The fast-growing capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, is the largest city in the country and an important scientific, cultural and sports center, especially for basketball. Green areas such as parks and forests cover a surprisingly large area of the city, approximately 44%. The old city is an architectural wonder and each year attracts thousands of visitors. In recent years, the Old Town was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
There is an adage that says: ‘’if you want money, go to Lodz, and if you want wisdom go to Vilnius’’. Well, in the city, Jews had free trade and studied at Vilnius University and also in numerous Talmudic schools. There were newspapers, schools, Jews’ libraries and religious life flourished. In 1939 Vilnius had 105 synagogues and prayer houses and Jews formed about 30% of the population. Only 2000-3000 of all Jews survived the Second World War.
Vilnius was once the capital of the last pagan country in Europe and has the emblem of the city, depicting St. Christopher and special protector - the Virgin Mary Gate of Dawn, whose image, is in a small chapel near the Gate of Dawn. A legend says that the city was founded by Duke Gediminas, when he had a dream where he saw a wolf of iron. In fact, the first settlement was founded by the proto-Baltic, but has flourished under the leadership of Gediminas. He sent letters, inviting artisans, merchants and clergy from Western Europe in Vilnius, promising them privileges and mentioning two Catholic churches in the city. Latin letters in 1323 are the first written evidence of the existence of the city.
Many of the buildings in the city have witnessed the country's history. On the Castle Hill you can see Gediminas Tower, which was part of the Upper Castle of the Dukes Lithuanians. At the base of the hill, near the cathedral is Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, which was rebuilt in 2009. The city also hosts the headquarters of the Presidential Palace and other public institutions.
Churches in Vilnius represents many architectural styles, combining Gothic style with classic style but Baroque remains the most popular style in the city. There was even a version called ‘’Baroque Vilnius’’, as exemplified by the church of St. Peter and Paul, in Antakalnis district.
The climate is warm most of the summer rains and January is the coldest month, with average temperatures around - 3.5 degrees, July is the hottest month with average temperatures between 12 degrees Celsius and 22 degrees Celsius.
The main shopping areas in Vilnius can be divided into two halves of the Old City (antiques, amber, old and new books and some nice artwork) and in parts of the city's most stylish streets, Gedimino (designer clothes, mobile phones and all kind of shops). There are several big shopping centers: Europa, Panorama, Ozas and Akropolis.
Nightlife in Vilnius is quite doubtful, as in any countries, you should be careful when you choose a club / bar / cafe / restaurant and how you leave valuables such as phones, tablets, wallets or other personal items. Options to spend nightlife are diverse, ranging from quiet places to an extremely dubious, all for who dare or afford it.
Places that would be nice to see
The most popular ingredients used in Lithuanian cooking are such as: potatoes, barley, rye, greens, beets, berries and mushrooms and you need to know that everything is grown locally, so it is a sort of bio food. try potato pudding (kugelis) or potato sausages (vėdarai), mashed potatoes with minced meat (cepelinai) and the baroque tree cake known as Šakotis, is so delicious. Be aware that their food is quite heavy.
Travelling outside of Vilnius
- Trakai - A very worthwhile day or half-day trip, home to five peaceful lakes and two castles. Buses leave often from the central bus station, cost a few Lits and take about 40 minutes. Trains depart a few times a day.
- Kernavė – Is the medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – in UNESCO World Heritage Site.