In the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the official kickoff of summer. It’s a day of festivities: think mass picnics, blazing bonfires, live music, and more. So, where should you go to celebrate the solstice in style? Read on for our top picks.
Celebrate midsummer in Sweden
These Nordic party animals have long, dark winters: no wonder they’re so excited when summer finally rolls around! Summer solstice is a huge celebration in Sweden. Locals flock to huge outdoor feasts, where they tuck into grilled herring, new potatoes, and the first strawberries of the season. And dancing is just as important as feasting: it’s not a Swedish midsummer celebration without a maypole dance! You’ll likely touch down in Stockholm to kick off your Swedish solstice trip. While you should definitely explore the charming capital, most midsummer celebrations take place in the countryside. Our tip: head to the stunning Stockholm archipelago for a truly authentic solstice experience.
Give “lit” a new meaning in Norway
Norway marks midsummer by celebrating Sankthans on June 24, with picnicking, games, and lots of ice cream. But the real festivities occur on the night before, on Sankthans’ Eve, when enormous bonfires are lit up and down the country. Head to Ålesund to see a truly spectacular blaze — in 2016, the town’s Sankthans fire set the world record for the largest bonfire. Make the most of your time in Norway with a cruise through its unique fjords, or spend a day or two discovering cosmopolitan Oslo.
Swim, sauna, and sun your way through Latvia
In Latvia, Jani or Liigo is celebrated on June 23 and 24, and has been ever since pagan times. Ask any Latvian and they’ll tell you this special day is one best spent in nature. Locals head outside the city to weave floral wreaths, drink mead, and freshen up in the sauna. Why not follow their lead and get out into the rugged beauty of Sigulda, in the region known as Latvian Switzerland. It’s a great destination for hiking, swimming, and soaking up that precious midsummer sunlight. Or, you could always join the buzzy open-air concerts and feasts in Riga: it’s a great city for eating, drinking, and making merry!
Worship the sun in the U.K.
There’s only one place to be in the United Kingdom on the longest day of the year: Stonehenge. This ancient site, built in 3001 B.C., is shrouded in mystery. But many experts believe the Neolithic people who built Stonehenge were sun-worshippers. How else do you explain the stunning way the stones frame the sunrise on the longest day of the year? To see for yourself, take an easy trip from London, driving over the scenic Salisbury plains until you reach the site itself.
Marvel at Ireland’s megaliths
Not to be outdone by Britain, Ireland also celebrates the Solstice in stone-age style! Base yourself in the vibrant capital, Dublin, and take a day trip to Newgrange. Nestled in the lush green countryside of County Meath, Newgrange is a 5000-year-old passage tomb, surrounded by enormous stones known as megaliths. This striking spot is also the site of memorable solstice celebrations. Here, and over the rest of the country, locals will light bonfires, play traditional music, and herald the new season’s arrival.