Dynamic, vibrant and on a headlong rush to embrace the future, Lithuania is a gem of a country tucked away on the shores of the Baltic Sea. Known for its vast unspoiled landscapes and medieval cities, this is a country with great cultural opportunities for the intrepid traveller.
Beautiful Vilnius in Lithuania
Circa 1323 AD, the great ruler Grand Duke Gediminas wrote letters, inviting craftsmen and merchants from across Europe to settle in Vilnius. It has since grown into the modern city and capital of Lithuania as it is known now. With an estimated population of 542,000, the city boasts an array of Gothic and Baroque architecture and is one of the largest Old Towns in Central and Eastern Europe, protected under the UNESCO World Heritage List amongst other things.
Vilnius also has one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe, the Vilnius University, which was founded in 1579. It has a library that holds more than 180,000 old manuscripts, rare editions and other publications. The most impressive is its collections of maps, believed to be Europe’s most extensive.
There are many symbolic establishment in the city of Vilnius and two of them are the Upper Castle on Gediminas Hill and the Cathedral on the city’s main square. The Cathedral is a graceful piece of Classical architecture as well as the main sanctuary for Catholics in Lithuania.
The Gates of Dawn located at the edge of the Old Town is one of the most renowned sacred places for Catholics around the world. The main attraction is the Chapel which holds the miraculous 17th century icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the 20th century, the image of Mary was renamed under Mother of Mercy, and inside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter and Paul in Rome, a chapel was created in her honour.
Vilnius charms every visitor with its romantic atmosphere and stylish cafés, which spill out in the summer onto the Old Town’s narrow lanes and pavements. The Old Town and its historical buildings make a perfect scene, especially when seen from Vilnius’ skyscrapers in the bustling new business centre. The Lithuanian capital has several extremely modern and highly popular shopping centres, each of which sells the latest in world fashion.
As with most European countries, it is their beverages that visitors would focus on; mainly their beers, which is considered to be the national drink in Lithuania. It is suggested that visitors try Lithuanian beer together with dishes ranging from distinctive to traditional, for they complement the taste. Night time Vilnius is simply irresistible and can offer any number of adventures in its clubs and bars.
Being a modern and fast-growing city along with a well-developed infrastructure and ambitious future plans, Vilnius is sure to attract visitors to pay a visit to this Eastern European country. Along with the Austrian town of Linz, Vilnius is the first among the new members of the European Union to become the European Capital of Culture.
With all the culture to behold in one city, Vilnius is certainly one that is both a memorable and unforgettable trip.
Vilnius: Things To See & Do
Vilnius: Events Highlights
|Užgavėnės||20 – 21 February
This is a popular traditional folk celebration bidding farewell to the winter.
|Casimir’s Market Holiday||3 – 4 March
This is a traditional handicrafts’ market held in honour of the Guardian of Lithuania – St. Casimir.
|Cinema Spring||22 March – 5 April
Original films from artists all over the world are showcased; many of the city’s theatres participate in this event.
|Poetry Spring||15 – 28 April
This annual poetry festival culminates in a grand celebration in the Vilnius University, Sarbievius courtyard.
||25 May – 30 June
All of June is devoted to jazz, folk music and classical music, with Vilnius’s concert halls filling up with music lovers.
|Sounds of Lithuanian Spring Instruments
||26 – 27 May
This international folk festival organised see musicians and dance troupes in ethnic costumes performing in the Old Town.
Pagan rituals take centre stage during this event and the celebrations are best seen at Kernave or on the Neris River bank.
|St Christophorus Summer Festival
||1 July – 31 August
Orchestral music takes centre stage during this festival as famous international performers sing their hearts out in concerts in the Old Town, churches, and concert halls.
|Days of the Capital City||30 August – 5 September
Most of the month is an endless celebration filled with concerts, contests, exhibitions and other events. The most popular event is the Francis Market in City Hall Square.
||10 – 25 October
The largest festival of modern music in Lithuania, this festival brings famous Lithuanian and foreign performers to the concert halls of Vilnius.
A popular folk festival with a number of traditions, including the burning of bonfires throughout the night to symbolize the passing of the old year and the beginning of the new.