7 National Holidays in Europe to Experience
A good party or celebration is never very far away in Europe. Most countries embrace large international holidays, and then fill the gaps with their own local traditions and national celebrations. If you’re near any of these countries on one of the following days, be sure to stick around to experience some of the most intriguing and unique national holidays in Europe.
7 National holidays in Europe
- St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland: March 17
- King’s Day, Netherlands: April 27
- Vappu, Finland: April 30 to May 1
- St John’s Day, Norway: June 23
- Bastille Day, France: July 14
- Belgian National Day, Belgium: July 21
- San Gennaro Feast Day, Italy: September 10
St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland: March 17
St. Patrick’s Day may originally be an Irish tradition, but you’ll find it difficult to escape the celebrations wherever you are in Europe. The only place to really experience this legendary day is in Ireland, and preferably on the streets of Dublin. Expect Guinness by the keg load, plenty of kilts and bagpipes, and a street parade or two to keep you busy.
Insider tip: Most cities in Ireland hold their own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that are equally entertaining, including Belfast, Cork, Galway, Derry, Kilkenny, Waterford, and Limerick.
King’s Day, Netherlands: April 27
Kings Day, or Koningsdag, is one of the Netherlands’ most popular national holidays. The day has its routes in Princess Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday celebrations back in 1885. These days it tends to have less to do with history and more with dressing up in orange and taking to the streets (or canals) to party in true Dutch style.
Insider tip: Amsterdam is unsurprisingly the epicenter of Koningsdag celebrations. You’ll have to plan ahead if you want to snap up accommodation close to the action.
Vappu, Finland: April 30 to May 1
Walpurgis Day, or Vappu, is one of Finland’s biggest national holidays. For a few days at the end of April, residents celebrate in style with carnivals, festivals, and copious amounts of sparkling wine and sima. Students also tend to get in on the action, and you can expect the cities across the country to come to life. It’s also a popular festival in other European countries, including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Insider tip: Head to a local park on the 1st of May. You’ll likely find dozens of picnicking locals either nursing their hangovers or building up to another big night.
St John’s Day, Northern Europe: June 23
Many European countries celebrate the arrival of midsummer. Unsurprisingly, it’s more significant in countries that tend to lack plentiful sunshine, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Depending on where you are, you’ll find large bonfires, mock weddings, and a range of other traditional celebrations.
Insider tip: If you want a window into your future, then put a flower under your pillow on St John’s Day. Legend has it you’ll dream of your future husband.
Bastille Day, France: July 14
France’s Bastille Day may be one of the most glamorous national celebrations. What started out as a commemoration of the Storming of the Bastille back in 1789 has turned into a globally-recognized event. Every 14th of July sees the country celebrate French National Day in true style. Think French Air Force displays, copious amounts of fireworks, parades, and festivals.
Insider tip: The Eiffel Tower fireworks display is legendary, but you don’t have to be in Paris to get the most of Bastille Day. Most French cities, and even a few dozen European neighbors, join in on the celebrations.
Belgian National Day, Belgium: July 21
If you’re looking for a grand, stately national holiday, then look no further than Belgium’s Independence Day. The day is one of 10 public holidays in the country, and locals celebrate it on the 21st of July each year. There are usually a handful of events across the country, but the focus is understandably on Brussels, where you can expect military processions, fireworks, and a Belgian Air Force flyover.
Insider tip: Most notable buildings in Brussels close for the day, so keep this in mind if you’re looking to explore other aspects of the city.
San Gennaro Feast Day, Italy: September 19
Like many national holidays in Italy, the Feast Day of San Gennaro has important religious significance for the country’s residents. Naples is usually the focus of the celebrations. Thousands of people fill the Naples Cathedral and adjoining square hoping to catch sight of the saint’s blood liquefy. It’s a religious and fairly solemn ceremony, but one that’s fascinating to witness.
Insider tip: There’s more to the day than the main event. Many cities close their stores and hold processions for up to eight days.
Most European cities have at least one big annual celebration. If you’re looking to experience as many as possible, pick up a Eurail Global Pass to get between international destinations with ease.