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Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, contains one of the largest surviving medieval quarters in Europe. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Old Town fascinates with almost two thousand medieval, gothic, renaissance, and baroque buildings. The clash of modern times with history creates a vivid background for visitors of this splendid city.
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The city’s Old Town, the oldest part of the city, is a stone paved labyrinth of parks, squares, bars, cafes and restaurants. The Old Town has developed over the course of many centuries, and has been formed by history as well as constantly changing cultural influences. The wide array of charming neoclassical and baroque churches, such as the Church of the Ascension is definitely worth seeing.
A distinctive trait of Lithuanian cuisine is the abundance of potato dishes. The most impressive of these are the zeppelin, large potato dumplings. Other traditional potato dishes are various types of kugelis (potato loaf) and potato salad, potato pancakes made from grated raw potato or boiled potato (sometimes – with a meat filling), and small potato dumplings with mushroom or berry filling. Fuel yourself for a tour of the city with kibinai, traditional pasties popular with the Karaite minority in the country.
The center is full of street art, literally around each corner. Small stickers, stencils, quotes or random graffiti are strewn around the place, all you have to do is step off the main street to see creative expressions in various forms.
Gates of Dawn
The Gates of Dawn is one of the most visited shrines in Vilnius that is famous not only in Lithuania but also abroad, worshipped by the representatives of other creeds too. This is the only surviving gate of the first original five gates in the city wall that was built between 1503 and 1522. The painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, in the Chapel of the Gates of Dawn is known worldwide.
Jewish history can still be seen throughout the capital, in the form of the Choral Synagogue, the Old Jewish Cemetery and the Flame of Hope sculpture, commemorating 90 percent of the city’s Jewish population killed in the Holocaust.
Festivals & Events
The summer Song and Dance festival, that takes place every four years is a celebration of traditional song and dance so impressive it’s included on UNESCO’s list of Intangible World Heritage. If that hasn’t convinced you, come and see it for yourself to experience the special festive atmosphere.
Vilnius is absolutely picturesque in the winter time, with its wonderful architecture capped in snow. The city takes Christmas very seriously. There’s the unveiling of its Christmas tree, the design of which is always a surprise and Christmas markets big and small offering goodies from all over Lithuania.