Swedish west coast midsummer celebrations at Strysö Sweden 2023
Text & Photo © CM Cordeiro & , JE Nilsson 2023
The sun casting long shadows as it flirts with the horizon, the laughter of friends and family echoing through the air, the taste of traditional Swedish food (mostly herring), and the feeling of community and love permeating the celebration. This is Midsummer on the Swedish west coast – a celebration of life, love, and the magic of the longest day of the year.
I love the longer days of summer that on midsummer’s eve, you can witness the sun teasing the horizon, refusing to fully set. It’s been just about two decades that I’ve now lived in Sweden, and I’m still enchanted by midsummer in Sweden. This captivating time, when daylight stretches into the night, is a celebration deeply rooted in Swedish culture, the celebrations of which are larger than our National Day. And where best to witness and participate in the unfolding of midsummer activities to its zenith? Why, along the scenic west coast of Sweden, of course!
Swedish Midsummer is a time of community and joy, a gathering of loved ones to celebrate the longest day of the year. The tradition is rich in folklore and festivity, marked by the raising of the maypole, the singing of traditional songs, and feasting on classic Swedish delicacies. A day or so before Midsummer’s Eve, the maypole, decorated with leaves and flowers is erected as centerpiece in a grass covered public field. The maypole stands tall as a symbol of fertility and growth. This year at Styrsö, the song and dance began with a music train of string instruments. Around the maypole, the air filled with chatter and high anticipation as children and adults alike gathered around the maypole.
From the open field, once the song and dance are over, the midsummer festivities move back to the cozy indoors. The traditional Swedish Midsummer menu is a gastronomic delight, featuring pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream, and raw red onion (sweet pickled red onions are also make a good variation). In most households, this is often followed by a grilled dish, such as spare rib or salmon, and the season’s first strawberries served with cream for dessert. The feast is accompanied by cold beer and schnapps, with the latter often leading to the singing of traditional Swedish songs.
I’ve always found that midsummer celebration take on a unique allure, particularly along the west coast of Sweden. The southern Gothenburg archipelago, with its charming fishing villages and rugged coastline, paints a picturesque backdrop to the festivities. The islands of Brännö, Donsö, Styrsö, Asperö, Köpstadsö, and Vargö are sought-after spots for Midsummer gatherings.
You can also travel slightly farther up the west coast towards Marstrand. Marstrand is a must-visit destination renowned for its rich history, scenic harbour and beautiful people. There, you can enjoy stunning views of the archipelago from Carlsten’s Fortress and partake in the local tradition of ‘Herring Day’ on June 6. The delightful fishing villages of Fiskebäckskil and Grundsund on the island of Skaftö are other notable places to visit, with their red wooden houses nestled on the water’s edge and nature reserves offering walking paths and cycling trails.
Whether you live out on these islands, or if you’re just visiting, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the magic of a Swedish Midsummer right here along Sweden’s west coast. Midsummer’s in Sweden is a celebration like no other, it offers a glimpse into the communal spirit and love for nature that are integral parts of life in Sweden.
Glad Midsommar / Happy Midsummer!