Scandinavia, with all its progressive invention, has rightfully made something of a name for itself in the arts world. This is best seen in its eclectic festivals—from rock concerts held in medieval forts to gourmet picnic feasts on all but uninhabited islands, the region has it all. At Denmark’s CLICK Festival, you can even watch as biotechnology visualises DNA into picture puzzles. We’ve collected together a selection of our favourite, unique festivals that can all be combined in your next Scandinavian holiday.
January – Bjorkliden Aurora Festival, Sweden
The first festival dedicated to the Northern Lights is a celebration of the science, art and myths behind the world’s greatest visual phenomenon. Running over a weekend in January, the event takes over Bjorkliden, set right in Sweden’s remote north where the lights are best spotted. Teams of space physicists, professional aurora photographers and even European astronauts deliver talks and lead hands on activities that range from scientific experiments and tips on predicting the aurora to information on traditional Sámi culture and instruction on how best to capture the ethereal greens and reds. While its 2016 debut was a success, dates for next year have not yet been set. If it all sounds appealing, you can read more here.
March – Food and Fun, Iceland
The best time to visit Iceland is definitely in March, when some of the world’s most accomplished chefs descend on Reykjavík to compete with local gastronomes in creating the best dishes out of only regionally sourced ingredients. And, with the nation not yet fully emerged from its stark winters, this is no mean feat. Using freshly caught fish, succulent lamb and fine dairy products, the chefs have to get experimental to deliver dishes that are up to their high standards. And, what started as a bit of friendly sport has evolved into a full on event, with restaurants packed with locavores looking to sample inventive feasts. Of course, no competition would be complete without a panel of celebrity judges who decide – in front of a live audience – on the festival’s champion.
Reykjavik hosts a number of world-class chefs during its Food and Fun festival
May – CLICK Festival, Denmark
Forward-facing CLICK blurs the boundaries between art and science. While you’ve got music from Philip Glass, artists such as Laurie Anderson makes use of custom-built visual algorithms, fascinating soundscapes and theatrical displays to create shows that are truly multi-faceted. You’ll also find 4D performances from international collaborations and duets represented in deconstructed three dimensions. On top of this, there’s fascinating installations such as Growth-mk1, which displays an audio-visual interpretation of the bacterial evolution taking place in its microbe core. You can even watch as – thanks to a perfectly calculated biochemical choreography – a performer’s body is taken over by methylene blue which seeps out of his mouth, ears, eyes and then each skin pore. Fancy that.
May – Apple Flower Festival, Denmark
While whole town populations descend on Glastonbury and Reading, this festival takes place on a tiny island called Lilleø in the Danish South Sea, the year round home of just ten residents. It’s officially the smallest inhabited island in Denmark. Six hundred participants make the short ferry trip over to celebrate the apple tree blossom with local musicians and some of the country’s finest chefs serving up traditional delights. Meals are eaten at long tables and on picnic blankets in the orchard as the festival recalls a time more bucolic. Entirely volunteer run, there’s a children’s programme and you can hire a prebuilt tent for the evening while the chance to stay in the Quiet Camp adds a gentle touch to proceedings. Prices include lunch on arrival, an evening banquet and an open bar.
June – Bergenfest, Norway
This has to have one of the most picturesque locations of any festival the world over, and yet it’s accessible to anyone, even hose in Norway on a casual holiday. Set in the Bergenhus Fortress on second-city Bergen’s harbour entrance, artists that run the gamut from Action Bronson to ZZ Top perform next to the medieval castle keep and the 16th century Rosenkrantz Tower. And, thanks to the enclosed walls that date to the early 1800s, there’s an intimate atmosphere created by a capacity limited to just short of 9,000. Once the royal residence, 2016 will see the likes of Biffy Clyro, John Newman, Band of Horses and Rudimental take the stage.
August – Helsinki Festival, Finland
This city-wide event is the country’s largest arts festival. There’s everything from classical and world music, dance and theatre to children’s programmes and urban events. While the festival runs for approximately three weeks in late summer, it culminates in the mysteriously named ‘The Night of the Arts’. An arts carnival of sorts, the city’s museums, book shops and theatres open up to street waltzing, rap battles, tent art and baby cinemas. Elsewhere, you’ll find all night philosophy events where speeches are made and ideas debated until 7:00 AM along with poetry workshops where nature trails feature birds and verses. For the more traditional, there are concerts from international symphony orchestras and jazz quartets. What’s more, a lot of it is entirely free of charge.