Eastern and Central Europe (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

(Ben Green) #1


For hotels and restaurants in this region see pp68–9

Western tower, the Upper Castle’s lone surviving structure

the Ducal Palace where
the grand dukes of
Lithuania resided and
other buildings that
stood at the foot of
Castle Hill and survived
the sieges of the 14th
century are known as
Lower Castle. In the
1520s, the palace
was reno vated in
Renaissance style by
Italian architects invited
by Sigismund the Old
(r. 1506–48) and his
wife. Destroyed by
Russians in 1802, the
Ducal Palace is being
rebuilt to provide
Vilnius with a symbol
of past glories. Once
com pleted, the build-
ing will hold a museum devo-
ted to the courtly culture of
Lithuania’s grand dukes.

Cathedral Square^2
Katedros aikštė

Map D2 & D3. @ 10, 11, 33.

The paving stones around the
Cathedral Square show the
outline of the wall around the
Lower Castle, a defence that
made Vilnius a 14th-century
bastion against the crusades.
At the square’s western end
is the Vilnius Cathedral Belfry,
which was originally part of
the fortifications. There was
also a western gate where
Vilnius Cathedral stands today.
The square’s eastern end is
domi nated by a statue of the
city’s founder, Grand Duke
Gediminas. Unveiled in 1996,
it conveys his predilec tion for
diplomacy over force. In the
square’s centre is a tile marked
stebuklas (miracle), reputed to
be the point from where the
Baltic Way, the human chain
linking Vilnius, Rīga and
Tallinn in 1989, started. Locals
believe that turning around
on the tile three times makes
wishes come true.

platform at the top provides a
panorama of the spires and
rooftops of the Old Town to
the south. A funicular from
the courtyard of the Applied
Arts Museum offers a ride to
the Upper Castle.
The stone buildings of the
western tower were built in
1419, and restored in the
1950s. According to leg end,
while on a hunting trip, Grand
Duke Gediminas dreamed of
an iron wolf howl ing from the
hills in the park. This, his
pagan priest said, was a sign
that a fortress should be built
there. As a result, wooden
upper and lower castles and
another one on the adjacent
Vilnius Cathedral Belfry, Cathedral Square hill were built.

Applied Arts
Taikomosios dailės

Arsenalo gatvė 3a. Map E2.
Tel (5) 262 8080. # 11am–6pm
Tue–Sat, 11am–4pm Sun. &

The 16th-century Old Arsenal
houses the Applied Arts
Museum, which hosts major
state-sponsored exhibitions on
topics relating mainly to the
history of Lithuania, the Grand
Duchy and sacred art.
One of the permanent
exhibitions in the museum
dis plays Lithuanian folk art
from the 17th to the 19th

Upper Castle^4
Aukštutinė pilis

Arsenalo 5. Map E2. Tel (5) 261

  1. @ 10, 11, 33. # 10am–5pm
    Tue–Sun. &

The oldest part of the Vilnius
Castle complex is the Upper
Castle built atop Gediminas
Hill. The western tower, the
only remaining part of this
com plex, which once included
defensive structures, is today
the symbol of indep endent
Lithuania. The viewing

Lower Castle^3
Žemutinės pilis

Katedros 3a. Map E2. Tel (5) 261

  1. @ 10, 11, 33. # call in
    advance for timings. 8 http://www.lvr.lt

Situated on the left bank of
Neris river, the Vilnius Castle
Complex consists of the Lower
and Upper Castles. Vilnius
Cathedral, the New Arsenal,

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