Vilnius is a distant and mysterious city, lost in the middle of Europe. It is the city of myths and poetry. The city of spaces and contrasts, where forests make their way to the city center, while a still operating UNESCO protected century-old prison is just two minutes away from the Parliament.
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of about 600 000 (840, 000 together with Vilnius County). It is situated in southeastern Lithuania at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnele rivers, close to a site claimed to be the Geographical Centre of Europe (its location is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records).
Vilnius is a cosmopolitan city with diverse architecture. For centuries Vilnius has been called "The Jerusalem of the North" for its tolerance and multiculturalism. The same streets host Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, the biggest Eastern European synagogue was standing in Vilnius until the end of the WWII, and you can still spot pagan symbols on church crosses (Lithuania was the last European country to accept Christianity)There are 65 churches in Vilnius. Like most medieval towns, Vilnius was developed around itsTown Hall. The streets of the old town meander between palaces, churches, shops and craftsmen's workrooms. Narrow, curved streets and intimate courtyards developed in the radial layout of medieval Vilnius. Vilnius Old Town, the historical centre of Vilnius, is one of the largest in Europe (3.6 km²).
The most valuable historic and cultural sites are concentrated here. The buildings in the old town — there are nearly 1,500 — were built over several centuries, creating a blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is known as a Baroque city, there are buildings of Gothic (St. Anne's Church), Renaissance, and other styles. Their combination is also a gateway to the historic centre of the capital. Owing to its uniqueness, the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.
Uzupis is a district of Vilnius Old Town and home to many artists, local celebs, and even religious prophets. It’s often compared to Montmartre in Paris, with its citizens, their lifestyle and beliefs all contributing to the unfettled feel of the district, which seems like a cross between a Sixties hippy commune and a refugee camp.
In the past decades Vilnius has been rapidly transforming, and the town has emerged as a modern European city. Many of its older buildings have been renovated, and a business and commercial area is being developed into the New City Centre, the city's main administrative and business district on the north side of the Neris river.
Vilnius is alive city, full of cultural and night life, festivals and events. In 2009 Vilnius was buzzing with cultural activities as Euopean Capital of Culture, and continues to be culturally open today. Its Renaissance courtyards shelter modern art exhibitions and folk art fairs, Fluxus museums and relicts of the Soviet realism, monument to Frank Zappa and basketball hoops on a centuries-old church walls.
Vilnius University was founded in 1579 and has stayed the cultural center of Lithuania ever since. University professors have always been the key educators and politicians, treasurers of the cultural identity of the nation. The liveliness of the University's courtyards and silence of its vaulted classrooms provide the best atmosphere to grasp the ways of life in the Middle of Europe through centuries, to understand the values and mores wandering along the Eastern borders of the European Union.
Vilnius is also known as one of the greenest European capitals because of the abundance of trees and parks.