AUG 06,2018 - AUG 06,2018 (1 DAYS)
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 Booking.com 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.
Part 2: St. Anne's & Bernardine Churches, Užupis, Vilnius Cathedral Square.
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.
With our back to Vilnius University we walk back along Jono g. with our face to the east. Arriving to Pilies g. we turn RIGHT (south) and, immediately, LEFT (east) to literatų gatvė. This street was named “Literatai” only at the second half of 19th century in the honour of Adam Mickiewicz who lived here. The poet Adam Mickiewicz lived at the 4-floor house on the left/north side, at the beginning of this street. This house is equipped with three plaques on the building in the Lithuanian, Russian and Polish languages. The idea behind the literatų (literary) street is that the street should be devoted to literature. From 2008 a group of artists had an idea to revive the street and to decorate it with artworks related with literature. A wall was solemnly opened in the street where painters and other field artists created plates or small objects made of metal, wood, glass, etc. in the honour of Baltic writers:
Castor and Pollux Sintezija:
Zemaite - Daina Vanagaite Belzakiene:
We continue walking eastward along literatų gatvė crossing Rusų g. on our right:
In the end of the Literature Street - we see the Casimir Church, on our right:
on our right is Mykolo g. #11:
Walking along Mykolo g. from west to east will bring us out of Vilnius Old Town. We arrive to the Maironio g. - stretching from north to south. We cross it from west to east and face St. Anne's Church. It is a stunning picture of this mighty church. One of the most beautiful sites to visit in Vilnius. THREE buildings on ONE site means there is plenty to do here , and all FREE. Saint Anne’s Church is a masterpiece of red-brick flamboyant Gothic style. A novel approach to bricks as a construction material was employed in the church's construction. The exterior is beautiful and imposing. In the evenings the red brick facade is bathed in the setting sun. Stunning. The main facade, designed in the Gothic style, is its most striking feature. Traditional Gothic elements and shapes were used in unique ways; Gothic arches are framed by rectangular elements dominating a symmetrical and proportionate facade, creating an impression of dynamism. The church has one nave and two towers. It was built using 33 different kinds of clay bricks and painted in red. The interior is decorated in the Baroque style, as is its altar. Opening hours: May - September: Tuesday - Sunday 10.00 – 18.00; October - April: half an hour before masses (they take place at 17.30 on weekdays and on Sundays and holidays at 09.00 and 11.00 in the Lithuanian language). Closed – Mondays. No photos allowed inside. With the churches in the background Bernardine Monastery) you get a really cool picture. Disappointed that we couldn’t go inside as it was closed on Mondays:
St. Anne’s Church has a history that starts with the alleged construction in the 14th century of a wooden house of worship on this spot in honour of Ona, wife of Vytautas the Great. The first historical records of a church here date from 1394, but the current Gothic masterpiece is believed to have been built between 1495 and 1500 to a design by the Bohemian architect Benedikt Rejt (1453-1534), who is most famous for designing parts of Prague Castle. St. Anne's is among the sites of Vilnius Old Town that enabled the district to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. St. Anne's Church is part of an ensemble, comprising the much larger Gothic Church of St. Francis and Bernadine, as well as a monastery. St Anne’s Church, which has survived to the present day without changing for over 500 years, has become a symbol of Vilnius. At a closer look, one can see the letters A and M in the main facade of St Anne‘s. The letters A and M could stand for the Latin Ana Mater Maria or Ave Maria, i.e. „Saint Anne – Mother of Mary“ or „Hail Mary“:
Entrance to St. Anne's Church:
The St. Francis of Assisi (Bernardine) Roman Catholic Church, Maironio g. 10, is annexed to Saint Anne’s Church. Church of St. Francis and St. Bernard (also known as Bernardine Church (Bernardinu Baznycia) is considered one of the biggest churches in the Lithuanian capital. It was built in 1469. Easily confused with St. Anne’s, the Bernardine Church is the one behind. It is a bit further away from the road. On the outside it is not as spectacular as the St. Anne’s Church. Take a walk around and look at the beauty.
