Lahti harbors cultural ambitions, and recent years saw the building of a large congress and concert center, the Sibelius Hall. This has sparked much controversy amongst the population, many of whom feel that the money used for these purposes would be better spent on health care and education. Lahti has one of Finland's most widely known symphony orchestras, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (Sinfonia Lahti), which performs both classical and popular music, notably concentrating on music by Jean Sibelius.
Lahti’s annual music festival programmed includes such events as Lahti Organ Festival, Jazz at the market place and Sibelius Festival.
Lahti is best known for its annually held World Cup winter games, the Lahti Ski Games (Salpausselän kisat). Ski jumping events of Lahti Ski Games are part of the Nordic Tournament.
For the 1952 Summer Olympics, it hosted some of the football preliminaries.
The city endeavors for achievements in sport, which has led to such things as the hosting of a World Games event. As of 2010, it is the only city to host the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships six times, doing so in 1926, 1938, 1958, 1978, 1989, and 2001.
The city also has an ice hockey team, the Lahden Pelicans, an Association Football (soccer) club, FC Lahti, and a basketball team Namika Lahti. In July-August 2009, Lahti hosted the 18th World Masters Athletics Championships, an outdoor age-group track meet for men and women 35 and over