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  • Citywalk | Latvia
    Updated at Sep 3,2018

    Days 3-4 - Art Nouveau and other Cultural Attractions in Riga:

    Part 1 Main Attractions: Audēju iela 7, Kalēju iela 23, Šķūņu iela 4, Šķūņu Street 10/12, Tirgoņu iela 4,  Latvian National Opera, Blaumaņa iela 28, Elizabetes iela 22, Bergs Bazaar (Berga bazārs), Hotel Bergs, Latvian Puppet Theatre, Radisson Blu Hotel, Esplanāde Park, Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral, Latvian National Museum of Art.

    Part 2 Main Attractions: Elizabetes iela 39-41, Elizabetes street 33, Elizabetes iela 10 A, Elizabetes iela 19, Riga Ferry Terminal, Strēlnieku iela 4A, Alberta iela 13, Alberta iela 11, Alberta iela 12 (Art Nouveau Museum), Alberta iela 8, Alberta iela 4, Alberta iela 2, Alberta iela 2A, Alberta iela 1, The Flying Frog cafe' and restaurant, Kronvalda Park, City Canal (Pilsētas Kanāls), Latvian National Theatre.

    Duration: 1 day - 2 days. Distance (two parts): 7 km. Weather: any weather. Start & End: The Central Bus Station / Wellton Hotel and Spa.

    Introduction:  First, we shall explore several individual buildings in central Old Riga (Vecrīga). Later, we'll walk along Elizabetes iela (from south to north). We'll finish our route with the stunning Alberta iela and walk back southward to Old Riga. The majority of the Art Nouveau buildings are individual houses. Very few of them are museums. Our route goes from south to north. 

    Art Nouveau architecture is one of Riga’s claims to fame. Over a third of all buildings in Riga are examples of this unique school of design. When Art Nouveau was at the height of its popularity, Riga just experienced an unprecedented financial boom. This incredible wealth also coincided with an earlier lifting of a ban against erecting masonry buildings outside the city walls. In medieval times, all of the wooden buildings outside the ramparts would be razed to prevent an invading army from using them for shelter.

    One of the city’s most prolific Art Nouveau architects was Mikhail Eisenstein (1867 - 1921), father of the legendary Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein who gave the world such cinematic treasures as Battleship Potemkin and Ivan the Terrible. He is best known for his collection of buildings on Alberta iela that is famous for its unusual sculpture, coloured bricks and tiles, geometric ornaments and uniquely shaped windows.

    Other Latvians would also leave their mark on Riga and Konstantīns Pēkšēns (1859 - 1928) designed no less than 250 buildings including the iconic edifice at Alberta 12, which the architect once called home and that now houses the Riga Art Nouveau Museum. A founder of the Riga Architects Union and a Riga councilman, he embraced all of the styles of the times and moved on from the eclecticism so popular in mid to late-1800s Riga to Art Nouveau and its later offshoot, national romanticism. The latter was an attempt by Latvian architects to incorporate elements of ethnic mythology and folklore into their designs.

    Art Nouveau should NOT be confused, as it often is, with 1930s Art Deco. The ‘new art’ or ‘new style’ , also referred to as Jugendstil, is a slightly older form of expression that gained popularity at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. If something looks sleek, angular and shiny -  it’s probably Art Deco. If you’re faced with elaborate, flamboyant naked maidens, floral motifs and funky gargoyles, it’s most likely Art Nouveau.

    But Art Nouveau wasn’t only relegated to the façades of Riga buildings. The flowery style became a part of everyday life and was present in well-to-do homes in furniture, flatware and fashion and was commercially used in graphic design, most famously in advertisement posters. For a fascinating look at an Art Nouveau apartment where even the bathroom and kitchen are adorned with Jugendstil elements do not miss the Riga Art Nouveau Museum where you'll have the opportunity to be dressed in period costume. 

    Tip 1:

    Part 1 from Riga Bus Station to the Latvian National Museum of Art:

    Days 3-4 Part 1 Itinerary: From Wellton Hotel and Spa we head SOUTH, 30 m. Turn right onto Vecpilsētas iela, 190 m. Turn right to stay on Vecpilsētas iela, 55 m. Turn right onto Audēju iela and look to your right at the house at Audēju iela 7. One of the first Art Nouveau buildings in Rīga. The building has an asymmetrical façade with stylised plants – irises, dandelions etc. On the Audēju Street façade, there is a relief presenting a stylised apple tree – the symbol of creative power. There are apples in the branches of the tree, and they symbolise wealth, productivity and welfare. There’s also a small bay window with surprised faces on either side. The building now houses a design institute:

    Head east on Audēju iela toward Kalēju iela, 55 m. Turn left and walk 90 m. onto Kalēju iela to see the house at Kalēju iela 23. One of Riga’s most beautiful buildings was the brainchild of Pauls Mandelštams, who is also considered to be the city’s first Jewish architect. You can’t miss its grand entrance way embellished with daisies and a hanging lamp made to look like a flower. The central element in the building is the bay window encircled with chestnut leaves and flowers. At the centre of the bay window – a gilded representation of the sun, something that can be seen in various versions in the façades of many Art Nouveau buildings in Rīga. The building now is home to offices and a café:

    Head northwest on Kalēju iela toward Teātra iela, 200 m. Turn left onto Kaļķu iela, 70 m. Turn right onto Šķūņu iela and walk 35 m. to find the house at Šķūņu iela 4. The same architect as in Kalēju iela 23 - Pauls Mandelštams. The house is very simplistic and hardly worth our attention. Figures of children are seen on the entrance portal. Such figures usually represented intermediaries between the spiritual and the material world. Art Nouveau stained glass is seen in the windows of the stairwell. The building is now full of offices and looks quite neglected:

    Walk further north-west to arrive to Šķūņu Street 10/12. Completely different story.  This striking art nouveau building completed in 1902 was designed by the Baltic German duo of Friedrich Scheffel and Heinrich Scheel. Unfortunately, most people don’t even notice it because the street is so narrow. Its beautiful features including the watchdog at the top of the façade are best appreciated from Amatu iela. The façade of the building is decorated with stylized plants – reeds, poppies, narcissus and chestnut leaves. Elements of flora are also seen in the balcony railings and the metalwork on the roof. The main accent of the building is the ornate and massive two-story bay window, decorated richly with motifs of the poppy. The dog above the bay window is guarding the building. The initials of the original owner (businessman called Detmann) can also be seen in the façade. The architect is Heinrihs Šēls:

