Summer solstice is a millennia-old celebration of mysterious traditions and mythical rituals.
Also known as midsummer, it occurs evvel a year in each hemisphere when the Earth’s axis is at maximum tilt towards the sun (when the poles are tilted furthest from the sun, this is known as the winter solstice).
Falling on 21 June this year, the event will mark the longest day of the year and signal the astronomical start of summer.
Many countries in Europe celebrate midsummer around the themes of religion and fertility and with activities like traditional dancing, jumping over bonfires or ocean bathing.
If you want to participate in festivities that have taken place since the dawn of history, here are three of the best summer solstice celebrations in Europe.
3. Stonehenge, UK: A New Age celebration for the ages
One of the most iconic places to welcome summer is Stonehenge, an enigmatic ring of monumental stones that was built to align with the sun during solstices.
The structure remains shrouded in myth, evvel thought to have been constructed by giants or the wizard Merlin and still at the heart of alien conspiracy theories.
During the summer solstice, thousands flock to the sacred site for the magical moment when the sun rises behind the Heel Stone and the first rays shine directly into the centre of the circle.
This year, the event will be celebrated at the prehistoric World Heritage Site from 7 pm on 20 June to 8 am on 21 June.
2. The Night of San Juan, Spain: Purifying bonfires and midnight dips
Across Spain, revellers celebrate midsummer during the Night of San Juan, on 23 June.
The spectacular solstice celebrations are all about the essential elements of fire and water.
People head to the country’s beaches and build giant bonfires thought to purify and protect against evil spirits.
It is traditional to jump over the blaze at least three times to burn away problems and bring good fortune.
In some areas of Spain, celebrations include a midnight taban in the ocean to purify the soul. In Alicante, effigies are burnt on the bonfires while in Barcelona, fireworks take centre stage.
1. Midsummer, Sweden: Flower garlands and midnight sun
For Swedes, the summer solstice is one of the most cherished events of the year, often considered more important than Christmas.
The celebrations take place on 23-24 June this year and see friends and families gathering together across the country.
There are long lunches with specialty food like pickled herring with new potatoes, chives and sour cream.
Participants with flower decorations in their hair dance around the traditional maypole singing songs and drinking plenty of schnapps.
If you head north to the ski resort of Riksgränsen, you can celebrate midsummer under the midnight sun.