Dogs run wild and play in the narrow streets where no cars are allowed. The mild scent of cannabis is in the air when you walk through the famous Pusher Street. Groups of foreign tourists on guided tours blend in with chilled-out youngsters and the locals who work in the various small shops and cafees where you can pay with a special Christiania currency.
Homemade houses and buildings with an extremely interesting architectural feel is placed around the big lake where children are dipping on hot summer days. Everywhere people are passing by on their famous Christiania bikes and sometimes you meet a horse or two from Christiania’s own manege.
Christiania is one of Denmark’s most popular tourist attractions. Every year the freetown attracts between a half and a million visitors who come to experience this very special and controversial area which in 2011 could celebrate it’s 40-year birthday.
A society within society
Today, around 1000 people live and work in Christiania. The houses, they live in are designed by themselves. They pay rent to the community, and pay the Danish state for water and electricity. They live from their restaurants and from producing bicycles, stoves and other items.
One could say that Christiania is an alternative society within society, which also means that the darker sides of modern life are represented. Some parents advise their teenage children not to go there after dark, and tourists are advised not to take photos in Pusher Street, where you can buy – illegally – pot, hash and other soft drugs.
After forty years of controversy and numerous conflicts between the inhabitants and the state and authorities it seems that the troubled times are over for good. In June 2011 Christiania bought the whole area from the state for DKK 76.5 million finally making the free town legal.
40 turbulent years
The turbulent history of the free town began in 1971 when a group of Christianshavn locals climbed through the fences guarding the site. They wanted a green recreational area and a playground for their children to romp in. That same year, an alternative newspaper ran an article about the abandoned military buildings - the old Bådsmandsstræde Barracks - situated on the site, and ideas about how they could be used as homes for the many young people who couldn’t get a place to live.
The article caused a massive immigration of people from near and far who wanted to create a different life based on community and freedom. Since then, the freetown has led a tumultuous existence, and the Christianians have been both tolerated by the government as inhabitants of an official "social experiment" as well as given eviction notices by politicians on many occasions.
Yet, more than forty years later they are still here, only a ten minute stroll away from the centre of Copenhagen, and it is still possible to sense the atmosphere of history and experience. Perhaps the last remnants of the peace and love hippie movement in Europe.
In 2011 it was decided to create a fund. The fund would buy most part of the buildings in Christiania for 76,2 million DKR. Money from the sale of public shares is to be included in the fund's capital.