Nyhavn Harbour:  The Longest Outdoor Bar in Scandinavia

Nyhavn Harbour: The Longest Outdoor Bar in Scandinavia

Nyhavn (New Harbour) in Copenhagen really is the cutest little harbour you did see.

Built on the orders of King Christian V between 1670-73, the harbour is built at the end of a canal with wide streets on either side.  The promenades are lined with colourful buildings dating back to the 18th century.  The oldest house in Nyhavn, No. 9, was built in 1681.  Many creatives used to live in the area including Hans Christian Anderson who wrote the Princess and the Pea while living at No. 20.  The harbour itself is now lined with wooden boats harking back to Nyhaven’s heyday between 1780-1810 when all the ships that came to Copenhagen passed through the port.

Nyhavn

Created to promote trade, Nyhavn leads back to the city centre of Copenhagen.  Ships from all over the world would dock at Nyhavn and the streets would be filled with sailors and their friendly female companions. Copenhagen was the bustling center of Scandinavian trade until the Napoleonic wars halted trade.  Denmark faced bankruptcy and Nyhavn’s fortunes started a period of long decline.  In the mid 1960’s, local citizens formed a society to revitalise the beautiful old port.

nyhaven

Nyhavn quay is now pedestrianised. On the North side of the harbour, the colourful old buildings now are for the most part geared for tourists with bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels.  There are many restaurants with outside seating making it perfect for people watching. It’s easy to see why it’s been called the longest outdoor bar in Scandinavia!

Outdoor cafe in Nyhavn

The South Side of the quay is the posh side.  It has the large mansions, including Charlottenburg Palace, which were used to house the wealthier inhabitants of the area.

I love the old warehouse windows of the Nyhavn Hotel which was built as a warehouse in 1805 for a wealthy merchant and his sea captain.

Nyhavn hotel

A wooden lifeboat hovers over the quay.

Nyhavn boat

Check out this dog who has been left on board his ship for guard duty.

guard dog

The Memorial Anchor commemorates the Danish Naval servicemen who died during World War II.

Memorial Anchor Nyhavn

Nyhavn is an iconic Copenhagen destination.  Admittedly very touristy, the area is still impossibly pretty and a must-see for any visitor to Copenhagen.

Christiania, the Copenhagen Commune

Christiania, the Copenhagen Commune

Christiania is an 84 acre self-governing zone within Copenhagen which refuses to concede it is part of the E.U., or for that matter, Denmark.

Christiania welcome to EU sign

Technically, the commune is only about 10 minutes away from central Copenhagen.  Christiania recognises no law other than its own.  The rules are fairly broad as you would expect – for example, no guns or hard drugs.

christiana's common law

photo by Tim Lucas

Once you are through this unprepossessing gate, you are in Christiania.  It’s sort of like going into Narnia – something magical but with an undercurrent of violence.  I’ve read that there have been issues with serious crime (a biker gang called Bullshit, a drugs shoot-out etc) in the past. I didn’t feel unsafe but you never know, right?

entrance gate

Christiania was established in 1971 by a group of hippies and artists who took over an old, disused military base. There was a lack of affordable housing in Copenhagen and they wanted to set up a community where people lived by the rules of freedom and tolerance.  They also wanted to be economically self-sufficient.  Today, the commune is thriving with approximately 1000 people.  These people have gone to a lot of effort to make their home simple but charming.

With no cars, the preferred mode of transportation are cargo bikes. These bikes are so popular that they are sold elsewhere under the moniker Christiania Bikes because they are really handy to transport goods (and children).

Christiania bike

Photography is not allowed on the main drag, aptly named Pusher Street, because drugs are sold openly. Also known as the Green Light District, the sweet smell of pot wafts through the air.  Drugs, including marijuana, are illegal in Denmark even if Christiania thinks it beyond the reach of that law.

christiania no photography sign

In 2011, a fund set up by the inhabitants of Christiania bought the land from Copenhagen for DKK 76 million making the whole venture more legal. As this sign shows, you can still buy shares in Christiania if you would like to contribute to the world’s longest lasting social experiment.

