The Arctic North is widely visited during the winter months when the Northern Lights are its main attraction. However, June brings the Arctic Circle into the land of the Midnight Sun, with almost continual sunshine throughout the day. Peaking at the solstice on 21st June, it’s a phenomenon that’s been captured in mythology, fiction and even on film in Insomnia. One thing we do advise is that you take a fairly thick eye mask as some tourists do find it rather difficult to sleep. For a truly incredible experience, here’s our guide to the best of Europe’s Midnight Sun.
Russians are famed for their pragmatic outlook on life and when faced with 24 hours of daylight, they tackle the problem in the very best way. From 11th June until 2nd July, St. Petersburg plays host to the White Nights Festival which celebrates this endless daylight. With the city bathed in an eerie twilight, all-night parties and firework displays take place, as well as carnivals and film festivals. The highlight of the festival is the Stars of the White Nights Festival, hosted by the Mariinsky Theatre. Here you can see fantastic performances of ballet, opera and music throughout the festival. I would also recommend taking a boat tour along the River Neva to see the magnificent city at its very best.
Norway is a wonderful destination to visit at any time of the year and the north of the country is a true delight during the summer. Tromso is a fantastic place to base yourself, nestled within the Arctic Circle. In this mesmerizing city, activity really ramps up during June with many cultural events hosted here. Most notably, there is the Midnight Sun Marathon held the day before the solstice on June 23rd.
From Tromso, fly direct to Longyearbyen, Svalbard to make the very most of the Midnight Sun in this Scandinavian haven. Svalbard set my imagination alight after reading Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights which bases itself in this magical location. A trip here certainly won’t disappoint as it feels special from the moment you set foot on land. Svalbard is bathed in daylight from April through until August so they’re well prepared for the midnight sun. This rugged terrain is best explored using a professional guide as it’s rather treacherous if you’re unfamiliar with the landscape and the wildlife that live here. It’s a rewarding trip through vast mountains and past untouched glaciers to see polar bears, reindeer and whales all roam free.
Iceland takes midsummer extremely seriously indeed and it is a major festival here. June 24th is known as Jonsmessa, and the country celebrates not only the solstice but also the Viking New Year. There are many viking celebrations across the country including at Fjorukrain where you can learn viking crafts, buy gifts and hear traditional stories and music.
Visit Hafnarfjordur to take a guided walk amongst the ‘hidden world’. Midsummer is tied up with ancient folklore and Hafnarfjordur is famed to be heavily populated with elves, pixies and dwarves. Events to celebrate the solstice are quite informal but you’ll find the island filled with parties to attend and bonfires alight across the land to bring in the Viking new year.
If you want to visit Stockholm, there’s never a better time to do so than during the week leading up to Midsummer. The capital empties as the Swedish get into the countryside to enjoy the midnight sun and its festivities. Midsummer is celebrated with joy as the country enjoys being released from the grip of the cold and dark of the winter months.
A great place to enjoy Midsummer is at Skansen Open Air Museum which hosts a whole programme of events to celebrate. Running over three days, you’ll be able to enjoy a fine traditional feast, watch dancing around the maypole and hear some fantastic folklore tales.