Vilnius city municipality

  Administrative centre – Vilnius
  Area – 401 km² (4.1 % of the county’s area)
  Population – 555 733 (65.5 % of the county’s population)
  Wards – Antakalnis, Fabijoniškės, Grigiškės, Justiniškės, Karoliniškės,   Lazdynai, Naujamiestis, Naujininkai, Naujoji Vilnia, Paneriai, Pašilaičiai,   Pilaitė, Rasos, Senamiestis, Šeškinė, Šnipiškės, Verkiai, Vilkpėdė, Viršuliškės,   Žirmūnai, Žvėrynas

Vilnius city municipality includes Vilnius – the capital and the biggest city of Lithuania, the centre of Vilnius county, district and city municipality. It is also a bishopric centre, since 1579 – university city. The geopolitical situation of the city is very favourable. The city grew on the Aukštaičiai and Medininkai uplands, by the navigable Neris River, and soon found itself at a crossing of trade routes. Moreover, in the Middle Ages, it was rather far from the attacks of the German Order, and therefore had more favourable conditions for cultural and economic development.

Vilnius city is characterised by picturesque nature – it is crossed by the rivers Neris and Vilnelė, there are Žalieji lakes, Pavilniai and Verkiai regional parks, Kairėnai Botanical Garden, Vingis Park, enclosed in the loop of the Neris River, and Sereikiškės Park, located in the very heart of the city, between the Gediminas Castle Hill, Vilnelė River and Bernardinai monastery. Forests make up as much as 35.6 %, built-up area – 34.8 %, roads – 4.8 %, water bodies – 1.5 %, agricultural land – 20.7 %, other land – 2.6 % of the municipality.

People already inhabited the current territory of the city as far back as 12 thousand years ago. In the 13th century, settlements situated by the rivers of Neris and Vilnia merged to form a town, which acquired a name of the Vilnia River. The name of the town became known to Europe in 1323, when the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas sent out European governors, monasteries and merchant guilds letters whereby he invited craftsmen, merchants, clerks and other workpeople to Vilnius. In 1387, the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila, after townspeople had been baptised, granted Vilnius (the first town in Lithuania) Magdeburg rights. In the 14th century, the first cathedral school in Lithuania was opened in Vilnius. In 1552, the first printing house in Eastern Europe of P. Skorina was put into operation. In the 16th century, Vilnius became a centre of humanistic culture of Eastern Europe. In 1570, the Jesuits, invited to the town, established their school – a college, in 1579 – Vilnius University (which was first referred to as an academy). After the third division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Vilnius, together with almost the entire Lithuania, went to the Russian Empire and became the centre of the province (generalgubernija) of Lithuania, later – the centre of Vilnius province (gubernija).

With the outbreak of World War I, part of industrial enterprises was moved to Russia. At the beginning of the 20th century, Vilnius became the centre of the national revival in Lithuania. In 1918, in Vilnius, the Council of Lithuania proclaimed the restoration of the Independent Lithuania with a capital in Vilnius city. In 1920, as Poland occupied Vilnius region, the capital of Lithuania was moved to Kaunas. In 1939, Vilnius was returned to Lithuania. The city was greatly damaged during World War II, particularly at the end thereof. From 1944 to 1990, Vilnius was the capital of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, while from 1990, after the restoration of independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Lithuania.

Cultures of different nations and directions coexist in Vilnius city, whereas the city from the very beginning of its existence has been a city of multiple cultures. Activities of Vilnius city in the sphere of development of good neighbourhood and civil society were awarded a UNESCO Cities for Peace Prize, and in 2000–2001 Vilnius was acknowledged as a city for peace in the European and North American region.

Today Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, gains increasing importance as a cultural, economic, political centre of the European Union. There is the institution of the President of the Republic of Lithuania (presidential palace), Seimas (Parliament), Government, foreign embassies, other important national and international institutions and organisations. There are 11 universities (Vilnius, Vilnius Gediminas Technical, M. Romeris, Vilnius Pedagogical universities, Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius Academy of Art, and others), 8 colleges. There is the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. There is the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Lithuanian National Drama Theatre, Youth Theatre, Russian Drama Theatre, Keistuolių teatras (The Odd Men Theatre), and other theatres, the National Philharmonic; the Lithuanian National Museum, History and Ethnography, Applied Art museums, Lithuanian Art Museum, Museum of Genocide Victims, Gediminas Castle and many other museums. There is a high concentration of biggest Lithuanian dailies, magazines, TV and radio desks, publishing houses, etc.

