Belmontas is nowadays a recreation and entertainment centre just outside of the city. In the 14th century this area used to be a mill complex, which was run by French aristocrats.
All buildings were beautifully restored and now many of them house restaurants, bars or cafes. They are often used for wedding receptions.
On a stroll along the river and through the adjacent forest one can discover water falls, several bridges, fountains and the historic authenic buildings.
We visited Belmontas with VT member Raimix who drove us here and also showed us around. At the end of our visit we had a drink and a snack at the Joana Carinova's Inn Restaurant, where I had tasty Potato Pancakes with a bacon crisps sauce for 11,90 Litas.
Belomontas is situated about 5 km east of Vilnius' city centre, somewhere east of the Uzupis district. As far as I know it can't be reached by public transport, so you have to either go by taxi or have a VT friend who takes you there.
Most of Vilnius' churches and main sights are beautifully illuminated at night; especially around the touristy city centre.
So a stroll in the darkness is highly recommended, especially when the weather during the day was grey.
Among the well worth seeing buildings at night are first of all the Cathedral and the belfry, but also the St. Catherine's Church, St. John's Church, St. Casimir Church as well as the building of the National Philharmonics are well worth seeing at night.
Uzupis is a bohemian district of Vilnius where, since the last couple of years, artists dreamers and writers have settled down. During Soviet times it was one of the most run down areas in the city, with many buildings in decay.
After Lithuania's independence, Uzupis also declared itself as an independent republic (Uzupio Respublika) with its own constitution. The people of Uzupis even celebrate their unofficial independence day on the 1st of April.
The most famous sights in the district are the mermaid statue by the river and the Uzupis Angel at the main square, but you definitely shouldn't miss having a closer look in some of the courtyards of the run down houses.
Unfortunately there are already rumours that Uzupis will sooner or later be turned from an alternative to a trendy district. So better visit it right now ...
Uzupis is located on the Eastern side of the Vilnia river, therefore the name of the district is literally translated as "on the other side of the river".
Vilnius is also called "City of Churches" due to the fact that you can find about 40 churches of different architectural styles in the central part of the city.
On our trip we visited quite a few of these churches. I have listed them under "Things to do", but there were some more churches which we had a quick look at.
Among them were:
The Church of the Holy Mother of God is a gothic-style orthodox church which underwent several renovations since its construction in the 14th century. It also served as university building, barracks, warehouse and even a smithery. Location: Maironio gatve 12
The oldest Baroque Church in Vilnius is the St. Casimir Church which was founded in 1604 by the Jesuits. During the Soviet occupation it was used as the museum of atheism. Location: Didzioji gatve 34
The white St. Bartholomew Church is a Catholic church which was built in its current style in the early 19th century. It can be found in Vilnius' Uzupis district.
The Stebuklas (Miracle) is a special pavement block in the Cathedral Square (Katedros aikste) which bears the word Stebuklas in coloured letters under a glass cover. Unfortunately the glass was a bit cloudy when we were there in 2006. In 2011 we realised that it had been replaced by a Stebuklas made of stone.
The Stebuklas marks the place where in 1989 the human chain of about 2 million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians ended. The chain was formed to protest against the Soviet occupation and began in the 650 km far away Tallinn (Estonia).
If you want one of your wishes come true then stand on the stone, think of the wish and turn clockwise 360 degrees. I haven't tried it, so I can't say if it really works ....
The Stebuklas can be found in the Cathedral Square (Katedros aikste) somewhere between the Cathedral and the belfry.
As you are about to cross one of the three bridges on the Vilnele, you will notice this sign 'Uzupio Res Publica'. The republic was proclaimed by the local artists in 1997. Every year on April Fool's Day the inhabitants celebrate their 'Independence Day' marching in a grand parade. Like all self-respecting republics, the Republic of Uzupis has its own constitution inscribed in marble on a plaque in Paupio St. Among its provisions you can find the following:
Everybody has the right to live by the River Vilnele while the Vilnele has the right to flow by everyone', Everyone has the right to die but it is not his obligation', 'Everyone has the right to be idle', 'Everyone has the right to love', 'Everyone has the right to be not loved but not necessarily','A dog has the right to be a dog', 'Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous'. I must say I like them a lot, don't you?
A complete contrast to the baroque Old Town of Vilnius is the so called New Town which was created after Lithuania's break from the Soviet Union.
Besides a modern shopping centre it is also home to the tallest skyscraper of the Baltic States.
