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vilnius

Top Attractions in vilnius

OLD TOWN

OLD TOWN

Starting point on any Vilnius itinerary centres around the city’s Old Town, boasting, thanks to fire and bomb damage, an attractive and eclectic mix of Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical architectural styles dating back as far as the Middle Ages. Today a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pilies Street operates as the hub of Old Town’s market and café life, whilst other sights include the Cathedral, Town Hall, Presidential Palace, St Anne’s Church and Vilnius University.
GEDIMINAS TOWER

GEDIMINAS TOWER

Once part of the city fortifications dating back to the 13th century, though rebuilt in 1419 by the Grand Duke following the great fire of Vilnius, Gediminas Tower is the only remaining tower left of Gediminas Castle, today home to the Upper Castle Museum. Set atop the 48-metre-high Gediminas Hill, the views over the city and Old Town from the summit are worth the climb alone, (there’s also a funicular ascending and descending the hill).
ST ANNE’S CHURCH

ST ANNE’S CHURCH

Set amidst Vilnius’ Old Town, St Anne’s Church (Šv Onos Bažnyčia) represents one of Vilnius’ most striking Gothic landmarks to have escaped the ravages of occupation, fire and war and is undoubtedly one of the city’s most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings. Built from 33 different types of brick, legend has it that when Napoleon arrived in Vilnius and set eyes on this church, he declared that he would like to take it in his palm back to France.
VILNIUS CATHEDRAL

VILNIUS CATHEDRAL

At the base of Gediminas Hill you’ll find Cathedral Square where Vilnius Cathedral, complete with its 57-metre-tall belfry, dominates its surroundings. A veritable city landmark and national symbol, the cathedral represents the most important Catholic building in Lithuania, although reputedly it was built in the 13th century on the site of a pagan temple. Seized by the Soviets and used as an art gallery during their occupation, the cathedral was re-consecrated in 1989.
DAWN GATE

DAWN GATE

The only remaining gate (of nine) from the city’s defensive walls, the 16th-century Gates of Dawn were the sole site left intact by the Russians when the city walls were destroyed. Revered by both Catholic and Orthodox faiths alike, the Gates of Dawn have taken on a religious significance beyond their original defensive purpose, for they play host to the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose icon is renowned for its magic powers of healing.
MUSEUM OF GENOCIDE VICTIMS

MUSEUM OF GENOCIDE VICTIMS

Housed in the city’s former KGB headquarters (which also served as the Gestapo HQ during the Nazi occupation), the Museum of Genocide Victims tells the chilling and haunting story of life under Soviet occupation, when, from the end of Wold War II right up until the 1960s, thousands of Lithuanian nationals were executed, imprisoned or deported to Siberia. By no means an easy visit, but a fascinating, touching and utterly memorable experience that should not be missed.
HILL OF THREE CROSSES

HILL OF THREE CROSSES

To the east of Gediminas Hill stand three distinctive white crosses, erected in memory of the Franciscan monks who were crucified here in the 17th century. Destroyed by Stalin after World War II, remnants of the original crosses remain strewn in the shadows of their replicas as a symbol of mourning for loss and oppression once endured by the Lithuanian people. Not only a poignant visit, but an excellent vantage point over Old Town, too.
PRESIDENTIAL PALACE

PRESIDENTIAL PALACE

The official residence of the President of Lithuania since the country’s independence in 1991, the Presidential Palace started life in the 14th century as the Bishop’s Palace and in its time has seen Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon Bonaparte, advancing on Moscow, pass through its doors. Today, the palace attracts the crowds for its daily early-evening changing of the guard ceremony, although it’s the Sunday ceremonial display at noon which is particularly impressive.
UŽUPIS

UŽUPIS

Once you’ve explored Vilnius’ sightseeing essentials, take time to discover the district of Užupis, a rather bohemian and free-spirited quarter replete with artists, cafes, galleries and workshops situated just across the Neris River from Old Town. Having unofficially declared independence from the rest of Vilnius in 1997, Uzupis also calls itself the Republic of Angels and set amidst its main square, symbolising the artistic freedom of the district, is a bronze trumpet-toting angel.
TV TOWER

TV TOWER

Lithuania’s tallest building, the TV Tower soars 326 metres into the Vilnius skyline and, as you’d expect, offers the most amazing views over the city from its observation platform. And yet, this towering monument has also come to represent a symbol of national unity, for it was here that in 1991, whilst trying to take control of the Lithuanian media, that Soviet armed forces assassinated 13 unarmed civilians. There’s an exhibition devoted to the tragic events at ground level.

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