Vilnius Old Town, Lithuania

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.

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 go out to the Church of St. Johns. The full name of the church – 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 a monument of architecture.

Next to the Church of St. Johns, one of the tallest buildings in Vilnius old town, the five-tiered bell tower, towers above the church. For a long time the church and the bell tower were the tallest buildings not only in the old part of Vilnius, but also in the entire city. Thanks to it the bell tower and the bell tower became the architectural dominant feature of the Vilnius panorama.

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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 not looking closely, then generally not notice and do not distinguish from the historical buildings of the 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.

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

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.

And again we come to the Church. The Church of the Holy Spirit. This church, dedicated to the Descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, is the most important Orthodox church in Lithuania, a historical and architectural monument.

In general, there are so many churches and churches in Vilnius old town that we were not interested in all of them, but 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.

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

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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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Vilnius

Vilnius (Lithuania) – the most detailed information about the city with photos. The main attractions of Vilnius with descriptions, travel guides and maps.

City of Vilnius (Lithuania)

Vilnius – the capital and the largest city of Lithuania, located in its southeastern part, 30 km from the border with the Republic of Belarus. Vilnius is a city of amazing charm, with Europe’s largest baroque old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Lithuania’s capital you can walk for hours among cobblestone old streets, admire beautiful architecture and breathtaking panoramas from the hills, explore sights and cultural monuments, discover interesting places, and feel like a hero of Sir Max Fry’s “Tales of Old Vilnius”.

What to do (Vilnius):

Vilnius and Trakai castles. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of ancient Lithuania

€183 per tour.

Vilnius and Trakai Castles. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of ancient Lithuania

Learn the most important things from the history of medieval Lithuania on auto-tour around the beauty of its two capitals

Trakai, the residence of Lithuanian Princes

€144 per tour

Trakai – residence of Lithuanian Princes

The Outstanding Architectural Heritage of Lithuania and the Culture of its Unique People

Geography and Climate

The city of Vilnius is located in southeastern Lithuania at the confluence of the Vilnia and Vilia rivers near the border with Belarus. The relief is a hilly plain. The surrounding area is a picturesque forests and lakes. This is the only Baltic capital that is located at a significant distance from the sea coast.

Vilnius has a moderate continental climate, strongly influenced by the Baltic Sea. It is characterized by cool summers and fairly mild but rather snowy winters. More than 600 mm of precipitation falls each year. During the year cloudy weather prevails.

Winter Vilnius

Winter Vilnius

Tourist Information

  1. The population of Vilnius is more than half a million people of which: 63% Lithuanians, 16% Poles and 12% Russians.
  2. Official language is Lithuanian.
  3. The currency is the euro.
  4. Vilnius is a green city. Almost half of the area is green.
  5. Visas are Schengen.

Best time to visit

It is difficult to say when the best time to go to Vilnius. The city is good in almost any weather and season. But still the best time in terms of weather is May-September, and in terms of atmosphere you can also add winter (especially the Christmas holiday period).

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History

Vilnius was founded in the 13th century. There is a beautiful legend connected with the foundation of the city. Once upon a time, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gedinimas (Gediminas) hunted in the area surrounding the future city. After the hunt, he stayed here for the night. And he had a dream that on the hill where the prince slayed the mighty auroch stands a huge steel wolf and howls loudly at the moon. The prince awoke and ordered to call a wise wise wise man, who interpreted the dream as follows: “A new city will arise in this place, and its fame will be so great that it will reach the ends of the world. Gedinimas began building the new city, which later became the capital of Lithuania. The new city was named after the small river Vilnia, on which it was built.

A bird's eye view of Vilnius

A bird’s eye view of Vilnius

The main historical milestones of Vilnius:

  • 1323 – first mention of the city
  • 1387 – Vilnius receives city rights.
  • 1410 – The Polish-Lithuanian army defeats the German knightly orders. Lithuania becomes one of the largest countries in Europe.
  • End of the 15th century – Vilnius becomes one of the central cities of the Baltic and the eastern part of Central Europe.
  • First half of the 16th century – a printing house opens in the city, urban water supply begins to operate.
  • 1569 – Vilnius loses its former importance after the unification of Poland and Lithuania. Warsaw becomes the capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
  • 1579 The University is opened in Vilnius
  • The 17th century – the city was severely destroyed during the Russian-Polish wars.
  • 1795 – Lithuania becomes part of the Russian Empire, and Vilnius becomes the center of the province.
  • 1862 – construction of the St. Petersburg-Vilnius-Warsaw railroad.
  • 1918 Lithuania proclaims its independence.
  • 1920 – occupation by Poland. 1920: Occupation by Poland. Kaunas becomes the capital city.
  • 1940, Lithuania becomes part of the USSR. During World War II Vilnus was occupied by German troops. Despite damages during the war, the old town survived on the whole.
  • 1990 – Lithuania becomes an independent state.

