Travel publications have released their lists of top tourist destination for 2009. Among those locations that have been consistently included in these exclusive lists is the capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius.
What is so special about Vilnius, you ask? For one, 2009 marks the city’s designation as one of two European Capitals of Culture. This year begins Vilnius’ time to shine as it showcases its cultural life and development to the rest of the world. Located (officially) in the middle of Europe, Vilnius possesses both the charm of Old Town and a booming cosmopolitan metropolis.
The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is dotted with Orthodox and Catholic churches, as well as museums, public squares, monuments, parks, and even the splendid University of Vilnius (one of Europe’s oldest learning institutions). Vilnius’ beauty is further enhances by its picturesque setting, situated right at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnia rivers.
One popular landmark in Old Town is the Gedeminas Castle, which is named after the Medieval-period Grand Duke who founded the city. This impressive tower provides tourists an unrivalled view of Old Town Vilnius as well as the developing modern section on the right bank of Neris.
Beyond the Old Town lies Vilnius’ modern yet eclectic personality. Expect to find surprises on every turn, from a statue dedicated to psychedelic musician and compose Frank Zappa to a self-proclaimed independent republic inhabited by bohemians and artists to the remainders of Soviet Russia’s torture cells that slaughtered an entire Jewish community during the Second World War.
For the astute travelers who demand for the finest things in life, Vilnius is the Baltic States’ center of culture and learning where they can watch a packed program of events from classical music concerts at the Philharmonic Society Drama Hall to theatrical and dance performances at the Opera and Ballet Theater, Youth Theater, and Academic Drama Theater, to exhibits in seven art galleries.
Vilnius is slowly developing itself into a sophisticated city, with night clubs and bars glowing inside courtyards as well as a skyscraper skyline comparable to its Western European and Scandinavian cousins. Despite of all these, the city still retains its old charm as one strolls along the narrow, cobbled streets framed by medieval archways.