With all the impressive architecture along the streets of Vilnius Old Town, it’s easy to overlook the quiet courtyards hidden from the public eye. These courtyards are definitely worth exploring; moreover, they provide the perfect open-air lunch spot, a quiet place to read, or a calm hideout from the more touristy paths around Vilnius. So next time you’re walking along the main streets of Lithuania’s capital, don’t forget to turn into one of these courtyards and enter into another universe. Let’s take a peek.
The Botanical Garden was founded here in 1781, and the 300 square metre garden with greenhouses was home to more than 2,000 plants before they were later moved to a new garden. Today, just a few steps from the busy Pilies Street, the serene courtyard is still a perfect place to sit under a tree and enjoy a pleasant summer’s day.
Founded in 1570, the Vilnius University buildings are a fusion of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism architecture. It’s a true treasure trove for history-lovers, who can explore its 13 courtyards of different shapes and sizes. The most prominent of them is the Grand Courtyard, the pantheon of the University, whose gallery commemorates the university’s founders, patrons and eminent scientists. The Astronomical Observatory Courtyard has an 18th-century observatory building with zodiac signs on it. But every courtyard has its secrets. Will you be able to discover them all?
Admission to the architectural ensemble: EUR 1.5 for adult and EUR 0.5 for children and students.
Get a rare chance to explore this usually closed courtyard of the Presidential Palace, which was first mentioned in 1387. This is your chance to see the palace’s inner buildings, relax under the magnificent 200-year-old oak trees, or marvel at the sculptures and installations by Lithuanian artists. During the warm season (late spring to late autumn), the courtyard and historical park are open to the public for free from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For a perfect evening or a long weekend lunch, Restaurant Fiorentino hides a secret gem: a Renaissance-style Alumnatas Courtyard with outdoor seats and a perfect view of the Presidential Palace. The 17th-century building with arches creates a mystical feeling and reminds us of the times when seminary students walked the halls.
In a quiet corner of Stikliai Street there’s a small courtyard with a statue of the Chronicler. It marks the location of the first printing house in Vilnius, founded in the 15th century, where the first book in Lithuania was printed. The statue was erected here temporarily but has been standing in the courtyard for more than 40 years.
When walking along Vokiečių Street, turn into the small alley next to Restaurant La Provence and you’ll soon find yourself in a small courtyard that leads to an arched tunnel between two buildings known as the Love Arch. Take the person you love by the hand and walk together. The arch is really small, so you might need to bend over a bit to avoid hitting your head. Look for approval from the little wooden angel hidden in a niche in the wall. That’s it – the love spell has been cast.
Visit the Arts Printing House to take some great photos next to large-scale street art created by local artists. Foliage and butterflies cover the secret of the circle of life and capture the spirit of the artistic experiments that take place behind the walls.
When the weather gets warm, no one wants to spend the entire evening inside. Looking for a place to sit down and enjoy a drink and some food? Salionas Bar has a beautiful courtyard in one of the city’s most beautiful 19th-century mansions. The Piano Man terrace, located in the courtyard of the Lithuanian Theatre, Music, and Cinema Museum, has enough tables and green grass to lie around listening to music. The Vijokliai Beer Garden near the train station offers a secluded courtyard where you can sit down with a pint. The Contemporary Art Centre’s cafe moves to a courtyard filled with art sculptures during the warmer seasons.
For more information about eating outside, check out this guide.