Midsummer’s Eve, June
Song & Dance Festival, July (every five years)
Positivus Festival, July
Black Nights Film Festival, November
New Year’s celebrations and continued festive cheer warm the hearts of locals as they weather the limited daylight of what already feels like an endless winter.
New Year’s Day
Festivities from the night before continue during this public holiday as locals incorporate pagan practices at family gatherings to ensure a happy and healthy year.
The cold, dark and icy winter continues, but locals make the most of it as they flock to the countryside for some cross-country skiing.
Tartu Ski Marathon
This 63km cross-country race draws about 10,000 competitors to the Estonian countryside; winners complete the course in less than three hours. Participants slide off in sports-mad Otepää.
Palanga Seals Festival
Held in the Lithuanian seaside resort of Palanga over three days in mid-February, this festival lures hungry fish lovers to try the city’s beloved smelts. There’s also the annual 'polar bear' event, at which hardy swimmers frolic in the freezing Baltic waters.
Locals pull aside the curtains to check the weather outside…yup, it’s still winter out there. The main causes for celebration are the Easter holidays, although they sometimes slip into April.
Lithuanian Folk Art
The annual St Casimir’s Fair (Kaziuko mugė), a festival of folk arts and crafts, is held at the beginning of March in both Vilnius and Kaunas.
Frosty nights officially come to an end as the mean temperature stabilises well above zero. Hope of spring has arrived; locals burst forth from their shuttered houses to inhale the fickle spring air.
Haapsalu Horror & Fantasy Film Festival
Zombies take over the streets and screens of Haapsalu, on Estonia’s west coast. This showcase of creepy and kooky films is timed to coincide with the April full moon.
Jazz in Tallinn
Jazz greats from around the world converge on Tallinn, Estonia, in mid-April during the two-week Jazzkaar festival. Musicians play not just at concert halls but on the streets, in squares and parks, and even at the airport.
Tartu Student Days
Tartu’s students let their hair down in this wild pagan celebration marking the end of term and the dawn of spring in Estonia. A second, smaller version occurs in mid-October.
Jazz in Kaunas
The annual Kaunas Jazz Festival, held in late April, is arguably Lithuania’s most prestigious and popular jazz event.
The days are noticeably longer now as weather conditions dramatically improve. Tourist-focused businesses start revving their engines; excitement fills the air in anticipation of a fruitful summer.
Old Town Days
Held in Tallinn’s cinematic 14th-century streets, this is a week of themed days involving dancing, concerts, costumed performers, sports and plenty of medieval merrymaking.
New Baltic Dance Festival
This annual festival in early May features contemporary and modern dance, drawing companies from around Lithuania and the world to Vilnius for a week of performances.
The International Baltic Ballet Festival in Rīga features stirring performances by Latvian and international companies over three weeks.
After several fits and bursts of spring sun, the warm weather is finally here to stay. The region-wide Midsummer’s Eve festivities herald the peak of the summer season.
Baltica International Folklore Festival
Alternating between Tallinn (2016, 2019), Vilnius (2017, 2020) and Rīga (2018, 2021) annually, this large festival celebrates Baltic folk traditions, with thousands of performers.
Rīga Opera Festival
The Latvian National Opera’s showcase event takes place over 10 days and includes performances by world-renowned talent.
Grillfest Good Food Festival
Join tens of thousands of holidaymakers tucking into delicious barbecued food in the Tallinn beach resort of Pärnu.
Visual artists and musicians fill the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius with all manner of installations and performances over the course of a single June night. (www.kulturosnaktis.lt)
The Baltic's annual gay and lesbian pride festival alternates between each of the three capitals, with Vilnius taking the reins in 2016 (and 2019), Tallinn in 2017 (and 2020), and Rīga in 2018 (and 2019).
The region’s biggest annual night out is best experienced in the countryside, where huge bonfires flare for all-night revellers.
International Folk Festival
Held in the town of Nida on Curonian Spit, this annual festival draws folk musicians and dance troupes from various Lithuanian regions and from around Europe. It's held over a weekend in late June.
The Estonian towns of Viljandi and Pärnu celebrate their past as part of the Hansa League of northern trading cities with much medieval merry-making.
Summer is in full swing as locals gather on terraces and verandahs during the week to sip mugs of beer alfresco. On the weekends everyone flees the cities for their countryside abodes.
Held in early July, Rīgas Ritmi is the Latvian capital’s international festival of jazz, world and improvised music. Additional concerts are held in winter and spring.
The Christopher Summer Festival offers two months of classical, jazz and world music concerts held around the Lithuanian capital Vilnius throughout July and August.
Pärnu Film Festival
Coordinated by the city’s Museum of New Art, this festival showcases documentary films from all over the world. It’s held early in the month in the museum and at other venues around Estonia’s premier beach resort.
Beer & Bands
An extremely popular ale-guzzling and rock-music extravaganza, Õllesummer (Beer Summer) is held over three days at the historic Song Festival Grounds in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, in early July.
Klaipėda Sea Festival
This five-day annual festival is held over the third weekend in July and celebrates the Lithuanian seaport’s rich nautical heritage.
Devilstone Music Festival
This rock and metal music festival is held in the central Lithuanian town of Anykščiai in mid-July. Acts perform hard rock, heavy metal, Goth, electronica and speed metal. If you’ve got the hair, you know where to be. (www.devilstone.net)
Võru Folklore Festival
Mid-July in Võru sees a whir of dancers, singers and musicians decked out in the colourful folk costumes of Estonia and a dozen other nations, celebrating their respective ethnic traditions and cultures.
Tartu Hanseatic Days
Tartu goes medieval with three days of costumed peasants, ladies, jesters, knights, crafts demonstrations, markets, family-friendly performances and more in mid-July.
The village of Sabile, Latvia, is famed for its vineyard – the world’s most northern open-air grape grower. Your only chance to taste local wine is at this festival.
Song & Dance Festival
Held separately in each Baltic country every five years, these massive festivals attract people with Baltic roots from all over the world to perform in mammoth choirs or large-scale dance routines that give North Koreans a run for their money.
Taking place amid the quiet pines of northern Vidzeme, Positivus has become an annual pilgrimage for many Latvians, who flock here for several days of rock, electronic and indie music-fueled revelry.
Liepāja holds the title as Latvia’s haven for punk and garage bands, so any of its local music festivals are well worth checking out – especially Summer Sound, which draws up to 40,000 people each year. (www.summersound.lv)
Viljandi Folk Music Festival
The Estonian town of Viljandi is overrun with folk-music aficionados during this hugely popular four-day festival, featuring musicians from Estonia and abroad. More than 100 concerts are held, attended by more than 20,000 people.
Sigulda Opera Festival
An open-air opera festival attracts internationally acclaimed singers to the castle ruins of Sigulda, Latvia, for three days at the end of the month. (www.opersvetki.lv)
Nida Jazz Marathon
Jazz comes to the sand dunes of a Lithuanian Baltic Sea resort during this annual festival. Expect several days of concerts – with jam sessions afterwards – at various venues around Curonian Spit in late July and early August.
Long cloudless afternoons are perfect for the beach and extended holidays from work, as locals savour every drop of golden sun – despite the occasional rainstorm.
Early in the month, Kuressaare (on the Estonian island of Saaremaa) celebrates its marine credentials with its Maritime Festival, a weekend of sea-related activities including a regatta, fair, herring-cooking demonstrations, bands and a strong naval presence.
The week-long tARTuFF open-air film festival has free screenings of art-house features and documentaries in the atmospheric Town Hall Square in the heart of Tartu, Estonia. Poetry readings and concerts round out the program.
Held in the grounds of Haapsalu’s castle in western Estonia, the White Lady Festival culminates in the appearance of a ghostly apparition in the cathedral window, caused by the reflection of the full moon in the glass.
The popular MJR Alternative Music Festival (Mėnuo Juodaragis) celebrates – nominally – Lithuania’s pagan roots; it’s really just a chance to hear music rarely heard anywhere else. Held over the last weekend in August on an island near the eastern Lithuanian city of Zarasai. (www.mjr.lt)
The atmospheric ruins of Pirita Convent in Tallinn’s most popular beach suburb offer an excellent backdrop to classical concerts, ballet, opera, choral works and modern dance.
Art by Night
Baltā Nakts (White Night), sponsored by the Contemporary Art Forum, mirrors Paris’ night-long showcase of artists and culture around Rīga, Latvia's capital.
A hipster’s dream festival, Piens Fest feels like an almost-accidental gathering of local artists (musical and otherwise) in the Miera iela area of Rīga. Devour fried food, peruse vintage attire and listen to indie beats while sitting on the grass. (www.piens.nu/fest/)
Ezera Skaņas Festival
Surely Latvia's most esoteric musical event: people take to boats on Kāla Lake at 5am to hear otherworldly music wafting over the water. (www.ezeraskanas.lv)
This film festival celebrates short films from all over the world. (www.facebook.com/pages/Future-Shorts-Latvia/137370992955145)
The last days of summer quickly turn into the mild beginning of autumn. Rain is more frequent by the end of the month, while leaves turn brilliant colours and tumble off the trees.
Sirenos (Sirens) International Theatre Festival is a popular annual drama festival held in Vilnius, Lithuania, from mid-September to mid-October, drawing people from around the world for a robust roster of live theatre.
Days are noticeably shorter and afternoons on the beach are but a memory now; tourist-focused businesses start shuttering their windows as everyone prepares to hibernate.
Gaida Music Festival
One of the highlights of the Lithuania’s musical calendar is this annual celebration of classical and new music from Central and Eastern Europe. Held in Vilnius.
Autumn turns to winter as rainy days blend into snowy ones. This is perhaps one of the quietest months of the year – summer is long gone, yet winter holiday festivities have yet to begin.
Held in Lithuania's four biggest cities (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and Šiauliai), this festival showcases European films in various formats and genres. (www.scanorama.lt)
Vilnius’s biggest jazz event is held every November, usually drawing a banner list of top performers from around Europe and the world.
Black Nights Film Festival
Estonia’s biggest film festival showcases films from all over the world in the nation’s capital over two weeks from mid-November. Subfestivals focus on animated films, children’s films and student-made films.
Latvian National Day
A whole week of festivities surrounds the anniversary of Latvia’s 1918 proclamation of independence on 18 November, including the Rīga Festival of Light.
Arēna New Music Festival
Showcases contemporary composers and artists working in what might be loosely dubbed the classical tradition; held at venues throughout Rīga, Latvia.
Yuletide festivities provide the perfect distraction from freezing temperatures as decorations cheer the streets and families gather from all over to celebrate.
Christmas in Tartu
Watch the Advent candles being lit while the choirs sing on a fairy-lit Town Hall Square on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas (Estonia).
Festive decorations, arts and crafts, traditional foods and entertainment brighten the dark days in the lead-up to Christmas, in each capital’s Old Town (and in many other towns around the region).
New Year’s Eve
Enjoy fireworks and revelry on the main squares of Tallinn, Rīga and Vilnius in the countdown to midnight.