How to get there

Vilnius Airport is situated 6 km from the city center. It is the largest civilian airport in Lithuania and connects the country with most major European cities: Moscow, Riga, Rome, Paris, Vienna, Milan, Warsaw, Bremen, Madrid and Oslo. From the airport you can get to the old city by bus 1,2, 3G and train. You can also take a train to Vilnius from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Kaliningrad and Warsaw.

The bus service is developed with almost all cities of Lithuania, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, St. Petersburg, etc. A modern highway connects Vilnius and Kaunas.

Shopping

From souvenirs most often buy amber items, woolen items, hats and crockery. There are a lot of stores in the old town. You can find everything from souvenirs and trinkets to electronics and branded goods. On Stiklių Street you can find products of local clothing manufacturers and on Pilies Street souvenir shops.

In Lithuanian cuisine, the most common dishes are potato dishes: potato meatballs and salads, zepellini, kugeli, potato pancakes. Other traditional dishes are: dumplings with various fillings, dumplings, blinis, kibinis, pickled herring with potatoes, hot and cold smoked sausages, cheeses, meat, vegetable and game soups, mushrooms. In summer, we recommend you to try the famous Lithuanian cold borscht.

Panorama of Vilnius

Vilnius panorama

Attractions

The Old Town of Vilnius is the largest in Eastern Europe. Among the ancient streets you can find interesting sights, masterpieces of Baroque and classicism, traces of the Gothic past, numerous sacral buildings and cultural monuments.

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Main attractions in Vilnius

The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is the oldest place in Vilnius, inhabited since the 4th century. It was here in the 13th century that the first fortifications of the future city emerged. For a long time this place had been the residence of Lithuanian grand dukes and the center of the whole Lithuanian state. The castle had Gothic features until the 16th century, when it was rebuilt into a magnificent Renaissance palace. In the 17th century the residence acquired Baroque features. The palace was demolished in the late 18th century and restored only in the 2000s. Inside there are interesting expositions related to its history.

Palace of Lithuanian Princes in Vilnius

Palace of Lithuanian Princes in Vilnius

Gedimin’s tower on the castle mountain – the legendary founder of Vilnius. Here you can see the ruins of the old castle from the 14th-17th centuries and enjoy the magnificent panorama of the old city.

Castle Tower on Gedinimas Hill

The Castle Tower on Mount Gediminas

The Vilnius Artillery Bastion was built in the early 16th century by Grand Duke Alexander of Lithuania. It is a powerful fortified brick and earth fortification structure with a tower.

Vilnius Artillery Bastion

Vilnius Artillery Bastion

Vilnius University is one of the oldest universities in the Baltic and Eastern Europe, founded in the second half of the 16th century. The image of the university was formed over several centuries, so it is possible to catch many architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.

Sharp Gate (Aušros Vartai)

Sharp Gate (Aušros Vartai)

The Sharp Gate (Aušros Vartai or Zari Gate) is a city gate from the early 16th century that is one of the symbols of Vilnius. It received its modern appearance in the 19th century in the style of Classicism. Now there is a chapel with a famous icon of the Virgin Mary the Merciful, which is one of the main masterpieces of Lithuanian Renaissance painting.

The Town Hall is one of the oldest buildings in Vilnius, built in the 14th century. Originally a Gothic building, it was constantly changing until in the 18th century it acquired a modern appearance in the Classicist style.

The Presidential Palace is a classicist style building that is the residence of the President of Lithuania. It has been known since the 16th century as the residence of the Vilnius bishops.

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square and the Gedimin Monument

Cathedral Square is the heart of Old Vilnius. The starting point for Gedimin Avenue and the terminus for Castle Street, which is pedestrian. The square is a masterpiece of Classicism. There is a cathedral and a high bell tower, a monument to the founder of Vilnius – Gedimin.

Sacral Architecture

Vilnius boasts remarkable sacral architecture. If you look at the city panorama, it may seem that the capital of Lithuania is literally bristling with church spires. This is not an illusion. In Vilnius, you can find more than 40 religious institutions of various denominations. In this regard, the Lithuanian capital can handicap almost any city in Europe. Most of the churches are Christian. They were built in the Baroque and Classicist architectural styles.

