Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania – is the largest city and a cultural, scientific, industrial centre. The city stretches along the valleys of the Neris and Vilnia rivers. Each road that leads into the centre of the city has its own unique panorama.
Its population is about 579 thousand.
Vilnius, one of the oldest Baltic cities, has a long history, rich in events.
Vilnius was first referred to as a capital of Lithuania in 1323 in the letters of Duke Gediminas. Vilnius was devastated by the Crusaders numerous times, but once the attacks quieted down after the Battle of Tannenberg (Zalgiris, 1410), the city started to grow rapidly. There were 30 thousand people living in Vilnius by the 16th century, and it became a large trade, industrial and cultural centre of Europe. The most significant event of that time in the history of the city was opening of University in 1579. Now it is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Europe. Starting an excursion in the capital from the foot of the Gediminas’ hill (Gedimino kalnas) you will see the monument of Gediminas, the Great Duke of Lithuania (1275-1341). The 14th – 16th century Gothic castle is both an architectural and historical monument. Now the bottom floors house a small museum where you can learn about the history of Vilnius and see displays of archaeological findings. You can see a breathtaking view of Vilnius from the top of the tower. Hill of Three Crosses (Triju Kryziu Kalnas) is famous for three wooden crosses that were erected on this hill in the 14th century to honour monks who were killed by pagans. A white building of Vilnius Archicathedral stands out at the foot of the Gediminas Hill (Classicist style). Archaeologists showed that a cathedral stood here as early as the 13th century. It was rebuilt several times.
Vilnius Old Town is included into the UNESCO Heritage lists as one of the largest and most beautiful Old Towns in Central and East Europe. Vilnius is often referred to as a Baroque city. If you look above the Old Town, you might certainly agree with this description, as the view is dominated by Baroque church towers. However, Old Town of Vilnius is actually a magnificent example of the architectural trends which have come and gone throughout the ages. In the 15th-16th centuries, Vilnius was a Gothic town. At the same time in Western Europe, Gothic architecture was already being phased out by Renaissance. In the 16th century, Renaissance architecture, along with the ideas of the Reformation, reached Vilnius as well, but did not stay for long. The calm, moderately ornate lines of Renaissance architecture were replaced by Baroque in the next century. By the end of the 18th century, Baroque was surpassed by the monumental, severe, and grand lines of Classicism, the last of the major trends to dominate in Vilnius architecture. Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with the Old Town is to start with its oldest architectural layer – Gothic. Vilnius’ Gothic masterpiece is the Church of St. Anne which can be found in Maironis Street. Near the Vilnia River by the Church of St. Anne is a Statue of Adomas Mickevicius. Across from the Church of St. Anne is the Church of St. Michael. The nearby Bernardinu Street, which is typical alleyway of old Vilnius, leads into Pilies Street. Pilies Street has been blocked off to traffic since 1988. The main architectural work of Daukantas Square is the President’s Palace. Behind the President Palace is Vilnius University ensemble with Church of St. John. Didzioji St. opens up into Town Hall Square, the Lithuanian Artist’s Palace. The centre of Modern Art in Vokieciu St., National Philharmonic Hall in Didzioji St., Church of all Saints, Church of St. Casimir, Orthodox Church, Church of St.Theresa, Gate of Dawn Chapel can be found in the Old Town. The most mature piece of Baroque architecture in Vilnius is the Church of St. Peter and Paul. The TV Tower can be seen from many sites of Vilnius, since it is 326 m high. There is a restaurant on the top of the TV tower with a wide panorama opening through its windows.
Museums: Vilnius Castle Museum, National Museum, Museum of Applied Art, KGB Museum, Jewish State Museum, Vilnius Picture Gallery.
Exciting: Hill of Three Crosses, St.Peter&Paul Church, Park of Europe.
Tours: Capital of Lithuania, Vilnius TV Tower, Vilnius Churches, Vilna Jerusalem de Lita, Paneriai, Baltic Cities, Round the Baltics I, Round the Baltics II.