Christiania, the Copenhagen Commune

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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.