Top Historic Sights in Vilnius, Lithuania

Explore the historic highlights of Vilnius

Vilnius Cathedral

The Cathedral of Vilnius (Vilniaus Šv. Stanislovo ir Šv. Vladislovo arkikatedra bazilika) is the main Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lithuania and the heart of Catholic spiritual life in Lithuania. It is believed that in pre-Christian times, the Baltic pagan god Perkūnas was worshiped at the site of the cathedral. It has also been postulated that the Lithuanian King Mindaugas ordered the construction of the original cath ...
Founded: 1429 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was built originally in the 15th century for the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Royal Palace in the Lower Castle evolved over the years and prospered during the 16th and mid-17th centuries. For four centuries the palace was the political, administrative and cultural center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Soon after the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was incorporated into ...
Founded: 19th century | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

St. John's Church

One of the most picturesque parts of the Vilnius University is the St. John"s Church and its bell tower. The construction of the Gothic style church lasted for almost 40 years and was completed in 1426. In 1571 the church was transferred to the Order of Jesuits and became a part of the university complexes. Besides masses, the Church of Sts. Johns has also witnessed student protests, theatre performances, and welcom ...
Founded: 1386-1426 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Gediminas' Tower

Gediminas' Tower is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle in Vilnius. The first fortifications were built of wood by Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Gediminas. Later the first brick castle was completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas. Some remnants of the old castle have been restored, guided by archeological research. It is possible to climb to the top of the hill on foot or by taking a funicular. The tower ...
Founded: c. 1409 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius University

Vilnius University, established in 1579, is the oldest and the largest university in Lithuania. Nowadays it includes 19 academic subdivisions, almost 3000 employees and more than 23700 students in total. The Vilnius University is one of the most important educational institutions in Lithuania which has operated for more than 400 years already. As a part of Lithuanian history, it also distinguishes in owning some objects o ...
Founded: 1579 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

National Museum of Lithuania

The National Museum of Lithuania, established in 1952, is a state-sponsored historical museum that encompasses several significant structures and a wide collection of written materials and artifacts. It also organizes archeological digs in Lithuania. The museum consists of five main departments, although three of them are located close to each other to the Vilnius Castle Complex (into the New Arsenal, the Old Arsenal and ...
Founded: 1952 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius Town Hall

The town hall in Vilnius was mentioned for the first time in 1432. Initially it was a Gothic style building, and has since been reconstructed many times. The current Vilnius Town Hall was rebuilt in neoclassical style according to the design by Laurynas Gucevičius in 1799. It has remained unchanged since then. Its Gothic cellars have been preserved and may be visited. Nowadays it is used for representational purposes ...
Founded: 1799 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

St. Anne's Church

St. Anne's Church (Šv. Onos bažnyčia) is a prominent example of both Flamboyant Gothic and Brick Gothic styles. St. Anne"s is a prominent landmark in the Old Town of Vilnius that enabled the district to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The first church at this site, constructed of wood, was built for Anna, Grand Duchess of Lithuania, the first wife of Vytautas the Great. Originall ...
Founded: 1495–1500 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

St. Casimir's Church

St. Casimir’s Church was founded by the Jesuits and dedicated to Lithuania’s patron saint Prince Casimir Jagiellon (1458-1484). The construction of the glorious building began in 1604 and was completed in 1635. Burnt to the ground just 20 years later when the Russians invaded in 1655, conflagration visited twice again within the next century in 1709 and 1749 before the architect, mathematician and astronomer T ...
Founded: 1604-1635 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace (Prezidentūra) is the official office and eventual official residence of the President of Lithuania. The palace dates back to the 14th century and during its history it has undergone various reconstructions, supervised by prominent architects, including Laurynas Gucevičius and Vasily Stasov. In 1997 the palace became the official seat of the President of Lithuania. The Palace traces its ...
Founded: 1750 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Museum of Genocide Victims

The Museum of Genocide Victims, also known as KGB Museum, was established in 1992. In 1997 it was transferred to the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania. The museum is located in the former KGB headquarters across from the Lukiškės Square, therefore it is informally referred to as the KGB Museum. The museum is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting documents relating to the 50-year occupation ...
Founded: 1992 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Lithuanian Art Museum

The Lithuanian Art Museum was initially established in Vilnius in 1933 as the Vilnius City Museum. It houses Lithuania's largest art collection. The collections at the museum include about 2,500 paintings dated from the 16th to the 19th Century; these consist mostly of portraits of nobility and clergy of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and religious works from Lithuanian churches and cloist ...
Founded: 1933 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Orthodox Holy Spirit Church

The complex of the Holy Spirit church and adjacent monastery was established in 1567. The construction was ordered by the King of Lithuania-Poland Wladyslaw Vasa. By the end of the 16th century, a monastery, a school and a printing shop were situated next to the church. In 1749 the church was badly damaged by fire. After the reconstruction between 1749-1753 (made by architect January Kristof Glaubic) the church became th ...
Founded: 1567 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Gate of Dawn

The Gate of Dawn, a city-gate, was built between 1503 and 1522 as a part of defensive fortifications for the city of Vilnius. It has also been known as the Medininkai Gate, as it led to the village Medininkai south of Vilnius as well as Aštra broma, which derivative for the Lithuanian language word aštra meaning sharp. Of the nine city gates, only the Gate of Dawn remains, while the others were destroyed by ...
Founded: 1503-1522 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Verkiai Palace

