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Vilnius
 

Coming to Vilnius? Make sure you don't miss anything ...

Before starting your meanderings around the streets of the Old Town, and its churches, museums, craft workshops and galleries, it is worth getting a bird’s eye view of Vilnius and taking in a panoramic view of the city. There are some hills and high buildings suitable for this purpose.

The highest building in Vilnius is the television tower. It has a total height of 326.5 metres, and at 165 metres the tower’s restaurant is the highest observation point in the city. The circular floor of the restaurant does a complete revolution once per hour, giving people sitting at the tables by the windows an excellent bird’s eye view of the whole city. A great vantage point to view the city centre is the bar on the 22nd floor of the Reval Hotel Lietuva, which stands near the northern bank of the Neris River, on the edge of the Old Town. An open air view of the Old Town can be had from several hilltops in the city. At the top of the castle tower on Gediminas’ Hill there is an observation area. You can get to the castle by the cobbled path that winds up the hill or you can take a ride to the top in the funicular. Across the Vilnelė River in the adjacent Sereikiškių Park you can go to the top of several hills along the escarpment: Trijų kryžių (Three Crosses), Bekešo, Altanos, Stalo and Gedimino kapo (Gediminas’ Grave).
A narrow path leads from Gedimino kapo (Gediminas’ Grave) Hill to Užupis, the artists’ district of Vilnius. This is the home of the self-declared ‘independent’ Republic of Užupis. It has its own insignia (you will see it as you drive into Užupis from the Old Town over the bridge on the Vilnelė River), its official seal and a guardian angel in the form of a sculpture. It also has a Constitution, a copy of which is displayed at the beginning of Paupio (Riverside) Street. Along the bank of the Vilnelė there are several nice cafés and open artists’ courtyards.
A tidy view of the Old Town is to be had from Bastėjos kalnas (Bastille Hill). At the bottom to the right of the hill is the Tymai quarter, unfortunately a bit rundown since World War II, but still the venue of Vilnius’ annual craftsmen’s fair. The churchyards of Šv. Trejybės (Holy Trinity) church and other nearby sacred buildings radiate peace and serenity.
Museum lovers will not be disappointed by the Lithuanian National Museum, the Museum of Applied Art and the Vilnius Picture Gallery. Admirers of contemporary art will find it worth visiting the Contemporary Art Centre, while those who wish to feel the chill of the dreadful totalitarian era inflicted on Lithuania (1940–1990) can visit the Genocide Victims’ Museum, which has been established in former KGB premises.

margutis

In 2003 the hand of artist and designer Lijana Turskytė turned the gypsum 300 kg egg, which is erected on the granite column, into an Easter egg, bringing a touch of spring to the capital city and brightening the view for the passerby.

Today the Easter egg signifies the restoration and revival of this part of the Old Town.

   

The easiest way to reach Kalnų Park is from T. Kosciuškos Street. Having climbed the hill, you will find yourself on the stage. In summer, a number of different concerts and festivals are held here. The area of the Park is adjacent to adjoins Užupis (Krivių Street) and the Vilnia River. Kalnų Park is made up of several hills. The most magnificent of them is the Hill of Three Crosses.
It is believed that the three crosses were first erected here in the 17th century to commemorate a group of monks from a nearby monastery, who were martyred in the 14th century. According to legend, seven were killed and seven were tied to wooden crosses and floated down the Neris River, with the instruction to return to the west from whence they had come. The monument has changed many times. The current one was built by the architect and sculptor, A. Vivulskis in 1989 at the beginning of the Rebirth movement.  It was built to replace the one that had been removed by the Soviet authorities in the 1950s, pieces of which still remain on the slope on the far side. The Hill of Three Crosses is also known as Kreivasis (crooked) Hill, or Plikasis (bare) Hill or Tauro Hill (the gleaming white monument marks the site of the former Crooked Castle, which is believed to have stood there (in Latin, referred to as the curvum castrum).
Stalas (Table) Hill was given this name because of its shape. The top is as even as a table.
The Hill of Gediminas’ Grave marks the burial site of Duke Gediminas. This hill is not only for those who want to enjoy a superb view of the wide panorama of the city, but also for members of the religious Balts communities who gather there, near the pagan altar to celebrate their festivals.
 
