Located in the centre of Denmarks capital I visited Copenhagen’s Christiania, and was surprised by what I found in this famous hippie community.
Christiania is Denmark’s mini Amsterdam without the canals and world class museums. In fact the two places really only have one thing in common, marijuana. Before the 1970’s Christiania was better known as a military camp, until it was taken over by hippies during the height of the hippie movement where communal living and an alternative lifestyle were popular.
Christiania was originally proclaimed as a free state, and as a result citizens living in there didn’t follow the laws of the society that surrounded them. In fact, they had their own laws, didn’t pay taxes, didn’t pay rent, and ran their own schools, businesses and community programs. When it was first established the government tried to shut it down unsuccessfully due to public pressure, and the community remained.
I made my way to Christiania by bicycle upon a few suggestions from local friends. When I arrived I wasn’t surprised to see graffiti portraying anti-heroin pro pot slogans, and a vegetable fruit stall as I entered the small riverside district. In fact, Christiania met most of my expectations until I entered the “green light district”.
There are three rules in the green light district, have fun, don’t run – it causes panic, and no photos- buying and selling hash is still illegal. This last one surprised me because I thought Christiania was just a riverside hippie community living a rent free communal lifestyle. What I discovered was quite different.
As I turned left off the cobble stone road that lead to Nemo, Christiania’s restaurant area, I realized why this part of Christiania was called the green light district. This small square, the buildings surrounding it covered in no photograph graffiti images, was filled with stalls, each one selling different varieties of marijuana and hashish.
Displayed out in the open for customers to browse were large bricks of dark and light brown coloured blonde Lebanese, black Afghani, and red Moroccan hash. Beside that, small plastic containers filled with marijuana named grapefruit, AK47, and white widow were displayed with stickers identifying price. And right next to both were giant cones of pre-rolled hash and pot for easy consumption.
After walking through the green light district and talking to a few people I learned that the distribution, purchase, and consumption of marijuana and hashish are in fact illegal, hence the no running rule for the area. Running causes panic, and since it is illegal most of the people and distributors would be thrown into chaos as they tried to escape fines, charges, and jail time.
On the edge of the green light district is Nemo, an area surrounded by restaurants and a small concert stage. It was there that I learned the harsh realities of the times as I enjoyed a coffee while watching the locals roll hashish joints as they chatted with friends and played backgammon. Although it seemed like Christiania was an anything goes place, in reality the Copenhagen police have been raiding the area.Today, not only is the area frequently raided, but undercover police often wait for people to exit Christiania in order search, and if in possession of “drugs”, arrest them; marijuana and hash are still illegal.
For visitors, walking through Christiania is not illegal and the restaurants in the area offer delicious vegan/vegetarian food, baked goods, and a unique atmosphere that’s open to everyone. Like most tourists I enjoyed walking through the 41 acre district, checking out the obscurely shaped houses of the area, and walking along the beautiful riverside trails that boarder Christiania. Just remember that if you decide to check out its green light district don’t run, no photographs, and most importantly have fun.
1. Christiania is a safe place that is unique to Copenhagen and a must see if you’re visiting the city. Its history, architecture, and people don’t exist anywhere in the world outside of Christiania.
2. Drugs like Marijuana and Hashish are illegal so if you decide that you want to participate in the green light districts local culture be careful and try to stay in the area if possible, it’s safer.
3. Since you’re a foreigner you can’t play dumb, and if you get caught you will be made an example of. This means you’ll end up arrested, charged, deported, or a combination off the four.
Tally (As of May 2012)
Marijuana – 90-140 kroner per gram – $ 15-25 USD
Hashish – 90-140 kroner per gram – $ 15-25 USD
Pre-rolled hash/marijuana – 50-100 kroner per joint – $10 – 20 USD (there are specials for purchasing more than one)