A trip through Sweden’s Midsommar festival

In ten short hours I have forgotten Chicago. Sitting outside of Hotel Skepshollmenn on the sprawling, gravel terrace, the pastel, Scandinavian sun reflects off of the yellow building walls and tall, leafy trees rustle in the polite sea breeze. It’s hard to believe that we’ve so fluidly escaped the Midwest heat, let alone that we’re in the center of the largest city in Sweden.

Here in Stockholm it’s Midsommar, the traditional celebration of the longest day of the year, a time when hard-working residents take to their summer cottages out on the archipelago, when the city adopts a quiet, astute functionality and grace. Though the date changes every year, the festival is always held on the weekend closest to the solstice; this year it’s June 24-27.

Volumes of debate swirl around when the best time of the year is to visit Scandinavia. It goes without saying that summer is the best season in which to make your way (as hotel and airline prices will surely reflect,) but around Midsommar, which is celebrated differently in each Scandinavian nation, demand tapers in. With so many residents and workers away for the holiday, much of Stockholm slows down, some of the unique, boutique stores and restaurants button up and the access to the residential, city culture is somewhat restricted.

As a result, visitors might see a dip in hotel prices and other associated costs during the weekend of Midsommar — at the expense of missing out on some of the more organic aspects of Stockholm.

As in any metropolis, however, city life does move on. Gamla stan, the old town and tourist center of the city, becomes the hub of activity, with visitors and the few remaining workers sifting through Irish bars, souvenir shops and cafes. Museums and attractions including the open air Skansen and the new Fotografiska still stay open, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the traditional Midsommar aquavit and pickled herring across the city.

For residents, however, Midsommar is a time for celebration, relaxation and socialization. Observance ranges from traditional to hedonistic (which we’ll get to later) but the underlying theme is all the same: visit with family and friends and enjoy the long happy weekend.

Later this week we’ll get to the particularities of Midsommar celebration and the practicality of designing your own trip. We hope that you enjoy the trip.

Note, some logistical help in executing this trip came from the Sweden tourism board. Itineraries and adventures were our own creation.