Scandinavia in May: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Where to Go and What to Do

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Scandinavia in May features warmer spring temperatures, and while it is still a busy time to travel, the prices are typically lower and crowds smaller than during the summer. But most summer activities will be open to visitors in May, and parks across the three Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are alive and blooming. Events such as Norway's Maijazz, the Speedway Grand Prix of Sweden, and Denmark's popular Aalborg Carnival entertain guests of all ages during the month of May.

Scandinavia Weather in May

  Average high Average low
Copenhagen 62 F (17 C) 47 F (8 C)
Stockholm 62 F (17 C) 45 F (7 C)
Oslo 63 F (17 C) 45 F (7 C)

The weather in May is very unpredictable. Average daily temperatures in Scandinavia this month are mild. There are usually about seven to 11 days of significant rain this month.

It is unlikely that visitors will be able to see the aurora borealis, or northern lights, in May, but they might be able to witness another wonder of the natural world: the "midnight sun." This phenomenon occurs in late spring and early summer in latitudes north of the Arctic Circle (as well as south of the Antarctic Circle). The sun is visible at midnight from mid-May until the end of July in Scandinavian countries, especially in Norway at the North Cape (Nordkapp). With proper weather conditions, the sun can be visible at any time of day. This is great for travelers planning long days outdoors, as there will be sufficient light for outdoor activities around the clock. But be advised the midnight sun can wreak havoc on sleep cycles, especially for those who haven't experienced 24-hour sunlight before.

What to Pack

If you're traveling to Scandinavia in May, pack comfortable cool-weather clothes like jeans or other long pants, sweaters, light jackets, and walking shoes. In the evening when the temperature drops, layers are your best bet. Undershirts, scarves, and gloves would be wise to bring. With the climate hard to predict, it is good to also be prepared for possible rainy and sunny days.

May Events in Scandinavia

Visitors enjoy a variety of special events and holidays celebrated in Scandinavian countries in May, including everything from a motorcycle speedway event to jazz festivals and May Day marches.

  • May Day: Observed in countries across Europe and most of the world, May Day celebrates workers similar to Labor Day in the U.S. The countries of Scandinavia each have their own traditions:
    • Denmark: May 1 is not an official holiday in Denmark, but most public sector workers get a day off. Many people gather at political meetings for picnics and enjoy alcoholic beverages.
    • Norway: Known as Arbeidernes Dag, May 1 is an official public holiday, marked by marches, parades, and public speeches.
    • Sweden: May 1 has been designated a public holiday in Sweden since 1938, with some political factions celebrating with May Day demonstrations dating as far back as 1890.
  • MaiJazz: This large, annual jazz music event is held in early May in Norway. Some 40 local venues host concerts across Stavanger during the festival which attracts major jazz musicians from all over the world. Since the first MaiJazz festival in 1989, it's grown to become one of the country's most popular music festivals.
  • The Speedway Grand Prix of Sweden: A popular motorcycle speedway event held each May, the Grand Prix takes place in various locations in Sweden, such as Målilla, Hallstavik, Stockholm, and Göteborg.
  • Constitution Day: Norwegians celebrate their national day differently than other Scandinavian countries. On May 17, traditional independence day events with processions, bands, banners, and flags are held all over the country. In the capital of Oslo, the Norwegian royal family takes part in the massive spring celebration. Note that most businesses are closed—some restaurants may be open, but shopping opportunities will be limited.
  • Aalborg Carnival: Since 1982, what became the largest carnival in Scandinavia has taken place during the last week of May in Aalborg, Denmark. Expect fun for all ages with The Grand Parade, Battle of Carnival Bands, and Children’s Carnival.

May Travel Tips

  • Though there are busier months, May does bring a swell in tourism to Scandinavia, so book and purchase in advance to get the best deals on accommodations and flights.
  • Take advantage of those spring days and explore some of the area's beautiful natural spots, such as kayaking across the fjords of Norway.
  • For a few weeks in May (dates vary each year), fruit trees bloom beautifully by the fjords in southwestern Norway; the Hardanger region is home to some lovely fruit villages worth a visit, such as Lofthus, Kinsarvik, and Ulvik.
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