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This fairytale charm however is contradicted by a district which is gritty, by Scandinavian standards even seedy, and yet still manages to retain a rough charm. Today, the former working class quarter, once dominated by crime and narcotics, has pretty much vanished. Now, there are Michelin-starred restaurants offering world famous Nordic cuisine, as well as design and furniture shops and countless cafes. At that time most of the buildings here dated back to late 19th century and had since then not been maintained or modernized.
In the latter years of the s things began to change. With the help of government funding, housing cooperatives were established, and the buildings, that had remained unchanged since the late 19th century received a much needed face-lift. It could sometimes be charming but also dangerous.
For us, non-natives, we would always have a good laugh over new stories about this or that person and how they had been acting up in the street -- in a way it helped bring people together. Despite the coldness and anonymity brought about by gentrification, the neighborhood has managed to maintain much of its edge, as well as its defining independent character. One could argue that its part of its urban DNA, but also what continues to make it so appealing to the creative cognoscenti, bent on using the urban gritty theater as the backdrop for their future endeavors.
After all, it makes you feel cool -- even daring. My own experience of Vesterbro came during a chance visit to Copenhagen in I had come to visit a Danish man, and Vesterbro native, who would later become my husband. Walking past dilapidated buildings, my now husband explained the history of the neighborhood, and how he came of age during its rougher years. As an American, my image of Denmark was quite different. And while that does exist in Copenhagen, Vesterbro is somewhat of an anomaly with its blend of Michelin-starred restaurants adjacent to sex shops.