Vilnius - the capital and largest city of Lithuania
Is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. Founded in 1323 at the junction of Neris and Vilna rivers, the city is surrounded by picturesque woody hills.
WHERE TO STAY IN Vilnius?
Hotels, guesthouses, apartments in Vilnius
Legend of the Founding of Vilnius
Some time ago the grand duke of Lithuania Gediminas was hunting in the sacred forests of Sventarage valley. Tired after a successful hunting which lasted for the whole day, the grand duke decided to spend the night there. In his dream, he saw a great iron wolf standing on the top of the hill, inside of which there were a hundred of other wolves filling the nearby plains and forests with their howls. The next morning, he asked his head priest Lizdeika to explain him the meaning of the dream. And thus he spoke: “What was foretold to the ruler and the Lithuanian nation by the gods should come to pass: the iron wolf symbolized a castle and a city that the ruler will build on that spot. This city will be the capital city of the Lithuanian lands and the habitat of rulers, whose fame about their deed will be known all over the world.”
Short Historical Sketch
Vilnius was first mentioned in written sources in 12th century. In 1323 it was announced to be a town. After a few hundred years it became a strong, growing, and all-round developing city. Thus, in 1579, the first in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, university is built there, which quickly becomes an important European center of culture and science. Political, economical and social life here was also very intensive. This is testified by statutes passed in 16th century. The last of them, besides, was operational till 19th century.
Such fast-growing Vilnius was open for newcomers both from East and West. As time passed, strong Polish, Russian, Jewish, German, and Karaite communities formed in the city. Each of them in their own way contributed to the forming of the city: crafts, trade and science prospered in Vilnius. The city was growing swiftly – in the beginning of 19th century it was the third largest city in Eastern Europe, with only Moscow and St. Petersburg being larger.
Sights of Vilnius
See more detailed description in the sights section
Old Town – according to the medieval tradition, Vilnius grew around the City Hall.
Gediminas Tower – this tower is all that remains of once mighty fortifications of Upper Castle, and is considered to be the symbol of the city.
St. Stanislaus Cathedral – Christian cathedral was built on the place of an ancient pagan sanctuary in the 13th century. It is believed to be founded by the grand duke of Lithuania Mindaugas (the king of Lithuania since 1223).
Church of St. Francis and Bernard – one of the largest gothic churches in Vilnius. It forms a unified architectural ensemble with the church of St. Anna.
St. Anna’s Church – legend says that when Napoleon saw the church of St. Anna, he claimed that if it had been possible, he would have gladly put the church on his palm and carefully brought it to Paris.
Hill of Three Crosses – three sky-rocketing white crosses on top of the hill in Kalnu Park are one of the religious symbols of Vilnius.
Vilnius University – one of the oldest in Easter Europe. Throughout four centuries it was the leading scientific and educational centers of the country. It is believed to be built in 1579.
Vilnius Tourism Information Centres:
Vilniaus street 22, tel. +370 526 29 660, fax +370 526 28 169
Didzioji street 31, tel. +370 526 26 470, fax +370 526 20 762
Vilnius City Portal (LT, EN)
Vilnius City Tourism Department (LT, EN, RU, ESP)
Vilnius International Airport (LT, EN)
Regular Express Coach Network (LT, EN, RU)