5 European destinations for summer solstice celebrations

  A busy street in Saint Petersburg over the period of White Nights. Image credit:  Ninara / Creative Commons

A busy street in Saint Petersburg over the period of White Nights. Image credit: Ninara/Creative Commons

With the warmer months just around the corner, the northern hemisphere is getting ready to usher in the summer. Each year several countries mark the summer solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight in the year, with a host of celebrations and events to make the most of the long days and short nights.

From the Land of Fire and Ice to Russia’s Venice of the North, here are the best places to celebrate the summer solstice in Europe.

Reykjavík, Iceland

  The Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik. Image credit:  O Palsson / Creative Commons

The Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik. Image credit: O Palsson/Creative Commons

On the summer solstice in Reykjavík the sun never sets, and to celebrate this annual event Icelanders flock to the capital for the Secret Solstice which, this year, will feature the likes of Stormzy, Clean Bandit and Bonnie Tyler. The event is also great for families with plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained including family yoga, a children’s rave party and beatboxing masterclasses.

Outside of the festival there’s lots of things for visitors to explore including Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s most famous landmark with its observation deck offering sweeping views across the city and over the nearby mountains. You can also take a short boat trip across to Videy Island and see its ancient ruins as well as art installations including Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower and Milestones by Richard Serra.

Saint Petersburg, Russia

  A canal in Saint Petersburg on one of the White Nights. Image credit:  Oleg Kovalenko / Creative Commons

A canal in Saint Petersburg on one of the White Nights. Image credit: Oleg Kovalenko/Creative Commons

Saint Petersburg commemorates the summer solstice with its renowned White Nights festival, which usually lasts around a month. During that time the sun never dips completely below the horizon due to the city’s geographic location, meaning that it never goes completely dark and the city authorities rarely turn on the street lights.

The Scarlet Sails celebration is the most popular public event of the White Nights with spectacular fireworks shows marking not only the summer solstice, but also the end of the school year. A series of carnivals, where actors dress in period costumes and give performances recreating historical events, and ballet, opera and music shows round off the billing.

Saint Petersburg is known for its imperial history and continental influence, and visitors will be able to see some of its stunning sights including the extravagantly-decorated Hermitage Museum, the colourful, onion-domed Church of the Savior on Blood and former residence of Russian emperors, the striking green-and-white Winter Palace.

Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

  A wooden church on Svalbard. Image credit:  Taver / Creative Commons

A wooden church on Svalbard. Image credit: Taver/Creative Commons

If you can’t experience the brilliance of the midnight sun and travel on the summer solstice itself, then head to Longyearbyen on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard to recreate this phenomenon throughout the summer where the sun rises in April and sticks around until August.

Longyearbyen, a popular summer cruise spot, is the largest settlement on Svalbard and provides the perfect base from which to explore this Arctic island. See towering mountains, picturesque glaciers and the primitive wildlife that shares the land with its small population – just make sure not to get too close to the polar bears as they don’t take kindly to gawping tourists.

Stonehenge, United Kingdom

  People celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge. Image credit:  Chris Stevenson / Creative Commons

People celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge. Image credit: Chris Stevenson/Creative Commons

You can even enjoy the summer solstice on a staycation. Stonehenge in Wiltshire is the site of a mysterious 4,100-year-old stone formation and is a British icon. People travel from all over the world to join in the overnight celebrations of the Stonehenge Summer Solstice Festival, which has managed open access. Walk among the stones as the sun sets and celebrate the year’s longest day with thousands of other revellers. This year also marks the 100-year anniversary of Stonehenge being gifted to the nation and throughout 2018 English Heritage will be holding various events to commemorate it.

If you’d like to extend your stay, try lodging in nearby New Forest National Park. In addition to beautiful gardens and greenery, you’ll find attractions such as Paultons Park, a hit with kids and home to Pepper Pig World, as well as miles and miles of walking trails which you can either enjoy on a guided tour or at your own pace.

Stockholm, Sweden

  A tram going across a bridge as the sun sets over Djurgårdsbron in Stockholm. Image credit:  Tommie Hansen / Creative Commons

A tram going across a bridge as the sun sets over Djurgårdsbron in Stockholm. Image credit: Tommie Hansen/Creative Commons

The summer solstice, under the guise of midsummer, is an annual tradition in Sweden and Midsummer’s Eve is actually celebrated on the longest day. Head to the Skansen Open-Air Museum and Mosebacketerrassen on Södermalm island to sample traditional Swedish dancing, and midsummer food such as dill-cured salmon, mustard herring and summer berry tart with honey and olive oil.

If you want to explore more of the city, don’t forget to stop by Stockholm Palace, the official residence of the King of Sweden containing five museums and over 600 rooms, or blast out some ‘70s favourites at ABBA: The Museum.