A couple on a beach in Tallinn, Estonia
Estonian folk dancers
Estonian Open Air Museum in Tallinn
Making a viht for sauna in Estonia
A couple on a beach in Tallinn, Estonia
Estonian folk dancers
Estonian Open Air Museum in Tallinn
Making a viht for sauna in Estonia
Traditional shashlik

    How to spend St. John's Day in Tallinn like a local

    In Estonia, the Midsummer festivities are as popular as Christmas, and probably just as important. 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. 

    Midsummer is a magical time and has always offered a chance to rest and have some fun after all the work has been done in the spring, with summer about to start. Whole villages and communities have traditionally celebrated together. Going back, no one was allowed to work on the special day.

    Today St John’s Eve and Day are celebrated with friends and family at home or by a special bonfire called jaanituli. Many Estonians head from the cities to the countryside, meaning Tallinn can seem abandoned by the locals. But don’t worry, we will tell you how to celebrate St John’s Day in Tallinn like a true Estonian. Follow our lead and spend an unforgettable midsummer in Tallinn.

    Important! When celebrating jaanipäev, please do not forget to remain vigilant about social distancing, wash your hands, stay home when sick, and follow the safety restrictions still in place in Estonia. Stay safe! 

    Traditionally, on the eve of 23 June, Estonians gather at local midsummer bonfire festivals, jaanituli, taking place all over the country. This year, however, as mass gatherings are not yet allowed, most locals spend the day in a smaller circle with close friends and family. 

    But this does not mean that you will have to miss out on the true spirit of Midsummer's Eve! 

    Did you know? Estonian summer nights are short. On 23 June, for example, the sun sets at 22:43 and rises already at 04:03. You can enjoy light almost around the clock!

    Discover urban nature in Tallinn

    You do not have to go far to experience the beautiful serenity of the shortest night of the year. You might even stumble upon a sõnajalaõis, a mythical fern flower said to bring you true love, great fortune, and magical powers (see below). Read our tips for the best nature spots in the city

    Visit the Estonian Open Air Museum

    Estonians celebrated midsummer long before Christianity reached the Baltics, and the old traditions are still going strong. The Estonian Open Air Museum is the perfect place for learning more about how people lived in the old days. You will get to swing on the village swing, meet locals dressed in traditional folk costumes, and taste some traditional specialities. See the museum's full summer programme on their website

    A top tip: 23 and 24 June are national holidays in Estonia and opening hours of may vary. But worry not: Tallinn Card, the city's favourite sightseeing pass, has compiled you a list of different attractions expecting visitors during the holidays.

    Enjoy good food

    If you are trying to have an authentic Estonian St John's Eve you should traditionally eat something with dairy, like pastries with quark, cheese etc. Nowadays, however, the staple of Estonian summer dishes are shashlik, barbequed meat, sausages and vegetables served with potatoes and fresh salad made with sour cream, tomatoes and cucumber. Nom!

    Flush them down with cooling kali (or kvass, a fermented non-alcoholic drink made of rye bread). In the olden days, every man used to brew his own beer for midsummer, so true to tradition, taste some of the products of the local craft breweries, including for example the popular Põhjala, Lehe, Pühaste, Tanker, and Sori.

    Ensure yourself a bright and happy future

    Estonians are quite superstitious and have many beliefs related to midsummer and especially bonfires. As a bonfire might be hard to come across this year, light a candle or two. The fire and smoke will give you strength for the coming summer and year. It also brings relief to injuries and back pains. 

    Another thing special about the St John's Day, is the dawn. You can feel the dewy grass under your toes. The dew has magical powers: use it to wash your face to gain beauty, or turn a somersault on the ground to avoid back injuries. You can also collect the dew in a small bottle and take it home with you. Store it out of direct sunlight and you can use it for up to 50 years and it will not lose its magical powers. 

    Before heading to bed in the morning, collect nine different flowers from the meadows and forests. You should do this alone and secretly for the magic to work. Place the flowers under your pillow and you will see your future love in your dream. True story!

    When looking for flowers, keep your eyes open for sõnajalaõis, a mythical fern blossom, It is a common misconception that ferns don't bloom, but actually they do, once every year. And yes, you guessed it right, ferns bloom on St John's Eve, but only for a short moment. You should be totally focused on this mission, as if you get distracted you will miss your chance. The one who finds the fern flower will instantly gain wealth, find love, and will understand the secret languages of animals.

    Last, but not least – check the sky for signs of rain. If it does not rain in the night it will bring everyone good luck! So cross your fingers!

    Enjoy and have fun

    Most importantly, Jaanipäev is about having a good time. Dance and sing along to Estonian pop music, nostalgic schlagers, and mesmerising folk music. Also, as this is the shortest night of the year, sleeping is optional. 

    If possible, go to a sauna. In the sauna, you should use a traditional viht, a broom made of leafy birch branches, to gently beat yourself and stimulate your skin. It relaxes your muscles and feels good, believe it or not. 

    A top tip: a sauna might be hot, but do not forget to follow the general safety guidelines. Wash your hands regularly and keep a distance.  

    Find a friend in Jaan

    There are almost 5000 men named Jaan in Estonia. So you are bound to meet a Jaan while staying in Estonia. Jaan is the Estonian version of John and Jaanipäev (St John's Day) is the day of the Jaans. Famous Jaans include Jaan Tõnisson (politician), Jaan Poska (politician), Jaan Teemant (politician), Jaan Kross (writer), Jaan Koort (sculptor), Jaan Kaplinski (poet), Jaan Pehk (musician), and Jaan Tätte (artist), to name but a few. So go and find yourself a Jaan on Jaanipäev!