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Festivals in Scandinavia

Scandinavians take advantage of the summer months with a happy vengeance and host dozens of festivals where you can hear every kind of music imaginable, taste the best of local fare, and learn about the unique cultures of the far north of Europe.

Dedicated to the theme of light and energy, the Winter Lights Festival really cheers everyone up after a long dark winter in Iceland. Beer Day was first celebrated on March 1st, 1989 when a 75-year long prohibition of beer was lifted. Highly festive celebrations are held at pubs, restaurants, and clubs all around the capital city. The Iceland Food & Fun Festival is a week of indulgence showcasing chefs, brew masters and Icelandic gourmet products. DesignMarch is a four-day design festival featuring an impressive program of events, lectures and exhibitions reflecting the diversity of Icelandic design and architecture. Events at the Icelandic Horse Festival range from breeding shows to saddle making at ranches and horse clubs.

“Song of Norway” is the name of an operetta, a cruise ship, and could be the name of your holiday if you attend a fraction of the music festivals held here every year. Choose from among all stripes of rock, jazz and blues, Norwegian folk, classical, opera, and electronic events. Enter the ancient Norse world at Karmøy’s Viking Festival, which brings Viking history and culture to life in a reconstructed Viking settlement. Improve your aim at the archery workshops, hear music and enjoy arts and crafts, food, storytelling, sports and more from the Viking period. The Gladmat Festival is Scandinavia’s largest food festival and is a great place to discover niche products, taste local ingredients and get the lowdown on the latest culinary trends. Riddu Riddu Sami Festival presents an extensive program featuring music, film and art and offers many activities for children too.

Denmark’s festivals are mainly musical and in or near Copenhagen. One standout is the, well, humongous eight-day Roskilde Festival. The Odense Folk Festival hosts upcoming and established Danish and foreign folk artists, always with a contingent of Irish and Scottish artists; if you love traditional jazz, get on over to the Femø Jazz Festival, 6 days of happy music for happy people! Copenhagen Distortion is Scandinavia’s leading street and nightlife festival, orchestrating 88 dance floors for five days of party madness, including block parties and programs in spectacular locations such as warehouses, museums, sport halls, bridges, old breweries. For something great but comparatively low-key, visit the new Copenhagen Photo Festival presents significant Danish and international contemporary photography in art institutions, galleries and urban space.

Sweden’s most iconic festival is a one-day affair at Christmastime, the Lucia festival. Imagine the charming sight of thousands of young girls, dressed in white gowns, holding a lit candle and wearing a wreath of (electric, don’t worry) candles on their heads. Young boys taking part in the procession sport white gowns and pointed hats with gold stars on them, followed by wee ones dressed as elves!
The Malmöfestivalen festival is primarily a music fest – eight days of Swedish and international entertainmen, on no fewer than twenty stages, all free of charge. In recent years the festival has expanded to last the entire summer season, offering a plethora of performances – music, theatre, comedy, shows, circus and much more – most of them outdoors in the city´s lush parks and green areas.

From spring through autumn Finland rings with music and laughter at festivals devoted to all forms of entertainment and folk culture. Karhujuhlat, or the Bear Festival, is a versatile summer festival in Kuusamo including a beauty contest, competitions, programs for children, music and dancing. The Full Moon Dance Festival features not werewolves but contemporary dancers defying gravity, and how can you resist a stand-up comedy festival called “Tomatoes! Tomatoes!”? Is this a nod to projectiles reserved for less popular acts? The Ethno Music Festival Sommelo will takes place in Kainuu, Finland and Viena Karelia, Russia. It celebrates the shepherds' instruments, great songs and Sami culture, something you’ll experience only in this part of the world.

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