Celebrate Midsummer In Sweden

Sweden is a Scandinavian nation in Europe known for its incredible natural beauty, robust public services, and generally stoic but kind people. When it comes to the summer though, Swedes really pull out all the stops, and there are few places in the world that pay homage to the summer season better than Sweden with its Midsummer celebrations.

Midsummer — the summer solstice — is a major celebration in Sweden that marks the longest day of the year and the season of warm summer weather and fertility. Considering the long and dark winters that Sweden and other northern countries endure, Midsummer is a welcome reprieve. Though Midsummer has cultural importance to Swedish people, the exact origins of the celebrations are not well-known. Per Sweden's Nordic Museum, Midsummer is historically known as a Christian holiday for John the Baptist. However, it's thought that even in pre-Christian times there were some ceremonies held in celebration of the summer solstice.

Regardless of its origins, Midsummer is a great way for Swedes and visitors alike to blow off some steam, soak up the summer sun, and enjoy the amazing weather, food, and company of friends and family. Here are some of the best ways to join in on the Midsummer revelry and celebrate the summer solstice like a Swede.

Best time to travel to Sweden for Midsummer

Midsummer is on the Friday that falls between the 19th and 25th of June. So if you want to experience the real Midsummer, be sure to plan your travels around this week. Since the summer season is the high season in Sweden, be sure to book your flights, hotels, and accommodations in advance since prices are bound to get more and more expensive the closer to summer you get.

Now comes the question of whether to book your stay in the weeks before or after Midsummer. This depends on what your priorities are for your travels. If you want to experience the summer solstice in Sweden but aren't a big fan of crowds or you'd like to save some money, book your travels for the weeks or days before Midsummer. There is a chance that it will be cooler during this time, but you can avoid the busy summer crowds and get better deals on accommodations and activities.

If you want the likelihood of great weather, regardless of the cost and crowds, plan to book for the Midsummer week and the first weeks of July. The end of June and July in Sweden is a stunning period and provides the perfect conditions to take part in the country's many outdoor activities like biking, hiking, canoeing, and fishing.

Celebrate Midsummer in these Swedish cities and towns

If you're planning a visit to Sweden, you may be tempted to stick to the major cities. But to truly get the best experience of Sweden's Midsummer, you should really consider getting off the beaten path to where the true celebrations are happening — in the countryside. Dalarna is known as one of the best places in the country to celebrate Midsummer. The village and the surrounding countryside look like something out of a fairytale. In the summer the landscape is swathed in green and dotted with vibrant wildflowers. Locals in Dalarna dress in traditional Swedish clothing and put on professional folk music and dances. There are also parades and even a boat race.

If you'd prefer to spend more time by the water for Midsummer, head to the Bohuslän coast. Here you can do some island hopping, put up the maypole with some locals, and even experience the midnight sun. We recommend you check out the islands of Marstrand, Orust, and Väderöarna, which are home to picturesque fishing villages.

If you'd prefer to stay in the big city or you just don't have the time to leave and wander the countryside, don't worry, you can still celebrate Midsummer in Stockholm. The Skansen open-air museum has everything a reveler needs to get the true summer solstice experience including dancing, music, and wreath-making.

Find your new favorite food and drinks at a Midsummer party

The smorgasbord of food at Midsummer is enough to make your brain spin like Swedes around a maypole. These days you'll find a lot of the usual charcuterie fare — cheese, bread, and cured meats — but what makes the spreads uniquely Swedish? On a Midsummer table, you'll find pickled herring (sill), cured or grilled salmon (gravlax), new potatoes (färskpotatis) covered in dill, and a strawberry cake served with cream (jordgubbstårta). You'll also find an array of grilled meats and vegetables, Swedish meatballs, and knäckebröd, a dry cracker that's flat and made from rye flour. 

No party would be complete without a little of the local fire water. In Sweden, this is "snaps" or "schnapps", also known as aquavit. It's a type of alcohol made from grains or potatoes and primarily flavored with caraway or dill, but it can come in a variety of flavors including elderflower and honey. In Sweden, though, you'll find more licorice-adjacent flavors featuring anise or fennel. Follow a shot with a beer and some pickled herring and you'll be a true Swede by sundown.

Activities to make Midsummer celebrations unforgettable

If you drink aquavit at your Midsummer party, you'll be introduced to the many drinking songs that Swedes enjoy. A famous one is "Helan går," meaning the "whole goes down." Predictably, you take a shot at the end of the song. If that wasn't enough to get you in the party mood, don't worry, there are plenty of fun (non-alcoholic) activities that can be enjoyed by everyone of all ages. This is because at Midsummer, everyone is allowed to let loose and enjoy the whimsy of this summer celebration.

First you have the decoration, and the wearing of flower crowns might be the most iconic feature of Midsummer. Old symbols of renewal and regeneration, they were traditionally dried out and preserved for a family's winter baths.

Then, of course, there's the maypole or "midsommarstänger." A tall pole that's set up at a Midsummer party, it's decorated with greenery and flowers and used to sing and dance around. And what do people sing about as they frolic around this pole with their flower wreaths? Maybe hardy Viking songs or tales of magic? Nope. You'll find Swedes singing "Små Grodorna" — a song about small frogs — while hopping around the maypole pretending to be frogs. You can also enjoy many lawn games like croquet, a sack race, or a game similar to bowling called "kubb."

How to be the best-dressed person at Midsummer parties

Even if you're not particularly concerned about what people are wearing, it's impossible not to notice Swedish fashion mostly consists of shades of black and gray. Between the cultural aversion to standing out and dressing to match the season (which is often dreary and cold), Swedes tend to stock their wardrobes with neutral colors.

However, when it comes to Midsummer, color is a must. Because this is a celebration of the summer, good weather, and whimsy, wearing black would be a big no-no. Women usually wear bright white dresses made of linen or cotton to stay cool in the warm weather, or ones with floral prints. Men might wear blue or white shirts. Most of all though, you should dress comfortably. There are lots of activities going on at Midsummer, so wear clothes that you can move in and what makes you feel like your best self.