This morning meet your guide in the lobby of your hotel for an overview tour of Vilnius Old Town, which boasts outstanding architectural diversity in one of the largest and best-preserved old towns in Europe. This UNESCO World Heritage site is filled with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces. Narrow medieval streets, secluded courtyards, town castles and fortifications and an incredible number of churches reflect the city’s rich and vibrant history.
You will see some of Vilnius’s beautiful churches and the Gediminas Castle Museum, which is part of the National Museum of Lithuania. The best place to start your tour of the city is from the top of the Gediminas Tower – the only remaining part of the Upper Castle overlooking the red-tiled roofs and the church towers of the Old Town, the cathedral, and the administrative buildings along the main avenue. The 14th century, three-storey octagonal brick tower houses a small exhibit of archaeological findings and the history of the castle which is one of the symbols of Lithuania’s independence. Other surviving buildings at the Castle Complex house offices of the National Museum of Lithuania and its archeology and numismatics departments, as well as the Museum of Applied Art.
You will also see the Cathedral Square – the main downtown square just in front of the Vilnius Cathedral. It is believed that in pre-Christian times, a Baltic pagan god was worshiped here before the Lithuanian King Mindaugas built the original cathedral in 1251 after his conversion to Christianity. Nowadays, it is the spiritual heart of the country where the coronations of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania once took place and many important historical figures are interred in the crypts and catacombs. Also here, you will see the Chapel of St. Casimir, where the remains of the Polish-Lithuanian prince Casimir and patron saint of both countries rest.
Just behind the Cathedral, the Royal Palace has been under re-construction since 2002. The original 15th-century palace was damaged by fire in the 17th century and remained unused for over a century. In the late 18th century Lithuania was annexed by Russia and the derelict palace was dismantled and the bricks and stones were sold. The grand opening of the new Royal Palace has been scheduled for July 2009.
This afternoon is at leisure to enjoy Vilnius.
Exeter Services: Half-day Guide
Hotel: Kempinski Cathedral Square