Vilnius is a charm troll of a city. The time when Norwegians could barely place Vilnius on the map and dismiss Lithuania as a gray and sad eastern bloc country is fortunately changing. Instead, more and more are catching the eye for this charming city, which actually has Eastern Europe’s largest medieval building with over 1500 buildings of Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture.
Every year, Vilnius takes an increasing share of Norwegians’ weekend trips to Eastern Europe.
One of Vilnius’s sister cities is actually Oslo, and who had predicted in advance that Vilnius would be the first city in the world to erect a bust of the late American rock musician Frank Zappa, right in the center?
The Old Town is undoubtedly Vilnius’ biggest attraction, but also bring with you the old Jewish quarters and the remains of the Stalinist monuments. Not far outside Vilnius you can visit ancient castles, beautiful scenery and spa centers. All of which has contributed to attracting all kinds of tourists, both families, couples and singles here to experience the city that hardly seems to have changed at all over the last two hundred years.
You can travel to Vilnius all year round, but remember that the seasons are very similar to those we have here at home.
Get to know Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of one of Europe’s youngest states, Lithuania, which gained its independence as late as 1991. This came after a few dramatic months when the demand for freedom seemed to lead to a full Soviet invasion, and several lost their lives the battles for the TV tower in Vilnius. Around 550,000 of Lithuania’s 3 450,000 inhabitants live in Vilnius, and about 40% of these are Poles, Russians or Belarusians.
Vilnius is located in southeast Lithuania, only a few miles from the Belarusian border, where the Neris and Vilnia rivers meet. The downtown areas are relatively flat and compact, and you get around easily on foot in most places. Vilnius is well signposted in English, with arrows pointing to the various attractions, and you will hardly need a city map once.
- Abbreviation: VNO
- Country: Lithuania
The old town of Vilnius
The natural center of Vilnius is naturally the Old Town (Senamiestis), which is centrally located on the south side of Neris and west of Vilnia. The entire Old Town is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, and for good reason. This is one of the largest and most beautiful medieval cities in Europe, with a number of Gothic-style, Baroque and Renaissance-style buildings. Here are most of the tourist attractions such as the Cathedral, Vilnius Castle and the magnificent Gothic St. Anne’s Church (Sv Onos Baznycia). The Old Town is also the center of Vilnius nightlife with its many bars and nightclubs.
Uzipio – an independent republic in Vilnius
East of Old Town and Vilnia you will find the district of Uzipio, which a group of artists and bohemians have more or less blatantly declared as an independent republic, with its own flag, constitution and president. Occasionally you may be stopped on the bridge over Vilnia by quasi-border guards who jokingly demand to see and stamp your passport. Uzipio was originally home to the city’s many Jews, but these disappeared during World War II, and Soviet forces destroyed the Jewish cemetery. After Lithuania’s independence, the area has flourished as a bohemian area, and today you will find many cafes, galleries and studios here.
We also have to mention in particular Gediminas kalnas, the 50 meter high and steep hilltop north of the Old Town. From the top of this, Lithuania’s red, yellow and green flags are waving, and here are the remains of the once so majestic Vilnius castle. The 20-meter-high red brick tower that still stands here dates back to the 13th century, and the area is ideal for enjoying the sunset and views of Vilnius’ tower and spire.
It used to be the center of power in the region, but today only Vilnius castle museum can show you objects and models from the castle’s heyday.
The traffic hub of Naujamiestis
To the west and southwest of the Old Town lies the “new” district of Naujamiestis, which was largely built in the 19th century. This is where most of the state and administrative buildings are located, such as the Parliament and the National Library. If you are planning trips out of Vilnius by public transport, you probably have to come here. Both the train station and the main bus terminal are located here.
Karoliniskes with the TV tower in Vilnius
In the western district of Karoliniskes lies the 325-meter-high TV tower, which in 1991 became the scene of fierce fighting between Soviet forces and Lithuanians who demanded their independence, and 12 people were killed. The tower has a restaurant with fantastic panoramic views, and the most adrenaline-fueled can throw themselves into Europe’s tallest bungee jump. The surrounding area is otherwise of little interest to tourists, with gray, tall blocks of housing from the Communist era.
The business district sniped and fashionable Zverynas
North of the Neris River lies the new business district Snipiskes. Here you will find the Europa Tower shopping center and a number of new skyscrapers, and on the 22nd floor of the Reval Hotel Lietuva is a popular bar with great views of Vilnius. In the main street of Kalvarijos every morning, the city’s largest and liveliest market is organized, and if you don’t mind hordes of cackling old wives or pirates, it’s much cheaper to find here.
West of Snipiskes, where the river Neris runs like a big U, we find the more fashionable district of Zverynas with its mean streets, square quarters and aristocratic background history. The area is mostly residential, and quiet and quiet despite a short distance to the city center. Further west are the large green areas of Vingis Park and Karoliniskiu Park.
The Jewish Quarters of Vilnius
Vilnius had long been one of the most important Jewish communities in Europe, with nearly 100,000 Jewish residents, over a hundred synagogues and six Yiddish daily newspapers. During World War II, the Nazis worked mercilessly here, and incredible massacres took place in the notorious Paneriai forest, outside Vilnius.
Today, Jewish Quarters is a pleasant area to stroll around, but the Holocaust Museum also gives you a reminder of the atrocities that took place 65 years ago.
Facts about Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania and the country’s largest city. Vilnius is known for its medieval architecture and the Old Town is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
|Official languages||Lithuanian. Many also speak Russian or Polish.|
|Religion||Protestant Russian Orthodox|
|Time Difference||Lithuania is one hour ahead of Norway.|
|Currency||10 Lithuanian litas equals around 23 Norwegian kroner. Visa and Mastercard are accepted in most places. ATMs are available almost everywhere.|
|Tips||Usually to give 10-15% in tips on dining and in taxis.|
|Embassy||The Embassy of Norway is located in Mesiniu 5/2. Tel: +370 5 2610 000.|
|Tourist||Vilniaus gatve 22, and in the town hall of Didzioji gatve 3|
|Electricity||220/240 volts as in Norway.|
|Holidays and Holidays||February 16, March 11 (National Day), June 24, July 6, August 15, November 1.|
|Visa||Not required for Norwegian citizens|
|Vaccinations||No vaccines are required.|
|Water||It is not recommended to drink from the tap.|
|Nearest major cities||Kaunas, Klaipeda, Siauliai, Panevezys.|
List of Vilnius Acronyms
The most commonly used abbreviations about Vilnius is VNO which stands for Vilnius. In the following table, you can see all acronyms related to Vilnius, including abbreviations for airport, city, school, port, government, and etc.