Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

Modern Vilnius is not only about historical sites, but also about glass high-rises with futuristic and very stylish facades. The city in which the boundary between the past and the future runs along the Neris River. The old city in the southeastern part, the new one in the northern part.

There are a lot of small coffee shops, restaurants, both European and national Lithuanian cuisine. For the fans of fast food, Vilnius is also very welcoming and offers a lot of places with pizza, burritos, hot dogs and other delicacies.

Gardens, Parks and Fortresses of Old Vilnius - photo 2

Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

Nevertheless, Vilnius is a very sparsely populated city for a European capital. There is no hustle and bustle, everything is measured and sedate. So at once and did not notice that here live about half a million local residents. And yet the tourists every year more than 1 million. What’s the secret? Perhaps in secluded places where you can relax and hide from the constant turmoil and stress?

Bernardino Garden

The Bernardine Garden was created by monks who were invited to Vilnius in 1870 by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Kazimieras to create the Bernardine Garden. It has a wonderful location between Castle Hill, Vilnius and the Bernardine monastery. Since the founders of the garden were monks, the park has areas of medicinal and healing herbs in their honor to this day.

Gardens, Parks and Fortresses of Old Vilnius - photo 3

Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

One of the main relics of the garden is the oldest oak tree, which is over 200 years old. There are also many unique trees in the park, such as Canadian spruce, black pine, gingko and others. In early spring, the park becomes an abode of scents and flowers. Tulips, peonies and a beautiful rose garden attract locals and visitors alike.

Plants are not the only ones. Also in the garden there is a singing fountain, which at night is also illuminated. In general, as well as in other cities of Lithuania, singing fountains are very popular and beautiful. Another pleasant surprise of Bernardino Park is the open-air library, which has a lot of books in different languages.

Gardens, parks and castles of Old Vilnius - photo 4

Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

About 10 million litas was allocated for the restoration of the garden, but looking at what has turned out, there is no doubt that it was the right investment. After all, now it’s a park where joy, peace, peace and happiness live.

Three Crosses Mountain.

The monument of the Three Crosses with its tragic history lies on the right bank of the Vilna River. And the way to it lies through a dense forest. The history says that in the 14th century, after the Lithuanian princes adopted Christianity, the pagans did not accept it and crucified the monks on Mount Fox, and so appeared a monument of the Three Crosses in memory of the martyrs. Apart from its historical importance, the monument and the mountain itself are very attractive to tourists because of the view that opens up to the entire city.

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Gardens, parks and castles of Vilnius - photo 5

Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

Park Vingis

Park which is famous among fans of active and cultural leisure. In the park there is a variety of concerts and events. The open air concerts of such world stars as Lady Gaga, Björk, Depeche Mode. Also, the park attracts fans of picnics, jogging, cycling fans and those who ride roller skates, because the park covers an area of 160 hectares.

Gardens, parks and castles of Vilnius - photo 6

Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

Gediminas Fortress

The red tower with the bright Lithuanian flag has already become the trademark of Old Vilnius. It served as a defensive fortification of Vilnius since the 14th century. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, despite its power, of course, needed protection from Tatar and Polovtsian raids.

The tower is located on the western part of the Castle Hill, 143 meters above sea level. Monument of culture is of historical and cultural value. Also from the tower you can see the monument of the Three Crosses on one side and the city on the other.

Gardens, parks and castles of Old Vilnius - photo 7

Gardens, parks and fortresses of old Vilnius

Vilnius gives the impression of a very harmonious city. After all, it is the capital of Lithuania, the city is large, but not noisy and very cozy. It is perfect for hiking, for cycling. It is not boring and can offer a variety of recreational options. From large-scale outdoor concerts of world stars to reading a book in the cozy Bernardine garden. A peaceful balanced city in which modernity finds its place among history. A city full of greenery next to stone buildings and fortresses. A city that inspires.

The Fortress Wall and Castles of Vilnius

The Fortress Wall and Castles of Vilnius


Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)

Vilnius Upper Castle

Vilnius Upper Castle (Aukstutine, Gedimin Castle).

Lithuania. Vilnius county (Vilniaus apskritis). Vilnius. Senamiestis (Old town), Arsenalo street (Arsenalo) 5. Castle Hill (Mount Gediminas).

There is a legend about the beginnings of the castle: Prince Gedimin, founding Vilnius, wanted to build a powerful castle, impregnable to any enemy, such that its fame would thunder through the world. He summoned priests, sorcerers and priests and asked them for advice on what should be done to ensure that no one would be able to seize the castle. The high priest answered that the castle will be strong only if, while laying the first stone in its foundation, the life of his only beloved son is sacrificed, so that his mother would push him with her own hands into a pit and bury him with this stone.

The prince’s messengers went to all ends of Lithuania. They did not have to look long. They quickly found a Lithuanian woman who loved her country so much that she agreed to sacrifice her only son for her. The mother and her son went to the place where the castle was to be built, for the foundation of which a hole had already been dug, stood on its edge, and prepared to push her son into it. But at that moment the thought occurred to the poor boy: is it possible that the gods of Lithuania are so cruel that they desire to kill him, or may the strength of the castle depend on his life? He asked the prince to ask the priests three questions before he died. If the priests gave the right answers to these questions, he would believe that it was the will of the gods and would die unconditionally.

