The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, is the largest medieval town in central and eastern Europe, also listed as a UNESCO heritage site. Despite centuries of Polish, Russian and Jewish influence, the city has maintained its cultural identity and spirit of resistance, which can be experienced through city walks and cultural events.
After more than two decades of independence from the Soviet rule, today's Vilnius is a fully integrated European city. In 2009 it was hailed as the European Capital of Culture, which attracted much-needed international attention, while the newly adopted Euro currency opened more doors to foreign visitors.
Mostly known for its impressive baroque architecture, medieval legend surrounded the tower of Gediminas and scores of elegant churches, this compact city is begging to be discovered. Try getting lost in the cobbled streets of the Old Town to find yourself in the midst of busy Kaziuko folklore fair, or cross over the river Neris and be greeted by the independent state of Uzupis, all within walking distance.
Things to Do
Vilnius is a destination for visitors who are fascinated with historical sights and are keen on exploring the limits of a progressive city. Grab your walking shoes and prepare to tackle some memorable mileage.
The best panorama in town
Overlooking the Old Town is the symbolic Tower of Gediminas, which according to the local legend appeared in a prophetic dream to the Duke Gediminas. Accept the 600-step challenge or take a cable car to discover stunning panoramas of Vilnius. Whether it is more beautiful by day or night -- you decide.
Nation's spiritual heritage
On the outside it's a delicate church accompanied by a tall cathedral bell tower, but on the inside, the Cathedral Basilica of Sts Stanislaus and Vladislaus holds an intriguing secret. Beneath its elegant neoclassical form, guests can descend into the vaults which have been the final resting ground for Lithuania's royal families.
A republic within the republic
Less featured in the tourism destinations, but a very important part of the town, is Uzupis, which in Lithuanian means "the other side of the river". Uzupis is a free-spirited and charming quarter boasting its own tongue-in-cheek constitution, imaginative concept stores and unfussed traditional cuisine; it's ideal for visitors looking for somewhere with an independent edge.
Calendar of Events
Every spring and summer the streets of Vilnius become the venue for tradition meeting vision, creating an unforgettable art and music experience for locals and cities guests.
Kaziuko fair. This is an annual and much-anticipated folk fair taking place in the streets of Vilnius every March. Kaziuko fair is an event celebrating Lithuanian ethnographic traditions, bringing folk artists together to showcase their crafts and to celebrate the beginning of spring.
Skamba Skamba Kankliai. This isan international folk music and folklore festival -- one of the few annual folk music festivals in Europe. Every last week of May the capital welcomes artists and guest to relish the beauty of the Lithuanian folklore and discover carefully kindled ethnographic traditions.
Kristoph's Music Festival. This is a two-month summer music festival offering an impressive range of music performances from around the world. With such a frank and refreshing festival motto "all genres are good, except the boring ones", one is guaranteed quality jazz, world music, experimental projects and guitar and piano cycles.