Historical center of Vilnius

Vilnius Old Town – walk: streets, squares, temples

The Old Town of Vilnius, also called the old place (Lithuanian name Vilniaus Senamiestis, Polish – Stare Miasto w Wilnie) occupies only one district of the Lithuanian capital. This is the oldest part of the city that has preserved its history and architecture. Almost all of the streets in the old town are completely pedestrian and narrow and paved with cobblestones and paving stones.

In 1994, the old city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

If you will be in Vilnius, even just passing through, be sure to take a walk through the streets of the old city, you will have a lot to remember and learn about the history of the Middle Ages and more modern times. In addition, the old place of the Lithuanian capital is recognized as one of the largest urban complexes in Eastern Europe. You will see beautiful and spacious squares, narrow and colorful streets, cathedrals and churches – Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox, museums, hotels, educational institutions and residential buildings of different architectural styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist and even Art Nouveau.

The main streets of the historic part of the city are studded with many different cafes, pubs and restaurants. In many of them you can taste dishes of Lithuanian cuisine.

The main attractions of Vilnius are concentrated precisely in the Old Town. So, if you come to stay in Vilnius, it is advisable to visit the historical and cultural part of the city, the Old Town.

The Old Town has its origins in the most famous and significant square in Vilnius, the Cathedral Square .

This spacious square is home to attractions such as: St. Stanislaus Cathedral, the bell tower at the Cathedral and the monument to Prince Gedimin, set in the very center of the square.

Not far from the square is Castle Hill with the Gedimin Tower. The tower houses the Lithuanian National Museum, and on the top floor is an observation deck.

Behind the castle mountain there is a mountain park, in which there is a snow-white monument – Three Crosses, with a very interesting history.

About all this – the square with its attractions, the castle and the park, we told in an article earlier.

Photo of the Cathedral Square. On the right is the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and St. Wladyslaus, the cathedral has a bell tower, and right in the center is the monument to the Lithuanian prince Gedimin.

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From this square originates the main street of the old city – Pilies. The street is also called the Castle street (Zamkowa), and not without reason, because, as we remember, it starts from the Castle Hill. In Soviet times, the street was called Gorky.

When you step on the street you see “another world”, so different from the usual contemporary cities. You seem to make a leap back in time. In general, we have a special weakness for the old cities of Europe, they are all somewhat similar to each other, but at the same time, each has its own charm and zest.

We come out to the Church of St. John. The full name of the church is the Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. The church building is part of the ensemble of Vilnius University. The church was built in the style of Vilna Baroque and is an architectural monument.

Next to the Church of St. Johns is one of the tallest buildings in Vilnius – the Bell Tower with five tiers. For a long time the church and the bell tower were the tallest buildings not only in the Old Town, but also in Vilnius. Thanks to it the bell tower and the bell tower became the architectural dominant feature of the Vilnius panorama.

We slowly walk further and come to a small tent market with clothes and souvenirs near the Pyatnitskaya Church, or, as it is also called, the Church of St. Paraskeva Pyatnitsa. It is an Orthodox church and was the first stone Christian temple in the city.

Near the church there is a green area for walking and recreation – the park Konstantino Sirvydo . There are a lot of trees, benches for relaxing and a fountain.

Slowly walking further, along the street Pilies, unnoticed, we come to the central and most visited square of the old city – Town Hall Square .

The square is quite spacious and has a triangular shape. In the center of the square are placed benches and cafes, and around it are concentrated a lot of attractions.

When erecting new buildings, they are so skillfully, and most importantly, harmoniously, fit into the surrounding architecture, that one can not immediately notice them, and if you do not look closely, you will not notice and do not distinguish from the historical buildings of past centuries. Well done Lithuanians, it is worth learning from them.

The name “Town Hall Square” speaks for itself, the central building of the square is the City Hall.

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The town hall was built in the style of classicism, so it stands out against the other buildings. Literally, the town hall means the house of councils.

Not far from the Town Hall there is the Church of St. Casimir (Svento Kazimiero baznycia, koscioł Swetego Kazimierza). Nowadays it is a Roman Catholic Jesuit non-parish church. But from 1840 to 1915 the church was the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas.

Wedding ceremonies and regular services are held in the church, even in Russian on Sundays. The Russian language for Vilnius is not a surprise, all residents, who are over thirty, speak and understand Russian well. Younger people know Russian worse, but it is still possible to explain oneself. This does not apply to employees of public institutions, all of them, regardless of age, speak Russian. If you enter a restaurant, first they greet you in Lithuanian, then in English, and if they see that you don’t understand or start a conversation in broken English, they greet you in Russian. Why not, because there are a lot of Russians in the city, Russian speech comes from everywhere.

Going forward and admire the front of the two churches standing almost next to each other on opposite sides of the street.

The Church of the Holy Trinity and Basilian Monastery.

The Church of the Holy Trinity and the Basilian Monastery, is the Greek-Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity, and the former Basilian Monastery, still active today.

Pictured are the gates of the church.

Just a minute later we came to St. Teresa’s Church .

The Church of St. Teresa or St. Teresia (Lithuanian: Sventos Teresės baznycia, Polish: koscioł Swiętej Teresy) is a Roman Catholic parish church. It is made in Baroque style.

Once again we come out to the Church. Church of the Holy Spirit . This church in honor of the Descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, is the most important Orthodox church in Lithuania, a monument of history and architecture.

In general, there are so many churches and churches in the old city of Vilnius, that we were not interested in all of them, and stopped at the most impressive, beautiful or just the ones we liked.

So we walked all through the old city through its main streets. We came to the Ostrobram (Ausros, Aušros) gate, through which you can go out of the old town or vice versa into the old town, depending on which side you start your walk.

