5 Best Sights in Vilnius, Lithuania
By Mark Mayo
Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania, once the largest country in Europe. With a rough history of wars, occupation and oppression (and that’s just the 20th century), it’s a city with much history, and one of the largest old towns in Europe. As such, there’s plenty to see and do. Let’s take a look at the top five sights of Old Town, Vilnius.
Various forms of a cathedral have stood here since 1251, with the current version since the 17th century. Look for the tile outside in the square with the word “Stebuklas” on it – it means “Miracle” in Lithuanian. Turning in a circle three times while standing on this is said to allow you to have any wish granted.
The Museum of Genocide Victims
Originally housing first the Gestapo and then the KGB, this building has many horrible stories inside, especially in the basement where many prisoners were tortured and executed.
A sobering but essential visit.
A bit of fun, this district unoffcially declared its independence as a seperate country in 1998, complete with its own army, constitution, president and flag.
Each year on April 1st, you can get your passport ‘stamped’ by border ‘guards’ and the area puts on a big party.
Three Crosses Hill
At the top of a hill in the park behind Gediminus Castle, it’s a lovely walk, especially at sunset. Originally a momument to seven Franciscan monks who were tortured for their faith, it now symbolises the importance of Christianity to Lithuania.
Three whitwashed crosses stand tall and look out over an amazing view of the city, and gives you a great chance to see just how big the old town is, and how many church towers stand around the place.
Churches, churches, churches
With at least 65 churches in Vilnius, it’s a very Christian town. From the memorable Gothic structure of St Ann’s, which Napolean has been said to want to take home to France, to the church of St John on the university courtyard, each has its own story, architecture and style.
A memorable, relaxed and beautiful city, Vilnius’s old town (including the Užupis district) was added to the UNESCO Heritage list, and is certainly worth a visit for anyone exploring central and northern Europe.