This highly controversial neighborhood, that sits smack in the middle of classy Copenhagen, might not sound appealing to some. Founded in 1971 by squatters and artists as a ‘social experiment’, Freetown Christiania sits on an abandoned military base along Copenhagens waterfront. This group of hippies occupied a number of the empty barracks and even developed their own set of rules and societal organization, completely independent of the Danish government, including the legalization and distribution of cannabis products.
The entire area is a green, car-free zone, best known for its autonomous inhabitants’ ‘different’ way of life. They fly their own flag, use their own currency, and (I’ve been told) have even avoided state taxes for a very long time. Christiania’s unique existence led to 40 years of constant conflict between the Danish government and the local ‘Christianites’ for living life by their own set of rules.
In 2011, An agreement was made, enforced by the Danish state, that ensured Christiania’s existence after years of uncertainty. The Foundation of Freetown Christiania was developed, and this group now owns the controversial land, leasing buildings to raise money by selling Christiania shares. If you want to live in Freetown Christiania, you have to apply for a house and hope that the right is given to you, creating quite a unique community of inhabitants, most of which have lived there for generations.
Walking through Freetown Christiania is a journey down the rabbit hole and into wonderland. It is truly the most unique place I’ve ever experienced. Visitors are welcomed by a mystical mural, as well as a sign stating ‘Here Be Dragons’, but have no fear, the vibe is remarkably friendly and open to tourists of all types. We saw a diverse crowd wandering the streets, exploring the mix of homemade dollhouses, workshops and art galleries, or enjoying cheap organic eateries. The main music venue, ‘Nemoland’, showcases local bands during Summer, but music can be heard throughout almost the entirety of the barracks. We wandered into an abandoned building covered with colorful graffiti during our visit, and found a lonely saxophone player taking advantage of the killer ambiance and acoustics.
Most visitors are either totally stoked or a bit uncomfortable when they wander upon the Green Light District, an area lined with stalls adorned with live cannabis, where you can buy anything from a chunk of hash to a pre-rolled ‘cocktail’ mixture. The dealers wear masks and hoods year-round to protect their identity. Remember – marijuana is NOT legal in Copenhagen, the Danish government is simply choosing to turn a blind eye in effort to keep peace with this unique community, as well as keep distribution in one place. When you approach this area you will notice (very strict) rules…
RULE #1: Have fun
RULE #2: No running
RULE #3: No pictures
These rules are very important to the community, which is why I don’t have any pictures to share from this area. Despite our slight confusion on whether we could be running so long as we were having fun (does rule #1 cancel out rules 2 & 3?), we decided to be smart and avoid sticking out in such a controversial zone. I was told that ‘no running’ is an important rule as there have been raids, where Danish police came through the Green Zone and made arrests based on the illegal activity. If you run, everyone panics assuming you have a reason to be running, causing pandemonium.
Now that I’ve given you the facts, and explained the controversy, let me show you why you shouldn’t miss a visit to Freetown Christiania whatever your feelings towards this ‘different’ way of life…
FREETOWN CHRISTIANIA IS BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL!
Move past the Green Zone, pass through Nemoland, wind around the lake and explore various trails that lead through the woods. The landscape is stunning, and there is unique art, whimsical architecture and random surprises around every path. The neighborhood is very safe, and you are free to explore at your leisure, find a tire swing and enjoy the scenery, or perhaps a nice place on the water to watch the swans swim by.
Without further adieu, let me take you on a walk through wonderland. I’ll be your white rabbit 😉