Copenhagen/ChristianiaCopenhagen : Christiania
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Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania), is a self-governing "free town" established in 1971 on the site of a military barracks as an alternative to mainstream culture.
The Danish government has recently cracked down on long-standing activities such as the open use of soft drugs (hard drugs, firearms, and automobiles are among the items prohibited though). Nonetheless it's quite safe and popular as a tourist site. Keep in mind that it's a residential area, not commercial. Photography of the central "Pusher Street" will not be tolerated by the dealers.
Christiania is car free, and parking conditions outside can be hellish in good weather, so do what everyone else does and jump on a bike. If that doesn't cut it, take public transit; there are two options:
- Take the metro to Christianshavn station. From there it's about a 6 minute walk (500m). When you exit the metro station continue straight ahead (south) until the 2nd intersection (there is a furniture store on the corner), turn left (east) down Prinsessegade and walk a couple of hundred meters. You won't miss it, if you have any sort of idea what you are looking for.
- You can also bus opt for bus 9A, which stops right outside the entrance. It leaves from both Vesterport and the central station every 8 minutes for most of the day.
There are hundreds of buildings on Christiania, in all sorts of imaginative shapes, sizes and colours - from old army buildings dating back to the by-gone barrack days, to elaborate self-build homes. The best way to see them is just walking around sucking in the atmosphere. All the buildings have their own unique story to tell - if you're friendly, open minded, a bit lucky - and outside the main tourist season, you can sometimes get locals to tell you the, often amazing, stories of their particular house, otherwise the regular walking tours are a good introduction to the main sights.
- Fredens Ark (Ark of Peace), Fredens Eng. The Ark is not only the largest building on Christiania, it is also the largest half-timbered house in Northern Europe. Built in 1837, It was originally the main building of the barracks, with sleeping and officers quarters. Today around 80 people live in the protected building, and the lower levels are home of the 'Rockmaskinen' club which has occational events and the community's social counseling (Herfra og videre) edit
- Mælkebøtten (The Dandelion), Langgaden. This cluster of buildings a good walk up Langgade, dates back to the middle of 19th century, and was previously the laboratory of the country department (Landetaten). The impressive gate-building is probably the finest of the old buildings on Christiania, and the wonderful contrast of the Buddhist Stupa out in front makes for a good photo opportunity, above the gate is King Christian IIV's gold monogram. If you step inside the yellow building opposite is now called the townhall, but it used to be a rocket factory. The whole complex is protected. edit
- Vilhelms Bastion (Børneengen), Nordområdet. Is one of the old bastions of the fortification on which Christiania is built, and has a set of protected buildings. Kommandørhuset is a pretty, yellow, half timbered house which used to serve as a guard building, the eave on the eastern side was extended to allow for the soldiers to stay dry during rain. It was supposedly built and constructed by an Italian architect. Another protected building here is the Krudthuset, the oldest building on the mound from 1665, which used to be a gunpowder store but is now used as a residence. The area is now used for many activities for the local kids, with a riding school, stables and playgrounds. edit
- Gallopperiet (Stadens Museum for Kunst, Christiania Art Museum), Sydområdet ("In), . Tuesday-Sunday 2PM-7PM.. A pun to the much more conformist "Statens Museum for Kunst" in downtown, Stadens (which is the colloquial name for Christiania) Museum for kunst is a gallery and book café with changing art exhibitions. It's in the 2nd floor of the Loppen building which was a military storage building when it was constructed back in 1863. A good call, since the quite large and rustic exbition space, is a really pleasant place to breeze through. edit
- Galleri Leonard, Sydområdet. Variable opening hours. Painter's workshop and exhibition in the ground floor of the "Loppen" building. It's run by a local artists, and sometimes a makeshift stage for small concerts. edit
Christiania is something of a powerhouse in Copenhagen's cultural life, especially on the alternative scene, and there will almost always be something going on, in one of the many club and venues dotted around the central part near Pusher Street, or the open air scene on Café Nemoland (listed under drink)
