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Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has set out to break stereotypes with a humorous new advertising campaign which pokes fun at common misconceptions of the city. 

Expectations Vs Reality explores the negative opinions people frequently have about the Capital, and Go Vilnius has created a satirical commercial video that shows the grim preconceived ideas versus the delightful reality of the city. The campaign’s self-deprecating visuals will soon be seen around London’s Tube stations too.

Expectation Vs Reality 

Popular European cities draw hordes of tourists all year round and sometimes reality is different from expectations. A recent press article revealed that some turn out to be overrated and disappointing. But what happens when tourist expectations are already low?

In reality, Vilnius is a modern yet charming city that presents a surprising reality with its vibrant cultural, gastronomical, and artistic life. Visitors’ low expectations are swiftly shattered by seeing how much Vilnius and wider Lithuania differs from the negative Eastern European label. The World Happiness Report has just ranked Lithuania the world’s happiest country for people under 30 so it can’t be that bad, right?

Busting the Eastern Europe stereotype 

A survey has shown that Britons and Germans are just becoming familiarised with Vilnius: 43% of UK and 62% of German residents are aware of the city and know a little more than just its name. However, only 9% of Britons and 8% of Germans have a deeper understanding of the Lithuanian capital.

Both the capital and the country suffer from misconceptions that stem from the Cold War era and terms such as “Russian backwater,” or “a poor country,” are often still used in reference to Lithuania. Opinions like these are generally formed by pop culture, films, and social media is full of images portraying what this part of Europe supposedly looks like – vodka, potatoes, grey skies, grey buildings, and pretty dreary all round. However, the initial low opinion of the city is usually reversed after visiting Vilnius with 59% of British visitors,who have already been, say they would happily return.

Let us Change Your Mind 

The new tourism campaign strives to change people’s minds about Vilnius. At first, the commercial depicts the most common expectations of Vilnius — ugly buildings, drunks defacing the streets,

thieves, and shady market sellers — while the narrator, satirically, describes the city as an Eastern European pearl and a photographer’s paradise.

The second part breaks these stereotypes, showing Vilnius in its true light – impressive architecture, colourful streets, tempting gastronomy and thrilling tourist attractions and activities to rival many leading European city break destinations.

Dovilė Aleksandravičienė, CEO of Go Vilnius, the official tourism and business development agency of Vilnius which is behind the Expectations vs. Reality campaign, says the commercial is atypical as no tourism agency would ever advertise a destination in a satire if it was close to the truth. However, if the curiosity of potential visitors is piqued after watching the commercial and they search for Vilnius on the internet, the goal has been reached.

“When asked about Vilnius, many international residents either don’t know it or know very little about it. It’s normal that our perception of places might be affected by what is featured in media and pop culture. Let’s be fair, Eastern Europe has many stereotypes brought on by the difficulties of the 20th-century geopolitical events,” Aleksandravičienė said. “What many don’t know is that in the last 30 years, many cities in Eastern Europe have become unrecognisable thanks to rapid changes. We are not patronising or critiquing those who still base their knowledge of Vilnius and Lithuania on the prevailing stereotypes but rather, in a true ‘Unexpectedly Amazing’ Vilnius style, laugh at them together and ignite people’s desire to see what reality looks like over here.”

So what Can You Expect? 

The UNESCO-listed Old Town is buzzing with excitement from visitors and residents alike with a full programme of events and festivals taking place in the spring and summer months such as Street Music Day, Vilnius Pink Soup Fest, As Young as Vilnius Festival and Vilnius City Fiesta. Vilnius is also a foodies paradise and some of the city’s restaurants, such as Džiaugsmas and Nineteen18, have made it on to the world’s best restaurant lists.

And, as the European Green Capital for 2025, the city lives up to its title. Many eco-conscious initiatives like hydrogen-powered buses being launched into the streets by 2026 are continuously implemented, and lush greenery has been incorporated into the city landscape.

The reality of Vilnius is not what people might think. It’s a really cool city that you don’t think you’ll like but turns out to be amazing. Unexpectedly amazing.

A bit like šaltibarščiai, that famous pink soup – don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!

 

 





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