Inside is completely another story. Very beautiful and packed with history. The interior of the church is richly decorated and never fails to impress visitors. Dedicated to Saints Francis of Assisi and Bernardino of Siena. After their arrival in Vilnius, Bernardine monks built a wooden church in the second half of the 15th century, and at the end of the same century - a brick one. In the early 16th century it was reconstructed, apparently with the participation of a master from Gdansk (Danzig) Michael Enkinger. In the beginning of the 16th century the church was incorporated into the construction of Vilnius defensive wall, so there are shooting openings in its walls. Afterwards it was renewed many times, particularly after the 1655-61 war with Moscow, when the Cossacks ravaged the church killing the monks and citizens who had taken shelter there. In the times of the Soviet occupation it was closed down and handed over to the Art institute. Being much larger and more archaic than the St. Anne's Church, it forms an unique ensemble with the latter. Eight high pillars divide the church interior into 3 naves. There are many valuable 16th-century wall paintings in Bernardine church and the oldest known artistic Lithuanian crucifix sculpture from the 15th century. The walls of the naves are decorated with Gothic polychrome frescoes: paintings that date from the early 16th century and are considered unique in the world - their composition and type of presentation of the subject matter belongs to Renaissance, and the style is Gothic. This church has many carved wood figures which are quite appealing. They give the church a very warm feel. The woodwork inside is absolutely fantastic. Note an old apple tree in the churchyard:
The Bernardine Monastery north of the church, was built simultaneously with the church, was renovated and reconstructed several times. There are artists, craftsmen and organists among the monks. The monastery was closed in 1864, and the building housed soldiers' barracks. In 1919 it was given to the art faculty of the university – now, the Art Academy. Tourists are offered two routes – the long and the short ones. The short route starts in the church and leads to the Chapel of St Florian (The Three Kings), along the corridor of the cloister, which is decorated with the newly uncovered frescoes, one gets into the Gothic courtyard, then the route runs to the presbytery – the monks’ choir, the underground crypt, the Gothic bell tower. And back to the church. The long route continues the short one – from the Gothic bell tower, along the spiral staircase you climb to the loft of the church from where a spectacular panorama of Vilnius opens. Then the route passes through the balcony of the church and leads back to the church.
With our back to St. Anne's Church and the Bernardine Church and Monastery - we turn LEFT (south) and walk 160 metres, along Maironio g., to see (on our left) the Adam Mickiewicz Monument. The sculptor is Henryk Kuna. The monument depicts Adam Mickiewicz leaning against a broken column. The entire composition measure 4.5 meters in height. Around the monument the first patriotic meeting that gave rise to the Independence Movement took place in 1987. Adam Mickiewicz is Polish. He studied at Vilnius university, worked in Kaunas as a teacher for some time. The Belorussians also think Adam Mickiewicz to be “their” poet. For Lithuanians it bears one more significance: at this monument first larger gathering of people in 1987 marked the beginning of independence movement. On August 23, 1987 the Lithuanian Freedom League held a rally in a square near the church and the monument of Adam Mickiewicz to protest the ongoing Soviet occupation:
With our back to Adam Mickiewicz Monument we turn LEFT and continue walking SOUTH along Maironio g. Turn LEFT (east) onto Malūnų g. and cross the Vilnia river:
Malūnų g. slights right and continues southward. It meets Užupio g. before it becomes Paupio g. Here, we took our lunch at Restoranas HEALTH. A neat, polite, budget and healthy portions accompanied by charming and helpful, young staff members. We liked our meal: 8 euros/person for Salmon + Salad + Black Rise + jar of water and dessert. Nearby there are several bigger and more famous restaurants (nearby are: Prie Angelo restaurant known for its potato pancakes and Sweet Root restaurant in Užupio g 22-1 with extravagant culinary reputation) - but, the HEALTH restaurant was recommended by the locals. Recommended by us as well. In the intersection of Malūnų g., Užupio g. and Paupio g. stands the Užupis Angel. A sculpture of an angel was placed in the central square of Užupis in 2002. The bronze angel, also created by sculptor Romas Vilčiauskas, has become the symbol of Užupis. Užupis, aside from being one of the most attractive Vilnius city regions is also an independent republic. Just like that. They even have a president and an extraordinary constitution which is followed by every citizen of the republic. Although it isn’t firmed by strict regime or any type of bureaucracy. The republic lives on because of the solidarity of the artsy, cheerful, free thinking people living there. Every republic needs a symbol of some sort. So a decade ago in the central square of Užupis a 9 meter high statue was born and, still, stands today:
This is the centre of the Republic of Uzupis with its own president and constitution. Artistic quirky area - bordered by a river on 3 sides. It is a nice statue surrounded by lovely buildings and restaurants. The whole small republic area is an 'hippy' enclave which we found interesting to wander around. Wandering around uzupis is great - many discoveries and arty things in many places.