- ALIS in Wonderland, Prærieområdet. From humble beginnings with a small skate ramp founded by a skater-oriented community on Pusher Street (ALIS), this skate ramp - crafted by local skaters who were invited to build whatever they wanted after their old ramp was forced to relocate from noise complaints. The efforts turned into roll-ins, pool corners and oververts, and after a harsh winter took its toll with the ramp was in dire straits, friends were called back in - and many hours later the ramp was indoor, with inside and outside balconies and an exotic atmosphere with Hawaiian paintings and hammocks. The outside 'Wonderland' mural drawing from the familiar fairytale is an attraction in it's own right. edit
- Christiania Jazzclub, Mælkevejen (The 2nd building on your left after you enter Pusher Street.), ([email protected]), . W&F:9PM-late. This Jazz club, housed in Christiania's childrens theatre, has an amazing atmosphere - and if you play any instruments, often you can go to stage and jam away at the late hours of the night after the band of the night have finished up. edit
- Den Grå Hal (The Grey Hall), Refshalevej 2 (Turn left at the entrance to Pusher Street), ☎ +45 21 22 98 74. Christiania's biggest cultural venue with room for 1500 people, 'Den Grå Hal' is something of an authority on the Danish music scene, and despite it's somewhat modest appearance, has hosted some of the biggest stars in music, like Metallica, Bob Dylan and Rage Against the Machine. But it's not just music going on here, often there are other events like markets theatre or parties taking place. The building was originally erected as a riding hall for the military back in 1891. Event's are usually listed on Christiania's website. Price varies. edit
- Loppen, Sydområdet 4B, ☎ +45 32 57 84 22 ([email protected]), . Is a cool rock club in Christiania where various alternative bands play live. The room in the old artillery storage with low ceilings and sturdy dark wooden support pillars can fit up to 450 people. The low stage takes you face to face with the bands playing, creating a really intimate atmosphere, much appreciated by local bands who often forego bookings at bigger stages elsewhere to play here. edit
- Energiværkstedet (the Energy workshop), Mælkevejen, ☎ +45 20 84 87 12 ([email protected]). Part of a local association working with with spiritual energies: Yoga, T'ai Chi Chuan, Aikido, massage, Shiatsu, body consciousness etc. There are a lot of lectures going on, but at no particular schedule except for regular Tai Chi sessions. But if you are into the scene, send a mail in advance and you might be able to work something out. edit
Christiania offers some truly unique shopping, apart from its major export item: Cannabis. If you want to bring home a really unique souvenir from Copenhagen, there are a bunch of interesting options here. In addition to the stores listed below, there is a Bazaar at the entrance to Pusher Street where you can buy everything from Cannabis posters, bongs and Jamaican clothing.
Despite the best efforts by the police to shut down the Cannabis trade here, the selling is still going on, relatively openly. The Cannabis market in Copenhagen is estimated to bring in around 1 billion kroner (€134 mio) annually, and with Christiania still being the epicenter, neither is there much chance of the trade disappearing any time soon, but potential buyers should be aware that police occasionally patrol the area, and you could potentially be fined if you are caught possessing hashish. Visitors should also take note that harder drugs are frowned upon in Christiania, and no attempts should be made to buy (or even ask for) harder drugs.
- CA Butikken (The Christiania store), (Corner of Prinsessegade & Bådmandsstræde), . F-Su:noon-5PM. Sells handicrafts, clothing and Christiania merchandise. Also doubles as an information point and café. edit
- Christiania Bikes, Mælkevejen 83A, ☎ +45 32 54 87 48, . M-F:9AM-5PM,Sa:10AM-2PM. Produces some unique handcrafted bikes. Their signature bike, famous throughout Denmark, has a boot in the front for goods, kids or groceries. edit
- Indkøbscentralen, ☎ +45 32 96 15 51, . 8AM-8PM, Tu:noon-8PM. This store sells mostly organic groceries, some produced locally in Christiania, e.g. organic cosmetics edit
- Qsmedien (The woman ironworks), Mælkevejen 83 E, ☎ +45 32 57 76 58, . M-F:9AM-5PM,Sa:11AM-3PM. An iron workshop run by 3 women, mostly selling creative interior decorations and furniture cast of iron and glass. edit
With some of the best vegetarian food you'll find anywhere in town, the residents love for everything organic, and the social responsibility (and socialism) so enshrined in the fabric of Christiana culture, the prices are kept at quite reasonable levels, especially considering the quality. Christiania is an excellent place for lunch and dinner. Often there is an open barbecue up on Pusher Street dishing some yummy burgers and hot dogs.
