7 of the Best Summer Solstice Celebrations in Europe
We might have Stonehenge, but our European neighbours celebrate the summer solstice in many different ways. We all have one thing in common, though: as the Earth’s axis tilts towards the sun, revellers turn their faces skyward to bask in the glow of its lingering light. Centred on music, food and celebration, this is a perpetual party that links us to our planet, creating unique memories for those who venture to experience them…
Solstice Fires, Tyrol, Austria
WHAT: Since the Middle Ages, the people of Tyrol have lit fires on the mountainside to banish demons and fortify the sun during the longest day of the year. Today, spectacular scenes spread across the peaks, with thousands of brilliant bonfires and ‘fire paintings’ lighting up the night.
WHERE: Fires spark into life around the Zugspitze, Grubigstein and Marienberg mountains, among others.
DO IT LIKE A LOCAL: Ride the network of cable cars to ever-more impressive vantage points; join a barbecue party on Hartkaiser mountain; or enjoy music while tucking into Tyrolean specialties at 1,500m in Wildschönau, beside those who have celebrated this way for decades.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Linger a while and take in the peaceful, Alpine vistas – there are 15,000 miles of marked hiking trails in Tyrol and 570 miles of cycling routes. Speak to one of our Travel Experts to make your outdoors adventure happen.
Festa de São João, Porto, Portugal
WHAT: Once a feast for the pagan sun god, it now honours St John the Baptist. Merrymakers jump over bonfires for luck, and fireworks light up the night sky.
WHERE: The party spills out onto Porto’s streets and down to the banks of the Douro river, where revellers walk from Ribeira to Foz do Douro to watch the sunrise.
DO IT LIKE A LOCAL: Barbecue sardines and say “saúde” as you clink glasses filled with port.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Visit Porto and Lisbon on our Dreams of Portugal Journey, taking in the country’s scenic views and sampling world-famous port.
Midsummer, Stockholm, Sweden
WHAT: One of the most important days in the Swedish calendar, the focus here is on tradition and family-oriented fun: maypole dancing, games, hand-crafted costumes, and wreaths fashioned from wildflowers and birch.
WHERE: While it’s celebrated in parks and gardens country-wide, Stockholm’s Skansen museum – the oldest open-air museum in the world – hosts many of the most traditional festivities.
DO IT LIKE A LOCAL: Head to the park and picnic on pickled herring, cured salmon and potatoes, while sipping schnapps and beer.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Just a few minutes outside the city, a slice of Sweden’s great outdoors awaits exploration – the Stockholm archipelago. Bike, hike and soak it all in. Ask one of our Travel Experts to help you plan your Journey.
Fête de la Musique Paris, France
WHAT: Music fans will love this day of free gigs across France; last year there were 18,000 events nationwide. Held annually since 1982, the festival involves established and amateur acts, and a true party spirit fills the streets.
WHERE: In Paris, stages pop up all over the place. And in the past, the Louvre, the Petit Palais, the Jardin du Luxembourg and the banks of the Seine have all hosted special concerts.
DO IT LIKE A LOCAL: Events take place in theatres, venues and bars, but you’re just as likely to have fun watching someone play guitar on their balcony while sitting outside enjoying fine French cuisine.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Enjoy two nights of luxury at L’Hotel du Collectionneur Arc de Triomphe, just minutes from the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, from £121pppn.
Secret Solstice Reykjavik, Iceland
WHAT: At this four-day festival, an eclectic mix of bands and DJs play against the backdrop of Iceland’s magical landscape. Unique side events (limited to a lucky few) are held in the mighty Langjökull glacier and the 5,200-year-old lava tunnel of Raufarhólshellir.
WHERE: The main festival site is in Reykjavik’s Laugardalur district, the city’s nature and recreation hub.
DO IT LIKE A LOCAL: Camp on-site. Unzip your tent in the morning and see the sky stretch out above you…
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Set out on our self-drive Summer Ring Road Highlights Journey for spellbinding sights such as Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir hot springs, glaciers and black-sand beaches.
Festes de Sant Joan Ciutadella de Menorca, Spain
WHAT: Putting a unique twist on a popular Spanish fiesta, Menorquin horses and their cavallers take centre stage in celebrations dating back to the 14th century. Visitors come from across the country for two days of parties and parades.
WHERE: Ciutadella de Menorca is a pretty port city on the Balearic island’s sunny west coast.
DO IT LIKE A LOCAL: Sip pomada, a tangy gin and lemon refresher, and watch as plucky locals try to touch the rearing horses for luck.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Spend a week winding down by the azure waters of Cala Blanca. The sands are powdery and white, and the low cliffs make for wonderful walking. Speak to one of our Travel Experts to plan your Journey.
AstroFest, Istria, Croatia
WHAT: According to local legend, the shortest night of the year is when the real and surreal worlds collide. AstroFest looks to the heavens, bringing astronomy enthusiasts together to mark the occasion, adding jugglers, dances and music concerts to the mix.
WHERE: Events take place at a celebrated observatory on the enchanting Istrian peninsula.
DO IT LIKE A LOCAL: As you await the new dawn, share homemade wine with fellow stargazers and listen to stories of elves and fairies.
MAKE THE MOST OF IT: Tailor our Croatia & the Dalmatian Coast Journey to include Istria and see more of the country.