My Denmark travelogue continues.
As most of you know, I really enjoy photographing visually dynamic street art and look to photograph street art whenever I travel. What I love most about street art is how it opens up previously derelict areas, such as city laneways, and brings them back to life attracting locals and tourists alike. Street art has a lot to do with the revival of inner city neighborhoods and districts in cities all around the world. I am totally supportive of that policy.
The most unusual place that is often recommended to visit in Copenhagen is Freetown Christiania. The free state of Christiana has been in existence since 1971, when a group of squatters took over some deserted military barracks and established a commune. Around 900 people live there today, and it is not a part of the city that just anyone can move into: waiting lists are years long, and hopefuls must be genuinely engaged with the community in order to be accepted. Christiania is a hippie commune in simple terms, and most importantly an autonomous living, completely independent from the Danish government. It is quite a controversial place because the legal status of Christiania isn't clear. In general, the idea of Christiania's residents is to create a neighbourhood where freedom and self-expression are the main values.
The view of Christiania is completely different from the usual Copenhagen street of neat brick lanes and rows of colourful housing estates, because in Christiania, art is the essence that gives color to the place. Street art in Christiania is quirky and out of the ordinary. I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves.
"You are now leaving the EU", a sign above the entrance to Christiania used to read. The sign disappeared at some point in the late 2000s, but it epitomised the anti-establishment thought that was the essence of its founding and which still exists today.
You can spot street art of all kinds as many buildings, walls and structures are covered with street art, murals, graffiti, paintings, stickers, tags etc. Street art is everywhere and Christiania is a true open-air art gallery of Copenhagen with colourful and amusing street art pieces in every corner.
Over the years, Christiania has become a hot spot for tourists. So much so that there is a map for tourists and you can even go on a tour with a local resident.
Christiania is just a few blocks away from the Christianshavn Metro station and a visit to the Church of Our Saviour, its famous serpentine spire along the way is recommended.
Many tourists visit annually, and Christiania generally welcomes visitors: the cafes, market and shops are open to anyone who passes by. If you have the chance, strike up a conversation with a local resident. I had the chance to speak to an artist that creates and sells art out of his shared artist studio within the community during my visit. It was so interesting to hear him talk about Christiania and he was happy to answer any questions that I had. It was one of my favourite experiences of my whole time in Copenhagen.
The atmosphere in Christiania is unlike anything you would come across anywhere else and is certainly unique for Copenhagen, with its highly liberal, accepting, and free outlook underpinned by a sense of rebellion that never feels far from the surface. It is safe to visit but there are a couple of things you should bear in mind.
Photography is generally not allowed around Pusher Street area in Christiania, which is known for illegal drug dealing, and anyone taking pictures would find themselves being confronted and asked to delete them. I was actually approached by a man politely (luckily) to do so after I incidentally took some when I stepped into the area. There are normally signs in both Danish and English, making it clear which parts Christianites don't want photographed, but when in doubt, for your safety, resist the temptation to take out your camera or your phone. You can take photos, but only outside of the green area, marked on the map in the guides.
If you are into street art, all my blog posts on street art are available here for you to find out more.