Vilnius - the capital of Lithuania is the biggest town and most popular sight in Lithuania - the cultural, historical and economical place attracting people from all over the world.
The first known written record of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital is known from Gediminas letters in 1323. Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. In Vilnius Old Town architecture are combined different styles - gothic, clasicism, baroque, renesaince. There are 65 churches in Vilnius. Like most medieval towns, Vilnius was developed around its Town Hall. The main artery, Pilies Street, links the Royal Palace with Town Hall. Other streets meander through the palaces of feudal lords and landlords, churches, shops and craftsmen's workrooms.
Narrow, curved streets and intimate courtyardsdeveloped in the radial layout of medieval Vilnius.Vilnius Old Town, the historical centre of Vilnius, is one of the largest in Europe (3.6 km²). The most valuable historic and cultural sites are concentrated here. The buildings in the old town — there are nearly 1,500 — were built over several centuries, creating a blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is known as a Baroque city, there are examples ofGothic (e.g. St Anne's Church), Renaissance, and other styles. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Owing to its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCOWorld Heritage List in 1994. In 1995, the world's first bronzecast of Frank Zappa was installed in the Naujamiestis district with the permission of the government. TheVilnius Castle Complex, a group of defensive, cultural, and religious buildings that includes Gediminas Tower, Cathedral Square, theRoyal Palace of Lithuania, and the remains of several medieval castles, is part of theNational Museum of Lithuania. Lithuania's largest art collection is housed in the Lithuanian Art Museum. The House of the Signatories, where the 1918 Act of Independence of Lithuania was signed, is now a historic landmark. The Museum of Genocide Victims is dedicated to the victims of the Soviet era.
Tour of Historical Old Town of Vilnius (3 hours) by car and on foot: Vilnius Cathedral and its square, the University campus, St. John Church, Pilies street with the 16-18th century historical and architectural monuments, Gothic corner of Vilnius with St Anne's and Bernardine churches, the former Town Hall square, the Dawn Gate with a miraculous icon of Virgin Mary.
Rates of all tours, in EURO, include guide service and vehicle, per group.
Price: 25 Eur (when travelling 4 people)
Optional in Vilnius
- The Cathedral
One of the most famous architectural monuments in Vilnius is Vilnius Cathedral, standing at the foot of Gediminas` Hill. It was built in 1387 on a place where once the God of thunder was worshipped.
Because of the frequent fires and wars Vilnius Cathedral was rebuilt many times.. In 1783, the restoration works under the leadership of Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevicius were started and were finished in 1801 by Mykolas Sulcas.
In 1950, the Cathedral was closed by the Soviets. IT was used as a warehouse for a while and then was abandoned. In 1990 the Cathedral was returned to the Catholic Church. The interior of the Cathedral is of a great artistic value. Here you can find artworks of the 16-19th centuries.
- Gediminas Castle Museum - historical exhibits and breathtaking view of Vilnius.
Gediminas Castle is located on the Castle Hill just behind the Cathedral. The original wooden castle was built in the early 13th century by the founder of Vilnius city Grand Duke Gediminas. The ancient legend about the foundation of the city says that Gediminas dreamt of an iron wolf on a hill and a pagan priest Lizdeika explained the dream as gods` will. The Gods wanted Gediminas to build a castle on this hill.
After Vilnius became the capital of Lithuania, the wooden castle was reinforced with brick walls. The current stone building was erected in 1419 at the direction of the Grand Duke Vytautas. The Duke`s castle ended up being used as a prison 200 years later. The castle was heavily damaged by Russian troops in the 17th century. Restoration works started in 1930 and since 1960 Gediminas Castle is a museum of the history of Lithuania.
- The Ensemble of St. Anne`s and Bernardine`s Churches
St Anne`s and Bernardine`s churches present and extraordinary Gothic composition. Both of them were built in 15th century when the Bernardines came to Vilnius in 1462. St. Anne`s church is the most famous late Gothic building in Lithuania. The church was built using 33 different kinds of bricks. It has been standing for five centuries and has reached our time almost unchanged. It is one of the Vilnius` symbols. The most popular story about the church is that upon seeing St. Anne`s church Napoleon said that he would like to place it in his palm and move it to Paris.
The Bernardine`s church is one of the largest Gothic churches in Lithuania. The church features the oldest known crucifix in Lithuania, which dates back to the 15th century. The unique mural painting decorating the walls of the naves dates back to the 16th century and combines renaissance and gothic elements.
- Exhibition of Christianity in Lithuanian Art featuring Vilnius Cathedral Treasure, 14th-19th century works of applied and fine arts: painting, sculpture, goldsmith, textile, etc.
- The Vilnius University
Vilnius University is the oldest university in Eastern Europe. It was founded by Jesuits in 1579 and for more than four centuries it has been the leading cultural and scientific centre in Lithuania.
In more than 400 years Vilnius University outlived ups and downs. The history of the university is very rich and controversial; it cannot be separated from the history of Lithuania and reflects all its dramatic stages.
Vilnius University Ensemble represents Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical styles. Explore the 12 courtyards and the surrounding buildings.
- The Town Hall
First mentioned in 1503, the Town Hall was the central point in the life of the whole city and the nearby square was the place of executions, market places and public life. The current building was designed at the end of 18th century by the famous architect Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevicius. Until 1924 the town theatre operated in the Town Hall. Later the State Art Museum was moved there and in 1998 the Town Hall was given back to the municipal government. Now it recalls its historic past: a place for city celebrations.
- KGB Museum - the cells in the basement of the former KGB building, where thousands of Lithuanians were interrogated before being deported to Siberia, have been left almost as they were when prisoners were packed into them 20 to a cell.
- Paneriai Museum with a monument to the victims of nazi occupation.
- TV Tower - Lithuania's tallest building, (326 m.) houses a small photo exhibition dedicated to the 14 unarmed civilians who were moved down by Soviet tanks on January 13 1991 in the most tragic episode in the run - up towards Lithuanians independence.
- Museum of the Centre of EUROope (EUROopos Parkas) - leading open-air contemporary art museum, a 20 min. drive from Vilnius centre. The exhibition spans an area of 55 hectares and displays over 80 works by artists form 23 countries.
- Presidential Palace - Historically the Episcopal Palace had stood on the site since 14 th century. Today after restoration, the late Neo - Classical style building houses the offices of the President of Lithuania.
- Dinner in a local Lithuanian cuisine restaurant with folk music show.