Vilnius is one of several European capital cities at the crossroads between West and East, South and North. This special position is reflected not only by the variety of its architectural styles, but also by the spirit of the city. Tranquil streets of the Old Town abut onto the remnants of the city’s defensive walls and castles, which provide panoramic views of the city’s churches of various styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Classic, and Baroque. These stand alongside noblemen’s mansions of different eras, while buildings of the modernist and socialist realism era are overshadowed by modern skyscrapers.
Vilnius is Lithuania’s capital and also its most important city. It is the seat of Lithuania’s major institutions: the Seimas (Parliament), the Presidency, the Government, the Bank of Lithuania, the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Court. The population of Vilnius is just over half a million (554,000). The heart of Vilnius is built around certain hills, including one that is home to the basic architectural symbol of Lithuania – the tower of Gediminas’ Castle. Vilnius hides a host of surprise discoveries, something for everybody: all different and unique.
Vilnius is currently one of the most visited cities in Eastern Europe. In 1994 the Old Town of Vilnius was included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage List. But Vilnius is attractive not just for its unique architecture. At any time of the year there is a variety of events taking place of various scope and format in the cultural, music, cinema, theatre, and art fields, including fashion festivals. Among the plethora of restaurants, bars, cafés and clubs of different styles, every guest will find something that he/she wants to return to again more than once in the future.
Vilnius is the kind of city that one always wishes to return to.
The legend of the founding of Vilnius
This legend relates to Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania whose monument stands in Cathedral Square.
Grand Duke, Gediminas, was on a hunting trip in the forests of Šventaragis valley around the mouth of the River Vilnia. When night fell, the party, feeling tired after a long and successful hunt, decided to set up camp and spend the night there. While he was asleep, Gediminas had an unusual dream in which he saw an iron wolf at the top of the mountain where he had killed an European bison that day. The iron wolf was standing on the top of a hill with its head raised proudly towards the moon, howling as loud as a hundred wolves. Awakened by the rays of the rising sun, the Duke remembered his strange dream and consulted the pagan priest Lizdeika about it. The latter interpreted the dream as follows: ‘Let that happen to the Ruler and the Lithuanian State what was fated to happen!’ He told the Duke that the dream was a direction to found a city among these hills. The howling of the wolf, explained the priest, represented the fame of the future city: that city will be the capital of Lithuanian lands, and its reputation would spread far and wide, as far as the howling of the mysterious wolf…’ So the Grand Duke of Lithuania, obeying the will of gods, immediately started to build the future capital, and took it the name – Vilnius – from the stream of the rapid Vilnia.
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