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How to Enjoy Vilnius – The Lithuanian City That Recently Marked Its 700th Anniversary!

A couple in the centre courtyard street of Vilnius

Ancient cities have stood the test of time and they offer an incredible treasure trove of sights and scenes to explore. Have you heard about the Lithuanian city of Vilnius?

It has just started its celebratory 700th-anniversary year and is offering many adventures for the entire 2023, especially the warm season. From ‘As Young As Vilnius’ music festival, Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art, Music for Vilnius project that unites world-famous composers, and exhibitions that delve deep into the city’s historical past to ample urban and nature activities, each visitor can have a holiday to their taste.

Locals and tourists sitting at open table and cafes at Vilnius

Musical gems for the warm season

Vilnius has numerous options for a well-rounded city break. Not only does the city entice with full-on outside adventures in many of its parks and the surrounding nature, but also invites the visitors and residents to soak up the cultural, musical, and artistic delights that are part of the Vilnius 700th-anniversary program.

One of the highlights of the 700th-anniversary summertime program will be a music festival, As Young As Vilnius, on July 21st-25th, which was a huge success last year, garnering over 50K of visitors. The celebration marks St. Christopher’s — the patron saint of Vilnius — day, thereby inviting music enthusiasts to enjoy the occasion with a concert in one of the locals’ favourite hangout spots of the city, Vingis Park. International and Lithuanian artists will create a magical summertime dance party with captivating audio-visual performances free of charge.

Music for Vilnius, a music project uniting seven world-famous composers, is a must for visitors who’ll want to grasp the spirit of Vilnius through sound this May 6th-July 6th. Michael Gordon (U.S.), Anna Korsun (Ukraine), Toshio Hosokawa (Japan), Heiner Goebbels (Germany), and others will perform instrument or chamber ensemble pieces created specifically for some of Vilnius’ spaces. The chosen spots — the courtyard in a former Vilnius’ ghetto, the Gediminas Castle Tower, and others—have resonated with them for their architectural, historical, and environmental features.

Vilnius also plans to ease the vacationers into the autumn with the annual Vilnius Capital Days Festival 2023 on September 1st-3rd. The festival, which is the biggest of all city events, attracts large crowds each year, and this time will be dedicated to the city’s 700th anniversary. The event will wow the spectators with dance performances, the first piece of opera resurrected with the help of AI, a closing event of Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art, exhibitions, and music events featuring world-famous rock, pop, jazz, classical music performers, as well as a great many more must-visit shows.

A music festival on at Vilnius

A look into the past through artistic lenses

Vilnius Poker: The Exhibition at MO Museum in April, 2023-January, 2024, will display the downfall of the Soviet regimen in Vilnius, at the same time giving a glimpse into Vilnius’ past and present, its national and cultural identities, and the transformation into a modern European city. The immersive travel through time will be directed by Oskaras Koršunovas, Lithuania’s one of the most prominent artistic directors. The exhibition is also a tribute to Vilnius Poker by Ričardas Gavelis, one of the most famous Lithuanian novels.

From May to October, the city guests will have a unique chance to experience life in Vilnius as it was 200 years ago. The National Museum of Lithuania will present the opportunity through an interactive exhibition, Pavilion: Vilnius 200 Years Ago, which depicts the 18th-19th century Vilnius and the cultural, demographic, architectural, and social changes the city underwent. Modern light, sound, projection, and augmented reality technologies will allow visiting the reconstructed former city and seeing how the visitors’ favourite haunts in Vilnius looked centuries ago, what urban gems have survived to date, where the elite and notable figures lived, and many other glimpses into the capital’s past. The pavilion will be free of charge and open 24/7 throughout the entire season and will feature an intensive educational program next to the main exhibition.

Although Vilnius has 700 years of rich historical past, never has the city become one giant stage for modern-day performance art. Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art, a new festival designed for the 700th anniversary, will take the performance art out of the traditional setting and inject it into the most unexpected spots of the city: parks, streets, historic and new buildings from July 26th till August 6th. The festival will offer to immerse into a thought-provoking program featuring well-known international and Lithuanian creators who will use the city’s spaces to reflect on the most prominent Vilnius’ values—multiculturalism and innovation, boldness, and creativity.

Weekend break for immersive explorations

The warm season is also an ideal time to visit some of the most famous Vilnius’ landmarks like Gediminas Castle—the symbol of the city—and enjoy the uninhibited views of the urban panorama under one’s feet or bask in the warm glow of the summertime sunset. Visitors can combine a leisurely walk around the Castle with unearthing a morsel of Vilnius’ history and visiting an exhibition that displays a transcript of the letter written by Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. The letter invited European merchants to come to Vilnius and introduced the city to the world for the very first time 700 years ago. Although it is kept in the archives in Riga, Latvia, the letter has been brought to Vilnius for the birthday and will be on display until August 27th.  

A panoramic view of Vilnius city

As an added bonus to the music, art, and cultural experiences lined up for this spring and summer, the visit to Vilnius might be a perfect opportunity to explore the other faces of the city. Gourmets are invited to go on a gastro quest through the city’s numerous restaurants in search of a perfect delicacy—the famous cold beetroot soup that is the top dish for Lithuanians during the summer or a glass of high-quality craft beer with fried bread on the side. Some restaurants even coax the visitors to go for a historical Vilnius’ cuisine recreated specifically for the anniversary year and offering to taste the most characteristic historical dishes in Vilnius—like Nelson’s zrazy or Jerusalem kugel—and hear the stories surrounding them.

The nature-bound adventures available in Vilnius will appeal to guests looking for an escape into the lush nature. From going on a hike in the emerald forests around the city, kayaking around Vilnius on day and night tours, or riding into the sunset with a hot-air balloon—the warm season provides ample opportunities for an adventurous stay in the city.   

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