A short detour in Užupis to see Vilnius panoramic view (350 m. walk from Angel of Užupis, Malūnų g.): one of the finest viewpoints across the Old Town and its countless spires can also be found in Užupis – and surprisingly few people know about it. From the Angel of Užupis statue, head up the hill and bear left where the road forks. Pass the excellent Šturmų švyturys fish restaurant and continue for another 200 metres. Venture behind the school on the left, passing a few garages, and climb the steps and grassy slope at the back to find the viewpoint at the top.
We continue walking along Paupio g. with our face to the south-east. On our right we see the Constitution of the Republic of Užupis (Užupio Respublikos konstitucija). A long wall on the right side of the Paupio Lane was chosen to host the world-famed constitution of the small republic. First plaques were Lithuanian and English, than – French, than (in 2002) translations into the Vilnius languages – Russian, Polish, Byelorussian (Georgian board also fall in the middle:)) and Yiddish, and from the 2009 plagues are unveiled yearly.
The constitution of in tens of languages:
We keep walking south-east along Paupio g. Several houses along this road are deserted. There is a famous, well-praised restaurant Paupio 12 (at Paupio g. #12), but it was closed during our day of visit (Monday):
We cross the Vilnia river again (our face to S-E):
In the end of the bridge over the Vilnia river - we turn RIGHT (west) along Aukštaičių g. - where the Vilnia river is on our right (hidden beyond the bush) and Kūdrų parkas and Tymo Market are on our left. This park (under reconstruction and maintenance) is one of the main gathering places of the Uzopian residents. Better, come here during the cool morning hours. During our visit, in the afternoon hours - there was nothing to see. All the market stalls were empty:
We turn RIGHT and return to Maironio g. walking back to th Old Town with our face to the north and Vilnia river on our right. Heading northward - we cross Išganytojo g., pass Rusų g. on our left. Before passing Šv. Mykolo g., on our left, we see the Church Heritage Museum (Bažnytinio paveldo muziejus) and Vilniaus Šv. arkangelo Mykolo bažnyčia on our left:
On the east side, on your right, is the Entrance to Užupis and a bridge over Vilnia river:
A couple is hanging over the Vilnia river:
A sculpture into the river, symbolizing a break-up:
We returned to the marvelous ensemble of St. Anne's Church and the Bernardine Church and Monastery accompanied by Adam Mickiewicz Monument - on our right:
Keep on walking northward along Maironio g. until its end and you see the Bernardine Park on your right. Combine the visit to the ensemble of Churches and Uzupis together with the view of the Bernardine Gardens or Park. The Bernadine Gardens (former Sereikiškės Park) are between the Bernardine Monastery (south) and the river (north) are also well worth a visit. Free admission. Open daily 7.00 – 22.00. Bernardine Gardens are situated between Gediminas Hill, the Vilnelė River and the Bernardine monastery. The restored park has regained its historic name, which was used from the end of the 15th century up until World War II, as well as its authentic appearance, which was designed by Vladislovas Štrausas in the 19th century. The park contains botanical and monastic expositions as well as authentic restored park elements, such as an alpinarium, a pond, Belvedere Hill, a central square, and paths along the Vilnelė River. Fountains have been rebuilt in their historical locations. There are also a rose garden, children’s playgrounds and a musical fountain. The botanical exposition includes plants sorted by groups and classes. There is a view of the Hill of Three Crosses. The oldest oak tree in Vilnius, at about 300 years, can be seen near the entrance on Šv. Brunono Street. The central square features a musical fountain which plays rhythms from popular classical and modern pieces. The Vilnia river, after which Vilnius was named, meanders around the edges. The park dates back to 1469, when Lithuanian Grand Duke Kazimieras invited the Bernardine monks to Vilnius. They established themselves at the south-eastern part of Gediminas Hill and built their monastery and gardens where the park is today. In the 18th century, the Vilnius University Botanical Garden was planted, and later, in 1870, three separate city gardens – the Botanical, Bernardine and Cathedral gardens – were linked into one park. It is a magnificent place. The Bernardine Park is very well maintained. The walk on the NORTHERN side of the gardens, along the Vilnia river (and, later, it surrounds the park from its east and south sides as well) - is fabulous. The gardens are fluent with fountains and sculptures - but, the main highlight is the river surrounding the park beds. From many spots of the Bernardine Gardens / Park and, especially, from its south-west corner - you can see the Three Crosses (Trys kryžiai) on the Hill of Three Crosses, originally known as the Bald Hill (Plikasis kalnas), in Kalnai Park:
