This post is part of a Denmark Trip series.

One reason why I chose Copenhagen to visit is to see Freetown Christiania with my own two eyes. This place is So. Weird.


Freetown Christiania is a partially self-governing neighborhood of approximately 850 residents, covering 85 acres in the borough of Christianshavn. It established semi-legal status as an independent community, which has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Its open marijuana trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004 but since then, attempts to legalize the community has been a source of conflict.


Christiania Entrance

Although Christiania is only a five-minute walk from the Best Restaurant in the World, Noma, I spy two people (not together) smoking joints along the way (they like their substances here). Its brightly-illustrated entrance is straight out of H.R. Pufnstuf (can you believe that was the name of a children’s series?): I feel as though I should skip through the archway. The gallery-worthy graffiti continues inside — everywhere.

Christiania is big-time Hippyville. I’m uncomfortable here, but I’m the exception: a swarm of high-schoolers bopped in front of me into the village and made themselves at home in a cafe. They’re obviously indifferent to what strikes me as very bizarre surroundings.

I tentatively approach the turn onto the notorious Pusher Street, the largest open soft-drug market in Scandinavia. Whiffs of patchouli and reggae music greet me. A sign instructs me to put away my camera and I do (but not before getting off one shot): I’ve read that it will be snatched from my hands if I photograph an illegal transaction. The thoroughfare — a shell of its former self (pre-government crack-down) — is a depressing sight: scruffy dogs and even scruffier people roam aimlessly.

Pusher Street Entrance Copenhagen

I’m sure they’re harmless in Christiania and I’m just uptight, but I cannot get out of here quickly enough. I am NOT in the Midwest any longer.

A totem pole-style arch warns me that I’m returning to the EU. I’m happy I saw Christiania and I’m happy to leave it.

Christianoa Exit

P.S. Wikipedia states that Christiania was closed in 2011 but it’s still listed as an attraction on the VisitCopenhagen website.

Read the entire Denmark series.

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  1. Alyssa 05/09/2014 at #

    So would you say you enjoyed Copenhagen- is it worth a visit?
    ps- love your blog. Funny, honest and to the point. Wish you’d write a book.

    • Esme 05/09/2014 at #

      Hi Alyssa —

      Thanks for the compliment. I did enjoy Copenhagen, but it took awhile for me to get used to it. It’s always going to be expensive and not-great weather, but it’s a fascinating society to observe and I admire their aesthetics. Lunch at Noma was surreal and the trip to Louisiana was fun — I highly recommend it if you like modern art. Denmark had an impact on me: I returned home and immediately started redecorating.

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