Senamiestis – The Old Town is the place to head for if you are a tourist [and I expect you are]. Most, [but not all] churches, museums and places of interest to the tourist are here – some are just outside of the Old Town but it makes sense to lump them together on this page.
The Old Town very roughly covers the area from the Cathedral in the North to the Train Station in the South and from Pylimo Gatvė to the West across to Maironio Gatvė and Užupis to the East.
Above – Streets of the Old Town
The Unesco listed Old Town has many well preserved medieval streets and buildings covering a range of styles and is a great place to mooch around, popping in and out of the numerous churches, cafes and shops selling amber and glassware.
A good starting point is to walk up Pilies Gatvė from the Cathedral to the Town Hall making detours into the side streets that take your fancy. It doesn’t matter if you get a bit lost, that’s half the fun. You pass by some wonderful buildings such as the National Philharmonic Hall which was built in 1900 and the imposing Town Hall at the head of Town Hall square.
Eventually you will reach the 16th century Gates of Dawn– the only surviving gate from the city wall. The Chapel on the left before the gate is wonderful. [See more on my Churches page].
There are interesting things to see outside of the Old Town of course. A walk West along Gedimino Prospektas towards the river takes you past Lukiškės Square which is flanked by government buildings.
If you continue you will pass the National Library which was founded in 1919 and the modern Seimas [Parliament building] which was built in 1982. You can walk along the River Neris back towards the old town if you want.
Over the River
On the other side of the River Neris there is the Televison Tower which is the tallest structure in Lithuania. In January 1991 this was the scene of the massacre of 14 unarmed civilians by the Soviet Military. The tower now houses an exhibition and a restaurant with a rotating platform. The renovated National Art Gallery is also on this side of the river as is the Radisson Blu Hotel. The Skybar on the top floor is worthy of a visit for the views [and perhaps a drinky].
Monuments and Statues
There’s no imposing column in Vilnius like those to be found in Sofia, Riga or Kyiv but there are still plenty of monuments of interest.
The monument to Gedimnas is probably the best known in Vilnius. He was the Grand Duke of Lithuania who lived from 1275 to 1341, the monument was unveiled in 1996 and is located in front of the Palace of the Grand Dukes. The statue of the activist Jonas Basanavičius is in the square that is also named after him near the Basilian Gate.
One of the most poignant monuments is also easy to miss: Stebuklas which is a simple plaque on the ground by the Cathedral Bell Tower which marks the end of The Baltic Way human chain anti Soviet protest in 1989. Another important monument is the memorial to Victims of the Soviet Occupation Regime which is to be found outside the KGB Museum.
There are several Mo Museum sponsored statues dotted around the City that I really liked as well as a monument to the poet/musician Vytautas Kernagis [1951-2008] and the Escalator Slide by Julijonas Urbonas. Keep a look out for the bizarre Easter Egg Monument near the Choral Synagogue which originally stood in Užupis as well as the nearly unique decapitated head of Frank Zappa [who had no connection to Vilnius] tucked away in a small car park. Don’t forget that if you visit Užupis you will find a few more monuments of interest including the Užupis Angel and cat.