The city has a football club, FK Anykščiai.
Anykščiai is the Lithuanian name of the town. Its name in other languages includes Polish: Onikszty; Russian: Они́кшты, translit. Onikshty; Belarusian: Ані́кшты, translit. Anikshty; Yiddish: אַניקשט, translit. Aniksht; German: Onikschten.
Archeological research in the area has revealed settlements dating from the late Neolithic. Its location on the Šventoji River, connecting it to the Baltic Sea via the Neris River and Neman River, contributed to its development. It also lay on a land route between the cities of Vilnius and Riga. Its strategic importance led to frequent assaults by the Teutonic Order. The first written mention of the town dates to 1442; its first appearance on a map is dated tentatively to about 1578.
Prior to Lithuania re-establishing its independence after World War I, Anykščiai was part of the Kovno Governorate of the Russian Empire. A shtetl existed within the town (Yiddish: Aniksht אַניקשט), with a Jewish population of 2,754 in 1900.
Wool processing facilities, a winery, and Lithuanian and Jewish schools were established after World War I, when its population reached about 4,000. During World War II, its bridges and city center were destroyed. In summer 1941, two mass executions of the local Jewish population occurred. Around 1,500 Jews were murdered by Lithuanian nationalists.