Estonia’s All-Day Party Season

What is the Central European city that never sleeps - for at least part of the year? Tallinn, of course, where, during the summer solstice, you can take in the midnight sun.

Midsummer Night's Bonfire in Kuressaare
Midsummer Night's Bonfire in Kuressaare. Photo: Andrus Unger / Visit Estonia

Sleep all day, party all…day? If you happen to be in Estonia during the summer, don’t let the ever-present sun confuse you. In June, around the time of the summer solstice, the sun never makes it far enough below the horizon to hide the sunlight.

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is perhaps farther to the north than you think – it lies at almost 60°N latitude. And yes, it is in the northernmost part of the country, but even the country’s furthest point to the south is at 57°30′N. To compare it to the Western hemisphere – think of Hudson Bay, Canada’s Ottawa Islands, Alaska; that’s how far north it is.

The polar circle, the area where polar night and polar day occur, is still to the north – by over six degrees. Even so, during the shortest of nights, the sun sets here for just a short enough period that it never actually gets dark.

Midnight sun is just the beginning

If you want to spend the longest days of the year under the constant sun, far away from everything, sure – Alaska would be great. But why would you – if you could go to Tallinn instead to enjoy the midnight sun? It has it all – and more. Let’s start with traditions: it’s no surprise that the natural phenomenon of the summer solstice – as well as three other key dates in the natural calendar – is celebrated with a feast for the sun. The original celebrations merged with the later-introduced Christianity to form an amalgam of St John’s Eve and Solstice celebrations.

You can pray to the patron saint on that night, or you can do it the pagan way – by walking in the forest to find the fern flower that legend tells only blooms on that special night. Luck will (allegedly) come to anyone who finds one. If you are a young unmarried woman, for instance, you can get to know the identity of your future husband.

Such belief is widespread across many parts of Central Europe, including Slavic territories – but how easier it is to look for the midnight flower if the night is so bright to be almost a day?

Pagans go party

Christian or Pagan, of course, you can always go for the safest option – and just have fun without any denomination or ideology. Especially since Tallinn (as well as other Estonian cities) offers you many of its attractions as a kind of solstice festival. You can try following the recreation of a traditional bonfire and dancing at the Estonian Open Air Museum.

The City Center of Tallinn also celebrates Midsummer with concerts, food, drinks, and attractions for children, who are allowed to stay until late on those days. Speaking of children – remember that if you see a proposal to join a swinging party, it’s a family event in Estonia, as the country is famous for a sport discipline called kiiking – which is basically swinging (as in the swingset kind) on a professional level. As the sport is celebrated in the country, opportunities to practice it are also offered as part of the Midsummer celebration.

Hungry for more? Head to tour operators ready to serve you with opportunities to maximize your midnight sun experience. Waking up at 3 am may seem like an extreme sport – but not if it’s already bright outside and you’re about to experience stunning sunrise. Or perhaps, you prefer to use a sauna with a view? Or a midnight city tour? Or just plain ol’ party? With days that long, there’s room for many experiences a day.

Przemysław Bociąga

is a Polish journalist and essayist based in Warsaw. An anthropologist and art historian by education, he specializes in combining cultural phenomena with compelling narrative. He has authored and co-authored several books covering lifestyle and history. The most recent of them is “Impeccable. The biography of masculine image”. He has contributed to many leading magazines, both in print and online, and teaches cultural anthropology to college students.

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