Bekešas Hill was named after Kasparas Beketas, one of the famous Commanders of the then joint Lithuanian and Polish State, who was buried there in 1580. He came from a famous family of Hungarian noblemen. He was buried here because he practised Arian religion and the Catholic Church of the time did not give permission to have his remains buried  in their churchyard. In the middle of the 19th century, the monument together with the grave of Kasparas Beketas fell into the Vilnia River.
 
kalnu parkas4
3 kryziai4 

konrads cell2Konrad’s cell was opened in Vilnius in 2009. The monastery cell where the poet Adam Mickiewicz was imprisoned has been named after the hero of his poem “Konrad Wallenrod”. There are two expositions: one is installed as an imitation of a prison cell, and the other one consists of photo-stands displaying the information on Adam Mickiewicz’s life in Vilnius, the case of Philarets and the Philomaths.

The current exposition of Konrad cell only symbolically marks the location of Konrad cell that stirred so much discussion during the inter-war period. It is known that Adam Mickiewicz was imprisoned in the Bazillion cloister turned into prison at that time in 1823-1824. Having bribed the guards close friends used to gather in the poet’s cell. Adam Mickiewicz described these events in Chapter II of this poem “All Souls’ Day” created in 1832.

Maintenance of Konrad cell has been entrusted to Adam Mickiewicz museum of Vilnius University library.

The exposition is open for visitors daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Aušros Vartų st. 7A

konrad cell1

Inspired by Aidas Marčėnas’s poem Literatų Gatvė about a wistful young man drinking and smoking with his friends on the street of the same name, the highly recommended permanent outdoor gallery on Literatų is dedicated to writers past and present who’ve all left their mark on the city. Comprised of small, mixed-media prints, drawings and paintings celebrating everyone from Jonas Mekas to Czesław Miłosz to Romain Gary, the gallery, all the work of local artists, grew from humble beginnings in 2008 and now features just over 100 superb pieces.

 

 

 
  

Didžioji (‘Main’) Street is one of Vilnius’ oldest streets. It starts at Subačiaus Street and extends to Šv. Jono (Saint John’s) Street. Its further extension is Pilies (‘Castle’) Street, which formerly was considered to be one street along with Didžioji Street, and it was called Didžioji Pilies gatvė (‘Castle Main Street’).

These two streets are among the most visited by local townspeople and by visitors.

Here you will find all that you seek: luxurious boutiques, coffee shops, cultural centres, embassies, night clubs, souvenir sellers and the happy hubbub of the city.

 