    The same owner, Detmann,  owned in the past the building at Tirgoņu iela 4 (adjacent to the Lido restaurant in our blog of Riga Day 2. The symmetrical façade is accented with a bay window that has balconies on either side. The entrance portal is accented with sculptures. The pilasters at the corner of the building turn into expressive sculptures of a female and a male figure. Art Nouveau metal carvings decorate the windows of the two lower floors. Our opinion is that you may skip also this building and turn to the Riga Opera House: 

    We change direction and look forward to explore the eastern parts of Old Riga (Vecrīga) from south to north. We head, first, to the Opera House surrounded by charming gardens and water. From Tirgoņu iela 4 to the Latvian National Opera: Head north on Tirgoņu iela toward Šķūņu iela, 35 m. Turn right onto Šķūņu iela, 30 m. Turn left onto Amatu iela, 120 m. Turn right toward Riharda Vāgnera iela, 80 m. Continue onto Riharda Vāgnera iela, 170 m. Turn left onto Teātra iela, 70 m. Turn left to stay on Teātra iela, 60 m. The Latvian National Opera, Aspazijas bulvāris 3 is on your right. From Šķūņu Street 10/12 to the Opera building: head southeast on Šķūņu iela toward Mazā Monētu iela, 80 m. Turn left onto Kaļķu iela, 120 m. Turn right onto Riharda Vāgnera iela, 170 m. Turn left onto Teātra iela, 70 m. Turn left to stay on Teātra iela, 60 m. Turn left and the Latvian National Opera, Aspazijas bulvāris 3 is on the right. The Latvian National Opera is the home of Latvian opera, choir, orchestra and national ballet. This stunning building stands between Old Riga and the City Canal. The opera and ballet of Latvia have established themselves well on the international stage. The Latvian National Opera is housed in a white-washed building constructed in year 1863, designed by architect Ludwig Bohnstedt. It was destroyed by a gas leak in 1882. It was reopened in 1887 and included the city’s very first electric power station, whose tall smoke stack is still visible today.  It was fully renovated during 1990-1995 to provide best conditions for both performers and audience. A new annex, combining 19th century and today's architectural elements, was added to the building in 2001. in 1912, Pāvuls Jurjāns opened the Latvian Opera House. Unfortunately, the outbreak of WW1 led to the departure of Latvia's first opera singers to Russia. In 1918, Jāzeps Vītols revived the house and kept it running until the Soviet takeover of 1940, after which it was renamed the Latvian S.S.R. State Opera and Ballet Theatre and its repertoire was significantly affected by the Soviet ideology. In 1991, along with Latvia’s independence, the theatre regained its original name and artistic freedom. There are over 200 performances annually. The tickets are reasonably priced. The most expensive tickets are around 40 euros and the cheapest ones less than 10 euros. The Opera is closed from June to End of August. In other months - DO NOT MISS any available performance. When it is sold out, you can ask about standing tickets. Go to the Box Office at 18.00 on the day and there might be available places in the 'standing section'. Riga has an annual opera festival period in mid-June which definitely might include opera/ballet special events in this spectacular building. The park opposite the Opera, the fountain and the building façade – are, all, WONDERFUL in a sunny day. Do not miss the fountain and the small bronze sculpture in front of the building:

    A sculpture of Māris Rūdolfs Liepa (27 July 1936, Riga – 26 March 1989, Moscow) a Soviet Latvian ballet dancer (male) :

    If you walk several metres north from the Ballet dancer statue - you see another charming sculpture of the Mayor and his Wife and Dog (George Armitstead 4th Mayor of Riga). George Armitstead was the mayor of Riga from 1901 to 1912. His wife was Cecile Pychlau:

    We shall walk, now, approx. 1 km to move to the eastern part of Vecrīga. Before entering the l-o-n-g Elizabets street - we shall visit another impressive building in narrow Blaumana iela 28. Go back to the southern side of the Opera building. Head southeast on Aspazijas bulvāris toward Teātra iela, 70 m. Turn left toward Krišjāņa Barona iela, 35 m. Slight right toward Krišjāņa Barona iela, 40 m. Turn left toward Krišjāņa Barona iela, 30 m. Turn right toward Krišjāņa Barona iela, 10 m. Turn left onto Krišjāņa Barona iela, 750 m (!). Turn right onto Blaumaņa iela for 40 m. and the Art Noveau house at Blaumaņa iela 28 is on the right. The house is packed into a narrow space where Blaumaņa and Pērses streets meet at Barona street. This Art Nouveau building was designed by Karl Johann Felsko in 1903. It is covered in dragons, wolves and a variety of other macabre animals:

    Now, we return to Elizabetes iela - starting at the house in £22. From Blaumaņa iela 28 head southeast toward Marijas iela, 190 m. Turn right onto busy Marijas iela, 350 m. Turn right onto Elizabetes iela, 50 m. and Elizabetes iela 22 is on the right. In its own time was the largest residential building in Riga. it occupies a part of a district between Elizabetes, Marijas and Alfreda Kalnina streets.

    A bit more northward to Elizabetes 22 there is a samll alley to your right (east) pointing to The Bergs Bazaar (Berga bazārs). An historical pedestrian village-like enclave originally constructed between 1887–1900. It has been turned into a small, stylish and trendy shopping and dining attraction. Simply stroll about stopping to rest on one of the many benches:

    A bit further north, along Elizabetes iels, on your right - a marvelous blooming oasis in front of Hotel Bergs. A complex of a five-star, small, luxury hotel, contemporary offices space and private rental apartments:

    Further north, in the intersection of Elizabetes iela and Krišjāņa Barona iela - we see, on our right,  the Latvian Puppet Theater (Latvijas Leļļu teātris) (  The Latvian Puppet Theatre offers performances in either Latvian or Russian every day, but shows often sell out, so buy tickets at its box office as soon as possible. Tickets office is open: 10:00-18:00, SAT, SUN 10:00-17:00. There are more than 30 plays in Russian and in Latvian for children from 2 years at the repertoire of the theatre. Performances take place at the Great Hall, Small Hall and the small Puppet Museum, which is located in the same building (K.Barona 16-18):

    We continue walking northward along Elizabetes iela. Now, crossing Krišjāņa Barona iela (on our left and right) - we see the Vērmanes Park on our left. Meanwhile, we skip this nice park and insist walking along Elizabetes iela.  500 m. north to this intersection - we see the high-rising Radisson Blu Hotel with its 25th floor Sky Bar restaurant. This restaurant allows the BEST, panoramic view of Riga. BUT, you must order food in this bar for having this view. This restaurant is CLOSED in the morning hours. So, we took the elevator (FREE...) to the 24th floor and took magnificent photos of this wonderful city - through the glass windows of the highest floors in the Radisson Blu hotel. Note: these windows allow only 270° panoramic view. You have to be prompt, polite and assertive with your presence in this property. Come with a reasonable code of dress and nobody will say a word !

