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The Gothic miracles of Vilnius

For many, the historic centre of Vilnius is the main attraction of Lithuania. Despite invasions, fires and partial destruction, the heart of this historic capital has preserved a fascinating blend of 15th- and 16th-century Gothic buildings. The artists, the boutiques and museums bring the buildings along the Neris River to life.

Over the course of centuries, the town centre of Vilnius has evolved into a place with an exceptional variety of buildings, even though the city has been devastated by fire 3 times. Lithuanians were able to quickly rebuild their churches. A large part of the Baroque attractions date back to the period after the last major fire. Although many of the original 41 religious buildings were destroyed in the wars against Russia and in the Second World War, plenty of beautiful structures can still be admired today.

Vilnius covered in snow
Vilnius covered in snow

Vilnius

Admiring Gothic and Baroque architecture

The Katedros aikštė, or Cathedral Square, is the very heart of Vilnius. Various architectural styles from past centuries come together in the Vilnius Cathedral and the Chapel of Saint Casimir. The Soviets used the church to display paintings, but since 1989 priests are once again holding daily mass. The highlight of the cathedral is the chapel. The frescos and sculptures around the saint’s silver coffin reflect the city’s wealth. The plaster work of the chapel is quite masterful, although it doesn’t immediately stand out.
Katedros aikštė

The free republic

Artists, dreamers and drunks have declared Užupis, in the old centre of the city, a mini-republic. Just across the access bridge where newlyweds hang a padlock, lies a neighbourhood filled with art, music, cafés and patios on the water. The sign by the border river, displaying a smiley and a Mona Lisa, indicates that you are entering the republic. The ‘constitution’ in 8 different languages is nailed to a wall near the central square and gives everybody the right to be unique, independent or in love. Browse the many art galleries packed with amber, art deco, vintage clothing and photography art. With a bit of luck, your visit may coincide with one of the whimsical national holidays. At New Year’s (on 21 March), locals burn old diaries. And the Day of the Constitution is celebrated on the 1st of April, of course.

The bridge to freedom and love