Christiania buy shares

There are lots of artists who live here and they have left their mark on the buildings. Of course, the fairies are unclothed, blonde, buxom and have full Brazilians. Even counter-culture types like their stereotypes.

christiania wall mural

Christiania is actually one of the most-visited tourist sites in Copenhagen. Slightly puzzled looking tourists wander around the area inhaling second-hand pot smoke. The locals are either going about their business or chilling in their own happy buzz. Apparently, Christiania has its own currency but I was able to purchase a Pepsi with Danish Kroner.  Christiania also has its own website as well as its own Facebook page.  Christiania appears to set itself apart from Copenhagen and, yet, is sensible enough to still be a part of it.

Peaceful Coexistence in Copenhagen

Peaceful Coexistence in Copenhagen

I found Copenhagen an interesting mix of the old and the new, tradition and subversion.  For example, the Church of Our Saviour is a traditional Baroque church situated near the hippie commune of Christiania.  In another example, the Royal Library is a complex of two very different buildings – one traditional and the other strikingly contemporary.  Amazingly, all these contradictions exist side by side with no apparent tension between them.

Royal Library

The Royal Library in Denmark houses every book that has ever been printed in Denmark since the 17th century.  Founded in 1648, and situated over four sites, the library building in Copenhagen harbour was built in 1906.  In 1999, however, an addition was built which is striking and very contemporary.  Designed by Danish architects, the addition is known as the Black Diamond because its exterior is made of black marble and glass.  The two parts are connected by bridges and each part is equally striking.

The Church of Our Saviour

The Church of Our Saviour is a Dutch baroque style church in the Christianshavn section of Copenhagen built in the late 17th century.  It is famous for its spire which has a winding staircase on the outside which can be climbed by intrepid visitors.

Church of our Saviour Spire

You have amazing, vertigo-inducing views over Copenhagen from the spire.

The spire is black and gold with stairs that turn 4 times anti-clockwise around it.  With each turn, the stairs get narrower and then at the end it just stops (with no warning).  At least there are railings on the side of the stairs.

church of our saviour spire railings

You climb a total of 400 steps to the top of the spire and the last 90 steps are outside.  The inside steps take you past all the church bells which are also famous for the melodies they play every hour.

stairs at church of our saviour

We were a little stunned that you can bring children on this climb including the outside.  All patrons are advised that they are proceeding at their own risk.  There are, however, no security guards at the top of the spire.  You really are on your own with a bird’s eye view of Copenhagen.

Christiania

Christiania is an 84 acre self-governing zone within Copenhagen established in 1971 by a group of hippies and artists who took over an old, disused military base.  They wanted to set up a community where people lived by the rules of freedom and tolerance.  Today, the commune is thriving with approximately 1000 people.  With no cars, the preferred mode of transportation are bikes.  All this 70’s style peace and love is about 10 minutes away from central Copenhagen and down the street from the Church of Our Saviour.

Christiania bike

You are cheekily reminded that Christiana recognises no law other than its own (and that goes for the EU too!).  I am really impressed with Danish tolerance of this mild rebellion.  If it were the USA, the FBI would have stormed the grounds decades ago.

Christiania sign about leaving the EU

Photography is not allowed on the main drag, aptly named Pusher Street, because drugs are sold openly.  The sweet smell of pot wafts through the air but not any more so than Camden Market in London on the weekend.

Christiania is actually Copenhagen’s second most-visited tourist site (after Tivoli Gardens).  Slightly puzzled looking tourists wander around the area inhaling second-hand pot smoke.  The locals are either going about their business or chilling in their own happy buzz.  Apparently, Christiania has its own currency but I was able to purchase a Pepsi with Danish Kroner.  Christiania appears to set itself apart from Copenhagen and, yet, is sensible enough to still be a part of it.

***

I would love to see more of Copenhagen.  I was in the city for a long weekend as part of the Hive 2014 European Bloggers Conference and didn’t have much time to sightsee.  Next time, though, I will definitely take the family.  Mr. N will like all the great restaurants and the children will love the canal tour and Tivoli Gardens.  I am not brave enough, however, to take them up the spire of the Church of Our Saviour!