    Before you cross the Elizabetes street and enter the park - continue walking several steps. see the building at Elizabetes iela 67 near restaurant Lido Vērmanītis:

    Walk 90 m. further nort and DO NOT miss the  Splendid Palace on your right. Old cinema building. The external facade, although hidden from the street, is lovely. There is a very good bistro/restaurant inside with friendly staff. In the evenings - it is a cinema/theatre. Movies are screened in their original language but with perfect atmosphere and quality:

    Opposite the Radisson BLu Hotel ,west to the Rhotel, is the Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral (Russian Orthodox Church) and the Esplanāde Park.  We descend from the hotel high floors, cross Elizabetes iela and have a LONG detour in the Esplanāde Park. 

    Our main points of interest into this park are: the Latvian National Museum of Art graces  on one (north) side, while the cupolas of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral majestically rise in the other (south). There are no real attraction drawing you to the park on its own. We skipped the Latvian Art Academy, residing adjacent to the museum. The park used to be teeming with Soviet-era sculpture.  The Esplanāde Park was once an unruly and unkempt hill known as Senais or Kubes kalns. It was mentioned as early as the 12th century as a staging point for enemies to attack the area, which is why it was finally levelled by military decree in 1784. The flattened land later served as a parade ground for the local garrison. It was converted into a  park during Riga’s 700th anniversary celebrations in year 1901. The present greenery was created in 1950 as a community park. The park includes statues of Prince and General Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly (born 27 December 1761, died 24 September 1818),  a Russian Field Marshal and Minister of War during Napoleon's invasion in 1812,

    Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly, Russia postage stamp, 2011:

    a renowned writer Rainis and the 

    The Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral (Kristus Piedzimšanas pareizticīgo katedrāle) is situated a bit south-west from the statue of Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly. The golden domes of the cathedral are quite visible from many parts of Riga and the church is a very nice landmark. The gleaming gold domes that sparkle in the sun are an unforgettable sight. Really nice stonework on the outside and very well decorated on the inside. Lots of gold and beautiful icons inside. It is known that photography is NOT allowed inside Russian/Orthdox churches. BUT, we had seen several visitors taking photos - and we did the same. Women need to cover heads, so take a head scarf. It was built between 1876 and 1883, with decorations made by the firm of August Volz, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. It is the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic provinces built with the blessing of the Russian Tsar Alexander II.  During the end of the 19th century the neo-Byzantine style building was the most expensive edifice of that time in Riga, its interior was uniquely rich and of high artistic value. The cathedral was renowned for its outstanding collection of ancient and valuable icons. Three iconostasis painted by the brightest lecturers of St Petersburg Academy of Art and the famous Russian painter Vasily Vereshchagin. During the First World War German troops occupied Riga and turned its largest Russian Orthodox cathedral into a Lutheran church. In independent Latvia, it became, again, an Orthodox cathedral in 1921. Soviet authorities closed down the cathedral and converted its building into a planetarium. The cathedral has been restored since Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. 

    The Latvian National Museum of Art, Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1 (closed on Mondays) is the greatest surprise of your day 3 in Riga or during this itinerary. It is situated next to the Academy of Art. You see Magen David (Jewish Stars) in the front facade of the Academy - since, part of the funds for construction of the academy - were raised by Latvian Jews. OPening hours: TUE:10.00 – 18.00, WED: 10.00 – 18.00, THU: 10.00 – 18.00, FRI: 10.00 – 20.00, SAT: 10.00 – 17.00, SUN: 10.00 – 17.00. Prices: 3 euros, concessions: 1.50 euros:

    Academy of Art:

    Reconstruction of the Latvian National Museum of Art lasted several years and was finished on 1 December 2015. The building was designed by the German architect Wilhelm Neumann and built in 1905.

    Rear side (into the Esplanāde Park) of Latvian National Museum of Art:

    The main entrance from 11 Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela:

    Latvian National Museum of Art - the lovely Kafenica. Beautifully designed:

    Take the elevator and start your visit at the stunning floor 5 (wooden attic) or CUPOLA. More contemporary art (during AUG 2018: hand-knitted rugs, Transfiguration by Egils Rozenbers). Fantastic design of wooden cupola with giant white wood beams and a transparent GLASS FLOOR. Unbelievable design. A great, unique experience of design and exhibition space ! DO NOT MISS floor 5 !!:

    From the cupola you can go out onto two roof terraces with views over the City. Fantastic view from the balcony in floor 5 to the south:

    Radisson Blu Hotel from southern terrace in Floor 5:

    Riga Nativity of Christ Cathedral (Kristus Piedzimšanas pareizticīgo katedrāle) from Attic at floor 5 - breathtaking sight:

    View to the north, Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela:

    We descended to floor 4 (with glass floor)

    to see a temporary exhibition of the Latvian painter Niklavs Strunke (1894–1966). One of the most outstanding representatives of the 20th century Latvian Avant-garde. He was a painter, graphic artist, book decorator, designer and theatrical artist. During summer 2018 the museum displayed his paintings of Italy.

    Niklavs Strunke, capri, 1924:

    Niklavs Strunke, Florentine in Winter, 1929:

    Strunke made the cover to the book "1000 & One Nights":

    Floor 3 includes several unheard Latvian Artists.

