Vilnius might not be the most obvious choice for a girlfriend getaway, but we choose it anyway. My friends, because neither of them has ever been, and I, because I want to see if the city has changed much.
I first visited Vilnius in 1992, as part of a curiosity-fueled train-hopping holiday in the Baltics, shortly after the three countries’ independence from the Soviet Union. Back then, tourism was practically non-existent in Lithuania – and the rouble was still the currency.
20 years later, I withdraw litas from an ATM belonging to DNB, Norway’s largest bank – almost like being at home. Scandinavian banks seem to dominate the financial sector here. (The litas is pegged to the euro – about 3.5 to 1 – and euros are expected to be adopted as the official currency in 2015).
Grand Duke Gediminas had no patience with intruding Teutonic Knights. Surrounded by woods and wetlands, Vilnius afforded better natural protection, and so the capital was moved from Trakai. Vilnius is first mentioned in writing in 1323 as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The heart of Vilnius is the beautiful medieval Old Town, filled with monuments, museums and churches of various religions. Catholics, Protestants, Russian-Orthodox and Jews seem to live together comfortably in Vilnius.
Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Modernist architecture live comfortably together as well; all pastel pinks, yellows, blues and greens, in an aesthetically pleasing combination.
I’m surprised so many religious buildings survived Stalin and the Soviet years. It’s partly due to Lithuanian ingenuity, apparently. Locals were quick to convert churches to museums; one of them, St. Casimir’s Church, even served as the Museum of Atheism. The irony…
Cathedrals and monuments are interesting enough. Yet, it’s the cobbled courtyards, the ordinary houses, the little shops, cafes, the public art, and the lively everyday street scenes that hold my attention.
Vilnius has all kinds of quirky and interesting public art – in the self-declared Republic of Užupis, and outside. Whether it’s the touching sculpture of paediatrician and political activist Zemach Shabad…
…or a gallery of cheery tea pots embedded into walls.
Vilnius Historic Centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.
I loved my visit to Vilnius a couple of years back and still have the passport stamp from entering Uzupis that they were offering. It took me 2 days to find the modern part of the city after wandering all of the old part.
The quirkiest thing I found was a statue to Frank Zappa hidden off in a car park… Good times 🙂
Loved that unexpected Zappa statue 🙂
This statue ?
There is one for John Lennon as well in Vilnius:
I live here for 12 years already, it’s an amazing city !
Haven’t seen the John Lennon one. Cool!
Most definitely would not have thought of Vilnius for a getaway. I had no idea that there was so much colour and beauty in the city. Lovely photos – it’s the everyday street scenes that I like best as well!
Vilnius is a colourful city indeed.
Beautiful city… so colorful 🙂
It really is 🙂
Sounds like a very interesting – and exotic choice – at least from North America, for a girlfriend’s getaway. I love the idea of wandering the streets, sitting in a cafe or just walking with a camera in hand. One day I would love an epic trip on bike through this part of the world – starting in Norway.
Denmark seems to be the chosen country for biking holidays, since it’s so flat. A Nordic/Baltic trip would be great.
It’s interesting how we look at our ability to access money as a barometer of progress. Being able to do that makes life less hassle free, especially for visitors.
Ingenious how the Lithuanians preserved their churches. We’ve lost too much cultural and artistic landmarks through wars and upheavals.
It is interesting, your point about easily accessible money. Easy, convenient, and a yet it feels like something has been lost… I think convenience is overrated.
Sorry that should have been *many* cultural and artistic….
Love those teapots embedded into the walls. I haven’t heard many things about Vilnius but what a beautiful and charming town. What a wonderful choice for a getaway – off the beaten path with a lot of history and art.
Even here in Scandinavia, Vilnius has been the lesser known of the Baltic capitals. Although with all the Lithuanians coming here, that is changing.
Very compelling pics of Vilnius.I love the streets scenes, buildings and public art. Haven’t traveled in the Baltics yet, but hope to!
The Baltic countries are very accessible, so hope you do soon 🙂
We really wanted to visit Lithuania when we did Estonia but didn’t have time. A relative told me just the other day that her genealogy research traced to some ancestors who were Lithuanian so now I’m even more interested in going some day. Looks beautiful!
You’ll get new opportunities, I’m sure 🙂
Lovely snapshot Anne. I really enjoyed watching them. Although I have never been to Lithuania, it seems like a lovely and interesting country to explore. I really hope to make it there soon 🙂
Very close to Poland 🙂
Agness who would think we both have never been in Vilnius. We are Polish, it is so close! Ha ha ha I have never been there but would really love to just never enough time over summer 🙂
Hi Anne-Sophie – nice photos here and you have shown Vilnius in a different light. I was there this year and see it as a very under-rated and un-ventured city. Hardly another tourist in sight yet a wonderful place. I also loved the random Republic of Uzupis and got my passport stamped after crossing the border. Safe travels. Jonny