There are about 1200 cultural monuments. It is true to say that the Vilnius Old Town, included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is a museum itself. It is one of the largest (360 ha) old towns in Europe. A network of narrow streets (Antokolskis, Subačiaus, Pilies, Volano, Rūdninkų, Mėsinių, Vokiečių, Šv. Jono, etc.) formed in the Middle Ages, residential and other buildings of distinctive architecture communicate the medieval spirit.

Vilnius is not only a political and cultural, but also an important transport and industrial centre. The city is crossed by important international highways and railways, there is an international airport. Manufacture of industrial structures, food, garment, biochemical, timber industry, manufacture of furniture, precision instruments, etc. prosper there. Industry is developed on the basis of innovations and highly qualified human resources. The Vilnius of today is the most rapidly developing and modernising capital in the Baltic States, laying claim to become the most attractive centre for business, political and cultural meetings and events. The city is characterised by a well-developed service and recreational infrastructure – there are many accommodation, catering, leisure establishments.

The towers of churches – the Vilnius Cathedral (with the chapel of St Casimir, where his remains are buried) and a belfry in the Šventaragis Valley, the churches of the Assumption, St John the Baptist and St John the Apostle and Evangelist, St Casimir, St Anne, St Michael – rise in the old town as shining pearls. Away from the old town, in Antakalnis quarter, there is another chef-d’oeuvre – the Catholic church of Sts Peter and Paul the Apostles. Many prayers from Lithuania and abroad visit the church of St Therese in the Aušros Vartai (The Gates of Dawn) chapel with the wonderworking icon of St Mary the Virgin. There is a residence of the Metropolitan Bishop in Vilnius. Original architecture and inner decoration is characteristic of the Orthodox church and the monastery of the Holy Spirit. In the Rasos and Antakalnis cemeteries, the most famous cultural figures of Lithuania are buried.

Every guest of the city tries to see the old Town Hall, Verkiai mansion and park, the ensemble of Vilnius University with courtyards, the Old and the New Arsenals, Alumnatas, the house of Jonušas Radvila (Janusz Radziwiłł), Sapiega, Tyzenhauzas, Ogiński, Chodkevičius, Sluškas and other representatives of the nobility in Pilies street (currently – the House of the Signatories) from the balcony whereof in 1918 the Independence of Lithuania was proclaimed, Vilnius Sports Palace and Opera and Ballet Theatre (20th century). Not seeing the Royal Palace and not climbing up to Gediminas Castle means not seeing the city at all. It is worth having a look at Vilnius and the surroundings from the highest structure (326 m) in the Baltic States – the Television and Radio Tower, which in 1991 was defended against the Soviet tanks by unarmed people. On the right bank of the Neris, one can enjoy the views of the new Vilnius architecture.

The best Lithuanian stage directors in Europe – Eimuntas Nekrošius, Oskaras Koršunovas, Rimas Tuminas, and others – work in Vilnius. Various cultural events, festivals, celebrations (both open-air and taking place in halls and various unconventional spaces) take place there; these are the Kaziukas Fair, Vilnius Book Fair, Cinema Spring (Kino pavasaris), Poetry Spring (Poezijos pavasaris), Vilnius Festival, Vilnius Jazz. The Christopher Summer Festival (Kristupo vasaros festivalis) is not only a music, but also a carnival, fair, firework festival, continuing throughout July and August; in the course thereof, one may enjoy various music – from old to electronic, from ethnic to experimental. The Capital Days (Sostinės dienos) is the greatest celebration of Vilnius city, whose events – concerts of modern bands, street theatre performances, movie shows, acrobats’ and improvised performances – flood the city at the end of August and beginning of September. This open-air festival traditionally takes place on the Gediminas Avenue, Cathedral and Savivaldybės squares, Vingis Park, in the courtyard of the Vilnius Teachers' House (Vilniaus mokytoju namai).

In 2009, Vilnius will be the first city of the new EU Member States, together with an Austrian city of Linz, to become the European capital of culture. Cultural events related to this occasion – Art in Unconventional Spaces (Menas netikėtose erdvėse), World Music Days (Pasaulio muzikos dienos), Live History Programme (Gyvosios istorijos programa) – already take place in the city.

Useful links
Vilnius city municipality
Vilnius International Airport
Vilnius tourism information centre
Vilnius Ethnic Culture Centre
Vilnius county Adomas Mickevičius public library
Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania