Birthday of Christiania: A City Guide

On 26 September 2013, the self-governing hippie district of Christiania will celebrate its 42nd birthday! While this ‘freetown’ has seen many turbulent changes and a fair dose of travesty in its time, the dream of freedom and independent rule remains alive in its inhabitants. So what celebrations are in the works? A crazy bike parade? A hash brownie cake? An all night liberating dance extravaganza? Well, while no official program has been released, last year saw a day of free food, fireworks, snake dancers and a psychedelic trance rave if that’s anything to go by.

Honestly, we’d say planning is out of the question with this one. Our best bet would be to book a hostel in Copenhagen, then turn up on Christiana’s doorstep to help celebrate with the locals. To get you started, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to this bohemian gypsy city…

The Hippie City

Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania, is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. The commune was founded in 1971 when a group of hippies took over a series of abandoned military barracks which they developed into an alternative society. Despite controversies over its long-term cannabis trade, the dream of freedom still reigns amongst Christiania’s 850 citizens.

Getting There

Christiania is a car free world. Keeping this in mind, your easiest option is to jump on a bike. Alternatively, take bus 66 which leaves from Central Station and will drop you right outside the Christiania entrance within about 10 minutes.

Wandering the Streets

Wander the streets of Christiania, and expect to be constantly surprised by the range of imaginative, elaborate and historic buildings lining city sidewalks, each of which has a unique story to tell. If you’re lucky and happen to pass by outside of the main tourism season (or else in the very wee hours of the morning!), you may just come across a local willing to regale you with architectural tales…

First up, make sure you check out Fredens Ark (Ark of Peace), which is not only the largest building on Christiania, but also the biggest half-timbered house in Northern Europe. Built in 1837, this was originally the main building of the army barracks. Over a century later, it became home to the growing punk scene in its internal ‘Rockmaskinen’ club. Nearby you will also find Vilhelms Bastion (Børneenge), one of the old bastions of the fortification on which Christiania was built. Here lie a set of protected buildings, including the Krudthuset, which is the oldest building on the mound. The area is now used for various family activities, including a riding school, stable and playground.

The Gallopperiet

Fancy a spot of culture in the midst of this hippie city? The Gallopperiet (or Christiania Art Museum) offers a gallery and book café with rotating art exhibitions on the second floor of a building dating back to 1863. Open from 2-7pm on Tuesday to Sunday, the gallery makes for a great afternoon activity, having virtually no crowds or lines due to its easy in and out access. For those visiting in September, check out the Workshop Exhibition featuring artworks from Finn Opera, Trine Sorensen and others, which are on display until the 26th of the month.

The Gallopperiet is also the place to find out about and book a guided tour of the city.

Vegetarian Copenhagen

Even the most stringent carnivore will be kept well satisfied with the mouth-watering vegetarian fare served in Christiania’s restaurants and cafes. Keeping up the hippie theme, the majority of food you will find is organic, although prices are kept reasonably low considering the high quality of produce.

Make sure you check out vegetarian eatery Morgenstedet, which sources all its fresh vegetables and organic produce from a nearby Danish farm. While the service is incredibly laid back (often tending more towards self-service!), this is more than made up for by the delicious meals, talkative chefs, open kitchen, beautiful rustic interiors and sunny alfresco seating.

For a 3am morning snack, check out Sunshine Bakery on Pusher Street, which is open 24 hours a day, offering breads, cakes, coffee and sandwiches that will perfectly satisfy those midnight munchies.

A Night Out on the Town

As a principal setting of Copenhagen’s alternative cultural life, there is almost always something going on in one of the many clubs and venues dotting Christiania’s central streets. For a classy combined music venue, nightclub and eatery, check out The Opera on Pusher Street, which hosts a range of down-to-earth local bands playing everything from blues to jazz, rock, hip hop and Balkan tunes.

Away from the main drag, another popular place for a night out is Nemoland, a café and outdoor music venue housed in old military facilities on the outskirts of Christiania. Despite its previous association with gangs and violent demonstrations, this combined beer garden, concert venue and indoor café is a favourite amongst locals and tourists for its relaxed atmosphere and creative stylings (think palm trees, Chinese-style décor and characteristic blue bench tables).

Where to Stay

While you won’t find any Copenhagen hostels in Christiania itself, there are a number of budget accommodations a ten minute bus ride away near Denmark’s central station. For a great budget option, check out Hotel Saga, which has private rooms from €25.51 a night, all of which come complete with either private bathroom or washbasin. If you’re keen on making the cycle to Christiania, the hostel also has bikes available for rent.

For our less hippie inclined readers, search for cheap Copenhagen hotels in the area instead.

Thanks to Brooklyn, jlehti, ekai, mutantMandias, mlinksva and anjamation for the images off Flickr.

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