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TOURISM

International tourists flock to Copenhagen for Danish Christmas hygge

American and British tourists are strongly drawn to Copenhagen during the Christmas season, not least to iconic amusement park Tivoli.

International tourists flock to Copenhagen for Danish Christmas hygge
Christmas 2018 at Tivoli. Photo: Claus Bjørn Larsen/Tivoli Gardens

Tourists are flocking to Copenhagen during the Christmas season. The number of British and American tourists alone who visit Copenhagen in December has more than doubled since 2010, writes dibusiness.dk.

“In December we have 420,000 overnight stays in the capital region. That’s an increase of 74 percent since 2010,” said Sune K. Jensen, head of the tourism section at the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI).

That includes 57,000 Brits and 30,500 Americans now paying a visit to the capital in December, representing a doubling in visitor numbers for both nationalities over eight years. The trend, according to Tivoli, reflects Denmark’s high international rankings and fame as the home of hygge.

“Last December we had over one million visitors. A third of them were tourists, and that is a significant increase. What we’re good at marketing ourselves on in Denmark is hygge. This is a big hit with tourists,” said Dorthe Weinkouff Barsøe, vice president of branding and communications at Tivoli.

READ ALSO: It's official: 'hygge' is now an English word

Barsøe said that the amusement park has benefitted from Denmark’s prominence on several international platforms, including Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and Time Magazine, where Tivoli has been talked about in glowing terms.

In total, the number of international overnight stays in Denmark during December has increased by 39 percent over the past eight years.

According to DI’s calculations, based on tourists’ average daily consumption patterns, the increase in overnight stays is equivalent to increased revenue of 470 million kroner.

This increase has been noticed at Strömma Denmark, which operates sightseeing busses and canal tours in Aarhus and Copenhagen.

“In 2010 our ticket shops were closed in December, whereas today they’re open and very profitable, particular at weekends. That’s because we adapt to the demand, which has increased very clearly in step with the growing number of tourists who visit Denmark at Christmas time,” said Strömma Denmark CEO Mads Vestergaard Olesen.

Although the number of overnight stays has increased all across the country, Jensen said it is particularly the capital that attracts tourists.

He expects this increase to continue – particularly given that Copenhagen recently made headlines when it was named the world’s top city to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet.

Tivoli expects the same.

“2019 will be a big year for tourism to Denmark. I have no doubt about that, but we’ll have to work hard to get there. We must continue our efforts to make Denmark a favourite destination,” Barsøe said.

SEE ALSO: IN PICTURES: Christmas in Tivoli

TOURISM

Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

A refuge for anarchists, hippies and artists, Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania turns 50 on Sunday, and though it hasn't completely avoided the encroachment of modernity and capitalism, its free-wheeling soul remains intact.

Denmark's 'freetown' Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on
Christiania, one of Copenhagen's major tourist attractions, celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sunday. JENS NOERGAARD LARSEN / SCANPIX / AFP

Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania is seen by some as a progressive social experiment, while others simply see it as a den of drugs.

On September 26th, 1971, a band of guitar-laden hippies transformed an abandoned army barracks in central Copenhagen into their home. They raised their “freedom flag” and named their new home “Christiania, Freetown” after the part of the city where it is located.

They wanted to establish an alternative society, guided by the principles of peace and love, where decisions were made collectively and laws were not enforced.

Soft drugs were freely available, and repurposing, salvaging and sharing was favoured over buying new.

It was a community “that belonged to everybody and to no one”, said Ole Lykke, who moved into the 34-hectare (84-acre) enclave in the 1970s.

These principles remain well-rooted today, but the area has changed in many ways: tourists weave through its cobblestone roads, and the once-reviled market economy is in full swing.

Perhaps most importantly, it is no longer a squat. Residents became legal landowners when they bought some of the land from the Danish state in 2012.

Now it is home to some 900 people, many artists and activists, along with restaurants, cafes and shops, popular among the half a million tourists that visit annually.

“The site is more ‘normal’,” says a smiling Lykke, a slender 75-year-old with ruffled silver hair, who passionately promotes Christiania, its independence and thriving cultural scene.

Legislation has been enforced since 2013 — though a tongue-in-cheek sign above the exit points out that those leaving the area will be entering the European Union.

‘Embrace change’
It is Christiania’s ability to adapt with the times that has allowed it to survive, says Helen Jarvis, a University of Newcastle professor of social geography engagement.

“Christiania is unique,” says Jarvis, who lived in Christiania in 2010.

“(It) endures because it continues to evolve and embrace change”.

Some of those changes would have been unthinkable at the start.

Residents secured a bank loan for several million euros to be able to buy the land, and now Christiania is run independently through a foundation.

They also now pay wages to the around 40 people employed by Christiania, including trash collectors and daycare workers.

“Money is now very important,” admits Lykke, who is an archivist and is currently exhibiting 100 posters chronicling Christiania’s history at a Copenhagen museum.

But it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

“Socially and culturally, Christiania hasn’t changed very much,” he says, noting that the community’s needs still come first.

‘Judged a little’
Christiania has remained a cultural hub — before the pandemic almost two dozen concerts were held every week and its theatres were packed.

But it is still beset by its reputations as a drugs hub.

Though parts of Christiania are tranquil, lush and green with few buildings, others are bustling, with a post office, mini-market, healthcare centre, and Pusher Street, the notorious drug market.

Lykke says it’s a side of Christiania most could do without.

“Most of us would like to get rid of it. But as long as (marijuana use) is prohibited, as long as Denmark doesn’t want to decriminalise or legalise, we will have this problem,” says Lykke.

While still officially illegal, soft drugs like marijuana and hash are tolerated — though not in excess.

Since early 2020, Copenhagen police have seized more than one tonne of cannabis and more than a million euros.

“Sometimes I don’t tell people that I live here because you get judged a little bit. Like, ‘Oh, you must be into marijuana and you must be a smoker’,” says Anemone, a 34-year-old photographer.

For others, Christiania’s relaxed nature is part of the appeal.

“It’s different from what I know, I really want to see it,” laughs Mirka, a Czech teacher who’s come to have a look around.

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