Allow 1/2 hour of strolling in the depths of the Bernardine Park:
Exit the Brnardine Park in its south-west entrance, in the northern end of Maironio g. With your back to the south and face to the north - you see a small park on your left. Cross it DIAGONALLY (from south-east to north-west) - to arrive, straight-forward to the Cathedral Square in Vilnius ( Katedros aikštė). This is the main square of the Vilnius Old Town, right in front of the neo-classical Vilnius Cathedral. It is a key location in city's public life, situated as it is at the crossing of the city's main streets and reflecting the city's diversity. Regularly held at this site are fairs and gatherings of townspeople, military parades, religious and official public events, attractions and large concerts, New Year’s salutes and exhibitions. It is not merely the most lively and important location in the city, but is also one of the most significant and widely known symbols of Lithuania. But, after crossing the park - the first, white-washed building you see is the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (Nacionalinis muziejus Lietuvos Didžiosios Kunigaikštystės valdovų rūmai). The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the National Museum are near the Cathedral. The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is by far the best museum in Vilnius. The National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was founded in 2009 to collect, preserve, conserve, restore, research, interpret, and display in the restored historical residence of Vilnius Lower Castle the history and cultural heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its rulers, especially the rich and important collections of archaeological artifacts and European decorative and fine arts. It is so huge that it is divided into four trails. Each trail costs 2 Euros and if you have more than two hours for your visit, you can get a combined ticket for 6 Euros. The admission for pensioners was only 1.50 euros. Trail 1 features the ruins of the medieval castle and the history of Lithuania. Trail 2 features elegantly decorated period rooms and a special exhibit on two electors of Hanover who were also Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Trail 3 features armor and other aspects of medieval life. Trail 4, opened just recently, and features a special exhibit of 14th-17th century art from Florence to celebrate the links between Florence and Lithuania (note the huge posters in front of the Palace/Museum presenting this exhibition). You can spend over three hours here enjoying all of the exhibits. Great views from the top of the museum. There is currently (summer 2018) an exhibition of the Saxon dukes of Lithuania most of the exhibits coming from Dresden, superb collection. Lots of interesting things to see, can easily pass a whole day there. Allow at least 2-3 hours. Be prepared for tons of written information. Opening hours: SUN-WED: 10.00 - 18.00, THU-SAT: 10.00 - 20.00. Note: the 3rd floor might be under reconstruction and NOT accessible. Very loaded site with a huge (over-killing) amount of information and artifacts. We recommend tours 2 and 4:
Some history: Lithuania was first mentioned in a German manuscript, The Quedlinburg Chronicle, in AD 1009. The Grand Dukes of Lithuania had their residences at both the Lower and Upper Castles in the capital city of Vilnius. Until the turn of the sixteenth century, the primary residence of the grand dukes was in the Upper Castle, where even today the ruins of this Gothic Palace can still be found. The Vilnius castle was meant to stress Lithuania’s status as a medieval state that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Seas. In fact, Grand Duke Vytautas (1392–1430) had planned his royal coronation at Vilnius’s Upper Castle. Toward the end of the fifteenth century, it is believed that the Grand Duke Alexander Jagiellon (1492–1506) moved his residence from the Upper to the Lower Castle. Renaissance reconstruction of the palace was finished before the fire of 1530 during the reign