view over copenhagen

Peaceful Coexistence in Copenhagen

I found Copenhagen an interesting mix of the old and the new, tradition and subversion.  For example, the Church of Our Saviour is a traditional Baroque church situated near the hippie commune of Christiania.  In another example, the Royal Library is a complex of two very different buildings – one traditional and the other strikingly contemporary.  Amazingly, all these contradictions exist side by side with no apparent tension between them.

Royal Library

The Royal Library in Denmark houses every book that has ever been printed in Denmark since the 17th century.  Founded in 1648, and situated over four sites, the library building in Copenhagen harbour was built in 1906.  In 1999, however, an addition was built which is striking and very contemporary.  Designed by Danish architects, the addition is known as the Black Diamond because its exterior is made of black marble and glass.  The two parts are connected by bridges and each part is equally striking.

The Church of Our Saviour

The Church of Our Saviour is a Dutch baroque style church in the Christianshavn section of Copenhagen built in the late 17th century.  It is famous for its spire which has a winding staircase on the outside which can be climbed by intrepid visitors.

Church of our Saviour Spire

You have amazing, vertigo-inducing views over Copenhagen from the spire.

The spire is black and gold with stairs that turn 4 times anti-clockwise around it.  With each turn, the stairs get narrower and then at the end it just stops (with no warning).  At least there are railings on the side of the stairs.

church of our saviour spire railings

You climb a total of 400 steps to the top of the spire and the last 90 steps are outside.  The inside steps take you past all the church bells which are also famous for the melodies they play every hour.

stairs at church of our saviour

We were a little stunned that you can bring children on this climb including the outside.  All patrons are advised that they are proceeding at their own risk.  There are, however, no security guards at the top of the spire.  You really are on your own with a bird’s eye view of Copenhagen.

Christiania

Christiania is an 84 acre self-governing zone within Copenhagen established in 1971 by a group of hippies and artists who took over an old, disused military base.  They wanted to set up a community where people lived by the rules of freedom and tolerance.  Today, the commune is thriving with approximately 1000 people.  With no cars, the preferred mode of transportation are bikes.  All this 70’s style peace and love is about 10 minutes away from central Copenhagen and down the street from the Church of Our Saviour.

Christiania bike

You are cheekily reminded that Christiana recognises no law other than its own (and that goes for the EU too!).  I am really impressed with Danish tolerance of this mild rebellion.  If it were the USA, the FBI would have stormed the grounds decades ago.

Christiania sign about leaving the EU

Photography is not allowed on the main drag, aptly named Pusher Street, because drugs are sold openly.  The sweet smell of pot wafts through the air but not any more so than Camden Market in London on the weekend.

Christiania is actually Copenhagen’s second most-visited tourist site (after Tivoli Gardens).  Slightly puzzled looking tourists wander around the area inhaling second-hand pot smoke.  The locals are either going about their business or chilling in their own happy buzz.  Apparently, Christiania has its own currency but I was able to purchase a Pepsi with Danish Kroner.  Christiania appears to set itself apart from Copenhagen and, yet, is sensible enough to still be a part of it.

***

I would love to see more of Copenhagen.  I was in the city for a long weekend as part of the Hive 2014 European Bloggers Conference and didn’t have much time to sightsee.  Next time, though, I will definitely take the family.  Mr. N will like all the great restaurants and the children will love the canal tour and Tivoli Gardens.  I am not brave enough, however, to take them up the spire of the Church of Our Saviour!

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Shobha

I am an American expat based in London with my travel-loving family. I write at Just Go Places Blog about luxury, cultural and family travel.

2 thoughts on “Peaceful Coexistence in Copenhagen”

    1. Unless you are a pot smoker or a tourist, not sure there is a reason to go there. it is a self-sufficient community and people just go about their own business. I just couldn’t get over the whole ‘refusing to be part of the EU/Denmark’ thing.

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