Aalborg is world’s eighth-most interesting place to visit this year: New York Times

North Jutland’s Aalborg, the fourth-largest city in Denmark, is the eighth-most interesting travel destination this year, according to the New York Times.

Aalborg is world’s eighth-most interesting place to visit this year: New York Times
Aalborg's Musikkens Hus during a gymnastics event in 2017. Photo: Henning Bagger / Scanpix 2017

Aalborg is the latest Danish city to achieve recognition from a major international publication for its qualities as a tourism destination.

The New York Times’ recently published ’52 Places to Go in 2019’ includes the North Jutland city, population 136,000, at number 8, joining an eclectic mix of cities, regions, towns and territories on the list.

U.S. territory Puerto Rico is number 1 on the list, while Aalborg is sandwiched between two island groups – Japan’s Setouchi Islands and the Azores – placed at numbers 7 and 9 respectively.

The only European city or destination to appear higher than Aalborg is Munich, which takes fifth spot.

“Viking long ships once glided through Aalborg’s mighty Limfjord. Today, the city is turning its most famous natural asset into an artistic one,” the NYT writes, citing the Utzon design center, concert hall Musikkens Hus, Aalborg Street Food and the Nordkraft power plant-turned-culture-hub amongst the town’s highlights.

“The historic Aalborg Akvavit distillery, which produced the potent Scandinavian spirit, is being transformed into a new creative district over the next two years,” the write-up continues.

Visit Aalborg director Rasmus Jerver expressed his delight at Aalborg’s impressive inclusion on the list.

“It’s fantastic. When you know the city, and are used to marketing it, it’s easy to understand,” Jerver told DR.

“So when someone comes from outside and confirms that what we think about the city is also the experience they have of it, that is just great,” he added.

Jerver added that he was particularly proud of the achievement given that neither Visit Aalborg nor Aalborg Municipality had promoted the city to the New York Times directly.

The last Danish city to be placed high on the NYT list was Aarhus, which was awarded 16th place in 2016.

Aalborg’s success continues a good spell for Danish cities in international tourism recommendations.

In October, Lonely Planet named Copenhagen its top city to visit in 2019, after judging Aarhus number two in its list of the ten best destinations in Europe for 2016.

READ ALSO: Copenhagen named world's top city to visit by Lonely Planet


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.