Until the end of 14th century Verkiai was a property of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. There was a wooden manor even in 13th century. In 1387 Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila, on occasion of accepting Christianity, donated this place to Vilnius' Episcopate. Verkiai served as the permanent summer residence of Vilnius bishops until the end of 18th century. Verkiai Palace became widely known after bishop Ignacy Jakub Massalski ...
Founded: 1840s | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius Old Town

The Old Town of Vilnius, one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Central Europe, has an area of 3.59 square kilometres. It encompasses 74 quarters, with 70 streets and lanes numbering 1487 buildings with a total floor area of 1,497,000 square meters. The oldest part of the Lithuanian capital ofVilnius, it has developed over the course of many centuries, and has been shaped by the city's history and a constantly ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Saint Nicholas Church

Saint Nicholas Church is mentioned in document for the first time in 1387. In 1901-39 the Church of St. Nicholas was the only church in Vilnius where the mass was held in Lithuanian. By the same token it was a centre of Lithuanian culture (its famous dean Kristupas Čibiras was killed in 1942 during a bombing raid). After the World War II, the Cathedral of Vilnius was closed and the Curia of the Archdiocese of Vilnius wa ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Three Crosses

Three Crosses is a monument designed by Polish–Lithuanian architect and sculptor Antoni Wiwulski in 1916. It was torn down in 1950 by order of the Soviet Union authorities. A new monument designed by Henrikas Šilgalis was erected in its place in 1989. There has been three wooden crosses on the hill at least since 1636. The origins of the monument are explained in a fictitious legend, written in the Bychowiec Chronicle ...
Founded: 1636 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Bastion of Vilnius City Wall

The bastion is a Renaissance-style fortification and surviving part of the Vilnius Defensive Wall. It consists of a tower merged in the city defence wall, underground gun ports and a connecting corridor, which turns into a 48-metre long tunnel. The bastion was built in the first half of the 17th century by the German military engineer Friedrich Getkant. The Bastion was severely damaged during the wars with Moscow in the m ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

St. Peter and St. Paul's Church

St. Peter and St. Paul"s Church in Vilnius. Its interior has masterful compositions of stucco mouldings by Giovanni Pietro Perti and ornamentation by Giovanni Maria Galli of Milan, and is considered a Lithuanian Baroque masterpiece. It is believed that the first wooden church was built on this location after Jogaila"s conversion. It was rebuilt at the end of 15th century, but was destroyed by a fire in 1594. An ...
Founded: 1668-1676 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Radziwill Palace

Radziwiłł Palace is a Late Renaissance palace in the Old Town of Vilnius. It had been the second palace of Radziwiłłs by importance in Vilnius and the largest one. It is likely that Mikołaj 'the Black' Radziwiłł"s wooden Vilnius mansion was on the same site, but the current building was constructed by the order of Janusz Radziwiłł from 1635 until 1653, according to the design by Jan Ullrich. The building fell in ...
Founded: 1635-1653 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Orthodox Church of the Apparition

Built in 1903 and topped with several beautiful Neo-Byzantine cupolas, Church of the Apparition is one of the finest Russian Orthodox churches in Vilnius. Among the numerous icons hanging inside are potted plants that make the place feel really alive. Next to the icons are special prayers for each saint, but as everything in the church is written in Old Church Slavonic you’ll need a translator to help work them out. ...
Founded: 1903 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Slushko Palace

Slushko Palace was erected in 1690–1700 by voivode of Polock Dominik Słuszko of the Clan of Ostoja, who ordered creating an artificial peninsula on Neris for the purpose of building the palace there. The peninsula was formed from the soil of the leveled down hill separating Antakalnis from the Vilnius Castles. Initially the façades of the palace were unified by a giant order of Ionic pilasters framing hu ...
Founded: 1690–1700 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Sapieha Palace

Sapieha Palace is a High Baroque palace in Vilnius and the only surviving of several palaces formerly belonging to the Sapieha family in the city. The palace, ordered by the Great Hetman of Lithuania Jan Kazimierz Sapieha the Younger was built in Baroque style in 1691-1697 in the place of former wooden mansion of Lew Sapieha (who died here in 1633). The palace was designed by Giovanni Pietro Pertiand decorated with fresco ...
Founded: 1691-1697 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Rokantiskes Castle Ruins

Rokantiškės Castle was located east of Vilnius on a high hill near the Vilnia River. First castle was built in 12th century. In 16th century, it was rebuilt in the Renaissance style and has been the seat of the Olshanski family. Alexander Olshanski, Yuri Olshanski and the last family member Pawel Olshanski have lived there. After his death the castle was inherited by Bona Sforza and later passed to the Pac fam ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Paneriai Memorial Museum

Between July 1941, and August 1944, approximately 100,000 people of whom over half were Jewish were murdered at this site by the Nazis and a hotpotch of willing Lithuanians from such sinister organisations as the Ypatingasis Būrys (Vilnius Special Squad). A traumatic but necessary part of any Jewish-related visit to Lithuania, find several monuments and the remains of the pits where the victims were burned. The typi ...
Founded: 1941 | Location: Vilnius, Lithuania

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.