Song and dance festival traditions in the Baltics
Song and dance festival

traditions in the Baltics

The Baltics boast a strong tradition of performing folk art. To honour this heritage, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia host Song and Dance Festivals, which have been recognised by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Amazingly, the festivals have stood the test of time, survived power struggles and the Soviets’ attempts at curbing tradition. This is certainly proof of the Latvians’, Lithuanians’ and Estonians’ incredible willpower, strength and patriotism, for which the tiny Baltic nations have come to be known.

In the Baltics, to be part of a folk dance group or choir is an honourable hobby regardless of age. Schools encourage children to take part in the festivals and maintain this intangible heritage for future generations to enjoy.

Outside the Baltics, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian communities in countries as far as Australia and Canada have their own choirs and dance groups. For many members, getting to take part in the Song and Dance Festivals in their countries of origin is a major life experience.

WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE SONG AND DANCE FESTIVALS IN THE BALTICS

There’s arguably no better occasion to witness the diversity and beauty of Baltic folk costumes than the Song and Dance Festivals when folk dance groups and choirs flock to the capitals for a series of public and ticketed performances and competitions.

You may witness groups spontaneously burst into song in the cities’ parks and squares, on trams and buses as they head towards festival venues. The Baltics are known for some of the best singing voices and choirs in the world.

The festivals are a very special time to be in the Baltics when you can really immerse yourself in local culture and learn the region’s history as it’s expressed through the media of song and dance.

To complement the concert programme, markets and stalls pop up throughout the cities, so it’s also an excellent time to discover local arts and crafts traditions, and pick up special and sustainable souvenirs such as knitwear, linen tableware, leather and amber jewellery. Orchestras and amateur theatre groups also add to the diversity of the programme.

Though similar in character, the Song and Dance Festivals in each Baltic country do have their distinctions.

Song and Dance Festival

Estonia

The Estonians were first to hold a festival in 1869 in Tartu at the time of the national awakening. Nowadays, the festival takes place every five years and is centred around the Lauluväljak (Song Festival Grounds) in Tallinn. A highlight of the four-day event is the participants’ procession. The festival culminates with the Song Celebration, which lasts for many hours.

Song and Dance Festival

Latvia

In Latvia, the festival tradition dates back to 1873. Nowadays, the ten-day festival takes place every five years in Riga and gathers around 30 000 participants. Many events are ticketed but the festival vibe permeates the city and plenty of free concerts take place at the central parks of Esplanāde and Vērmanes Dārzs. The two most sought-after events are the great dance concert and the closing concert at the iconic open-air stage in the Mežaparks area – Riga’s green lung. After the closing concert, the spectators are invited to join an all-night singalong of Latvian favourites.

Song and Dance Festival

Lithuania

In Lithuania, the first festival took place in 1924. Today, the week-long event is held every four years in Vilnius. The organisers describe it as the “Art Olympics” of Lithuania. A folk art exhibition accompanies the festivities, which culminate in Song Day at Vingis Park Amphitheatre. 20 000 singers and 9000 dancers gather for the festival.

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Next Song and Dance Festivals in Vilnius 2024, Tallinn 2025 and Riga 2028.

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Paul Green
Paul Green
2024-07-12
Anna Brish was a fantastic tour guide for understanding Jewish history and culture in Vilnius. She was friendly, deeply knowledgeable, eager to answer our questions and accommodate our specific interests. Anna does other tours and we would take any of them, she’s amazing!
James Cornez
James Cornez
2024-07-11
Myself and my best friend came across this company whilst researching options to travel in Latvia and we are very pleased we did. Valdis was very amenable during the planning process by arranging video calls with both of us so we could better understand what was on offer for us to do. He compiled an 8 day itinerary for us that did not disappoint starting in Riga for 2 days. We paid for an optional 3hr walking tour which was very worthwhile to see the main sites of the city. Janis took us on the tour who is a great guy that gives you plenty of interesting information, ready to answer any questions regarding Latvian history/culture. We chose the self driving option to see as much of Latvia as possible which I would definitely recommend if you want to have more than just a city break. It took us to varied places ranging from the heavily forested and pretty areas of Sigulda (where we did a fun kayaking tour on the Gauja river) and Cesis to the pleasant coastal cities of Liepaja and Ventspills. Overall, definitely the company to approach if you want to authentically explore Latvia!
Esther A
Esther A
2024-06-21
Valdis and his team helped us to organise a guided 16 day trip across Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Helsinki. We had a very enjoyable experience! Coming from Singapore and not knowing Valdis beforehand, we were initially worried about language and logistical challenges. All these were unfounded as Valdis and his guides were not only knowledgeable but also responsive, helpful and flexible. We had some minor hiccups during the trip but Valdis was able to resolve them very promptly. I would highly recommend engaging Valdis for your next trip!
Annette Ihrman
Annette Ihrman
2024-06-16
The tour was very versatile and a good addition to our trip to Riga. We can recommend it!
K G
K G
2024-04-06
I joined Valdis for Gauja national park tour and experience breathtaking views, beautiful cave, Plus the experience to see the inside of luge and skeleton track. It’s an unforgettable experience to see something outside the Riga! Highly recommended!!!
Carmen Daams
Carmen Daams
2023-09-22
I took the Kuldiga trip with Valdis. The experience was amazing. The entire day was great. He is a great guide, and knows a lot of interesting information. He would definitely make your whole experience even better. Kuldiga is such a captivating city, very unique with a very special style and soul. If you are visiting Latvia, don't hesitate to take this trip, it is a "must".
Stanley Wallerstein
Stanley Wallerstein
2023-08-29
Great Tour and great guide. Baltic Nature Travel is excellent.
Maria M Andrade
Maria M Andrade
2023-08-28
Valdis organized an absolutely wonderful 10 day trip to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania trip for my sister, a friend, and myself. He arranged all details including our private chofer and tour guide up the last detail. He went far and beyond when he knew I had an accident in Estonia. We met him Latvia and he make us feel welcome. He recommended the most amazing restaurants for us and he took care of my doctor needs where he was the interpreter. In every country we had the best guys one can possibly ask for. All hotels were walking distance from city centre. Thank you Valdis we will always remembered this trip!!!!
Sarah Daniels
Sarah Daniels
2023-08-21
Thank you, Valdis, for helping my family have a wonderful two week trip to the Baltics! Your advice and recommendations were very helpful, and our tour guides in 4 different cities were each outstanding! I highly recommend a vacation in the beautiful and fascinating Baltics, and I highly recommend using Valdis to help you plan it.
Rita Derencius
Rita Derencius
2023-08-09
Tours and tour guides, Tomas and Mindaugas, exceeded my expectations. We were able to curate our tour of Lithuania. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and adapted the tour based on our input. Valdis was responsive and easy to work with. Extremely happy we chose to have private tour guides. Best trip ever!

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