    Karlis Padegs, 1952:

    Floor 3 - Latvian Art - Janis Tidemanis, 1930s:

    Floor 3 - Latvian Art - Leo Svemps, 1937:

    Floor 3 - Latvian Art - Niklavs Strunke, 1937:

    Floor 3 - Latvian Art - Jekabe Kazalke (1895-1920), Circus:

    Jekabe Kazalke, Ladies at the Seaside, 1920:

    Floor 3 - Latvian Art - Alexandra Belcova, Tennis Player, 1927:

    Teodoris Zalkains, 1928, Portrait of Mussorgsky:

    Arturs Baumanis (1847-1904), 1887, Horse of Destiny:

    Janis Rozentalis, 1894, Coming from the Church:

    Do not miss the empty Central Hall in Floor 3:

    From Floor 3 we recommend using the pretty stairway. A A good photo-op of the interiors of this beautiful building and gem:

    Floor 2 - The Soviet era, Janis Osis, Rowing Race, 1958:

    Floor 2 - The Soviet era, Leonids Maurins, 1972, Silvery Night Fishing:

    Floor 2 - The Soviet era, Meija Tabaka, 1974, Wedding at Rundale Palace:

    Floor 2 - Central Hall:

    We exit the museum from its north entrance in 11 Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela and walk east to the intersection of Elizabetes iela and Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela. Then, we turn left and walk northward along Elizabetes iela. Skip to tip 2 below.

  • Citywalk
    Updated at Oct 14,2018

    Lithuania - Day 1 in Vilnius:

    Part 1: Vilnius Old Town.

    Part 2: St. Anne's & Bernardine Churches, Užupis, Vilnius Cathedral Square.

    Duration: 1 day. Distance: 10-12 km. Weather: no rain. Start : Comfort Hotel LT - Rock 'N' Roll or Vilnius Railway Station / Vilnius Bus Station. End: Vilnius Cathedral.

    Part 1 Main Attractions: Gates of Dawn, Amber Sculpture Museum, Holy Church of Trinity, Church of St. Casimir, Town Hall Square (Vilniaus rotušė), Zemach Shabad Monument, Kazys Varnelis House–Museum, Constantine Sirvydo Square, Vilnius University, Literra bookstore.

    Part 2 Main Attractions: literatų gatvė, Saint Anne’s Church, Bernardine Church, Bernardine Monastery, Adam Mickiewicz Monument, Užupis Angel, Constitution of the Republic of Užupis, Entrance to Užupis, Bernardine Gardens, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Monument to Grand Duke Gediminas, Vilnius Cathedral.

    Our hotel in Vilnius: Comfort Hotel LT - Rock 'N' Roll, Kauno g. 14, Naujamiestis, Vilnius. It is presented in as a 2-star hotel. A joke. It is a SUPERB hotel. it deserves 4 stars. VERY ATTRACTIVE hotel. Full with colors. Young and vibrant atmosphere. Modern, clean,  comfortable, quiet, attentive and helpful. All the staff members are young. Take high-floor room. Better, a room on the back (you'll have a nice view of Vilnius Old Town houses' roofs).  Rooms are spacious. There only two cons: the hotel is A BIT more distant than other popular hotels (it takes 15 minutes to walk to the Old Town). There are very few restaurants  around. One of them is the Ararat - Armenian restaurant (5 minutes walk from the hotel). Second disadvantage is that the Hotel (not everyday) is very busy and fully-occupied due to tourist groups. THe dining-room might be busy from 08.00 to 09.00. Beyond these hours - the breakfast is very good. A huge selection of food with many fresh options. Another daunting fact is the loud music during the breakfast (the 80s and 90s oldies) which, sometimes, is unbearable with heavy loads of diners. VERY RECOMMENDED HOTEL. It is 10 minutes pleasant walk to the railway and bus stations. Bus stop to/from the airport is 3 minutes walk. The bus to/from the airport costs 1 euro. The hotel-ordered taxi from/to the airport is a 8 euro fixed rate. The hotel is equipped with an elaborate gym. The hotel has an interesting, modern decor. It looks brand new. Good Wi-Fi connection. A big plus is that the hotel resides opposite to an HUGE supermarket with unbelievable selection and budget prices. The hotel provides you with gluten-free bread. Self-service laundry is available, n the 4th floor, for 10 euros and includes the washing powder.

    Day-1 itinerary Part 1:

    We start our tour in Vilnius Old Town at the Gates of Dawn. From Comfort Hotel LT - Rock 'N' Roll, Kauno g. 14 (Kauno g. x Mindaugo g. intersection) we head east 170 m. and continue onto V. Šopeno g., 170 m. The Bus Station is on your right (after climbing 2 minutes to the right). Note: in this area several street are not signposted clearly. Continue straight and turn left later onto Sodų g., 310 m. The Railway Station is on the right (top of the hill). Turn right onto Pylimo g., 30 m. Slight left onto Bazilijonų g. 280 m. Turn left onto Aušros Vartų g., 15 m. You arrived to the Gates of Dawn, Aušros Vartų g. 14. This is the only surviving gate of the first original five (some say ten) gates in the city wall. It was built between 1503 and 1522 as a part of defensive fortifications for the city of Vilnius, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Of ten city gates, only the Gate of Dawn remains, while the others were destroyed by the order of the government at the end of the 18th century. The gates were first mentioned in 1514. At first the Gates of Dawn were called the Medininkai Gate, as it is on the road to Medininkai. In Polish this gate is called Ostra Brama, the “Sharp Gate” because it was in the southern end of the city, which was called the Sharp. In the 16th century city gates often contained religious artifacts intended to guard the city from attacks and to bless travelers.