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It is the only surviving gate of the city wall that once surrounded the entire city.

The Ostrea Brama (or Wostra Brama in Lithuanian – Ausros Vartai, in Polish – Ostra Brama) gate is one of the main attractions of Vilnius, the object of tourism and religious pilgrimage, as well as a historical and architectural monument. In Russian it is sometimes called the Holy Gate.

Above the gate there is a chapel, where you can see the miracle-working image of the Mother of God of Ostrobrahma.

But our walk will not end there. We will walk through the central streets of the old place and just admire its beauty.

This is the kind of cars you can see in Vilnius. By the way, we saw something similar in Kaunas, too.

In addition to the well-maintained main streets, the old city has a lot of narrow winding streets. They are not so clean and well-maintained anymore. The walls of old buildings, shabby and sometimes scrawled on the contrast of the city’s central streets, do not create a very pleasant impression.

To get to these narrow streets while walking in the center of the old place, just turn to one of the alleys and you will immediately plunge into the true world of old Lithuania, which sometimes does not differ at all from what we are used to in Russia.

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Historical center of Vilnius

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World Heritage Sites. Part 38. Vilnius Historic center.

As the political center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the 14th century to the late 18th century, Vilnius had a profound influence on the development of culture and architecture in many Eastern European countries. Vilnius Old Town (Vilniaus Senamiestis) is the oldest part of the city on the left bank of the Neris River south of Castle Hill with the Gediminas Tower and the preserved Cathedral Square. It is one of the largest urban complexes in Eastern Europe, dating back to the Middle Ages. It has an area of 3.59 km² and covers 74 blocks with 70 streets and alleys, 1,487 buildings and a total floor space of 1,497,000 m2. The oldest part of the Lithuanian capital has been shaped over the centuries, capturing the history of the city and various cultural influences. Buildings and elements of various architectural styles (Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist and Art Nouveau) adjoin and complement each other. In the Old Town there are Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox churches, museums, educational institutions and residences, hotels and stores, whose buildings are monuments of culture and architecture. UNESCO, recognizing the universal value and originality of the Old City, inscribed it on the List of World Cultural Heritage in 1994. I have visited the city on more than one occasion, most recently in 2006, when the Lithuanian capital city hosted the 18th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. All photographs were taken then. I am making up for lost time.

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The dominant feature of the Old Town is undoubtedly the Gedimino Tower (Gedimino pily bokštas), located on Zamkova Hill, which is the preserved western tower of the Upper Vilna Castle.The three-story octagonal tower (the lower part is quadrangular) is 20 meters high, built of rubble stone and red bricks. Above the tower on the flagpole flies the national flag. The observation deck at the top offers a view of the Old Town and the Nyaris Valley.

Below Castle Hill on Cathedral Square is the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and St. Vladislaus (Švento Stanislovo ir Švento Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika), a Roman Catholic cathedral of the Vilnius metropolitan municipality. The building in its present form is an example of Classicist architecture (the last reconstruction took place in the 18th century). In Soviet times (from 1956 to 1989), the Art Museum Picture Gallery was located here and organ concerts were held.

On the square there is also a separate four-tiered bell tower (XVI-XVIII centuries), the height of 57 meters, built on the tower of the Lower Castle. In 2006 it was restored.

There is also a monument to Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania, who founded the capital of Lithuania, erected in 1996.

The old part of Vilnius is less compact and integral (and with a lot less medieval buildings) than the respective central parts of Riga and Tallinn, but even here you can see quite a lot of very interesting historical buildings. Not far from the Cathedral Square is S. Daukantas Square, which is formed by the front facade of the Presidential Palace, the facade of the Palace de Reus, the Church of the Holy Cross and the Vilnius University buildings.

The Presidential Palace (Prezidento rūmai) is the official residence of the President of the Republic of Lithuania (former Governor General’s Palace) built in the late 18th century.

The University of Vilnius (Vilniaus universitetas) is the oldest and largest institution of higher education in Lithuania, founded in 1579. Its system includes thirteen enclosed courtyards bearing the names of prominent scientists, writers, architects, and artists associated with the University. The central building.

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The entrance to the aulu (auditorium).

The galleries of the Great Courtyard.

The Church of the Holy Johns (church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist) (Šv. Jono Krikštytojo ir Šv. Jono apaštalo ir evangelisto bažnyčia), a monument of Vilna baroque architecture that is a part of the university ensemble (built in 1738-49).

Internal interior of the cathedral.

Bernardinų gatvė is one of the oldest streets in the Old Town. The length of the street only about 240 meters.

The St. Anne’s Church (Šventos Onos bažnyčia) is a masterpiece of late Gothic of the 16th century.

Adjacent to St. Anne’s Church is St. Francis of Assisi Church (Švento Pranciškaus Asyžiečio bažnyčia) – one of the most impressive examples of 16th century Vilnius Gothic architecture which received Renaissance and Baroque features in the 17th-18th centuries.

Pyatnitskaya Church (Šv. kankinės Paraskevos cerkvė) – an Orthodox church that is considered to be the first stone Christian church in the city (the current building was built in the middle of the 19th century). Relatively small and not remarkable for its special architectural merits, Pyatnitskaya Church is famous for the fact that Peter I held a thanksgiving service in it for the victory over the Swedish King Charles XII during the Great Northern War and also christened the Arabian Hannibal, great-grandfather of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (most likely, in the second half of July 1705).

The Ostroba (Aušros Vartai) is one of the main attractions of Old Vilnius, an object of secular tourism and religious pilgrimage, a monument of history and architecture dating from the 16th century. It is the only surviving city wall gate and a chapel housing a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary of Ostrobram. The southern facade of Ostroba Brama.

Gediminas Avenue (Gedimino prospektas) is the main street of old Vilnius.

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