[LITHUANIA] Vilnius City Tour

10:57 Travel Bunny 0 Comments

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Vilnius, capital city of Lithuania has one of Europe’s oldest Medieval Old Town. The entire Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage Site. From Kiev to Vilnius, the flight duration is only about one and a half hours. Lithuania is the first Baltic state that I visited out of the three. From here, I travelled north to Latvia and Estonia (the other two Baltic states).



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Arriving at Vilnius International Airport which is situated 5km south of the city centre.


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There are three ways to get to town from the airport: taxi, bus and train. I chose to go by train and in less than 10 minutes, I arrived at the train station in the center of the city. Tickets can be bought on board for just EUR 0.72.


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From Vilnius train station, you can either get a bus, taxi or even walk to your hotel. I opted to get a taxi as I was travelling with kids and it would be more convenient that way. The taxi fare from the train station to my hotel, Hotel Tilto, is approximately EUR 8


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The National Museum of Lithuania with Gedimas Castle on top of the hill.


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The river that flows through the city is called Neris.


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Opposite the bank is the Energy & Technology Museum.


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This is St. Peter & Paul’s Church which is in the suburb of Antakalnis. Built in the 17th century, it was decorated for 30 years by Italian sculptors who filled every available space with stunning white stucco ornaments, sculptures and religious scenes.


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Over 2,000 separate sculptures can be found here. St. Peter & Paul’s Church also has the distinction of being the only church in Vilnius whose interior has remained untouched since it opened.


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The most important Catholic building in Lithuania is Vilnius Cathedral. It is a mere 2 minutes walk my hotel (Hotel Tilto). It was first built in 1251 by newly converted Grand Duke Mindaugas on the site of a pagan temple. The current building now stands in its place dates to around 1419, with countless modifications and additions made after that. The 57m free standing bell tower was originally part of one the gates in the city’s defensive wall and has been added to several times over the centuries.


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The mass was attending the funeral of a pastor in the Vilnius Cathedral in the morning that I visited the cathedral.


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The interior of Vilnius Cathedral.


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After visiting Vilnius Cathedral, I departed to Trakkai for an half day tour before returning to Vilnius.


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Above is the map of Vilnius city center. The orange circle is the train and bus station. The white star is Hotel Tilto. The yellow highlighted path is the main street of Vilnius Old Town. The blue circles are where the main attractions in Vilnius Old Town located. The old town is small enough to explore on foot. I would suggest to start the walking tour from Gates of Dawn.


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This is the Gates of Dawn. Completed in 1522, the Gates of Dawn is the only remaining gate from the city’s original defensive walls.


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Going through the Gates of Dawn to enter the Old Town.


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The painting of Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy was housed inside a purpose-built chapel above the gate in 1706 and is believed to have magical healing powers.


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The chapel is open to the public and is accessed via a small door on the left.


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The staircase that leads to the chapel.


20170626_155444_thumbThe site is revered by both the Catholic and Orthodox faiths and is such an important part of the city’s cultural heritage that it remained open throughout the Soviet occupation.


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The sight of the Old Town from the chapel of the Gates of Dawn.


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Basilian Gate and Holy Trinity Church on the left.


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St. Theresa’s Church was completed in around 1650. It is one of the most beautiful churches in the city.


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Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit. It is comprised of the church, a free standing bell tower, monastery and convent. The church interior has a magnificent cupola in rich blue and green colours.


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The next church I saw was St. Casimir’s Church. The church has a rich history. Built in 1635, burnt to the ground just 20 years later when the Russians invaded in 1655, the church fell into hands of the Augustinians, Napoleon’s Grande Armee, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Lutherans and others, including the Soviets who turned the whole place into a museum of atheism over the centuries.


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This is the Vilnius Town Hall. You can join the free walking tour everyday at 10am and 12pm in front of the Town Hall. Of course, remember to pay tips at the end of the tour and it’s up to you how much you want to pay for the tour.


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St. Nicholas Church, Vilnius oldest surviving church was built in 1320 by German merchant immigrants. The church remains pretty much as it looked the day it was finished with the interior having received numerous changes and additions over the centuries.


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People selling paintings and souvenirs in front of Orthodox Church of St. Paraskeva.