    The Chapel in the Gate of Dawn contains an icon of The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Mercy, said to have miraculous powers. This little church is situated above the gate/arch. You first see a few frames full of medallions as offerings of thanks from prayers. These frames are again in the main room. The Madonna herself is inspirational. Very powerful imagery and one can understand why she commands such devotion from the crowds. The painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, in the Chapel of the Gates of Dawn is known all over the world. It is believed to have miraculous powers. The Blessed Virgin Mary of Ausros Vartai (Lithuanian for Gate of Dawn) is considered the guardian of Lithuania. Many churches in other countries have copies of this painting. The icon is artistically beautiful. The picture, which is also called “Vilnius Madonna”, was painted in 17th century. It is painted in the Renaissance style, in tempera on oak boards, later repainted in oil. Since the middle of the 17th century it has been said to have miracle-working powers. One of Lithuania’s most celebrated pilgrimage sites. More than half a million people visit the shrine each year to see the portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary that lies within its walls. Note: if services are held in the church (from the street looking up, you get a clear view if there are no worshipers standing in the balcony) - there is no access to the church. This location attracts many devout worshipers and can be busy - especially in the morning and evening hours. With your back to the old town (north) and face to the gate (south) take the left side stairs to climb to the church:

    As we continue walking north on Aušros Vartų g. - we see, on our right, a section of the walls of Old Vilnius:

    200 m. further north-west we arrive (on our left) to the Gintaro skulpturu ir inkliuzu muziejus, Amber (Amber Sculpture Museum "Amber"), Aušros Vartų g. 9. Open: SUN-THU 10.00 – 19.00, FRI-SAT 10.00 – 17.00. FREE. When we visited this olace - it looked like a typical tourist/souvenirs shop. Two rooms only.

    Several steps further north, on your right, is the Holy Church of Trinity. The church/monastery compound contains a fortified entrance gate, a university, an hotel complex for visitors and monastic cells. The church is surrounded by adjoining four towers at each corner:

    30 m. further north - the German restaurant Bunte Gans is very recommended and reasonably priced. Big portions. Again, 30 m. further, Gusto Blynine, Aushros Vartu 6 is a Pancakes restaurant with GF offers as well. Recommended. Head further northwest on Aušros Vartų g. toward Pasažo skg., 95 m. Continue onto Didžioji g., 90 m. On your left is the Radisson Blu Hotel.

    Opposite, on your right (when your face to the north) is the Church of St. Casimir (Šv. Kazimiero bažnyčia). It is the first and the oldest Baroque church in Vilnius. It is as beautiful from outside as inside. Absolutely worth a visit. The construction of the church began in 1604 in memory of the holy prince Saint Casimir. It was built by the Jesuits with funding by the Great Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lew Sapieha. The construction was finished in 1616, and the interior design completed in 1618. Its composition and facade were designed along in line with the famous Il Gesù church in Rome. It remimdes also the churches in Kraków and Lublin, Poland. The design was of Jan Frankiewicz, a pupil of architect Giovanni Maria Bernardoni:

    Continue onto Didžioji g. for 170 m. to arrive to the Town Hall Square (Vilniaus rotušė). The town Hall in Vilnius was mentioned for the first time in 1432. In 1387, Lithuania became a Christian state and Vilnius was granted Magdeburg rights. Thus, there appeared a need for headquarters for the city authorities. As the main square of the city was located here, it was decided to build the Town Hall in the same place. The building housed the magistrate (in other words, the city councilors) as well as court rooms, the treasury, archives, an arms and ammunition warehouse, and rooms for preserving standards of measurement. A prison was established in the basement. Initially it was a Gothic style building and has since been reconstructed many times. The current Vilnius Town Hall was rebuilt in neoclassical style according to the design by Laurynas Gucevičius in 1799. It has remained unchanged since then. The Town Hall's Gothic cellars have been preserved and may be visited. In the 20th century, an art museum was housed in the Town Hall. Today Vilnius Town Hall is a representative building. Many different events are organised at the Town Hall during a year: concerts, literary evenings, presentations of books, exhibitions and festivals. The building is impressive, with its six large pillars, and classical style with a low sloping roof. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance, which says, 'Vilniaus Rotuse'. The pediment of the Town Hall is adorned with the coat-of-arms of the city of Vilnius – St Christopher carrying baby Jesus on his shoulders. There is Tourist Information Office in the building (left hand side of the facade with your face to it).

    The Town Hall Square (Rotušės aikštė) at the southern end of the Pilies Street is a traditional centre of trade and events in Vilnius and is lined with attractive buildings and colour.  Major annual fairs, such as Kaziukas Fair (Saint Casimir Fair on the beginning of March), are held in this square, the main Christmas tree is decorated here, various concerts and other attractions are organised as well as celebrations of the important dates of the state. During summer months expect open concerts during the evenings. During the nights the buildings are all lit up. 

    Before continuing down north along Didžiji g. and the Town Hall Square - we turn LEFT (west) at the north-west corner of the Town Hall building (the south-west corner of the square) to Vokiečių g. Here, resides The Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) (Šiuolaikinio meno centras ), 2 Vokiečių street. Note the black statue at the middle of this busy street or avenue:

    On the first turn to the LEFT (south-west) we turn to 

    and, opposite, is Zemach Shabad Monument in  MesiniU Street close to the intersection with Dysnos g. It is a tribute to the Jewish heritage of the city. The monument shows bearded man with a child. He was one of the most famous members of the Jewish community of his times, and was a Doctor and social activist. The monument reflects his concern for children: he is shown with a little girl and her kitten (in her lap). The doctor was prominent in making children remove their fear of medical procedures, and this lovely monument reflects this:

    We return to the Town Hall on the same way - passing several cultural establishments (like the CAC) and more exclusive shops like this souvenirs, tabac and liquors shop:

    We continue walking north along Didžioji g. and the houses' numbers are decreasing. Further north, the Kazys Varnelis House–Museum, Didžioji g. 26 is housed in one of the oldest buildings on the Rotuses square. Open: by advance booking MON-FRI 10.00 – 17.00, SAT 10.00 – 15.00. Visits are possible by guided tour only. They will arrange a guided tour also for just two people which is a real treat. Entrance fee is EUR 2.50 per person. The house-museum (33 halls) of the famous Lithuanian artist, a master of stained-glass and modern art (minimalism, optic art) houses various collections of great value: old graphics, painting, sculpture, furniture of Renaissance and later periods, and a collection of oriental art, maps and abstractions by Kazys Varnelis himself. 37 halls, impressive exhibition and amazing passionate guides. Tour last about 1.5-2 hrs. Appointment (by phone or email) necessary. Highly recommended:

    Further north Didžioji g. 11:

    On our right, at  Didžioji g. 12, note the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas.

