6 of the Best Destinations to Celebrate Midsummer in Europe

By Ivan PetrenkoJun 16, 2024 23:00 PMNews
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green cross under blue sky
green cross under blue sky. Source: unsplash

As the length of the day reaches its maximum, Europe is preparing to mark midsummer. Here are the best places to join in with the revelries.

Marked on or around the longest day of the year — the summer solstice — midsummer is celebrated across Europe, especially in the north. The mystery surrounding the day means it’s difficult to say with certainty why or when these celebrations began, though folklore points towards farming and harvesting traditions to thank the sun for a fruitful year.

The celebrations today are still firmly rooted in local lore. Whether you want to commemorate by joining events steeped in tradition or party at a festival with thousands of others, here are some of the best destinations to celebrate midsummer in Europe.

1. Stockholm, Sweden

Midsummer celebrations are an integral part of Swedish culture and traditions. The origins of the festival in Sweden began with people decorating their homes and dancing around maypoles to celebrate the season of fertility.

Today, Swedes flock to the countryside with family and friends. If you don’t have any Swedish friends who can bring you along to the celebrations, Stockholm hosts several public midsummer events for visitors. Families visiting the capital should head to Skansen open-air museum for folk music, flower and birch wreath making, and the central event — the raising of the maypole. Alternatively, take a 75-minute boat trip to Grinda island for celebrations lasting until the early hours. In 2024, Midsummer Eve in Sweden is marked on June 21.

2. Stonehenge, England

While it might at first seem an unlikely destination to celebrate midsummer, it’s perhaps one of the best to visit for historical relevance. Built around 5,000 years ago, Stonehenge’s standing stones align with the sun on both the summer and winter solstices, making for an ethereal and magical sight.

Though there are no specific activities at Stonehenge on the day, crowds gather in the thousands to see the spectacle of the sun rising behind the Heel Stone right into the heart of the structure, and to witness senior druid King Arthur Pendragon conducting a service at the historical site, as he does on every solstice. This year, the spectacular sunrise arrives on the morning of June 21.

3. Oslo, Norway

While midsummer isn’t a public holiday in Norway as it is in Sweden and the events aren’t as extravagant, the day is still marked with outdoor parties and bonfires. In fact, Norwegians take their fires so seriously that the world’s largest open-air fire was built by the residents of Ålesund in 2016 for midsummer.

Typically, an animal effigy is set alight on the fjord waters of Sukkerbiten, and various other public events take place at the Norwegian Folk Museum, including yodeling, wreath making, and horse and carriage rides. Midsummer Eve, or Sankthansaften, is celebrated on June 23.

4. Riga, Latvia

Jāņi, as it’s known locally, is a pagan festival that’s still marked every year. This year, it takes place overnight from June 23-24. The joyous festivities celebrate nature, with locals making wreaths from oak leaves and wildflowers and lighting bonfires. The mysticism associated with midsummer runs deep in Latvia, with many still believing in a whole host of folk traditions. For example, plants picked on the summer solstice are said to have the power to heal diseases and ward off evil spirits, while bathing in the morning dew is said to bring beauty and youth.

The capital city, Riga, offers countless public events throughout the day and night, from a midsummer fair in the Old Town to a free outdoor ball in a park with live music and food.

5. Barcelona, Spain

In Spain’s second city and throughout Catalonia, midsummer is celebrated from the evening of June 23 to the following day, as the Feast of Sant Joan. Marking the start of summer, the events revolve around fire, water, and herbs — the three symbols of Sant Joan. The city is lit by fireworks and fires lining the streets throughout the night and, as with Latvian traditions, the holistic properties of herbs are said to multiply on this night.

The beach is the best place to be during the celebrations — restaurant tables line up across the beachfront, picnics are dotted around the sand, and pop-up firework shops throughout the city ensure the night goes off with a bang.

6. Iceland

Icelandic folklore says the summer solstice blurs the lines between the worlds as we know them — animals can speak and turn human, and a roll about in wet grass can heal diseases.

Though there are no promises of a conversation with our four-legged friends, the Summer Solstice Festival in Reykjavík, taking place over June 23-25, isn’t just a music festival. Expect a breathtaking rave inside a glacier or, for a slightly warmer alternative, a party in geothermal springs. The festival also includes tours to the natural wonders of Iceland, sharing ancient stories along the way.

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