The Europa Tower has a height of 148 m and was officially opened on the 1st May 2004 which was the day when Lithuania joined the European Union.
Another building which dominates the skyline of the New Town is the newly renovated 22-storey Reval Hotel Lietuva. It is the largest hotel in Vilnius and includes a Sky Bar which offers panoramic views of the city.
The New Town is situated on the right bank of the Neris River in the Snipiskes district of Vilnius.
We discovered this statue in Jano St in the Old Town. There was no inscription on it indicating either the author or the name of the statue only a small plaque that we couldn't understand but, as it represents a man standing on top of a ladder and reaching his arms for the sky, it must be Jacob's Ladder. We cannot be sure though as the biblical patriarch Jacob, who saw the ladder connecting the earth with heaven in his dream on his way from Beersheba to Haran, did not really see himself on it, only the angels ascending and descending, thus acting as messengers between God and men.
Still, it is a lovely statue and I don't see why the author's name should not be inscribed on the plinth or why there should be no mention of it in our guidebook.
I came across the photograph of this statue among my friend's pictures and found it intriguing. Who might it represent? A monk? A saint? And why is it situated on the ground and not on a pedestal? I thought it looked very effective as it is, with the man emerging from the wall (gate?) as if marching ahead. Is it a church decoration temporarily placed there for restoration or is this its permanent position? My friend couldn't answer any of my questions and didn't even remember where she had taken the picture. I hope someone will help me solve the puzzle. After all, there are no things VT-ers cannot explain.
Photo: Barbara Godlewska
Favorite thing: This mysterious object, looking like an iron hook stuck through a stone on wheels, can be found in a street corner near St Michael's Church. We have both been wondering what purpose it might serve as it seems to be or have been a tool to perform some work. But neither of us has the slightest idea what it is or was for. For all we know, it might just have been a joke played on the passers-by. But perhaps you might hit on a better idea?
If your an artist and love to take picture, or maybe paint water, oil, whatever, this is the place, no one really bothers you here.
Fondest memory: I walked around this huge church, and no one really bothered me. Very respectable people and helpful...they do speak english.
The walks in the Park or lonely paths that really take you no where, but you then come across entertainer trying to earn a few bucks...so try to pry open your wallets and spare them a couple of dollars or litas.
Fondest memory: The smell and the cool air in the afternoon, that's really important to someone like me who lives in Northern Ariziona where in September is still somewhat hot (85 degrees).
The unexpected, we found ourselves at the rear of the Presidential Palace. Was interesting to find a "Chess Table w/ the stones chips". That's Grazina and I playing a serious round of chess as you can see by the serious looks on our face. In the back ground is the history of this palace is no less complex than that of the majority of famous Vilnius buildings. It is known since the 14th century as a residency of the noblemen Gasztold. In 1543 it was acquired by the Vilnius bishops who resided there until 1794. The remains of a brick building that have been discovered may belong to the earliest bishops' palace, in which Bishop Christian crowned King Mindaugas.
The palace has always been representational: rulers, kings and kings-to-be...Napoleon, Stanislaus August Poniatowski, Russian tsar Alexander I, King of France Louis XVIII and others - used to stay there on their visits to Vilnius. In 1939, when Vilnius had been returned to Lithuania, plans to settle the Presidency in the palace were advanced. Here the President performs his duties and receives foreign dignitaries. When the President is in the palace, the presidential flag is raised above the Vytis.
Fondest memory: The DEEP history of this wonderful country. Grazina was a very informative tour guide, she did her homework and I was like a sponge and soak up every information she had for me...
That the Old is mixed in with the New. But here is the town Hall established by Jogaila's privilege inthe late 14th century; there is a room on the east side of the cellar that may date back to the times of Jogaila or even earlier.
Fondest memory: That the Old town is not as big as one would think. I think that sometimes one can get lost and find him or herself walking on the same street but in the opposite direction and think that it is a total different street altogether...Yes, that happen to me.
I am always admired about a lot of green areas in Vilnius. Even historical places, banks of river Neris, some regional parks and oldtown's squares remained green.
For example, green banks of Neris is a good place to do air-baloon championships, just to walk and so on.
Another admirable thing is people living there are really helpful and quick.
Fondest memory: It's interesting to get into old city (especially churches) and see a friendly atmosphere and mixed styles of architecture. It's enjoyable to have a free time in various Vilnius bars and coffes.
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