Swedish festivals are for the most part organized around the seasons. Most celebrations are lively events, as Swedes are great party people – once the beer begins to flow. The highlight of the year is the midsummer festival, when the whole country gets involved, and wild parties last well into the early hours. The date of Midsummer’s Day varies from year to year but is the Saturday closest to the actual summer solstice.
Great Winter Market, Jokkmokk (first Thursday to Sunday of February). Thirty thousand people flock to Jokkmokk for its famous 400-year-old winter market (w jokkmokksmarknad.se).
April and May
Valborgsmässoafton (April 30). Walpurgis Night. One of the most important festivals in Sweden, heralding the beginning of spring with bonfires and songs.
Labour Day (May 1). A none-too-thrilling marching day for the workers’ parties.
Swedish National Day (June 6). In existence since 1983, though a bit of a damp squib even though it’s now a public holiday; worthy speeches are delivered in the evening and the king often puts in an appearance at Skansen in Stockholm.
Midsummer (the Fri & Sat between June 20 and June 26). The biggest and best celebration anywhere in Sweden, with festivities centred around the maypole, an old fertility symbol, which is erected at popular gatherings across the country. The maypole is raised in June because it’s often still snowing in northern Sweden in May. There’s much dancing and drinking into the night – and severe hangovers the next morning. The most famous celebrations are those held in Dalarna.
Pajala market (second weekend after midsummer). Forty thousand people make their way to Pajala in northern Sweden for this annual market.
Musik vid Dellen, Hudiksvall (beginning of July). Ten-day cultural festival, featuring folk music and more (w musikviddellen.se).
Årets Näck, Hackås (second Thursday in July). Male fiddle players strip naked to play their instruments in the local river at this annual competition (w hackas.se).
Ystad Opera Festival (most of July).
Åre Bike Festival (July). Four-day mountain bike competition (w arebikefestival.com).
Gotland chamber music festival (end of July). Week-long music festival held at the church of St Nicolaus in Visby (w gotlandchamber.se).
Crayfish parties (throughout Aug). Held in the August moonlight across the country to say a wistful farewell to the short Swedish summer. Competitions are often held to establish the season’s best and tastiest crayfish.
Malmöfestivalen, Malmö (Aug). Eight days of free music and entertainment (w malmofestivalen.se).
Medieval Week, Visby (second week of August). Re-enactment of the Danish conquest of Gotland, featuring music, medieval food and jousting.
Surströmming (late Aug). In coastal areas of northern Sweden, particularly along the High Coast, parties are held at which people eat surströmming, a foul-smelling fermented Baltic herring which is something of an acquired taste – though a quintessentially Swedish experience.
Römpäviiko, Pajala (last week of Sept). The “romp week” cultural festival features live music and street stalls
Nobel Prize Day (Dec 10). Official ceremonies are held in Stockholm as the winners of the annual Nobel prizes are awarded.
St Lucia’s Day (Dec 13). Led by a girl with a crown of candles, this is a procession of children who sing songs as they bring light into the darkest month. For many Swedes, this is a welcome highlight during the ever-shortening days of December and a chance to look forward to Christmas.