of Sigismund the Old (1506–1548). Afterwards, Sigismund’s wife, Bona Sforza undoubtedly had a tremendous influence on the building’s further development. She succeeded in changing the palace into a modern European residence. It is believed that both the Italian architect, Bartolomeo Berrecci da Pontassieve, and the Polish architect, Benedykt Sandomierzanin, could have designed projects for the reconstruction of the palace. However, it is well known that the Italian artist, Bernardino Zanobi de Gianotis, worked on the palace. As the last of the Lithuanian Jagiellon dynasty, Sigismund Augustus (1548–1572) began to exercise control of Lithuania in 1544. During this time, he began new initiatives to expand the palace. A “New Palace” was attached to the earlier residence. Giovanni Cini, an Italian architect and sculptor from Siena, Giovanni Maria Mosca Padovano, Filippo Bartolomeo da Fiesole, as well as other well-known masters from Central European lands assisted with the new construction. The rulers of Lithuania and Poland during the Swedish Vasa dynasty were very concerned with the appearance of the Vilnius residence as they attempted to compete with the growing powers of Sweden and Moscow. After a fire in 1610, the palace was rebuilt in Northern Mannerist style. Peter Nonhart and William Pohl saw to the repairs. In the 1620s, the building acquired an early Italian Baroque features. At that same time, Saint Casimir’s Chapel was built next to the Cathedral. Efforts were led by the Italian architect, Constate Tencalla. He had worked before with the famous architect Carlo Maderno. The sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries can be referred to as a “golden period” for the palace. Emissaries from across Europe and even the Near East were received at the palace. Many historic events took place at the palace: Vassals of the duchies of Prussia and Courland would swear allegiance to the grand duke, policies of grand dukes were executed here, privileges were granted and treaties signed, Council of Nobles and Parliament convened, Lithuanian statutes were amended, Lithuanian Metrica and treasury were under guard, money was minted. By the time of Sigismund Augustus, the palace already could boast a large library, impressive tapestries, weapons, armor, paintings, as well as hunting trophies. The papal legate, Bernardino Buongiovanni, is even noted to have observed the palace’s treasure and jewels. The palace’s golden age came to an end in 1655, when the Russian army occupied Lithuania’s capital. For six whole years the army took residence in the palace, devestating and looting its premises. The palace again suffered in 1661, when efforts were made to rid the palace of its troops. As a result of the treasury’s mournful state, reconstruction of the palace was impossible afterwards. After the final partion of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania in 1795, the Russian Empire enforced a policy to destroy all signs of the Lithuanian state. From 1799 to 1801, the Russian administration initiated the demolition of the remaining walls of the palace. In 1831, when Lithuanians rebelled against the Russian government, Tsarist officials took additional steps to destroy the ruins of the palace and even attempted to demolish the foundation of the palace. Authorities agreed to establish on the hill, where the castle was situated, a fort and to dig a trench around it. Full-scale archeological research of the palace grounds started only in 1987. Since this time they have excavated over 300,000 different types of objects. In 2000-2001, the Lithuanian Parliament and the National Government agreed that the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania would be restored. The restoration also commemorated Vilnius as the European Capital of Culture in 2009. The reconstructed Palace of the Grand Dukes became a symbol of national pride and be a powerful reminder of Lithuania’s strong traditions as a state. The palace also became an educational center meant to promote a greater understanding of the country’s history while providing a venue for presenting cultural heritage:
