police involvement. Drugs are illegal in Denmark, by the way.

pusher-street-christiania-dsc_4679

tumblr_mu1ptefxqf1sj62aco1_1280Pusher Street Christiania

Since the residents of Christiania – wanting peace and quiet in the areas they call home – removed the Pusher Street stands where visitors could openly buy hash, you can no longer see this aspect of this area that attracted tourists as well as locals.

You can still have a photo of yourself taken as a pusher. I did for fun of course, but I will not share that here. Though I had visited Pusher Street a year before when the stands were still there, there was no sign of them earlier this month and I had to look on a map to try to find it.

christiania-rules-sign-change-dsc_4633Christiania Rules Sign Change

The three rules of Christiania were until recently – no running, no photos, no hard drugs. They have now been covered with posters warning that you can be tested for drugs and suffer consequences if found positive and the Christiania is now drug-free.

christiania-sculpture-dsc_4625

Christiania Sculpture

The community of Christiania is full of sculptures built by residents from scrap materials. The artistic value of the experience of visiting is not to be underestimated whether you consider the sculptures, murals or just the colorfully painted homes.

Entering the EU

christiania-sign-entering-eu-dsc_4683As a nod to the fact they are their own community run by the rules of the Freetown Christiana, the sign at the exit of this tourist attraction informs visitors they are entering the EU. Christiania is a part of Copenhagen, founded in 1971 when squatters moved into abandoned military barracks.

It is known for its progressive life style, artisan shops, nature area, restaurants and clubs. And also for Pusher Street.

Christiania Smoking Souvenirs

Many of the stand on Christiania sell legal goods, such as souvenirs, T-Shirts, and smoking supplies. Those stands are still open and popular with tourists buying gifts with the name of Christiania to take home.

christiania-smoking-souvenirs-dsc_4636

 

christiania-operaen-dsc_4640Christiania Operaen

The entrance to Operaen, the famous music stage in Christiania, is just as interesting visually as it is musically.

“Operaen,” or “The Opera,” is an old brick-layered building on the upper end of Pusher Street, Christiania. It is an intimate music venue, nightclub and meeting place for the people of Christiania, as well as for frequent visitors, activists and the like.

The stage usually features the more down-to-earth kind of bands starting out with alternative rock, blues, jazz, hip hop, reggae and balkan. The small venue can hold from 60-to-100 people depending on the arrangements of the show, according to the VisitCopenhagen website.

dsc_4649

Christiania Restaurant

Did you know that you can experience some excellent dining in Christiania’s restaurants and eateries? Go a bit hungry when you visit and make sure you experience this aspect of the fourth largest tourist attraction in Copenhagen with Christiana drawing about half a million visitors per year.

christiania-military-barracks-dsc_4660

Christiania Military Barracks

A man bikes past one of the former military barracks in Christiania. The colorful community was first started in the 1971 when the first squatters moved in. The community grew from there to an eclectic area with restaurants, artisan businesses and homes for 850 residents in 84 acres (54 hectares) nowadays. The famous Christiania Bikes are made here.

christiania-rent-a-bike-dsc_4665

Christiania Rent a Bike

One of the famous businesses in Christiania is the Rent a Bike shop. When in Copenhagen, go by bike as the locals do. This is one of several rent a bike shops in the city.

souvenirs-3-dsc_4669Handmade souvenirs

You can buy souvenirs made by hand in Christiania that are as much art as they are funny. A stop at one of the shops is worthwhile for the artisan experience too.souvenirs-2dsc_4671

 

 

To Top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest news and updates from Dispatches Europe. Get lifestyle & culture, startup & tech, jobs and travel news dispatched to your inbox each week. Keep up with what's going on in Europe. Everything Expat.

You have Successfully Subscribed!