 Pilies gatve1

prezidentura1The Palace traces its history back to the 14th century, when Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, issued an edict donating land in the city to the Vilnius Diocese, for this reason the palace is sometimes referred to as the Bishops' Palace [1]. Construction of the Palace took place in the late 14th century under the auspices of the first Bishop of Vilnius, Andrzej Wasilko, and over succeeding generations, the building was gradually enlarged and renovated. During the Renaissance the Palace was once again renovated, and parks and gardens surrounding the building were expanded.
As the 18th century unfolded, a number of dramatic events in the Palace's history took place: the last Bishop of Vilnius lived in the Palace, Lithuania was annexed by the Russian Empire, and the building itself was badly damaged by two major fires in 1737 and 1748. The Palace was reconstructed in 1750 under the supervision of the architect Laurynas Gucevičius. After its reconstruction the Palace was used as a residence for Emperors, Kings and noblemen. During 1796, Tsar Paul I lived at the Palace. During the course of the 19th century the Palace served as a residence for several Imperial Russian governors, such as Mikhail Muravyov, nicknamed "The Hangman"[2]. It was also visited by the future King of France, Louis XVIII in 1804.
In 1812, both the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the French Emperor Napoleon used the Palace as their residence. During Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, he organized military operations and Lithuanian army units from this Palace, including five regiments of infantry, four cavalry regiments, and the National Guard of Vilnius. He received Lithuanian noblemen, newly appointed officials of the administration, and other dignitaries in this Palace as well. After Napoleon's defeat in 1812, the Palace was used for ceremonial proposes; it was here that then-general Mikhail Kutuzov was awarded Russia's highest military award - the Order of St. George. During 1824-1834, the Palace was reconstructed by the prominent St. Petersburg architect Vasily Stasov in the Empire style, under supervision of Karol Podczaszyński. Stasov's reconstruction of the Palace has remained to this day.After Lithuania regained its independence in 1918, the Palace housed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ELTA news agency until it ended up in Poland in 1920. It was restored in the 1930s by Stefan Narębski.[3] After the Second World War, the Palace served as the Military Officers' Centre; later it housed various Lithuanian artists. The Palace was gradually adapted for use as a presidential residence, and since 1997 it has served as the official residence of the President of Lithuania. A flag displaying the coat of arms of the President is hoisted when the President is present in the Palace or in the city.

 

 

rasu2Founded in 1801 and the final resting place of many of the country’s social elite, this extraordinary cemetery stretched over a large area divided by a main road is still in use today, providing an extraordinary snapshot of the cultural history of the city. Hidden away here find the artist and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911), the author and publicist Jonas Basanavičius (1851-1927), whose grave is inscribed with a peculiar, 19th-century version of Lithuanian that predates its written standardisation, and the heart of Marshall Józef Piłsudski (1867-1935), the local-born Polish general who played a key role in re-establishing Polish independence in 1918 as well as the country’s subsequent annexation of Vilnius in 1920.

uzupis1Užupis is a neighborhood in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, largely located in Vilnius' old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Užupis means "on the other side of the river" in the Lithuanian language and refers to the Vilnia River. The name Vilnius was derived from the Vilnia. The district has been popular with artists for some time, and has been compared to Monmartre in Paris due to its bohemian atmosphere. The district houses art galleries, artists' workshops, and popular cafés. On April Fools Day, 1997, the district declared itself an independent republic (The Republic of Užupis), replete with an army of 12 personnel.

Užupis is quite small and isolated, being only about 148 acres (0.60 km2) in size. On one side it is separated from the Old Town by the Vilnia River, on the other there are steep hills, and on the third there is an industrial area built under the Soviet rule. The first bridges across the river were built in the 16th century, at which time the district's inhabitants were mostly Jewish.

The district contains the Bernardine Cemetary, one of the oldest in the city. Most of the district's Jewish population vanished during the Holocaust, and later even the old Jewish Cemetary would be destroyed by the Soviets. The houses left empty by the Holocaust were occupied by marginal elements of society, the homeless, and prostitutes. At the end of 19th century in Užupis there lived Felix Dzerzhinsky — and later Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. Until Lithuania's declaration of independence in 1990, it was one of the most neglected areas in the city, containing many run-down houses, many without utilities. The region has been a common haunt of artists and bohemians since Soviet times, and even today many young artists are squatting in abandoned buildings near the Vilnia River.

They celebrate this independence annually on Užupis Day, which falls on April 1st. Artistic endeavours are the main preoccupation of the Republic and indeed the current President of the Republic of Užupis, Romas Lileikis, is himself a poet, musician, and film director. The first major initiative undertaken by the Republic after its foundation was to build a monument for Frank Zappa, in Vilnius.

Copies of the 41 articles of the Republic's constitution, in three languages, can be found affixed to a wall on Paupio street in the area. Some of these articles would be unremarkable in a constitution; for instance, Article 5 simply reads "Man has the right to individuality.". Others are more idiosyncratic. A typical example can be found in Articles 1 ("People have the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow past people."), 12 ("A dog has the right to be a dog.") and 37 ("People have the right to have no rights."), each of which makes an unusual apportionment of rights. There are a number of paired articles, such as Articles 16 ("People have the right to be happy.") and 17 ("People have the right to be unhappy.") which declare people's right to either do or not do something, according to their desire.