The Monument to Grand Duke Gediminas (Paminklas LDK didžiajam kunigaikščiui Gediminui) is opposite (south to) the Palace of the Grand Dukes. The monument was created by the Lithuanian American Vytautas Kašuba and Mindaugas Šnipas, 1996. Besides being the founder of Vilnius and Trakai, Gediminas was also one of the most famous rulers of Lithuania. His fame can only be compared to the fame of his grandson Vytautas the Great. Gediminas lived between 1275 and 1341 and ruled the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for 25 years. He moved the capital of Lithuania from Trakai to Vilnius. According to the legend, he founded Vilnius at this place under the influence of his dream in which he saw an iron wolf howling on top of what is now known as the Gediminas hill. He was better known as a diplomat who attracted the attention of Europe to Lithuania than as a military chief. It was in the letters of Gediminas to Western Europe that the name of Vilnius was mentioned for the first time in 1323. This year is considered to be the year of the founding of Vilnius. Gediminas succeeded in expanding the state borders and the domain of influence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania far to the east and south. Under the rule of Gediminas, Vitebsk and Volyn were annexed while the lands of Kievan Rus fell into a vassal dependence of the Lithuanian Duchy. On their trip west, the army of Gediminas even approached Berlin. The area of the Lithuanian state doubled during the times of Gediminas. The bronze used for the monument was donated by Lithuanian border guards who confiscated it on the border. The marble sockle was a gift of the government of Ukraine, while the sculpture itself was cast free of charge in Tallinn:
Nearby is a magical place, a small stone (Stebuklinga plytelė Magical brick) marking the place where, according to a local urban legend, the human chain of Baltic Way was started linking Vilnius with Riga and Tallinn, an event that marked the beginning of national liberation of the Baltic States. It is said that if a person steps on this stone and turns around three times, his or her wish will be granted:
Vilnius Cathedral (Arkikatedra Bazilika) is 170 m. west to the museum. The cathedral itself is beautiful, but its treasure is its crypt. Take the tour and see the Royal Mausoleum, see what the archaeologists have discovered, and see the original floor of the church. Absolutely stunning Cathedral on the outside (6 pillars) and beautiful inside. On the roof of the cathedral, the three statues of St. Stanislaus, St. Helena and St. Casimir respectively embody Poland, Russia and Lithuania. They are copies dating back to 1997, the 18th century originals having been destroyed by the Soviets in 1950. The cathedral was the sacred building of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. The main facade is adorned with the sculptures of the four Evangelists, sculpted by the Italian Tommaso Righi:
The most impressive part of Vilnius Cathedral interiors - is the Chapel of St. Casimir (on the far right hand). The Chapel of Saint Casimir is a chapel dedicated to Saint Casimir in Vilnius Cathedral. The chapel was built in 1623–36 after Prince Casimir (1458–1484) was canonized as saint. It was built and decorated in the Baroque style by Italian sculptors and architects commissioned by Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. The centerpiece of the chapel is a marble altar which holds the silver sarcophagus with Casimir's remains and the painting 'Three-Handed St. Casimir':
The detached bell tower or Belfry is unusual. The height of the Bell Tower is 52 m, with the cross – 57 meters. In May-September, the Bell Tower will be open to visitors from 10.00 to 19.00 on weekdays and on Saturdays. In cold season – one hour shorter. Sundays - closed. Toilets which are free, can be found in the basement. In the 13th century the tower was part of the defensive wall. Almost all ground floor of the old tower has survived to the present day. In the 16th century the defensive tower became the Belfry of the Cathedral; it acquired its present appearance in the beginning of the 19th century.
The price for climbing the Bell Tower is 4.5 euros (for students and pensioners: 2.5 euros). The main problem is that the climbing up (on foot) is NOT easy. You have to climb on high, steep, wooden stairs. If you have the slightest chance of Vertigo - avoid visiting the Belfry ! There is a wooden railing in most sections of your climb - BUT NOT in every spot. Not for people with a fear of heights or those with mobility issues. We don't think the climb fits elderly people. The wonderful views are spoiled and cannot be photographed properly from the top because of metal netting over the windows. If you visit the Belfry at 17.00 - you'll climb the quirky wooden stairs with VERY LOUD ringings of the bells (might be very deafening). Not for everyone..... We think the views from St. John Church in Vilnius University are better: