Vilnius and Linz have replaced Stavanger and Liverpool as European Capitals of Culture. Find out the best each city has to offer.


Vilnius, in Lithuania, is one of Eastern Europe's most popular destinations. Since joining the EU in 2004, more and more people have arrived to explore the city's historic centre and hundreds of churches.

The baroque old town's crumbling facades and air of decay have since been gentrified, leaving the buildings around central Didzioji gleaming. It is one of the largest old towns in Europe, with over 1,200 buildings scattered across Vilnius's hilly, bendy streets.

Of the city's many churches, synagogues and monasteries, the cathedral, which dates from the 13th century, is the most impressive. Now restored to its original white, the building was elaborated with 18-century additions. Its freestanding belltower reaches almost 57m (187ft) into the sky, dominating the spacious Gediminas Square.

The historic University of Vilnius was granted its charter in 1579 - the campus extends over a whole block of the Old Town. Its original architecture reflects the university's ongoing construction under the varying influences of gothic, renaissance, baroque and classical styles.

For great views across Vilnius's many spires, visitors should walk or take the funicular up to Gediminas's Tower of the Upper Castle, a small mound where the only remaining tower of the city's castle, built in 1409, stands. More views of the city are offered from the top of the TV Tower.

Vilnius events

Vilnius celebrates its millennium in 2009 - the city was first mentioned in the monastic Annals of Quedlinburg in 1009. Events throughout the year will celebrate the city, including the following:

European Café
This discussion club will take place regularly throughout the year, inviting the capital's guests and residents to discuss contemporary culture.

Uzgavenes, February

A traditional pre-Easter celebration in the centre of Vilnius that bids farewell to the long winter in anticipation of spring and its warmth.

Let There Be Night, June
A festival of culture on midsummer night. Dance lessons, open-air cinema, concerts in churches and poetry readings will all be taking place.

Art in Unusual Places, September
Projects by professional artists will be hidden throughout the city, in unexpected places. They will include video and audio installations, operettas and social campaigns. City residents are invited to create displays in their gardens and houses.

Festival of Lights, November
Science, nature and art will combine to explore the world of light, during the darkest period of the year.


Outside of its enchanting capital, Lithuania offers forests, lakes and more castles. Around 28km (17 miles) away, in Trakai, an ancient capital, visitors will find Lake Galve - a lake with 21 islands, one with a castle. Popular Baltic coast resorts include Palanga and Kursiu Nerija, both famous for their clean white sand, pine forests and sand dunes. A UNESCO World Heritage site awaits at the Curonian Spit National Park, on the peninsula between the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea.


The capital of Austria's Upper province, right on the Danube, Linz is emerging as a modern centre with a flourishing economy - there are more jobs than people. Austria's third largest city, Linz joins the Mühlviertel region towards the Czech border with the rolling hills that lead to the Alps in the south, situated roughly halfway between Vienna and Salzburg.

Green spaces account for 60% of the city, making Linz one of Austria's most environmentally friendly communities. Cultural life in the city is equally diverse, with world-famous institutions such as the Bruckner Orchestra and Ars Electronica Center. In an attempt to rid its industrial image, Linz has developed its cultural and art scene with annual events, including Brucknerfest and the Ars Electronica festival.

Baroque buildings cover the city's main square, including the Landhaus (the seat of the provincial government) and the Altes Rathaus (the old town hall). Mozart House is where the composer created his Linz Symphony in 1783.

Linz is also home to both one of Austria's oldest original churches and its largest place of worship. St Martin's Church was first documented in 799. Inside, Roman stone inscriptions can be seen. The Immaculate Conception, the city's New Cathedral, was consecrated in 1924 and can seat 20,000 people.

For views over the city, take the mountain tram to the Pöstlingberg - the pilgrimage church, a viewing platform and the Grottenbahn cave railway await. There is also a zoo halfway up.

Linz events

Linz's year as Capital of Culture will be marked with regular events throughout each month, including:

Best of Austria, January-May
An art collection gathering the country's most significant works together in Linz's Lentos Art Museum. Over 30 museums, galleries and private art collections throughout Austria will contribute works.

80+1: A Journey Around the World, June-September
The Ars Electronic Center will provide the virtual environment for Linz's global trip - 81 days around the world during which 20 places will be visited via optical cables and satellite links.

The Library of Rescued Memories, October-December
A multi-media exhibition in the Wissensturm that will present pictures and stories of Jewish life before the Holocaust, based on Centropa interviews.

Upper Austria

As a region, Upper Austria has spectacular scenery which combines mountains and hills with river valleys and lakes. Close by is Mühlviertel, an area of the country made famous by Adalbert Stifter, an author who describes the romanticism of the region. It is also home to the Horse Railway, the first on the European continent, and Austria's weaving industry.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.