Freetown Christiania, or simply Christiania, is a neighborhood of only 850 residents in the Danish capital of Copenhagen that is largely known both inside and outside of the country as a big headache. Authorities regard Christiania as a large commune, as it is regulated by a special 1989 law that transferred supervisory powers from the municipality to the state.
Created as a squatted military zone in 1971, Christiania has always had a special relationship with the law. Almost immediately after it was founded, Christiania became known as a hub for cannabis trade, an act that was tolerated by authorities until 2004. This isn’t surprising, as after the military moved out of the area, homeless people took to the empty buildings which were guarded by only a small collection of watchmen. It wasn’t organized, but some claim that the takeover of the town by homeless men, women, and children was an act of protest against the Danish government in response to a lack of affordable housing in the city.
Christiania has been a sort of hippie town ever since. Christinites, as they are known, have always been fond of meditation and yoga, only two examples of the many recreational outlets available here. The town also hosted an internationally renowned theatre troupe. Many Danes outside of the commune see the town as a successful social experiment, a place where entrepreneurs are as highly regarded and valued as the drug addicts who take refuge in the area because of the ongoing negotiations concerning the legality of substance abuse.
The rules in Christiania, which has developed within the commune and outside of any interaction with the traditional Danish government, forbid violence, guns, knives, hard drugs, stealing, bulletproof vests, and bikers’ colors. While drugs such as cocaine and heroin are banned in the town, vendors sell marijuana from open stands that line Pusher Street, Christiania’s main strip.
It is best to go during quieter times of the year, when the local residents are more relaxed and willing to chat to tourists. Further out from Pusher Street, you’ll find small art galleries and boutiques.