Sønder Boulevard: From Working-class Neighborhood to Hipster Paradise
If you want to experience a contemporary local vibe with historical contrasts, then try walking from Halmtorvet along this Vesterbro boulevard, which is nearly a mile long.
Sønder Boulevard may be the city’s longest informal gathering place. Especially in summer, it is filled with hipsters, young families and sometimes even some of the oldest Copenhageners, who don’t care whether their beer is a microbrew and their beard is well-trimmed. People trickle among the bars, daycare centers and corner stores, and out on the green mall that runs down the middle of the boulevard, which was renovated in the ’00s when Vesterbro was still a place where people stayed indoors.
The boulevard extends out from Halmtorvet with the bars, restaurants, galleries and trendy co-working spaces of Kødbyen – the Meatpacking District. The transition is a knot of traffic, paths and side streets, where the area’s colorful history is still in view. Here, you will find old pubs run just as they were in the days of Vesterbro’s long-lost working-class community. Down the side streets, there are still entrances to some of the old porn shops, which popped up back when Denmark, as the first country in the world, legalized pornography. Not long ago, the boulevard was long and desolate, with withered grass and a fence along the entire length of the median strip The fence was erected to keep cars from cutting across to the other side. Nobody would consider doing that today, though. This an excellent example of the significant impact surroundings can have on how people behave.
The road up along Sønder Boulevard is surrounded by housing blocks with numerous little shops and cafés at street level. They were built for the working class of old. Today, life on the boulevard reflects a different composition of residents. If you walk along the green mall in the middle, you will notice how a few minor variations in height, the greenery and the system of paths can add variety to a long, curved stretch of road. There are plenty of places to sit, and in colder weather, a nice, warm café is always close by.
- Most of the apartments on the boulevard were originally small two- and three-room apartments. Today, many of them have been combined, and more families with children are choosing not to leave the neighborhood.
- In summer, if you’re lucky you can find a flea market or festival taking place on the green mall. In winter, some of the local cafés offer outdoor seating complete with heating lamps and blankets.
- This is a very lively neighborhood and community. Among other things, the former Absalon’s Church has been converted into Folkehuset Absalon, a community center offering communal dining, dance and lectures.
If you make a sharp right at the end of Sønder Boulevard, you arrive at Enghaveparken. In winter, you can go ice skating here. In summer, you can hang out with the locals on the grass or by the little lake.
If you go left instead and cross the street, you end up at Vestre Fængsel prison. Behind it is an old industrial area with a specially designed indoor skatepark and a contemporary circus school, called AFUK, where you can catch a show if you’re lucky.
If you go straight, you arrive at a high-rise that’s home to several educational institutions. This is the front entrance to Carlsberg Byen, where you can explore new and old architecture and which is currently being transformed into a new urban district after the area became too small for the old Carlsberg brewery.