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Further down the road, I took a right turn to look for the city’s most famous church, St. Anne’s Church. St. Michael’s Church is a former Roman Catholic Church which now hosts the Church Heritage Museum. It is just opposite St. Anne’s Church.


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Visited in 1812, Napoleon famously noted that he wanted to take the building back to Paris on the palm of his hand! Unlike other historical churches in Vilnius, St. Anne’s has managed to escape the ravages of time almost unscathed. The stunning red facade composed of 33 different styles of brick. Behind is Bernardine’s Churches and Monastery.


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Constructed since 1500, St. Anne’s Church is considered to be the main landmark of Old Town Vilnius.


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Unfortunately, St. Anne’s wasn’t open on the day that I visited.


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Interior of Bernardine’s Churches and Monastery.


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The current vast Gothic church with Baroque and Renaissance additions dates from the early part of the 16th century onwards. Current highlights include 14 magnificent rococo altars and the oldest known crucifix in the country, dating back from the 15th century.


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The neighboring monastery is the oldest part of the ensemble. Once famed for its extensive library and independant minded monks, the monastery was closed soon after the failed Uprising of 1863. The monastery now houses the Vilnius Art Academy.


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Back to Vilnius University where I turned left to look for the Presidential Palace, the official residence of the President of Lithuania.


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Presidential Palace of Lithuania dates back to the 14th century. After independence in 1990, the building served several purposes until assuming its current role in 1997. The presidential flag can be seen flying over the building when the president is in residence or in the city. Changing of the Guard takes place on Sunday at 12.00pm.


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This is Pilies Street where you can find most restaurants and shops.


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It was late noon and I had to be hurry in order to visit Gedimas Castle & Museum before sunset.


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The funicular is longer functioning. So I had to hike up the hill.


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Yard of National Museum of Lithuania as seen when I ascended the hill.


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Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes. Ladies, you wouldn’t want to ascend the hill in heels.


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It is short hike up the hill, around 10 to 15 minutes before reaching Gedimas Tower. Dating from the 13th century, the castle was rebuilt by Grand Duke Vytautas after a major fire in 1419. At the beginning of 15th century, it was rebuilt, strengthened and along with the Lower Castle composed a powerful defensive complex. After the damage caused by the war with Moscow in 1655, it was not rebuilt.


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To the east of the tower are the ruins of the ducal palace.


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After World War II, the best surviving tower was restored and now houses a museum, and an observation platform offers visitors an impressive panoramic view of the city.


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I could see the Hill of Three Crosses from Gedimas Castle. Legend has it that long ago seven Franciscan monks were crucified here. Originally erected in the 17th century, Stalin had the crosses removed and buried and only in 1989 were they rebuilt according to original plans.


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To enter the museum and the observation platform, the entrance fee is EUR 5 per adult. School children, students and senior citizens is charged EUR 2 per person. It opens from 10am – 9pm (April – September) and from 10am – 6pm (October – March).


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Inside the tower itself, layout of the tower and defensive is shown.


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Narrow stairs inside the tower.


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There is also video showing the history of Gedimas Castle.


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Last but not least, observatory platform of the tower is a must visit.


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View from the top of the tower is well worth the hike up.


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Vilnius City as seen from the top of the tower.


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Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.


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Neris River which flows through the city.


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Strange as it sounds, there is a declared republic within the city of Vilnius. Uzupis, declared itself an independent republic on 1 April 1997.


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Crossing the bridge over Vilnia River.


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You can have a pint in the country by the river.


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The Uzupis Angel is a tall pillar at the heart of Uzupis. It is the work of local sculptor, R Vilciauskas.


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You can find Uzupis Constitution on mirror-like plates of metal nearby the Uzupis Angel. But I was too tired to look for it. There are some quirky ‘constitution’, not to be taken too seriously, such as Everyone has the right to have no rights, Everyone has the right to understand nothing and etc.


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Just outside the Uzupis is Church of Holy Mother of God.


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Next, I visited the Literatu Street. Inspired by Aidas Marcenas’s poem about a wistful young man drinking and smoking with his friends on the street of the same name, this permanent outdoor gallery is dedicated to writers past and present who’ve left mark on the city.


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It grew from humble beginnings in 2008 and now features over 100 pieces of art.


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This is the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The original palace was brought to the ground 200 years ago.


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In front of it is the Monument to Gedimas. With this, I concluded my tour in Vilnius city.

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