On April 4, 2002, a statue of an angle blowing a trumpet was unveiled in the main square. It was intended to symbolize the revival and artistic freedom of the district.


 

rok piliakalnis
It is said that in the 11th-12th century, one of the oldest castles in Lithuania used to stand on the 40-metre-high Rokantiškės hill.

The castle hill gives a wonderful view of the Vilnia Valley. The Kučkuriškės Paper Mill established in the 19th century (technical monument), the old river dam, the ponds, and the Naujoji Vilnia settlement founded in the 19th century after the construction of the Vilnius to St Petersburg railway line may be seen on one side, while the sleep banks of the Vilnia River and a hilly area overgrown with fir trees lay on the other.

  

According to the legend, Grand Duke Gediminas had a dream of an Iron Wolf hauling on a high hill. A pagan priest interpreted the dream, that the Iron Wolf represents a castle and a city – the capital of Lithuanian lands and the glory of the city will be heard throughout the world.

The top of Tauras Hill provides a magnificent view of Vilnius with the buildings of the 19-20th architecture on this side of the river and many-storeyed buildings of the new city centre on the other. The hill is girded by the bustling Pamėnkalnio Street.
Tauras Hill is a popular place among citizens, especially young people. School-leavers often come here to meet the sunrise after their graduation party and romantic people climb the hill to admire sunsets and the city by night. In winter time, people come here with snowboards and sleds.

 

The tallest building in Lithuania, the 326m Television Tower was built from reinforced concrete and steel between 1974 and 1980 to a design by V. Obydovas and K. Balėnas. On January 13, 1991 as the disintegration of the USSR reached a frenzied pace and Moscow attempted to retake control of the Lithuanian media, Soviet tanks surrounded it in an assault that killed 13 unarmed civilians. The tower has since become a potent Lithuanian symbol. Around it are a few monuments and photographs of those who lost their lives and whose names the nearby streets are now called in honour of. Inside at ground level is the small Sausio 13-osios Ekspozicija (January 13th Exhibition) exhibition commemorating the brutal events including a copy of the original Soviet military attack plan, weapons used to beat protesters and some disturbing photographs. The exhibition is free, although the 40-second ride in the lift to visit the combined 270m restaurant and viewing station isn’t. The ticket office also sells several Television Tower souvenirs. A taxi from Old Town costs somewhere in the region of 20Lt. Alternatively, take trolleybus Nº1, 3, 7 or 16 to the Televizijos Bokštas stop.

 

 

 

Closed for repairs

This is part of the Vilnius Defensive Wall, often called “barbican”. The Bastion is a Renaissance-style fortification characterised by its original construction. It consists of a tower installed in the city defence wall, underground gun ports and a connecting corridor, which turns into a 48-metre long tunnel. The Bastion was built in the first half of the 17th century by the German military engineer, Friedrich Getkant. The Bastion was severely damaged during the wars with Moscow in the middle of the 17th century. During World Wars I and II, German military arsenals were located in the building. You can enjoy a picturesque view of the Old Town from the Bastion terrace.

Vilnius, 28 April 2010. On Wednesday the project of the outstanding sculptor Tadas Gutauskas to commemorate the twenty years of restoration of the Statehood of Lithuania was introduced in Vilnius – the sculpture “The Road of Freedom” to be erected at the place where the legendary Baltic Way passed through the City.

The Project idea evolved from reflecting on contemporary apathy, pessimism and confrontation. “The Road of Freedom” is a commemoration of the fight for independence and a symbol of freedom and unity for future generations. It reminds us of the ideas of unity which helped Lithuania to gain its freedom”, – says the author of the idea T. Gutauskas.

