Sweden in Midsommar: From traditional to contemporary

Our hearts are still in Stockholm this week, neck deep in the celebration of one of Scandinavia’s biggest holidays: Midsommar. In case you missed it earlier, Midsommar is the celebration of the longest day of the year in these high latitudes, a time when the sun only sets for three hours a night and when Stockholm is most appreciable.

From a local’s perspective, Midsommar is often spent with the family and friends, most often in a small beach house in the outskirts of Stockholm or out in the geologically diverse archipelago.

Some of those that remain in the city pilgrimage to Skansen for Midsommar Eve, an open air museum not unlike Greenfield Village or Colonial Williamsburg. Hosting a full range of historical Swedish architecture, characters and foodstuffs, Skansen throws the biggest celebration in the city during the day of Midsommar Eve, all culminating in the traditional hoisting of the maypole around which thousands of visitors can dance. Admission is around 18USD.

In parallel, guests can roam the sprawling museum campus, picking flowers for Midsommar garlands, gobbling up meatballs and herring or gawking at the hundreds of traditionally dressed workers strolling about. Family time is important at Skansen, and the hours spent here learning about Swedish culture and tradition are an excellent way to spend the day, regardless of the holiday.

As with any social experience, drinks and dancing also have a special role in Midsommar festivities. On the eve of the holiday when the children have gone to bed and the sun is still out, adults drink late into the night, fortifying themselves for a long weekend of family fun and socialization.

For those that have gone into the islands to party, Sandhamn is the place to be. A few hours by ferry outside of Stockholm, the island is a nexus for young Swedes in full-on celebration mode for the long weekend. As the population balloons, many choose to camp on the beach after all night festivities, and the air takes on a buzz of drunken, joyous happiness similar to the full moon parties well known in Thailand.

The party rages forth in Stockholm as well, with many social circles hosting private parties at decked out residences across the city. Many clubs and restaurants stay open for the holiday, and one of the biggest places to celebrate is in the Berns Hotel Salon, just next to and behind the Grand Hotel in the center of Stockholm. With a tall, vaulted ceiling, a huge dining area and several outdoor terraces, Berns is one of the places to be on Midsommar Eve (and they know it,) so get here early and be prepared to spend a few extra dollars for drinks. Though it’ll be expensive, the scenery and the setting are worth every crown.

Traditional as it might be, Midsommar thus has a streak of unbridled celebration that any common visitor can daftly take part in. For a first time visitor, Skansen is a good bet for a crash course in traditional culture, eating and drinking. If your budget and schedule don’t match up though, a good bottle of whiskey and a few new friends out on the sunny streets of Stockholm will do the trick.

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