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Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)

The prince thought about it and agreed. The young man asked the priests: what in the world is the lightest, what is the hardest, and what is the sweetest? The priests deliberated and answered: the lightest is down, the hardest is steel, and the sweetest is honey. The young man listened to the answers of the priests and said: “No, the lightest in the world is a child in his mother’s arms, the sweetest is a mother’s milk for a child, and the hardest in the world is the heart of my mother, who herself brought me here to die before your eyes.” The prince hesitated and, after a moment, uttered: “No, I will not allow this young man to be killed. He would be more useful to Lithuania alive than dead.

Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)

Then the priests again began to confer and guess, and finally declared that the gods wanted the sacrifice of an innocent girl who would die of her own free will. The will of the gods was spread all over Lithuania. They did not have to wait long. The innocent girl appeared, dressed as for a great feast with a wreath of ruta on her head, with a bouquet of wild flowers in her hands. She bowed low to the prince and the priests and cheerfully jumped into the pit herself – she was not at all sorry to give her young life for the good of her motherland. The high priest, with the help of other priests, pushed a big stone into the pit, but then a miracle happened – the stone, falling did not touch the girl, but only knocked a bouquet of flowers out of her hands. The hearts of the brave Lithuanian men could not stand it. They threw themselves at the prince’s feet, begging him to spare the girl, because now the will of the gods had manifested itself. The priests realized that a bouquet of Lithuanian wildflowers was enough for the gods. The life of the girl, so fervently in love with her homeland, is needed by Lithuania, not the gods.

The prince understood this, too. “All right,” said Gediminas, “I pity the lives of my people. The gods have enough flowers. The castle built on them will be such as I have dreamed of.”

When the castle was built is unknown. According to historians, the first wooden castle on the top of the hill was in X-XIII centuries.

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Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)

The castle was first mentioned in an agreement between the Grand Duke Gedimin and Riga, dated January 25, 1323 (in civitate nostra regia Vilna). After Gedimin moved his residence from Trok (Trakai) to Vilnius and made it the capital of Lithuania, fortification of the castle began. In the second half of the XIV century (the last time in 1402) Crusaders tried to take the castle 8 times, but never managed to do so. In the early XV century, during the reign of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas (Vytautas the Great in Lithuanian) the castle was significantly fortified. It was surrounded by a wall, up to 3 meters thick, with four guard towers. In the middle of XVII century, during the war with Moscow, the castle was partially destroyed.

Over time, the castle lost its defensive function. From 1610 to 1613 the castle cellars served as a prison. Gradually the castle began to decay. The best preserved western tower is often called the Tower of Gedimin. Gedimin’s Tower is located in the western part of the Castle Hill, and rises 48 meters from the bottom (142 m above sea level). The tower has three floors of octagonal shape (the lower part is quadrangular), 20 meters high, built of unhewn rubble stone and red bricks.

The tower was renovated in the 19th century because it was used as an optical telegraph station connecting Vilnius with St. Petersburg and Warsaw.

The national flag is flying above the tower on a flagpole. There are 78 steps of the spiral staircase leading to the upper observation deck. The observation deck at the top offers a view of the Old Town and the valley of Vilija.

Since 1960, the tower houses a small exhibition of the Museum of Lithuanian History – Lithuanian soldiers’ arms and armor of the 13th-18th centuries. The exposition was substantially renewed after the restoration works of 1995. The tower contains models depicting the development of the city (the tower can be accessed by a funicular from the courtyard of the National Museum). The remains of the security wall were preserved at the end of the twentieth century.

Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gedimin Castle) Tatyana on the tower of the Gediminas Castle
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gedimin Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gedimin Castle)
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)
View of the remains of the Gediminas Castle (Vilnius) Anjelika on the wall of the Gediminas Castle (Vilnius)
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)
Gediminas Castle tower (Vilnius) Gediminas Castle Tower (Vilnius )
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)
Gediminas Castle tower Gediminas Castle tower Gediminas Castle tower
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle) Vilnius Upper Castle (Gediminas Castle)
Vilnius Upper Castle (Gedimin Castle) View of Vilnius from the Gediminas Castle

Vilnius Lower Castle or the Palace of Rulers

Vilnius Lower Castle

The Vilnius Lower Castle or Palace of Governors. Lithuania. Vilnius county (Vilniaus apskritis). Vilnius. Old city. Cathedral Square. The construction of the Lower Castle (Žemutiny), located at the foot of Castle Hill (Gediminas Mountain), began in the first half of the 14th century. It was surrounded by a stone defensive wall with towers and gates, defense trenches and bridges. On the territory of the Lower castle there were the Grand Duke’s palace, Cathedral, palace services, houses of magnates, merchants, arsenal, warehouses of goods and products. From the middle of the 14th century it served as a residence for the Grand Duke of Lithuania and his family.

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In 1520-1533 a large Renaissance-style palace with many rooms was built on the territory of the Lower castle.