- Månefiskeren (Moonfisher), (just behind Pusher St), ☎ +45 3257 1456, . 10AM-midnight. Relaxed café with room for both Christianites and people dropping by for a cup of coffee, a game of table football or billiards. Has some decent sandwiches and good cakes from time to time, but does not serve alcohol (joints are welcome). edit
- Morgenstedet, Fabriksområdet 134, . Tu-Su:noon-9PM. Morgenstedet is a vegetarian eatery, and all the food here is made from organic and fresh vegetables from a Danish farm. Nice outdoor seating along benches in the garden, and nice rustic interiors inside. The service can be really laid back, and the place is mostly self-service, but the open kitchen and talkative chefs make up for it. Mains from 70 Kr. edit
- Spiseloppen, ☎ +45 32 57 95 58, . Tu-Su 5PM-10PM. A nice restaurant where the menu changes daily, and according to what fresh foods are available during the different seasons. There is always a fish and a vegetarian dish on the menu, and the ethnic mix in the kitchen usually ensures an amazing variety throughout the week. Mains from 165 Kr. edit
- Café Nemoland, Fabriksområde 52 (by the end of Pusher Street), ☎ +45 3295 8931, . 9.00 - 21.00 (In Summer until 22.00). This lovely place is part outdoor beer garden, part concert venue, part indoor café, with possibility to eat outside. Creative decoration, and the most varied crowd you are likely to see anywhere in Copenhagen. edit
- Sunshine Bakery, Pusher Street. 24H. A kiosk and bakery hybrid with bread, cakes, sandwiches, coffee, tea, dairy products, soft drinks, cigarettes etc., both for take away, or enjoying at the outdoor benches in front of the bakery. edit
- Café Nemoland, Fabriksområde 52 (by the end of Pusher Street), ☎ +45 3295 8931, . 10.00 - 02.00 (Weekends until 3.00). This lovely place is part outdoor beer garden, part concert venue, part indoor café. Creative decoration, and the most varied crowd you are likely to see anywhere in Copenhagen. edit
- Woodstock, Pusher Street. 9AM-05AM. A Public house with occasional live music. Breakfast, sandwiches, beer, soft drinks, alcohol, coffee and tea. edit
- Månefiskeren (Moonfisher), (Just behind Pusher Street in Christiania), ☎ +45 3257 1456, . 10.00 - 24.00. Relaxed café with room for both Christianites and people just dropping by for a cup of coffee, a game of table football or billiards. Has some decent sandwiches and good cakes from time to time, but doesn't serve alcohol. Many organic drinks are available though. (joints are also welcome). edit
Because of its tolerance of cannabis and autonomy against the authorities, Christiania has attracted a lot of criminal elements throughout time. Today it is real pushers selling the cannabis on Pusher Street, where some of them work for bigger gangs. As mentioned in the beginning, it is not a good idea to take photographs in or near Pusher Street, since you will be passed up by a local pusher or gang member, with threats of violence or humiliation of the worst kind. None of them want to be identified by the police, which means they have to keep a low profile. They even keep an eye out for suspicious behavior of policemen or journalists working undercover. That is why it is important to behave as normal as possible. That being said, it is a matter of respect of the drug dealing environment and its rules and you should have no problem at all. Just use basic common sense, by keeping an eye on your surroundings, your belongings and by keeping a low profile, as to not attract any unwanted attention. Having said that, Christiania is usually a safe and open place for everybody, as long as local rules and people are respected and tolerated.
Keep in mind that no matter how relaxed Christiania might seem, possession and sale of cannabis are still illegal in Denmark. While the police very rarely manage to make their way into Christiania proper, those wishing to take cannabis out with them should be careful - if you don't want to risk arrest, don't bring anything illegal outside the Free State's borders. Police regularly conduct sting operations at and near Christianshavn station, so anyone wishing to travel back from Christiania in possession of cannabis should take the opportunity to walk to another station, preferably a good 20 minutes away.
What was mentioned about respecting the criminal activities is more for your own safety. So are these rules, but mostly to keep you from getting into bad company:
- While cannabis and a few other soft drugs are tolerated, possessing hard drugs makes you absolutely unwelcome.
- Because of governmental restrictions and the inside atmosphere taverns, venues, cafés and restaurants do not allow the smoking of cannabis inside their buildings. This is a rule for most of the buildings open to the public.
- Behave well, even if someone might make you uncomfortable. In the end, they will be very nice and respect you being here, no matter what you're up to.
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