    Further north at Didžioji g. 4 is Lithuanian Art Museum (Lietuvos dailės muziejus) with 18-19 centuries paintings. We did NOT enter this museum and it looked quite deserted. We continue northward to Constantine Sirvydo Square (Konstantino Sirvydo skveras) known as "Frenchpark" or Park of Konstantin Sirvydas. The Konstantino Sirvydo skveras is north-west park adjacent to the museum. Constantine Syrvida is (lived around 1580-1631) - theologian, philosopher, writer, linguist, preacher, author of the first Lithuanian dictionary. The whole area around - beautiful palaces, interesting streets ! In the east side of the square is the Souvenir Market. Several artist exhibit their paintings. You can several impressive pictures:

    Didžioji g continues north as Pilies g. With the first turn to the left from Pilies g. we arrive to Vilnius University campus. Head northeast on Šv. Jono g., 95 m and arrive to Vilnius University (Vilniaus universitetas). You pay for admission (2 euros, € 1,50 for students or seniors) to the university grounds; a nominal fee gets you a brochure of the architecture. Stroll around this beautiful Renaissance campus and don't miss the book store (open only on weekdays) with a ceiling that will remind you of the Sistine Chapel. You can pay separately to climb to the top of the Church Bell Tower for a great view of the old town and its surroundings. The cafeteria is a great place for lunch, but they close by 14.00.

    Vilnius University is the oldest and the largest university in Lithuania established in 1579. As for a long time it was the only one university in Lithuania, it influenced Lithuanian society a lot. Nowadays it includes 19 academic subdivisions, almost 3000 employees and more than 23700 (!) students in total. The Vilnius University is one of the most important educational institutions in Lithuania which has operated for more than 400 years already. As a part of Lithuanian history, it also distinguishes in owning some objects of heritage of historic architecture. The Old ensemble of Vilnius university occupies an entire quarter of the Vilnius Old Town. It is located near the Presidential palace. 4 old streets (University st. , Castle st. , street of St. John and Kapas st.) surround the complex. This complex of buildings was finally formed in the end of the 18th century and, surprisingly, has not changed until nowadays. As an architectural masterpiece, the Old ensemble includes 12 buildings of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classicism styles, the Church of St. John and a Bell tower. All these buildings perfectly reflect a history of the university as they were built not all at the same time, but one after another. 

    Vilnius University is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Northern Europe. It is the largest university in Lithuania. The university was founded in 1579 as the Jesuit Academy (College) of Vilnius by Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, Stephen Báthory. The wide-ranging Vilnius University buildings represent all major architectural styles that predominated in Lithuania: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism. Note The Grand Courtyard of Vilnius University and Church of St. Johns and the main Library with its bronze doors. Inside the library: P. Smuglevičius hall in the Vilnius University Library. Note also Petras Repšys’ fresco "The Seasons of the Year" (painted in 1976-1984) with motives from Baltic mythology at the Centre of Lithuanian Studies.

    The most impressive yard is the Great yard. The Great yard has always been the most important in the whole structure of the Old Ensemble of Vilnius university. It unites sacred, academic and representative functions of the university. There are the main buildings of Renaissance style located, an authentic marble board made in 1580 hangs announcing an opening of the university: “Academia et Universitas Societatis Jesu Erecta anno 1580”. There are also other boards memorializing various emeritus people and of course, the marvelous Baroque church of St. John and the Bell tower here stand.

    yards of Simonas Daukantas and Motiejus Sarbievijus, and the Observatory yard. The oldest one is the Observatory yard. It was formed in the end of 16th century. In the 17-18th centuries a pharmacy here operated and various herbs were grown. The most impressive building there is an observatory of classicism style which is decorated with zodiac signs and Latin sentences like “Hinc itur ad astra” (Such is the way to the stars).

    The yard of Library is surrounded mostly by library sections. For 200 years this yard was used for household purposes, but later right after several reconstructions it started serving as a representative yard. The library includes several halls worth visiting because of their exclusive historic décor.

    Biblioteka Hall Smuglevicius:

    The yard of Motiejus Sarbievijus nowadays is the main yard of philologists of Vilnius university as M. Sarbievijus was the most famous poet in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This inside yard is surrounded by buildings of various shapes and styles including spectacular counterforts, arches and frescoes.

    Right from the yard of M. Sarbievijus there is a passage to the other inside yard of Simonas Daukantas who was a famous Lithuanian historic and a student of Vilnius university. The most valuable architectural composition there is a fragment of an authentic Renaissance attic. As this complex also belongs to philologists (DOMUS PHILOLOGIAE), the inside lobbies here are decorated with creations by talented Lithuanian artists like a scratchwork “Muses” and a mosaic “Lithuanian Mythology”:


    The St. John Catholic church has an impressive and ornate Baroque interior:

    Another real highlight was the church bell tower, which, for 2 euros, can be ascended with the use of a combination of stairs and an elevator. Of the numerous observation towers in the old town, this one might be the best, because from here one can actually view the Vilnius Castle Hill (difficult from the hilltop) and the many red-tiled rooftops of Vilnius Old Town district. BUT, your views are hindered by an ugly metal net stretched over the wide viewing windows.

    Entrance to St. John Bell Tower and Church:

    Your most outstanding experience in the university would be, no doubt, the AMAZING Literra bookstore you should not miss, with its amazing painted ceilings. This is a campus bookstore with popular literature in Lithuanian, scientific books, books authored by university faculty, and university souvenirs. The bookstore has beautiful murals on its walls and ceiling. With its dark wood interior, low lighting and painted, vaulted ceiling, the bookstore looks and feels like an intimate library of a luxury European estate and not a campus bookstore. Although the vaulted ceilings are not themselves very large, the frescoes that fill them expand the room outward, upward, and into the past. The ceiling is low and fully decorated so your eyes cannot help but be drawn to the frescoes of caricatures of professors and students painted by Antanas Kmieliauskas in 1978. Lithuanian artist Antanas Kmieliauskas created Littera’s sprawling frescoes in 1978 for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Vilnius University. His work was part of a larger project intended to use the university’s interior spaces – which were no longer in their original form – to reflect the university’s history. The paintings on the ceiling are reportedly based on real students and their sins. Kmieliauskas created a series of scenes representing the university’s historic areas of study, which include astronomy, medicine, botany, music, and art. Each scene includes symbols of the discipline depicted, an allegorical figure, and what seem to be stylized representations of actual professors and students – all of which appear to be slowly drifting toward the top of the vaulted ceiling. Double check if the bookstore is not CLOSED during weekends or holidays. With your face to the St. John Church, in the middle of the courtyard, turn LEFT, descend the stairs (there is a window with the "1988" title). You arrive to another courtyard. On your left - a fountain, and, on your right (deep in the corner) - the Littera bookstore:

    The frescoes Antanas Kmieliauskas created for Littera are just one of works created by various artists to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Vilnius University. Just next door and up the stairs, Aisciai Hall features “The Seasons” by Petras Repšys. (Although these are also frescoes, they are very different in style.) There are also two halls with frescoes included in the university library tour (advance registration required). Other areas with frescoes are not open to the public.

