Each year, the E.U. bestows the title Capital of Culture to one or more European destinations. The cities celebrate the designation with a year of major arts and culture events and by hosting exhibitions. This year, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has the honor along with Linz in Austria.
Vilnius is putting on quite a show in 2009 with 120 art and culture projects and 900 events. The city will also be part of a countrywide celebration of Lithuania's millennial year, as 2009 marks 1,000 years since the first known mention of the country in written records.
Two of the biggest events for the year take place in spring. On May 2 during Street Musician Day, amateur and professional musicians will flood into the city's streets, alleyways, and parks to play music ranging from rock to classical and folk to jazz. June 20 is Culture Night: Let There Be Night, when the city erupts into an all-night culture fest. The 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. event features night dance lessons, open-air movies, church concerts, fashion shows, museum exhibitions, and more. Other events and exhibitions will be on at different points throughout the year.
Though it's a member of the EU, Lithuania doesn't use the euro as its currency, which makes travel expenses such as accommodations, food, and activities more affordable. Add to the calculation that two-thirds of the events during the year-long celebration will be free, and Vilnius starts to look pretty affordable. Plus, the Old Town of Vilnius is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe, so walking around and soaking up the scenery is one of the best, and cheapest, things to do.