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7 Things To Know About Vilnius, Host of NATO Summit 2023


ImageVilnius panorama. Photo by Joana Suslavičiūtė

Vilnius will be hosting NATO Summit 2023 on July 11-12. From 700th anniversary events to the booming tech scene, the Lithuanian capital has more non-political aspects to take into account.

July 17, 2023. On July 11-12, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, will be hosting global officials for the NATO Summit 2023. Although the world will have eyes on the Summit, Vilnius has some unique qualities that extend beyond politics.

Here are seven main takeaways that offer a glance at the host of the NATO Summit.

  1. 700 years young

Vilnius is celebrating its 700th anniversary throughout the entire 2023. Its multicultural heritage is highlighted in the anniversary program that focuses on connecting the city’s communities and showcasing Vilnius’ rich historical past.

One of the biggest festivities of the year, a free urban festival As Young As Vilnius will be held on July 21-25. Celebrating the day of St. Christopher, the patron saint of Vilnius, and the half-year of the anniversary, the festival will bring together beloved Lithuanian artists and British stars Bastille and Clean Bandit. Another major artistic event will be the city’s first-ever Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art on July 23-August 6. The Biennial will convert the city into one big stage with world-renowned artists from Lithuania and other countries. 

  1. Relentless support to Ukraine since the invasion  

Since Russia’s unlawful attack against Ukraine, Vilnius has been a relentless supporter of a war-struck country. The capital has welcomed the influx of people fleeing the war and over 20K of them are now safely established in Vilnius. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky bestowed the Rescuer City title upon Vilnius for all of its continued multidirectional support to Ukraine and its people.

Vilnius has also taken a firm public stand to condemn Russia’s aggression. The locals have mobilized for protests, the city officials have named the street, where the Embassy of Russia is based, Ukrainian Heroes Street, and “imprisoned” Putin’s cardboard cutout in the century-old Lukiškės Prison 2.0. Various forms of protests continue to date—runners of a marathon will carry a Ukrainian flag for over 1,500 kilometers, all the way from Kyiv to Vilnius, to raise it in Lukiškės Square specifically for NATO Summit on July 11.

  1. Future-forward plans for the largest tech campus in Europe

Lithuanian capital boasts a rapid technological advance. It is already home to three unicorns, among them—Vinted, an online marketplace for buying and selling second-hand items, and Nord Security, a digital security provider. Vilnius’ TechFusion encompasses biotechnologies, fintech, IT, and laser sectors where tens of thousands of professionals create the city’s future. TechZity has just announced plans for a €100M tech campus which is slated to be the largest in Europe and will house 5K employees.

Simultaneously, Vilnius has swiftly become the hub for Europe’s fintechs thanks to the favorable business environment, a future-focused central bank, and a developed technology ecosystem. As another step into a tech future, Vilnius has just become the first city in Europe to launch driverless vehicles into real-life traffic and the bustle of the city streets for last-mile deliveries.

  1. Perpetual cultural buzz

Vilnius’ UNESCO-listed Old Town is the largest Baroque old town in Eastern and Central Europe. The cobblestoned streets, narrow alleyways, as well as the blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Classic, and Baroque styles and must-see objects like Gediminas Tower, Vilnius Cathedral, the 16th century Vilnius University, or the Gothic gem St. Anne’s Church emanate the aura of a medieval town.

The artistic side of Vilnius is manifested in the bohemian district Užupis that has cheekily proclaimed itself a separate republic on April 1st—April Fools’ Day—in 1997. The district, which is the smallest and one of the oldest in the city, even has its own currency, anthem, government, and Constitution which has been translated into more than 50 languages and has 41 articles such as “Everyone has the right to be unique” and “Everyone has the right to idle.”

  1. Creator of Pink Soup Fest and bagels 

This June Vilnius celebrated Pink Soup Fest—an entire festival dedicated to the iconic summertime dish, cold beetroot soup šaltibarščiai.  The dish has become an instant hit with any traveler coming to Lithuania, therefore the festivalgoers celebrated that by dressing up like the soup’s ingredients and sliding down the hill into an artificial bowl. Another hidden secret of Vilnius’ gastro scene—New York might have put bagels in the spotlight, but they actually originated in this region. 

The city’s multicultural cuisine stems from Jewish, Polish, and Lithuanian nobles’ roots and combines traditionally prepared ingredients like pickled vegetables and fresh seasonal produce. Fine dining is thriving as well—two of Vilnius’ restaurants, Džiaugsmas and Nineteen18, have been recognized by the prestigious La Liste ranking.

  1. Cinematic background for Stranger Things and Chernobyl

In recent years Vilnius has become a tempting destination for filmmakers because of multiple cinema-worthy locations. When Netflix filmed parts of Season 4 of the cult-favorite Stranger Things in the century-old former prison Lukiškės Prison 2.0, Vilnius rapidly became a destination for set-jetters. The Prison invites to day and night tours, parties, concerts, and other events and gives a glimpse of parts of the facility featured in the show. Multiple other foreign projects have been filmed in Vilnius: Netflix’s Young Wallander, HBO’s Chernobyl, the historical TV series Sisi, and more.

  1. Capital of hot-air balloons

As the only capital in Europe to officially allow regular hot-air balloon rides over the city, Vilnius’ sky is full of them every summer. Airborne travelers can get a good view of the city’s colorful panorama and the lush greenery surrounding it. Those yearning for more adventures high up in the air can take a stroll on the TV Tower, one of the 30 tallest TV towers in the world, attached only by cable.

Vilnius is also designed for explorations on foot—walkable distances allow discovering locals’ favorite hangout spots, as well as artistic, architectural, and cultural objects without the added hassle of the traffic.

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