    We leave the university and head to Part 2 - Užupis --> skip to Tip 2.

  • Citywalk | Morocco
    Updated at Jun 17,2013

    Basically I'll give only an outline on what to see in each city, places to say and costs. The method of this trip is to go where your feet take you... You'll reach where you need to. 

    Generally speaking, the cities are divided into the old city surrounded by a wall (the 'state') and the city outside the wall. Most of the action occurs inside the the walled city. 

    In every Riad we visited, we received a very user-friendly map with all the sightseeing in the city.  

  • Citywalk | Croatia > Dubrovnik
    Updated at Jul 2,2013

    Day 6 – Spending the night at Adrian and Lucia’s

    We had breakfast on the balcony with the view and left at 8:00 to Dubrovnik. It was early so we managed to find a parking space in the lower level of the city. The moment we got out of the car we absorbed the ambiance of the place. There was a man playing an instrument, another man performing his mime act, and lots of tourists everywhere. Later in the evening we learned actor, Roger Moore was in town, so maybe that was the reason for the public gathering. We were enchanted by the walls of the city.

  • Citywalk | Croatia > Opatija > Rovinj
    Updated at Jul 10,2013

    After lunch we skipped with the car to a parking lot closer to the old city and conquered it within 2 hours of walking. Carrera pedestrian mall, the market, the promenade, we loved it all. From there we continued in the direction of Poreč. On our way out from the city we got a bit lost after receiving the wrong directions. 

  • Citywalk | Peru > Cusco
    Updated at Jul 3,2013

    Cusco was the most important city in the Empire, and the place of residence of the elite. The city was organized around a central plaza where the roads lead to the four provincial governments.

    Important architecture in Cusco includes palaces and schools that were built for the elite, temples such as Coricancha, or temple of the Sun, and a very important network of roads. 

  • Citywalk | Australia > Sydney
    Updated at Aug 5,2013

    "…As soon as we landed in Sydney, we fell in love with the city.

    “Our” Sydney is the charming botanical gardens, the beach, the opera house, Circular Quay, The Rocks, Taronga Zoo, The Harbor Bridge, strolling around in the shops before Christmas, the NSW gallery, Sydney Tower, Paddington’s market, cheap backpackers, and Kings Cross".

  • Citywalk | France > Paris, France > Parking du Centre Pompidou
    Updated at Jul 19,2013

    We felt like going back to the islands as we felt we had missed some of it during our previous tour. We arrived to the islands quickly; exploring some shops, and continuing to the Latin square. The streets and alleys were full of people, the restaurants were open and the shops were lovely. We just randomly walked around, to smell, see, and watch, until we became tired. We looked for an ATM to withdraw some cash, and also for something to eat. We checked both tasks and it was already evening, and it's time to go back to our apartment.

  • Citywalk | United Kingdom
    Updated at Mar 13,2014

    Orientation: Stunning architecture, nature scenery, marvelous hidden gems in the heart of London. (18 June 2013).

    Start: Edgware Road Station.

    End: Paddington Station.

    Duration time: 1 day walk.

    From Edgware Road station head southeast toward Old Marylebone Rd/Sussex Gardens. Turn left onto Old Marylebone Rd.Turn left onto Cabbell St. You see a nice display, full with character, of Cabbell Street Hyde Park Mansions on your right:

    Step back. Walk southeast on Cabbell St toward Old Marylebone Rd. Turn right onto Old Marylebone Rd. Keep on walking into Sussex Gardens Road. Turn right onto Norfolk Pl. Turn left toward London St. Turn right onto London St. The Norfolk Square Gardens are on your right. The square itself is surrounded by a number of fine buildings:

    Head northwest on London St toward Norfolk Square. Turn left toward Sheldon Square (you'll pass a few obstacles due to the massive construction built around the NEW Paddington Station !). The Crossrail station at Paddington (scheduled to open in 2017) will be constructed under Eastbourne Terrace and Departures Road, with subsurface links to both the concourse of Paddington mainline and underground lines. PaddingtonCentral The main entrance to the Hammersmith and City line station, is scheduled to be fully operational in 2013, delivering a new concourse entrance fronting onto the Paddington Basin canal (see later) and linking directly into the newly completed taxi drop-off.

    Another route: Head north along London St. Turn left to Praed Road, turn right to Spring St., take the first turn to the right (after passing the bustling reconstruction project of the Paddington St.) to the Bishoph's Bridge Road.

    Turn left toward Sheldon Square. You get a stunning view on one of the magical spots of the new architectural wave or trend passing over London - the  PaddingtonCentral. Like being in an amphitheatre with views across Paddington station and beyond. The space comprises of an amphitheatre designed with grass terraces. There are various pieces of public art throughout the space itself and along the nearby adjacent canal towpath.

    The Paddington Branch ( section of the Grand Union Canal) is to your right, north-east side of the square or PaddingtonCentral complex. Find the Paddington towpath along the canal and head forward passing under the Westway bridge. 