The peak of fame and renown of the Rulers’ Palace was in the 16th century – the time when Sigismund Augustus, Sigismund the Old, Queen Sforza of Bonn and Queen Barbora Radvilaite ruled. The Italian-born Bonna Sforza, expanded and rebuilt the palace from the Gothic to Renaissance style, according to designs by architects from Italy invited by her.

Vilnius Lower Castle or the Palace of Rulers Vilnius Lower Castle or the Palace of Rulers
Vilnius Lower Castle or the Palace of the Rulers A modern view of the Lower Castle (Vilnius)

Fortress wall of Vilnius

The Old Town in Vilnius (Vilniaus Senamiestis in Lithuanian, Stare Miasto w Wilnie in Polish) is the oldest part of the city on the left bank of the Neris (Vilia, in Lithuanian – Neris) south of the Castle Hill with Gedimin Castle and the preserved Cathedral Square with the Cathedral.Fortress Wall of Vilnius Originally the city territory was surrounded by wooden and earth fortifications.

In 1503, the Grand Duke Alexandras of Lithuania ordered the construction of a defensive wall of stone. The works were completed in 1522. The wall had 9 (originally 5) gates and 5 (originally 3) towers.

All these fortifications were perfectly adapted to the local topography. A huge number of hills, hillocks, rivers and valleys influenced the quality of defense. In 1655 during the siege of Vilnius and after its capture by the tsarist Russia, all more or less significant defensive structures were destroyed. In 1799, after the rebellion of Tadeusz Kosciuszka (Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kosciuszko in Polish, Tadas Kosciuška in Lithuanian), the Russian Emperor Paul I ordered to destroy all remains of Vilnius fortifications. The order was carried out in 1800-1805.

On October 25, 2001, the Vilnius City Government decided to preserve and sometimes even restore the part of the city wall that had survived. These works began in 2006, and are still in progress.

Vilnius castle wall Vilnius castle wall
fortress wall of vilnius fortress wall of vilnius

Bastion of the Vilnius Defensive Wall

The bastion was built in the early 17th century. During the war with Moscow in 1654-1667 it was heavily destroyed. Later, in the 18th century, its territory was turned into a city dump, and the ditches and walls of the bastion were covered with earth. During World War I, the Germans put it in order.

They strengthened the vaults, concreted the floor and provided ventilation. During World War II, the bastion became a bomb shelter and a weapons depot.

The trenches and moats of the bastion were excavated in 1965-1970. The cannon room, restored and reconstructed somewhat later, was adapted into an exhibition of weapons and defensive fortifications. The exhibits are from ancient times to the end of the XVIII century.

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The entire bastion now consists of the original city wall tower from the 16th-17th centuries, the cannon room and the corridor connecting them.

restoration work on the bastion in 2010 restoration work on the bastion in 2010

Ostrea Brahma Gate (Vilnius, Lithuania)

The Ostraya Brama Gate

Located on Aušros Vartų gatve (in Lithuanian: Aušros Vartu gatve).

The city wall gate is the only one preserved and is a valuable example of XVI century defensive architecture. It was built together with the wall which surrounded the city in 1503-1522 and was mentioned in 1514. The thickness of the Gothic walls of the gate, square in plan, reaches 2-2.6 meters. On the south side there are five round loopholes and a niche with a fresco between them, under the cornice in the center there is a relief head of Hermes in a winged helmet. The attic is decorated with the Pogona – the coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the fortress wall of Vilnius supported by two griffins, and stucco with architectural motifs. Below in the niche was an icon of the Savior. In 1923, a bas-relief depicting the White Eagle – the Polish coat of arms – by Bolesław Balzukiewicz was placed in the niche.

The Lithuanian name Aušros Vartai (“Gate of the Dawn”) appeared in Lithuanian newspapers at the beginning of the 20th century. Its literal meaning is quite meaningless, as the gate does not face the east, but outwardly consonant with the original name and meets the metaphor of national and spiritual rebirth. Sometimes the gate was called Mednický (Medininký), because the road to the castle in Medinink (30 km away) started from there.

On the south side above the gate there is Ostrobrahma Chapel with the image of the Mother of God of Ostrobrahma. The stone chapel was built in 1722, it was reconstructed in 1827-1932 and acquired Classicist features. The chapel is decorated with Doric pilasters, a bas-relief image of the All-Seeing Eye (the Eye of Providence) in the triangular field of the pediment, and an inscription in Latin, “Mater misericordiae sub tuum praesidium confugimus” (“Mother of mercy to your protection we resort”).

Since the beginning of the 17th century, the chapel has housed a miraculous image of the Mother of God of Ostrobram, one of the main Christian shrines of Vilna and Lithuania. Judging by the technique, priming and composition of the paints, it is established that the image was created in the second half of the XVI century. The figure of the Mother of God is completely covered by the gilded silver cloth; only Her face and crossed hands are uncovered. The figure was covered with a silver gown about 1671. The silver crescent at the bottom of the image is a votum (votum, plural vota) of 1849. On the head of the Virgin Mary are two crowns – the baroque crown of the Queen of Heaven, the rocaille crown of the Queen of Poland.

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