Enjoy the unique ambience of a rich and colourful city. Explore the fascinating baroque Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Vilnius is soulful, charming and fragile, marked by impressive Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Vilnius is set naturally at the junction of three cultures – Central, Northern and Eastern Europe – making the city a true gem of the Baltic countries.
A warm summer evening spent in the hot air balloon over the old town is a unique experience not shared by any other European capital.
For more information: Vilnius Tourism.
Vilnius at the cross-road of cultures
Since the foundation by the Grand Duke Gediminas in 1323, Vilnius has attracted numerous people of different nationalities to live, trade and study. In order to commemorate the multiculturalism of the city, seven streets (Iceland, Latvian, German, Jewish, Tatar, Russian, Karaite) and squares (Washington, Warsaw) in Vilnius are decorated with stylistic street plates.
The Bohemian Vilnius – Užupis
Užupis is a neighborhood in Vilnius, largely located in Vilnius’ old town, Užupis means “the other side of the river” in the Lithuanian language and refers to the Vilnia River. The district has been popular with artists for some time, and has been compared to Montmartre in Paris and to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, due to its bohemic and laissez-faire atmosphere. In 1997, the residents of the area declared the Republic of Užupis, along with its own flag, currency, president, cabinet of ministers, a constitution, an anthem, and an army (numbering approximately 11 men). They celebrate this independence annually on Užupis Day, which falls on April 1. Artistic endeavours are the main preoccupation of the Republic.
Copies of the 39 articles of the Republic’s constitution and 3 mottos – “Don’t Fight”, “Don’t Win”, “Don’t Surrender” – in 23 languages, can be found affixed to a wall in Paupio street in the area.
Some of these articles would be unremarkable in a constitution; for instance, Article 5 simply reads “Man has the right to individuality.”. Others are more idiosyncratic; Articles 1 (“People have the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow past people.”), 12 (“A dog has the right to be a dog.”) and 37 (“People have the right to have no rights.”), each of which makes an unusual apportionment of rights.
The Jerusalem of the North
Lithuanian Jews can be traced back to the 15th century. The classic Lithuanian Jew (Litvak) is known in folklore for a love of education, no-nonsense straight-talk and certain sardonic wit. By the 18th century Vilnius (Vilna) had become the world capital of traditional religious (Talmudic) learning, often referred to as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, or Jerusalem of the North. Towering over the many great Jewish figures the city has produced is Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797) who is buried in Vilnius. Between the wars, Vilnius was a bustling international centre of modern Yiddish culture and scholarship.
Today a small community of 5,000 or so Litvaks makes bold efforts to maintain its heritage. The Choral Synagogue of Vilnius is the only synagogue in Vilnius that is still in use and is open for visitors.