Vilnius is one of the cities in The Central Europe, laying the farthest east, which experienced a strong interaction between the Eastern and Western cultures. In 1994 the historical center of Vilnius (old town) was globally acknowledged due to its exceptionality and was included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Vilnius’ old town is the largest old town in The Eastern Europe, covering 359,5 ha.
From 14th to 18th centuries the city produced a huge impact on the architectural development throughout the whole region. The city boasts a well-preserved example of a street network and urban structure, characteristic to The Middle Ages. The city landscape has preserved a rich variety of the buildings with plenty of houses in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism styles. One marvels at the mesmerizing panorama and perspectives.
The streets and buildings reflect the signs of living, once led by Lithuanians, Jews, Poles, Russians, Germans, Belarusians, Caraites and Tatars. Here peace reigns among the representatives from different confessions such as Catholics, Greek-Catholics, Orthodox, Evangelic-Lutherans, Evangelic-Reformists, Jews and Muslims. The historic center of Vilnius (the old town) stands for a proof of harmony between a human being and nature.
Vilnius, as the capital of Lithuania, is the home of the President, the Seimas, the Government and the Supreme Court. Diplomatic missions, educational, cultural, financial, research, and healthcare institutions are based here.
Population: 543.626 inhabitants
What to see
Vilnius is a city of culture. There are many museums, art galleries, churches and other famous buildings and sightseeing points offering interesting and original displays in the Old Town. Diverse neighborhoods will take you through the centuries, green parks will help you relax and provide outdoor activities.
The Vilnius Castle Museum was opened in 1960, and in 1968 it became a subdivision of the Lithuanian National Museum. The exposition of the Vilnius Castle Museum displays reconstruction models of Vilnius castles of the second part of the 14th and the beginning of the 17th centuries, armament, iconographic material of old Vilnius. An observation deck on the top of the tower is the best place from which to appreciate a magnificent panorama of Vilnius.
The reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, the former political, diplomatic, cultural center of the State, was one of the most famous in Europe in the 15th-17th centures and was demolished in the beginning of the 19th century. This Palace is excellent located just in the heart of Vilnius, within the confines of Lower Castle. Nowadays the Gothic, Renaissance and Early Baroque halls of this multifunctional Museum are ideally applicable to organize a different size and content public events, official visits, conferences, meetings, seminars, concerts, performances, receptions and other.
Part of the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes in Vilnius Lower Castle officially transferred to the Museum. In the reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania there are two exhibition tour routes directly related to the historical functions of this residence. The first tour will show the historical and architectural develop ment of the palace by highlighting the ancient ruins still in place, excavated artifacts and by using models and iconographic materials. The second tour route will bring the visitors into the ceremonial halls, which have been reconstructed in such a way as to show the evolution of architectural styles – from the late Gothic to the Renaissance to the early Baroque.
The Cathedral of St. Stanislav and St. Vladislav is the most important place of worship for Lithuania’s Catholics, and the venue for the country’s main Christian, for, and national festivities.
In 1922, the Cathedral was granted the title of ‘Basilica’, by Pope Pius XI.
Many key figures in Lithuanian history are buried in the Sovereigns’ Mausoleum, which is located beneath the chapel of St. Casimir. Its vaults contain the remains of Vytautas The Great, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, and King Alexander of Poland. The vaults are not only restricted to kings, either – the two wives of Žygimantas Augustas, Queen Elisabeth of Austria and Queen Barbora Radvilaitė. The cathedral containing the ashes of King Vladislovas Vaza (Wladyslaw Vasa) are also buried here.
The cathedral’s original temple dates back to between the 13th or 15th century.
CRYPTS OF THE VILNIUS CATHEDRAL
Opening time: Monday to Saturday 10 – 16 h. Visitors to the Cathedral crypts are admitted only with a guide, in groups of at least 10 people.
The Gallery is established in a beautiful and spacious estate of the noblemen Chodkiewicz noted for impressive interiors of late Classicism. The permanent exposition of this Gallery offers a visitor the opportunity to become thoroughly and consistently acquainted with the development of Lithuanian art from the 16th to the beginning of the 20th century. It houses a collection of works by artists of Vilnius Art School. Different exhibitions, evenings of culture, concerts of classical music are organized at the Gallery.
Pilies Street is the oldest and most flamboyant street in the Old Town of Vilnius. The street appeared in place of the former road from Vilnius Castle to the south, towards Poland and Russia. This was the main road to the castle, with its branches finally turning into side streets. The name of Pilies Street was mentioned in historical annals as early as 1530.
Kings, legates of the Pope, and envoys from other countries passed this street on their way to the castle. Noblemen and rich citizens built their houses in Pilies Street. Vilnius University occupied a whole quarter of the city beside Pilies Street, and university professors used to live there.
The Botanical Garden of Vilnius University was established in one of the courtyards at the end of the 18th century. Church processions also went along Pilies Street. The broadest parts of the street were occupied by markets: the so-called Great Market near the Town Hall and the fish market next to St. Paraskeva’s Church (Pyatnickaya).
The street is distinguished for its architectural variety: Pilies 12 and 14 are Gothic, Pilies 4 is a Renaissance building of an episcopate college; and the pediment of the Church St. John is Baroque.
A beautiful view of Gediminas Tower can be seen from Pilies Street.