Freetown Christiania

Posted on 1 November 2011

The city has something to offer for every type of visitor. There are museums, shopping areas, restaurants, gardens and parks to see. Taking a leisurely walk through one of Copenhagen’s beautiful gardens and parks is a great idea. Then again, a trip to Freetown Christiania (Fristaden Christiania) could prove to be more interesting.

Freetown Christiana is a “free-spirited” commune in Copenhagen. Some freewheeling Danish hippies of the 70’s decided to occupy the abandoned military barracks in Christianshavn in 1971. The controversial community was considered a social experiment, albeit a successful one, by others. To some, the commune became a safe haven where one can freely express himself. Still, this alternative community was considered a “stolen property” for no one in Freetown Christiania ever paid for the land.

Entrance to Christiania
Photo by Symac, Wikimedia Commons

Freetown Christiania started out as a social commune where one can take solace in. Jacob Ludvigsen, a journalist, proclaimed the abandoned military barracks as the “land of the settlers” in September 1971. The thrust of the commune was to create an independent society where every resident is held responsible over the welfare of the whole commune. It was also the ideal of Freetown Christiania for its residents to be self-sustaining in all aspects. The hippie movement of anarchy and socialism became the norm.

Glass house in Freetown Christiania
Photo by seier+seier, Flickr Creative Commons

The Christiania Law of 1989 governs the commune where it states that supervision of Christiania is in part transferred to the state, which in reality owns the former military base. The stand of government authorities and its relationship with Christiania is quite controversial. The 850-strong population of the commune like their autonomy but they are not exempted from paying for their utilities and taxes. The community is known for its less than stellar merchandise. Cannabis is openly sold in the area. “Pusher Street” became synonymous with Freetown Christiania. In 2004, a ban was implemented on the sale of illegal drugs.

The residents of the commune still apply their own set of rules such as: no stealing, no cars, no hard drug (which basically mean hash is still being sold), no bullet-proof vest et al. Smoking is allowed in the area but visitors are not allowed to take pictures of the community. If you are touring Copenhagen in a motorhome, it is best it you park the campervan in a trailer park and walk to the commune.

Wallpaintings near the entrance to Christiania
Photo by Quistnix, Wikimedia Commons

The “openness” of Christiania branded the commune as a liberated and progressive force of Danish life. Visitors such as tourists, musicians, students, academicians and artists frequent the place. The freewheeling community was rejected by some because it has become a hub for illegal drugs and a haven for criminals and misfits. On the other hand, there are residents who take pride in the “Danishness” of Christiania and show -off the commune to guests and visitors.

In June 2011, the Danish government and the residents of Christiania have finally come into an agreement that would benefit both. Freetown Christiania residents have formed a foundation to buy the squatted land from the state.

Residents of Christiania work as blacksmiths and carpenters. The bicycle trailers branded as Christiania bikes are made here too. In the area are restaurants, cafés, meditation centres and night clubs. Guided tours are every Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 pm.

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