Vilnius has many names, many faces and many mysteries. Seeming to be in the remote corner of Europe, it is, in fact, located less than 20 kilometres from the geographical centre of Europe. And, indeed, Vilnius is like a miniature Europe in one town and you can find here everything – from Italian Baroque to Russian Orthodox churches, from German Gothic to Austrian Rococo architecture and traces of the Jewish past. It is a city, where one street can tell you a thousand stories.
No wonder, for several centuries it is the best kept secret of the world famous artists and the secret source of their inspiration – from great poets and writers, from Adam Mickiewicz, Czesław Miłosz and Romain Gary, to the great painters Marc Chagall, Chaim Soutine and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, as well as the composers Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis and Rodion Shchedrin.
We have promised – the picturesque Vilnius is a city of many faces, many names and curiosities.
Come to Vilnius to find the Europe, come to Vilnius to find your inspiration. Come to Vilnius to fall in love.
Novelist and art historian, laureate of Vilnius’ Saint Christopher’s Award
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Vilnius is the only capital in Europe situated on the boundary between two ancient – Latin and Byzantine – civilisations. In this city of ancient and versatile cultures, the spirit of tolerance for different nations and religions has been displayed for some time. Vilnius was first mentioned in written sources in 1323, and by the 15th century it had turned into a beautiful medieval city, the heritage of which is still fascinating. The architecture of the Old Town is the feather in the cap of the city.
The baroque buildings of the largest Old Town in Central and Eastern Europe (360 ha), which has managed to preserve the medieval network of streets and typical spaces, remind us of beautiful ancient Italian towns where Baroque was born. Gracious slender towers supporting the sky are the works of the Lithuanian Baroque School. The Old Town of Vilnius, located in an amphitheatre of breathtaking nature, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994.
Established on the boundary of two cultures, Vilnius has always been a city of modernity open to dialogues of different cultures. Profound traditions and experiences of ethnic culture are creatively incorporated into modern art forms – theatre, music, visual arts, and dance – and render a new quality of art. Our artists are known throughout Europe and worldwide, and Vilnius has been awarded the title of European Capital of Culture 2009.
The capital of Lithuania is one of the most beautiful cities in the Old Continent where the heritage of the past and the achievements of the present, science and culture co-exist in harmony. Residents of Vilnius are hospitable and cheerful people.
The multi-storey business centre on the northern bank of the Neris River is a symbol of the dynamic development of the city. The capital of Lithuania is a leading city in the region by a sheer volume of construction of business offices and residential houses; it boasts a high level of infrastructure and services, and a rapidly improving quality of life. Vilnius is the city where the future becomes the present.
The Geographical Centre of Europe (GCE) is located 26 kilometres north of Vilnius (N 54° 54’, E 25° 19’; the centre was established in 1989). Europos Parkas (Park of Europe) is situated near the GCE (19 km from the city centre). A huge area of 55 hectares is used to exhibit around 100 sculptures created by well-known sculptors from more than 30 countries.
Parks, public gardens, reserves and other green areas cover over 46 per cent of the city area. Some of them have been cultivated, and others have preserved their own natural beauty.
Užupis, an artists’ district located on the right bank of the Vilnelė River, is one of the oldest Vilnius suburbs. Its formation began as early as the 15th century. Užupis was inhabited mainly by craftsmen, particularly weavers, and since the 19th century – by minor officials. In the Soviet period, many young artists took to this desolate old suburb and are now trying to turn it into the Monmartre of Vilnius. They hold festivals of alternative art and fashion, celebrate calendar and other holidays, hold various actions and happenings, and have even proclaimed the Republic of Užupis, whose anniversary is celebrated on April 1st. Such personalities as the founder of US avantgarde cinema, Jonas Mekas; the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama; and the President of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, alongside others are honorary citizens of the Republic.
The district hosts many art galleries, craft workshops and coffee-shops. A guardian angel looks after Užupis from one of its squares, and the Užupis Mermaid can be seen on the river bank. The Church of St Bartholomew (Užupio St. 17 A) in Užupis district is the smallest church in Vilnius.
Old Vilnius is not only Baroque. The Church of St Anne is a masterpiece of late (so-called flamboyant) Gothic, nearly unsurpassed in the world. The Church of St Francis and St Bernardine, or the Bernardine Church, located right next to it is one of the largest Gothic sacral buildings in Vilnius. The Grand Courtyard of Vilnius University, an attractive open-galleried Renaissance quadrangle that was built in 1622 as a seminary, called the Alumnatas, the Gates of Dawn, and the Royal Palace represent beautiful Renaissance heritage.
The dignified Classical architecture of Lithuania is represented by Vilnius Cathedral, the Town Hall and the Verkiai Palace complexes. The Chodkevičiai (Chodkiewicz) estate is the most stylish and largest Classical building in Lithuania.