Let Festivities Begin—Vilnius Celebrates 700th Anniversary and Embarks On Year-Long Cultural Program

On January 25th, the Lithuanian capital Vilnius finally started celebrating its 700th anniversary and got the jam-packed cultural program going for the entire year. Among the highlights are the highly-awaited Vilnius Light Festival, an interactive exhibition of the transcript of the city founder’s 14th-century letter, the international festival As Young As Vilnius, and numerous music and art events.

January 25, 2023. It is official—Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, turned 700 years old on January 25th. For the occasion, large crowds gathered to captivating music and lights show Time Portal. The day also marked the beginning of the birthday year with a rich cultural program tailored to everyone’s taste—from crowd-favorite concerts, opera and performance art events to city-wide exhibitions and other cultural experiences.

The celebrations have been launched by a beloved Vilnius Light Festival on January 25th-28th. Throughout the festival, guests and visitors are invited on a route around the hidden and well-favored city parts lit up with mesmerizing light solutions by prominent international artists.

Vilnius light festival installation. Photo by Olga Posaškova

One of the city symbols, Gediminas Castle, will beam wide across the city with a light crown. Since Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, is considered the founder of Vilnius after he mentioned the city in one of his letters to foreign merchants in 1323, the castle retains a symbolic meaning. In fact, it will hold another birthday gem from January 25th till August 27th—the interactive exhibition Gediminas Letters in Vilnius, which features the transcript of the letter kept in the archives in Riga, Latvia, but brought to Vilnius specifically for the occasion. The installation was designed for the festival by the light artist Arvydas Buinauskas.

This year’s anniversary program is brimming with exceptional initiatives: Vilnius Poker: The Exhibition on April 22nd-January 14th, 2024, which will invite visitors to MO modern art museum to explore the city-labyrinth of text, sound, and images; exhibitions at the Palace of the Grand Dukes: a 3D virtual recreation of the Tower of Gediminas, an oldest wooden building in Vilnius, the tapestries of Sigismund II Augustus—the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, and a triumphal arch erected for the 700th anniversary.

On July 25th, Vilnius will host the international music festival As Young As Vilnius, which generated widespread interest last year. The date marks the feast of St. Christopher, the patron saint of Vilnius, therefore, to celebrate it, Vilnius will come alive with music performances by classical, contemporary, pop, and other music artists in one of the beloved spots of the city, Vingis Park.

Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art, created for the grand anniversary, will treat art enthusiasts to performances by international artists on July 23rd-August 6th; city guests and visitors will be invited to be a part of Loftas Art Factory project and capture images of Vilnius, which will be later included in a full-length movie Once in a City Called Vilnius; and a project Music for Vilnius, scheduled for May-July, will bring together seven world-famous composers who will create short musical pieces that resemble Vilnius’ sounds—church bells, water rippling, or traffic noises.

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