2023 promises to be an exhilarating year for Lithuania, as the scale and significance of the events planned outdo anything the country has staged in recent history. Just recently, the New York Times even named Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, as a must-visit in the coming year as it lights up for its 700th anniversary.
However, Lithuanian cultural life is burgeoning and celebrations are plentiful even outside of the capital. Basketball fans are already buzzing with excitement for the upcoming EuroLeague finals, while a maritime sea festival promises to fill the streets near the sea with fanfare and shanties, just to name a few noteworthy events.
While the best specific time to visit Lithuania will depend on what sort of activities are attractive to travellers, there are endless things to do and see all year round. Below is a list of six events in Lithuania not to miss in 2023.
Lit up for the 700th anniversary. On January 25–28, the eagerly awaited Vilnius Light Festival will return with breathtaking artworks. The festival will captivate audiences with installations by international artists from France, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Lithuania, officially kicking off the 700th anniversary festivities. Over the course of three days, contemporary light works, new media art, and the fusion of architecture and light pervade Vilnius’ streets and squares, shedding new light on the city’s extensive collection of historic buildings.
Hosting the EuroLeague. The 2023 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four will be held in Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania, one of the most passionate basketball markets in the world. On May 19-21, the city’s Žalgirio arena will host four of the best teams in the continent — a landmark occasion for a country that considers basketball their ‘second religion’. The emotional surge and shiver of delight brought on by 15K supporters chanting the Lithuanian national song or leaping out of their seats for a three-pointer promises to be unforgettable. In addition, multiple parallel events will be held in Kaunas on this momentous weekend, meaning celebrations will go on far past after the game is over.
Celebrate the Midsummer. On the shortest night of the year, June 24, Lithuania celebrates its most important festival of the summer — the solstice festival. The hill forts of Kernavė, the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, become filled with pagan rituals of prosperity, including jumping over a bonfire for health, going on a fern flower hunt in the woods in the dead of night, or weaving wreaths of flowers for love. This day is also the name day of one of the most popular male names in Lithuania – Jonas. Visitors in Lithuania on this day have a chance to immerse themselves in an enchanting and romantic world of paganism, unity, nature.
Global leaders meet in Vilnius. On July 11-12, Vilnius will welcome allies and like-minded partners in the global arena as part of this year’s NATO summit. Choosing Lithuania as the venue for this important event signals the international community’s commitment to the Baltic region and the security of NATO’s eastern flank. The NATO summit in Vilnius will put more emphasis on raising support for Ukraine and bolstering the Alliance’s collective defence and deterrence. Finland and Sweden are anticipated to attend the summit in Vilnius as full-fledged NATO members for the first time.
Youthful sounds fill the capital. On July 25, the day of St. Christopher’s — Vilnius’ patron saint — the city will come together once more for the As Young As Vilnius international music festival. The city’s Vingis Park will play host to a variety of performances during the festival, including classical, contemporary, pop, and other musical genres. It attracted around 45K local and city visitors in 2022, including rowdy teens, families with young children, and senior opera enthusiasts. The fact that Lewis Capaldi, a Scottish pop music star, was one of the key performers had a lot to do with its appeal. The festival’s organisers have pledged to make it even more spectacular in 2023 and to dazzle locals and guests with outstanding performances and special effects displays.
A second Christmas by the sea. Since 1934, Klaipėda — Lithuania’s largest port city — has celebrated maritime traditions by holding the Sea Festival on the final weekend in July. The tradition has become so entrenched in the city’s culture and beloved by the locals that it has been affectionately named the second Christmas of the year. The city offers several cultural and sporting activities throughout the festival, all of which are infused with maritime accents, the loudest music, theatrical performances, chance encounters, exhibits, entertainment concerts, and art performances. The magnificent sailing ships on display in the harbour serve as the event’s high point.