    Take one of the small bridges to pass to the right (north) bank of the canal (before or beyond the Westway Bridge). Keep walking along  You are, now, in the famous Little Venice. This is a nice little area just outside the hustle and bustle of London. Call in for a bit of relaxation. There is a coffee bar/boat there and there are also trips up the canal to Camden which are quite reasonably priced for the duration of the journey. In case you find yourself in Warwick Avenue - turn left to the Blomfield Road which continues north-west along the canal. Another alternative is to walk along Warwick Ave. until you arrive to the Rembrandt Gardens (Warwick Ave. x Howley Place). From there you can get a different perspective on Little Venice:

    Stroll along the side of the canal to watch the barges go past:

    You may cross the canal over the bridge leading to Formosa Road on our right. I recommend standing on the middle of this bridge and taking photos of the barges passing-by:

    We turn right to Formosa Road. Pay attention and don't miss the fourth alley to the left. A beautiful small road Elnathan Mews:

    A bit behind Elnathan Mews alley, along the Formosa Rd. you find the the Prince Alfred Pub (see Tip below). Have a look at the Victorian mansions around this restaurant:

    From Formosa Road, near the PA Pub, turn right back to Warwick Avenue. Take the road back (south-east). You may compete our daily itinerary by taking the tube from Warwick Avenue station. Continuing south-east, turn left to Howley Place. In the Junction of Howley Place with Park Place (left) and St. Mary Terrace (right) you find, again, a pretty collection of Victorian mansions (Park Place Villas):

    Turn right to St Mary's Terrace. Head southeast on St. Mary's Terrace toward Porteus Rd. Turn left onto St. Mary's Square (the third junction to the left). Continue straight onto Paddington Green and the City of Westminster College (Paddington Green Centre) is on your left. A stunning building opened in January 2011:

    Enter the college to appreciate its interiors. You are allowed to visit the wholesite and take photos only with a formal permission. Don't miss the plaque on red-brick building opposite the City of Westminster College - a previous children's hospital founded in 1883:

    Near the college and the old hospital, in Paddington Green, stands Sara Siddon's statue, theatre actor, 1735-1881:

    Pack your rest of your strength. You'll need another 30-40 minutes of walk - heading to Paddington Basin. Do not give up - it is a stunning site.

    From Paddington Green Road turn left onto Harrow Rd. Turn right onto Edgware Road. Turn right onto Praed St (near the Devonshire Pharmacy).  Turn right. again, turn right. Turn left and the Paddington Basin will be on the left. Paddington Basin has undergone a lot of improvements during recent years. I loved the regeneration project. It is admirable. Just hope it doesn't go so far as to destroy the character of the neighborhood or displace too many households. Make no mistake you get a great walk here. I recommend making a stroll around the basin. I was somewhat surprised at how many storefronts on the ground level were still vacant. The basin is now the centre of a major redevelopment as part of the wider Paddington Waterside scheme and is surrounded by modern buildings:

    Paddington Basin is the site of the Rolling Bridge, built in 2004:

    The Paddington Underground Station is 5 minutes walk from the basin.

  • Citywalk | United Kingdom
    Updated at Mar 13,2014

    The main attractions: The Nautical School, Bernie Spain Gardens, Oxo Tower, Blackfriars Bridge and Pub, Stationers Hall Court, Paternoster Square, 1 New Change Shopping Centre, The Guildhall.

    Start: Southwark Station.

    End: St. Paul Station.

    Weather: A full day (architecture, history, shopping, wonderful sights) in a cloudy or even rainy day.

    From Southwark station head north on Blackfriars Rd toward Scoresby St. Turn left at Scoresby St. Turn slightly right onto Joan St. Turn right onto Hatfields Rd. Turn left onto Stamford St and walk until numer 61. The Nautical School will be on the left (or: Hatfields Rd 17). Look at the porticos under the roof:

    Head northeast on Stamford St toward Broadwall. Turn left at Broadwall and turn right toward Upper Ground of Bernie Spain Gardens:

    Walk in the gardens and exit near the Thames river and walk eastward to the Oxo Tower (all in the South Bank !). On your right the old & new Blackfriars Bridges:

    Do not miss the the views from the Public Viewing Gallery on the 8th floor of Oxo Tower:

    You continue eastward to the Blackfriars Bridge. I recommend that you go, first, under the bridge to see the pretty tiled panels sponsered and donated by Thomas Doggett:

    Cross the Blackfriars Bridge on your way to the Northern Bank. In the end of the bridge, on your right, in Queen Victoria Street you see the marvelous exterior of the Blackfriars Pub:

    Head east on Queen Victoria St toward Black Friars Lane.  Turn left onto Black Friars Ln. Slight left onto Ludgate Broadway. Turn right onto Pilgrim St. Turn right onto Ludgate Hill. Opposite stand the St. Paul Cathedral:

    Turn left toward Ave Maria Ln. Turn right onto Ave Maria Ln. On the right stands the Worshipful Co building and yard Of Stationers & Newspaper Makers. Nowadays a posh ceremonies hall. Try to find the Chef (Awati or Paul born in Algier Town) to get a permission for entering this marvelous hall:

    Head north on Ave Maria Ln. Turn right, turn right again and turn left. You are now in the magnificient Paternoster Square:

    You can spend at least 2-3 hours visiting the St. Paul Cathedral. In case you prefer to avoid the hefty entrance price - I suggest you to skip the Cathedral and keep walking to the 1 New Change Shopping Centre. This stunning attraction does not fall short of the famous cathedral. This is the most fantastic free view of London and St. paul Cathedral. The shopping Centre itself is fabolous and you can adopt our tip to dine in the Nando's restaurant on the 2nd. floor. The One New Change Centre is a photographers' gem: the St. Paul reflection on every floor stop (with the glass elevator), the wonderful roof and the magnificient views over London and St. paul Cathedral. Let the pictures talk for themselves:

    Head northwest on New Change, slight right to stay on New Change. Turn right onto Cheapside Street. On your right stands St Mary-le-Bow church. This church, designed by Christopher Wren. It offers a nice sanctuary from the noise and chaos of the financial district it is located in:

    Head east on Cheapside toward Bow Ln. Turn left onto King St. Turn right onto Gresham St. The Guildhall will be on the left. You'll surprised at the beauty of this building. Opening hours are hazardous. You'll be excited to hear that it is open and you may be going inside the elegant building free of chargee.

    Guildhall is divided up into several different halls but the Great Hall is where the Court of Common Council meet to decide City of London policy and these meetings are open to the public. 

    The inside is equally nice with interesting statues, stain glass, and murals. There is much history and interesting sights that make this piece of London a valuable visit. Guildhall's many rooms are decorated with emblems of numerous City, as are the stained-glass windows together with details of hundreds of Lord Mayors of the City of London since 1189.There are plenty of memorial statutes on display and tributes to many of those who have made London great.