For some countries, the summer solstice marks the official start of summer, when the longest day – and shortest night – of the year is a time for revelry, steeped in local culture and history. 

In 2024, the official solstice falls on June 20, but these celebrations in the northern hemisphere run from June 20 to June 23. Here are some of the unique ways this event is marked.

1. Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England

The purpose of the impressive boulder formations of Stonehenge may still be cloaked in mystery, but they serve as the perfect backdrop of a phenomenal – and arguably the most famous – observation of sunrise and sunset. Believed to be the site of ancient Druid solstice celebrations, visitors have flocked to the site for years. 

One-day access to the inner prehistoric stone circle allows travelers to face what’s known as the Heel Stone to catch the sunrise over the giant boulder.

As the popularity of the free event grew, thousands of people have been known to camp out nearby (no camping is permitted at the site) days in advance while donning traditional Celtic attire. English Heritage live streams the event on its YouTube channel, so you can tune in from wherever you are in the world. It will start with sunset on the evening of Thursday, June 20, and sunrise on Friday, June 21.

A teenage boy dressed in traditional clothing with colorful beads and feathers dances during the Summer Solstice Indigenous Arts Festival in Ottawa.
Celebrating Indigenous culture is a major part of summer solstice celebrations in Ottawa © Paul McKinnon / Getty Images

2. Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival – Ottawa, Canada

A diversity of cultures is represented in Ottawa’s three-day Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, which runs June 21 to 23 this year, fusing the longest day of the year with National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. The area was the traditional territory of the Algonquin people before Queen Victoria declared Ottawa Canada’s capital.

During the festival, there's food by celebrated Indigenous chefs, traditional costumes and cultural events. A visually captivating Pow Wow that brings out the best talent in the surrounding areas, all vying for $75,000 in prizes. Admission is free, but there is a fee for events and workshops.

3. Fairbanks and Anchorage – Alaska, US

About one-third of the state of Alaska lies north of the Arctic Circle, therefore a solstice celebration can be found pretty much wherever you land. Up north, Fairbanks goes for good old Americana with the Alaska Goldpanners hosting the Midnight Sun Baseball Game, a tradition since the town’s beginnings in 1906. The game kicks off at 10pm and pauses close to midnight for the singing of the Alaska Flag Song.

A little further south, Anchorage gets 22 hours of daylight, and they use all of them with the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon and Half Marathon on June 22, with the event in 2024 marking the marathon's 50th year.

A pair of girls wearing white dresses and floral crowns hold hands as they dance around a maypole behind another group of people holding hands. Summer Solstice is known as Midsummer in Sweden.
Sweden's Midsummer is a traditional festival that includes eating pickled herring, wearing floral crowns and, of course, dancing around maypoles © Kent Klich / Getty Images

4. Midsummer – Stockholm, Sweden

Midsummer in Sweden is sweet with romance, with traditional maypole dancing and gathering wildflowers for floral crowns. Tradition states that if you place seven types of flowers under your pillow at Midsummer, you will dream of your spouse. But who has time to sleep?

For the weekend surrounding the solstice, people have traditionally filled the streets for a never-ending party, washing down pickled herring and dill-laced new potatoes with spiced schnapps and plenty of drinking songs; the dirtier, the better. Celebrations are family-oriented and usually happen out in the countryside. For those unable to snag an invite to someone's home, the open-air Skansen Museum in Stockholm serves as a good alternative with three days of activities from June 21 to 23.

Mountains are glowing red and orange in the darkness, lit by many fires
See Austrian mountains ablaze in the Tyrol on midsummer © Andreas Mohaupt / Getty Images

5. Mountaintop bonfires – Tyrol, Austria

When the summer solstice comes around, Austrians play with fire. Their tradition of lighting bonfires on mountaintops not only looks spectacular but is also rooted in the Middle Ages, when flames were used to ward off evil spirits.

In the 1700s, the fires were re-cast to fight against the imminent threat of invasion by Napoleon, and after the victory, Austrians pledged themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Since then, the mountains of the Tyrol have been set ablaze annually in dramatic form, save for a brief time when they were outlawed by the Nazis. Today, Austrians still honor the shortest night of the year but have incorporated religious symbols like crosses into the festivities.

This article was first published Jun 19, 2019 and updated Jun 17, 2024.

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