Uzupis district, Vilnius
Uzupis is an ideal neighbourhood to just walk around. It's not too big and easily reached. When walking through Uzupio make sure to look into some of the backyards - that's where the quarter's real spirit is found. Dilapidated wooden houses with exfoliating paint, laundry drying in the sun between old trees, cats sitting on walls... It's a pleasure to walk through this part of Vilnius.
If you want to get out of the noisy touristy Old Town and enjoy some laid-back Vilnius then go to Uzupis. By now, most visitors to Vilnius have heard about this quarter and its curiosities: Uzupis declared itself a republic in 1997! It is now governed by artists and like-minded people. There's a "border" sign and a constitution plaque, and everything seems to be quite serious at first sight. Looking closer, however, you'll see that there's also a lot of fun included...
Here are some of the statements of Uzupis' constitution:
01. Everybody has the right to live by the River Vilnele and the River Vilnele has the right to flow by everyone.
03. Everyone has the right to die, but this is not an obligation.
10. Everyone has the right to love and take care of the cat.
14. Sometimes everyone has the right to be unaware of their duties.
24. Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
41. Do not surrender.
The constitution is found on a wall in central Uzupis just around the corner of the statue of the angel. Articles are written in Lithuanian, English and French.
I think they are going for a Christiania vibe here, but it still needs a lot of work. Carved out of the old town by the Vilnia river, the self-proclaimed Uzupio Republic is a pleasant district of Vilnius which is popular with artists. It has a few cafes, small galleries and art installations, but it's not quite Montmartre. In fact if not for the river you'd be hard pressed to know you'd left the rest of Vilnius.
It makes for a pleasant diversion, but it's not yet a must see.
There is a nice gallery located just at the river Vilnele. We actually came here to have breakfast in front of it, sitting on some stones near the water. Soon after our arrival, some artists came and started a conversation. They were very nice and explained a lot about their projects, Uzupis, Vilnius and Lithuania... Some of their art can be found just next to the gallery.
We filmed a video report on Vilnius, and Uzupis features quite extensively in the clip: Locks on the bridges (beginning of video), the Republic and the Constitution (towards the end) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36HaU_XcKyA
Uzupis is a district in another part side of river Vilnele. It is architecture alike old town's All like to call Uzupis Lithuanian "Montmartre", because you always feel special there. It is like town and village in one place. Lot of photographers like taking photos there and artists is always find what to do in this special place, where you can find corner of "frozen history" and village life.
The places I recommend to visit in Uzupis district:
Uzupis Angel sculpture
Old yards of Uzupis
Banks of river Vilnele
Bernardine's cemetery dated from XVIII century
Vilnius panoramas from Uzupis
This is a part of Vilnius that we absolutely loved. Having read about it on some VT-ers' pages, I simply had to see the statue of the Angel of Uzupis so we drove to it straight from our visit to Sts Peter and Paul's Church. Already driving down Kriviu St - Uzupis is situated on a hill - we could see some lovely old wooden houses but couldn't stop to take a picture. Then, miraculously (I suspect the Angel may have had something to do with it), we saw a free parking space and decided to continue our sightseeing on foot. We walked down the street, in turn admiring the view of the city it commanded and looking into every nook and cranny. The houses lining the street fell into two categories - many were obviously old but recently done up, a few were ruined and with bricked up windows. Looking into some cobbled courtyards, you would think you stepped back into the 19th century but for the cars parked there. A gate between two houses suddenly revealed a small church at the back. It was all so relaxed, not to say provincial - a young man sitting on the steps of a house, another enjoying a drink in the street cafe, no one seemed to be in a hurry and we were the only tourists here. Soon a bend in the road revealed the statue of the angel. We thought it was lovely. Standing there on an 8 metre high column, she blew her horn, perhaps announcing better times for Uzupis and for the whole of Vilnius.
Separated from the town by the river Vilnele, Uzupis was once a suburb of Vilnius inhabited by craftsmen, especially weavers, and tradesmen, and here were the royal mills. The first records of the district date back to the 16th century.
After WWII the majority of the local people repatriated to Poland. The new settlers were brought here by the Soviets and an era of neglect and destruction set in. It is only now that the houses are being restored, some by the nouveau riche but many by artists who have come to appreciate the charm of the place and have been setting up their studios and galleries there. This badly neglected but beautiful part of Vilnius can now look forward to a brighter future.
For more pictures and information on Uzupis see my general tip and travelogue.
They talk a lot about this small region of Vilnius town in tourist brochures so I had some expectations. But really, I felt it was a very limited area with little to offer, in my honest opinion, and not so much to see. Anyway, the houses were pictoresque, I admit, but that's about it. However, there's a walking route you can take and go up over the hills and end up in Kalnu park, but please be ware that this route has a lot of climbing and steep stairs.
Vilnius' self-proclaimed Independent Republic of Uzupio, which sits on the banks of the Vilnia River, was the pre-war home of Russians and Jews and post-war haunt of petty criminals and prostitutes. In the past few years, Uzupio has cultivated a reputation for bohemian free-spiritedness that inevitably inspired the overly generous tag "the Montmartre of Vilnius."
The Uzupis Angel is a statue which symbolizes the artistic freedom of Vilnius Uzupis district.
The statue was designed by R. Vilciauskas and inaugurated on the 4th April 2001. Before that a sculpture of an egg took its place.
For more info about the Uzupis district itself please read my "General Tip - Uzupis".
The Uzupis angel can be found at the main square of Vilnius' Uzupis district.
When you are in Vilnius it makes sense to visit the Republic of Uzupio, situated 'on the other side of the river'. It it a small but very clean area with the best Constitution of the world. Personally, I like the fact that 'everybody has the right to make mistakes', 'nobody has to pay taxes' and 'free beer for everybody' the most... :-).
St. Bartholomew's is a small church in a backyard of Uzupis. It's not as splendid as those churches found in the Old Town, but I mention it here because of the beautiful view on Vilnius from its garden.
Like everywhere else I enjoyed just walking around and looking at the houses, parks, squares, people...it is always as fascinating and I could say the best part of the holiday. At some state I get tired of visiting the must see sights and want to have a rest of them. Uzupis is quite a contrast to the Old Town of Vilnius!
There are lots of interesting looking courtyards in Uzupis and I popped into some of them to have a photo or two, though I felt like a peeping Tom doing so. After all I entered to other people's yards! Most of them were what Finland must have looked like in the 50's. Oh, nostalgia...
I crossed the river through Uzupio Bridge and came to this square in the middle of which stands a statue of an angel blowing a horn. The statue by Romas Vilciauskas was built in 2002 and is the symbol of Uzupis' growth. Across the street from the angel is a photo shop with a nice picture of a couple.