If you plan to spend time in Copenhagen, visiting Christiania is a must. It’s a lush green neighborhood surrounded by water on all sides in the middle of Denmark’s largest and most important city. In the summer people gather in this autonomous neighborhood to drink beer and hang out; in the winter it hosts communal dinners and a huge Christmas market.

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The History of a City

Christiania was established in 1971 on the site of a former army barracks. Many Copenhagen residents were facing a lack of affordable housing and wanted an alternative to consumption-based society. Residents of the self-governing society built community centers, schools, gardens and one-of-a-kind houses. They established cultural centers, bars and restaurants, covering them with murals, which still thrive today.

The Grey Hall, constructed as a riding hall in the army barracks, hosts concerts and Christmas markets alike. Outside the venue is a rock emblazoned with red hearts and the words, “Christiania, You Have My Heart.” As the long spring days give way to the endless ones of Northern summer, Christiania offers a point of convergence, a heightened site of sociality unusual in the modern privatized world. All kinds of nights can end in the soft dirt or cobbled streets of Freetown Christiania (in Danish, Fristaden Christiania, or just Staden for short) with friends, old or new.

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Sights and Sounds

If music is what you’re in the mood for, go see a rock, pop, punk, metal, or folk act play in a venue adorned with NO HARD DRUGS (Christiania is famously lenient on cannabis but has a zero-tolerance policy for harder drugs), Loppen — Danish for “the flea.” The signs and wooden floors are sticky with lager from the reused green glass bottles. Reusing the bottles saves money and resources in Denmark. Christiania produces its own organic beer, a Thy Pilsner, sold at various venues throughout town.

Another great venue is Månefiskeren, a cafe nestled behind a garden with ample outdoor seating. It is quaint and beautiful. To preserve the atmosphere, no photography is allowed (as in much of Christiania). As a result, you are totally present while in the environment. It’s also part of the reason why The Moonfisher is so endearing, along with the cakes, teas, music and “hygge”. This concept of coziness is uniquely Danish and has as much to do with sociality as with physical well-being.

A Bike by Any Other Name

Christiania is as urban as it is pastoral. It has given its name to the famous Christiania cargo bikes that define modern green transportation for businesses and families in Copenhagen and beyond. In Copenhagen, it is quite common — and practical — for a parent to transport children to school in a cargo bike. This is increasingly becoming the norm around the world as well. Bikes are not Christiania’s only international reference point. Solidarity with Tibet is expressed in the Tibet Center, which has prayer wheels and photographs from the fellow autonomous region.

Although Christiania does, at moments, feel worlds away from mainstream Denmark, it is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Copenhagen International Airport and local Copenhagen hotels. The airport is your connection to the rest of Europe, and it is a major — and thanks to its large windows and modern design, majorly attractive — transportation hub. Simply hop on the Metro from the airport, and you can be at the Christianshavn station, within walking distance to the city center, in fifteen minutes!

This post was posted by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on July 13, 2015.

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