The official start of summer in Estonia coincides with the summertime ‘White Nights’ phenomena, when the sun sets late and the dark of night isn’t dark at all. The White Nights are most noticeable around Midsummer or St John’s Day, Jaanipäev, as it is known in Estonia or the summer solstice in northern Europe.
The Midsummer festivities traditionally start on the eve of 23 June and conclude on 24 June. Estonians barely sleep during this bright period, sitting outside by the glow of bonfires and twilight. Throughout the summer, Tallinn offers festivals to enjoy along with the famous sights of the city, both in and outside of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Town.
In Estonia Midsummer festivities are as popular and important as Christmas. Every summer, St John’s Eve (Jaanilaupäev) is celebrated on June 23 and St John’s Day (Jaanipäev) June 24. It is a celebration filled with fun activities, Estonian music, good food and company, traditions, magic, and romance.
Traditionally, on the eve of 23 June, Estonians gather at local midsummer bonfire festivals, jaanituli, taking place all over the country. A great place to experience these festivities for yourself is the Estonian Open Air Museum. While there you will learn about how people used to live, you’ll get to swing on the village swing, meet locals dressed in traditional folk costumes, and taste some traditional specialities.
In the second week of July Tallinn’s Old Town turns back the clock some 500 years during the Tallinn Medieval Days. At Town Hall Square a medieval marketplace from the Golden Era of the Hanseatic League comes to life with traders and artisans. The event starts with a medieval procession through Old Town.
During the festival, children can participate in a knight school and an archery tournament. Meanwhile masters, apprentices and pupils show off their skills near St. Nicholas’ Church. And travelling actors and minstrels entertain the townsfolk while learned men share their knowledge.
Since 2018, the Wagwan Music Festival has become an annual tradition in Tallinn. The festival brings together fans of music, with hip-hop and reggae influences and brings famous performers of the genre, from all over the world to Tallinn. The one-day festival is held at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, usually in the first or second week of August.
Around the same, the week-long Birgitta Festival is one of the highlights of Tallinn’s summer cultural calendar. The festival combines the dark charm of the medieval St Bridget’s Convent Ruins with the latest in modern musical theatre in all its variety and richness. The unique mood at Pirita Convent and the festival programme full of music and performance arts complement each other perfectly.
Every year, the festival brings together more than 8000 people who gather by the ancient spot by the River Pirita in the mellow evenings of August. For a few days, a prominent music theatre emerges at the historical site of the Pirita Convent, where the audience can delve into the magical world of sound. Every music afficionado will find something special at the Birgitta Festival, whether it be an opera, a ballet, music galas, new music performance or spectacle.
Finally, it is time for the biggest festival in Old Town, dedicated to local cultural heritage and the community, the Tallinn Old Town Days. During the five-day festival the courtyards, squares, streets and cafés are filled with music, art and theatre, and they become the venues for other fun activities. Visitors can peek into the courtyards of the Old Town and learn about the long and impressive history of Tallinn through festive events.
The tradition started in 1982 when Estonia was still occupied by the Soviet Union, the Old Town Days quickly became the bearers of Estonianness and openness, helping the oppressed people to find themselves again. Within a few years, the days became a series of public celebrations. Every year, the festival has a new theme, which brings together the year's cultural events. The Old Town Days are dedicated to Hanseatic traditions and Nordic traditions, to Tallinn as a fortress and master city.
When you want to take a break from visiting festival and sightseeing in Tallinn, Pirita beach is the place to go. The 2km-long beach has a magnificent view of Old Town and the busy sea traffic on the Gulf of Finland. Here you'll find ball courts, playgrounds for children, lockers, lounge chairs and water sport equipment to rent.
The beach has been awarded The Blue Flag eco-label which means that in addition to clean water and necessary communications, the beach also provides environmentally friendly and educational activities.