A feast for every sense, to be sure.
The greatest compliment I can pay to the Christiania district of Copenhagen is that the area feels nothing like the rest of Europe that surrounds it. And given that Freetown Christiania, the core of the district, operates as an autonomous zone that doesn’t formally recognize its existence as part of the European Union at all, that kind of compliment likely goes a long way. The virtues of entering what feels like a portal to a new, liberated dimension are many, and Café Woodstock Christiania is one such virtue.
A first visit to Freetown Christiania is filled with not just curiosity but a little bit of danger. The stories about the area are diverse, a general ban on photographs is technically in effect and the “soft” drug trade is sort of, kind of allowed. And given the area’s proximity to one of Europe’s grand cities, the contrast is extreme between classic urban core and Freetown Christiania’s relative wilderness. The trees are a little more plentiful, the buildings a little more vibrant and the vibe considerably more relaxed.
There are a handful of places within the district to grab a beer, but none quite as remarkable as Café Woodstock, a dive bar in the sense that the most rustic option among rustic surroundings may just quality as the diviest option. If there were such a thing as an intersection in a free district largely devoid of moving vehicles, Café Woodstock would live at its most prominent crossroads, the nerve center of the area.
Café Woodstock is largely open-air, though an interior drinking option does exist albeit sparsely populated during Copenhagen’s warmer months. There is no mystery to the makeup of those attracted to Café Woodstock, a clientele that settles in early, lives nearby and uses the dive bar as a means of connection with the Christiania community day after day, week after week. If it wouldn’t be insulting to compare Café Woodstock to some kind of French salon, the comparison would fit.
The area outside is reminiscent of a funnel cake stand at a county fair. Beer coolers flank a wooden counter where orders are taken, sporting some of the most affordable alcohol prices in Copenhagen (no small feat in a city where drink options can run a bit on the expensive side). Bikes can be found lining the seating area just off the order window, an area filled with red round tables and picnic tables. These are the kinds of tables perfect for laying out a newspaper, grabbing a few cigarettes with some friends and working through the beer list, which is exactly the pastime of those who frequent Café Woodstock.
Baskets of flowers line the drinking area, making for the sensation of drinking in some kind of dive bar garden in the center of a district that clearly believes in a more liberated version of living. And the combination of those elements is exactly as pleasant and as inviting as it sounds. Affordable day drinking in one of the most unique areas of Europe at an open-air dive garden is difficult to top.
Christiania is a unique experience, like entering a portal to a timeless commune hidden in one of Europe’s biggest cities. Taking in everything the district has to offer is only enhanced by a cold beer at a dive bar, making Café Woodstock the ultimate destination within the destination, a true and satisfying representation of why Freetown Christiania exists in the first place.