The sculpture is symbolic of the live chain of people who, more than 20 years ago, joined hands and connected the three Baltic States who were striving for independence. The chain stretched a length of over 600 kilometres and became an expression of solidarity without comparison anywhere in the world.

This sculpture, just like “The Baltic Way” created unanimously by the Lithuanian people 21 years ago, is a collective creation – everyone can contribute to the Project and get a special brick from which the sculpture will be erected. Each brick will be the in the colours of the Lithuanian flag and the first name and surname of the person who has contributed to the sculpture will be stamped on each brick.

Upon approval of Vilnius City Urban Development Department the sculpture will be erected at the crossroads of Konstitucijos Avenue and Geležinio vilko Streets near the traffic circle. On 20 January 2010 by decision of the Government the Project “The Road of Freedom” was included in the plan of events to commemorate the restoration of the statehood of Lithuania eligible for financing and patronage for the Project has been provided by the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO.

The opening of “The Road of Freedom” is planned for23 August on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of “The Baltic Way”.

freedom road1

One of the most important tasks of developing the city was the re-establishment of the Tymo quarter.

In historical Tymo, handicrafts are being re-established after falling into decay after World War II. Small handicraft shops, various galleries and artists. Studios are being established making it possible for traditional handicrafts and multicultural fairs to be rejuvenated again in Vilnius, especially in its Old Town and which will also attract more visitors.
From the 14th-19th centuries, the Tymo quarter was surrounded by the Vilnia River and the loop of its channel, thus creating an island. The natural conditions were conducive to leather processing and so it was in the Tymo quarter that the first handicraft shops in Vilnius appeared. And the area became known as Tymo.
Somewhat later, the Tartars settled there and also practised their traditional craft of leather processing. In the middle of the 19th century most of the houses in this quarter belonged to small Jewish tradesmen. On the ground floor of most of the houses, there were inns, bakeries and shops. In 1960, the buildings of this craftsmen?s quarter were demolished and the ponds belonging to the Missionaries? Monastery were filled in and the garden was destroyed.
A number of events, fairs and festivals are held in the Tymo quarter. Nearby, the so-called Kūdrų Park with ponds has been laid out. The residents of Vilnius enjoy walking there.

 

First mentioned in 1503, the Town Hall most likely dates from the 15th century, while the present Classical structure was built at the end of the 18th century. In 1810 the governor general ordered that the Town Hall housed a theatre, which gave performances on and off until 1924. Since then its interior has been a museum. Until the reestablishment of independence in 1991, it served as the Lithuanian Art Museum. Today it’s the Artists’ Palace where you can see gallery art.

Vilnius town hall is a historical building in the heart of the Old Town of Vilnius. The city’s most important venue for cultural and political celebratory events was established by the Vilnius City Municipal Government for carrying out its representational functions. This is where the Mayor of Vilnius holds his receptions and where both cultural performances and business meetings take place. A former theatre building, it features a distinctive interior of splendid halls.

 

Vilnius University is situated to the West of Daukanto aikštė and takes up a whole block in the Old Town between Šv. Jono, Skapo and Universiteto streets. The buildings are a collection of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical styles. The campus is arranged around twelve closed courtyards.

The most prominent features of the Great Courtyard are the tallest Church of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist (the 14th – 18th centuries) and the tallest bell tower. Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe. The University started from a Collegium, which was established by the Order of the Jesuits who came to Lithuania to fight against the spreading Reformation. In 1579, Stephen Bathory, the elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, conferred on it the status of university. The Library of the University, established in 1570, stores especially rich collections of old and rare publications, the first printed books and maps.

Address: Universiteto str. 3, Vilnius

 

  • Guided tours in Lithuanian, English, French, Russian and Polish languages every workday from 9:00 am to 15:00 pm. (Fridays until 14.00.).
  • Duration of the tour: about 1.5 hours.
  • Ticket price:
    Adults - € 3.48
    Pupils and students -  1.16

 
  
 

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