The Church of St. Anne is a masterpiece of late Gothic. Interestingly, in the five centuries of its existence, the appearance of the church has not changed much. In the baroque old town, the church stands out strikingly for its architecture and is one of the symbols of Vilnius. A pseudo-Gothic bell tower was built nearby. Behind the church of St. Anne is the Franciscan Church of St. Bernardine and St. Francis. It is interesting that this church could have been used also for defense.

St. Anne Church

Church of St. Anne

Church of St. Raphael is a late Baroque Catholic monastery, which belonged to the Jesuits. Located near the Green Bridge.

St. Raphael Church

St. Raphael Church

The cathedral is the main Catholic church in Lithuania and has the status of a basilica. It is located on the Cathedral Square in Vilnius. The history of the Cathedral goes back to the 14th century (practically to the time of the foundation of the city). Great men of the country are buried there: great Lithuanian princes, bishops and noblemen. The church used to be Gothic, but was later rebuilt in Classicist style. Nearby is a 57-meter bell tower, which was part of the city fortifications. In the 17th century on the tower were installed clock.

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Cathedral

Cathedral

The Church of St. Casimir is the first baroque church in Lithuania, built by the Jesuits in the image of the Roman temple of Jesus.

Church of St. Casimir

St. Casimir’s Church

The Franciscan Church is an old Gothic church with Baroque elements. Next to it there is the oldest Lithuanian monastery.

Franciscan Church

Franciscan church

Church of St. Peter and Paul is a masterpiece of Lithuanian Baroque. It is an ancient temple from the 17th century, famous for its thousands of statues.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

Church of St. Peter and Paul

St. Michael’s Church is a Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque church of the first half of the 17th century. There is a museum of church heritage.

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael’s Church

Church of St. Teresa – Baroque church. In it you can see the perfectly preserved interior of the 17th century and one of the most beautiful altars in Lithuania.

Church of St. Teresa

St. Teresa Church

St. Catherine’s Church is one of the most beautiful late Baroque churches in Vilnius. It belonged to the Benedictine Women’s Order. In the first half of the 18th century it received its present appearance.

Church of St. Catherine

Church of St. Catherine

All Saints Church – early Baroque church of the first half of the 17th century.

All Saints Church

All Saints Church

Church of St. Jacob and Philip is a Baroque church of the 17th century.

Saint James and Philip Church

Church of St. James and Philip

The Basilica Monastery and the Church of the Holy Trinity is a beautiful late Baroque ensemble with elements of other architectural styles.

Basilican Monastery and the Church of the Holy Trinity

The Basilica Monastery and the Church of the Holy Trinity

Lutheran Church – the first Lutheran cathedral in Vilnius built in the 16th century.

Lutheran Church

Lutheran Church

The Church of St. Nicholas is an Orthodox church with an interesting history. At first there was a Gothic church of the early 16th century, rebuilt in the 17th century after a fire in the Baroque style. Then the church became Orthodox and was rebuilt in the Byzantine style.

Church of St. Nicholas

Church of St. Nicholas

Church of Our Lady – a beautiful church from the early 20th century in the Byzantine style.

Church of Mother of God

Church of Our Lady

Church of St. John is an ancient church that is part of the university. The history of the church begins in the 15th century. At that time it was a Gothic building, rebuilt in the 18th century in the Baroque style. Nearby is a 68-meter bell tower, which is one of the tallest buildings in old Vilnius.

Church of St. John

St. John’s Church

Synagogue – a choral synagogue from the beginning of the 20th century, built in the Moorish style.

Synagogue

Synagogue

Museums

The largest and most interesting museums in Vilnius:

  • National Museum of Lithuania – One of the largest museums in Vilnius with exhibits on the history and culture of the state.
  • National Art Gallery – expositions of modern artists and sculptors.
  • Vilnius Picture Gallery – A museum of Lithuanian painting from the 16th to the 20th century.
  • Museum of Genocide Victims

Interesting places in Vilnius

  • Bernardino Cemetery
  • Large and Small Ghetto
  • Literators Street
  • Kalvarija

Panoramic views

The best panoramic views of Vilnius:

  • Bastion Hill
  • Castle Hill
  • Vilnius TV Tower
  • Three Crosses Hill
  • Cathedral Belfry

Interesting excursions

Vilnius for Children and Adults

€63 per excursion

Vilnius for children and adults

Exciting tours to see the local fairytale characters and the most interesting sights

Medieval Vilnius: Night Walk

€65 per tour

Medieval Vilnius: Evening Walk

Hear ancient legends and unusual facts while wandering the mysterious streets of the Old Town

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