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Discover Medieval Vilnius Old Town

John Watson

A Postcard-Perfect City

Travelling and discovering new places has always been my passion. I find travelling truly rewarding, as one is always exposed to new sites and exciting adventures, meeting new people and learning something about their culture first hand. By the year 2003, I had covered most of the western European countries, but the eastern part was left undiscovered.

I learned about Lithuania for the first time from my friend who had just arrived back from his vacation in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. He was full of pleasant impressions, and affectionately described it as "a chocolate box city of three-story baroque buildings". At that time, I didn’t know anything about the country, except that Lithuania is one of the Baltic States which heroically gained its independence back from the former Soviet block in 1991.

I was looking for my next holiday destination and, instead of returning back to my favourite places, I decided to give Vilnius a go, which sounded just as charming and romanticas other places I had visited. I was also looking for something new, a refreshing break from some of Europe’s mass tourism destinations. In a couple of weeks, I flew to Vilnius.

My first impression of the town found it to be pretty, homely and somehow unpretentiously elegant. It isn’t exactly perfect for those who are looking for a big turbulent metropolitan city, which it isn’t. Vilnius’ charm lies in its medieval roots. Vilnius Old Town is one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Eastern Europe and, because of its numerous historic buildings, it is classified as a World Heritage site.

According to the history, in the Middle Ages, Vilnius was a blossoming city and one of the largest in Eastern Europe. The city was built during different centuries; therefore, you will find a blend of architecture, with baroque and gothic dominating. Examples include the whitewashed Vilnius Cathedral and its belfry, the medieval defense fortress, and the intricate Gothic Church of St. Anne’s, to name just a few - these all create a postcard-perfect town.

I found Vilnius Old Town undoubtedly the most charming part of the city. Quaint shops and cozy cafes set amongst a blend of intricate spires, domes and towers are some of the first images that come to my mind. I especially loved exploring the atmospheric lanes of the back streets, where you can absorb the true spirit of medieval Lithuania.

I also loved its charming restaurants and cafes tucked away in the pretty courtyards. Some of the restaurants are set in the old atmospheric cellars and carry medieval deco themes. The food is usually of a high quality, well-presented and is inexpensive for most European travellers. Overall, the city provides high standard restaurants, hotels and entertainment, yet everything here is affordable with low prices in comparison with Western European countries. This makes Vilnius even more appealing.

Last, but definitely not least, the laid back atmosphere and the welcoming attitude of the locals make the city even more pleasant. Especially in the warm season, the people of Vilnius love to spend as much time as possible outdoors, strolling along the Old Town streets and sitting at the lovely pavement cafes. Most of the people are welcoming and friendly to foreigners. Younger people, the majority speaking English, will gladly assist you with directions, help you if you are lost, and sometimes even recommend the best places in town.

All in all, Vilnius is a charming place to experience some living history while wandering among the medieval cobblestone streets; enjoying its diverse dining scene and elegant bars; and also getting to know its welcoming people. Although not fully discovered yet, the city is a refreshing and memorable desination!

Resources

Vilnius: Vilnius, Capital of Lithuania

Lithuania: Information about Lithuania on Wikipedia

Vilnius Old Town: Vilnius Old Town on Wikipedia

World Heritage Site: What is a World Historic Site?


John Watson is the publisher of a website called Welcome-to Lithuania (www.welcome-to-lithuania.com). He and his girlfriend share their travelling experiences in Vilnius and Lithuania, recommending accommodations, best restaurants, major attractions, bars and other useful travelling tips. Please note, anyone may copy and publish this article providing the author's website address at the bottom of the article.

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