Explore Vilnius, a beautiful and captivating city, that will have visitors fascinated with its historic old town, enticed by its many modern bars and restaurants, and intrigued by its dark history. Read more...
Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, has had a tumultuous history since its founding in the 14th century. Legend has it the Gediminas, a Lithuanian duke, dreamed of an iron wolf atop a hill and when he consulted a pagan priest, he was told that the iron wolf was the castle and the hill was the city that he was to establish as the capital of Lithuanian lands. And so, Vilnius was born.
Today it is a traveller's paradise, combining old world charm with hundreds of interesting cultural attractions, artists workshops and stunning hilltop views - not to mention the cleanest and healthiest drinking water in Europe and exceptionally fast wifi!
The Old Town of Vilnius is one of the largest in Europe and is UNESCO heritage listed for its amalgamation of Gothic, Renaissance and most prominently, Baroque architecture. The cobbled streets of the Old Town hold in memoriam the rapid growth and development of Vilnius in the 1500s, with an influx of migrants of many different language groups. Napoleon dubbed the town the 'Jerusalem of the North' for its large Jewish population in 1812 and pre WWII, it was commonly known throughout Europe as the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
WWII and the subsequent annexation to the Soviet Union proved devastating for the city's population and culture, with more than 95% of the Jewish population being killed by Nazi Germany and Lithuanian sympathisers, while the KGB had well established torture cells in the city. Since Lithuania declared its independence in the early 1990s, the city has attempted to move beyond its dark past and has invested in new restaurants and cultural sites, restoring the Old Town and establishing many museums.
Take a guided tour of the Royal Palace and Castle Complex , including the Gediminas Tower; the Cathedral Square; the Palace of Grand Dukes of Lithuania; the remains of several medieval castles; the National Museum of Lithuania; and the Lithuanian Art Museum. At the Museum of Genocide Victims, visitors can learn more about the city's tragic contemporary history.
Next to the Old Town is the once poverty stricken suburb of Užupis. Today, Užupis is a bohemian artists colony with galleries, artists' workshops and many design and craft markets to explore. During Soviet times, this suburb was unsafe and the 'dumping ground' for anyone who bucked the trend - now the main square has a statue of an angel blowing a trumpet to symbolise artistic freedom.
Vilnius is encompassed in our Refined Baltics, Classical Baltics and Beautiful Baltics tours, while Bentours also offers a number of day trips out of Vilnius. Explore the nearby Trakai, a 15th century Gothic castle built on an island in Lake Galv or Kaunas, the former capital of Lithuania that offers impressive monasteries, cathedrals, the Devil's Museum, the Fort Museum and a city zoo.