We woke up leisurely as the daylight filtered through the thin curtains of our little AirB&B apartment and with some breakfast in us we were ready to head out and explore the city! Unfortunately, after searching every nook and cranny, it turned out the previous guests had disappeared with the car permit which we needed for the onsite parking. Our day was delayed as we tried to resolve the issue and in the end we decided to just risk it – the fine wasn’t much more than if we paid for a day of city centre parking and this way we might just get away with it…
After the somewhat stressful delay, we tried to ignore the thought of an impending fine and wandered off to enjoy our day. Before the trip we had been looking for the sites not to be missed in Copenhagen, with only a short time we wanted to make sure we saw a lot! We found a walking route that wound its way through the city streets, hitting some great sites and offering a fantastic overview of the city. Making our way past parliament buildings, royal gardens, monuments, churches etc. we were able to see the fantastic architecture.
There were huge old buildings with gilded trim, an awesome serpentine spiralled tower, beautifully masoned buildings surrounded by perfectly manicured gardens. We walked down Copenhagen’s oldest street which was narrow, crooked and cobbled, snaking through the tall buildings which sat either side. It was a whistle stop tour but we managed to see so much in a short space of time, really getting a feel for this awesome Danish city.
Our meanderings took us to the far side of the city where we found a small street food market which had some awesome veggie options! Well-fed and in the vicinity of Christianhavn, we crossed the river and made our way to Freetown Christiana. Christiania is an abandoned military base that was taken over by the inhabitants of the surrounding area in September 1971, the spirit of Freetown Christiania quickly developed into one of the hippie movement, the squatter movement, collectivism, and anarchism which contrasted significantly to the site’s previous military use. A mission statement for the area was written in 1971: ‘The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.’
Heading in under the much-photographed archway we found ourselves almost immediately in ‘Pusher Street’, there was a steady base line as music was played loud in the streets and lots of people stood around their little podiums selling drugs. There was an interesting mix of people; young hard-faced teenagers glaring at everyone to older hippie typed just milling around nonchalantly, dogs ran through people’s legs seemingly owned by no one but obviously enjoying themselves. I spent a LOT of my youth in Camden Market and this place had a similar vibe to what that was like over a decade ago (I have been to Camden recently and it has lost almost all the magic!)
The buildings appeared run down and most available space was covered in graffiti and posters – there was some incredible artwork on those walls! There was a stage and some food stalls where people congregated; a lot of music, a lot of chatting and never-ending plume of smoke swirled around people’s heads. We left the main throng and ventured down the back streets, this gave us a bit more a true indication of what Freetown was like when it started and perhaps the vision back then.
We saw old women tending to their veg gardens, children were having races in the streets cheered on by clowns, people gathering around the edges to join in the fun. A jazz band played upbeat music on a small make-shift stage; a small crowd would gather and dissipate as people made their way through the streets. There were a few shops dotted around, mostly artistic – there was a warehouse selling some pretty cool metal sculptures, the back of which was roped off and you could see the 3 or 4 women, masked up and welding away.
Venturing further still down the little back streets we came across the small unique houses, from what we saw they were small and unassuming places, generally odd shaped and built on multiple levels with an air of homemade-ness about them. My first impression of the area wasn’t a great one, but by the time I left I was truly glad that a place like this could exist harmoniously (mostly – I suppose that would depend on who you ask) within the immediate confines of the capital city.
Just down the road from Freetown stood the Vors Frelsers Kirke (Church of our Saviour), a beautiful dark building with gold detailing. A spiral staircase ran up the outside of the tower, right to the top, the gold handrail contrasting against the deep brown/black of the steeple itself. Unfortunately due to the strong winds the tower was closed so we had to settle for going inside to have a nosey. It was probably one of the most beautiful churches I have been to – I’m not at all religious, but I do love the architecture. The inside was painted white; the huge high ceilings were adorned with gold stars, elaborate gold chandeliers hung down sparkling in their own light.
The organ stood over the entrance and was ornately carved out of dark wood. An amazing work of art – it was impossible to take in all the intricate details as there was so much to look at. The inside of the church appeared perfectly symmetrical in the usual cross shape that traditional churches adopt, it was bright and airy with the light streaming in through the tall glass windows. It was also painstakingly silent, people shuffled around noiselessly, the odd whisper could be heard but nothing more. At first it felt very peaceful however after a while that level of silence can feel somewhat claustrophobic and almost deafening.
Continuing around the city on foot, our journey took us back to Nyhavn – the picturesque little street on the river lined with colourful town houses. The red, blue, yellow and green (among others) houses gave this street a vibrant and busy feel, warm lighting lit up the ground level and people milled between the bars and restaurants cheerily. The river edge was lined with traditional wooden boats/small ships which filled the air with masts and ropes and a regular movement of the tour boats gave life to the water beyond. There isn’t much else to say about this area except that it is very pretty and I can see why it is popular with tourists.
Heading towards the mermaid statue we passed through beautiful landscaped gardens and stumbled across the royal abodes. A collection of beautiful houses all overlooking the cobbled area and fountain in front, every door had several of the Queen’s Guard stood to attention and looking very dapper in their pale blue uniforms. They were all quite young and not at all as serious as the UK version; we made a couple of them laugh with our chatter as we walked past. The mermaid statue was in a pretty spot but we didn’t hang around long as a coach started unloading not long after we arrived!
The evening was drawing in and we decided to head in the general direction of home, wandering into a park with a pretty old church and a network of small rivers we managed to get stuck, unable to find an exit! Eventually we got out and happened across a cool fountain depicting a Norse goddess and the creation of Zealand. Back in the centre the light was beginning to fade and we found ourselves walking through the busy shopping streets. Bright lights and lots of people, all visiting the usual big brand stores – it could have been in any street in the world. Finally arriving back at the apartment we had some well-deserved dinner before getting cosy for the night, according to our fitbits we had walked over 17 miles that day but it was well worth it as we had seen more than I ever expected to in one day!