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 2022 and in Riga 2023.

What travelers say about us

Barry Toward
Barry Toward
2022-09-18
We have just spent 9 days travelling through the Baltic countries with Valdis as our guide. Although the itinerary and accommodation had been pre-arranged Valdis supported our trip brilliantly, bringing to life the individual countries with city walking tours, nature trails and visits to other sites. He is great fun, extremely knowledgable and became an integral part of our small group. His contribution to our holiday played a key part in making it a great and enjoyable experience (and he recommends good places to eat!)
Sam Paliwal
Sam Paliwal
2022-09-02
If you are looking to go to the Baltic's on an active vacation, make sure to check out Baltic Nature Travel as your travel advisor. We recently finished a 10-day self-driving tour of the Baltic's and wanted to have an active trip whilst not missing out on all the cultural highlights of the region. Valdis, the owner of Baltic Nature Travel was very responsive and organized a trip that included kayaking, long distance bicycle riding, hiking in different forests, cooking activities, cultural highlights, hot-air balloon riding, etc-- all in a matter of 10 days and customized the trip to our liking. We were very satisfied with his responsiveness to our needs and his ability to stay ahead and plan various activities appropriately. Just to give you one example of Valdis's ability to think ahead: in one of the hotels, they have very limited parking. On his own initiative, Valdis made a to call to the hotel and reserved a parking spot for us for the one night that we were going to stay at that hotel. It helped out a lot, as we had to leave very early in the morning. There are other numerous examples where he was available to answer questions and help us as necessary, both before and during the trip. He is an excellent guide, calm and collected and his team of guides around the region were quite knowledgeable and fluent. The accommodation for the trip were quite good and and they can be easily adjusted based on your budget. I highly recommend his touring company for your Baltic travel experience and would like to add that as a person he's very likable and easy-going.
Lajos Nagy
Lajos Nagy
2022-07-23
A perfect series of daily hiking tours and town walkarounds. I especially was amused by the jungle-like forests and friendly conversations along the way. Everything was perfectly planned and organized, I definitely recommend, worth thousand-times more than simply visiting cities in a rush.
Tom Demandt
Tom Demandt
2022-05-30
We had an excellent day hike with our guide Valdis. He was very friendly, very service minded and knowledgeable. The hike through Gauja National Park was really beautiful. Heartily recommend for anyone looking for an active day trip outside Riga.
Sergey Zhuravlev
Sergey Zhuravlev
2022-02-28
I enjoyed the hiking tour in the Beberbeķi-Skulte regions of Riga. The route was mainly through the forest, so this is a great opportunity to get away from the city bustle and daily routine and to spend a few hours in nature. The tour guide Valdis is very friendly and he has a lot to tell about the area. I am looking forward to the next tour and recommend joining it.
Sa Si
Sa Si
2022-02-15
I had a wonderful hiking tour trough Kemeri National Park with Baltic Nature Travel. Valdis is a very well informed and nice guide! I would totally recommend a tour with him!
aarpr
aarpr
2022-01-24
Really nice activities and tours by Valdis. Highly recommended. Definetely I will repeat soon.
Eimear Friel
Eimear Friel
2022-01-18
Thoroughly enjoyed my hike with Valdis and Solveiga. It was exactly what I hoped for. Perfect for someone looking to explore more of Latvia but nto sure where to go!
Fiona Koe
Fiona Koe
2022-01-18
Awesome hike, beautiful scenery. Valdis was very friendly and knowledgeable. Will recommend

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