Castles on thie site of the present Gediminas Castle date back to the 13th century. The current castle was named after the Grand Duke of Lithuania. The castle tower that is visible today was constructed in 1930 by Jon Borowski a Polish architect. Access to the castle and its tower can be by either funicular or walking. The cost of the funicular and the castle tower was 3 euros when we visited.
While the tower of the castle is interesting to observe the castle museum is worth a visit. As you climb the stairways to the top of the castle there are two floors of models, displays and artifacts to look at. The models display the different castles in Vilnius over the centuries as well as provide some historical information on the development of the town. Each floor also has small windows to look out and see the town below.
The top of the castle, an easy climb by the interior staircase, has magnificent views of the city. Across to the river, the TV tower, the churches, the three crosses and the Old Town all are visible. When we were there no one was present on the tower top which made for some great pictures of the town below.
Gediminas Tower is the iconic survivor of Vilnius Castle which began as a wooden fortress in the 14th century and then rebuilt by Vytautus the Great around 1419 after the Great Fire.
There were two parts to the castle - the Lower Castle, and the Higher Castle, of which the Gediminas Tower is the thing that the majority of visitors aim for. For somebody like me it seemed quite a climb to get up there, but fortunately there was some renovation work going on and I had to walk around the perimeter of the mound whether I wanted to or not. When I say fortunately, it meant that the path brought me around to the base of the funicular which takes all the hard work out of getting up to the top, which I duly took advantage of. At €1 each way (March 2016 prices) it’s worth every cent because when you get up to the tower you have to climb up 78 steps as well, for which you have to pay €4.
Inside the tower there are a few things of relative interest, but not enough to detain me for very long. The main reason for making the effort to come up here really is for the views, which are fantastic.
Gediminas castle is one of the best vantage points in Lithuania. The castle itself is fairly small, however the 360 degree view of Vilnius city is well worth it.
Vilnius old town is a short distance from Gediminas Castle, making it a perfect checkpoint on your way to the city center.
There are small cafes and restaurants short distances in every direction from the Castle, at a very fair price.
Also, there is no charge to enter the Castle grounds making it even more difficult to ignore the beauty of this historical monument.
I always like going up hills over cities to get a great view and an idea of the layout of the city. This is a must in Vilnius because you truly see a great view of the old city on one side, and then a modern view on the other - such a great contrast. From the city, it is easy to walk towards the hill and I took the funicular going up, but then decided to go down on my own. It was close to sunset and I thought that was a great time to see the view :)
And this hill has so much historical significance for the city. The Castle Hill surrounded by rivers was a convenient location to build a castle and archaeological investigations have revealed that there had already been a settlement on the Castle Hill in the Neolithic. "In the 9th century, the hill was reinforced with wooden and stone fences, whereas in the 11th-13th centuries a wooden castle had already been erected. "
The complex consisted of three castles: the Upper, the Lower, and the Crooked. The Crooked Castle was burned down by the Teutonic Knights in 1390 and was never rebuilt. Then, many more attacks occurred in Castle Hill, destroying the buildings. Today, you can just see the remaining Gediminas Tower.
The funicular railway started operating in Vilnius in 2003. It takes people from the foot of Gediminas Hill and in 35 seconds the funicular railway covers the 71m. The ascending journey which includes getting on and off the funicular lasts around one minute. The train accommodates up to 16 people.
May to September (Mon to Sun) 10.00 - 19.00
October to April (Mon to Sun) 10.00 - 17.00
Ticket office open until 16.30
The day was incredibly cold, and I was very surprised as to how warm and hot the interior of the castle was! There were a number of exhibitions running during my visit, they were all of interest and either about the castle, the City or the downfall of communism in the Baltic countries.
The so called Upper Castle, or Gediminas Castle, was built at the beginning of the 14th century on the site of an earlier wooden one. A century later it was rebuilt and strenghten-
ed. Along with the Lower Castle (now gone) and the defensive wall it formed a powerful defensive system. But slowly itlost its importance and after the damage caused in the war with Russia in 1655, it was left unrebuilt.
After the World War II the best surviving tower was restored. It now houses a museum and an observation platform.
The museum is open:
May - Sept 10.00 - 19.00 whole week
Oct - April Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00 to 17.00.
Entrance fee 5Ltl for adults, pensioners and school children 2Ltl.
To the east of the tower are the ruins of the ducal palace.
The funicular is 71m long and will take you 40m high. The angle is said to be 36 degrees.
Opening hours 10.00 - 19.00 all year round.
- up and down adults 3Ltl, pensioners and school children 2Ltl
- up OR down adults 2 Ltl, pensioners and school children 1Ltl
The costs of August 2010.
The lower starting point is in the courtyard of the Old Arsenal.
High above the city is the fortress which founded the city. From here everything else fanned out to create the capital. It was built on the hill formed in the confluence of the rivers Vilnia and Neris. According to legend this was as a result of the Grand Duke Gediminas seeing an iron wolf howling from a hill in a dream. He built the fortress here and moved the capital from the castle at Trakai.
All that is left of that fortress on the hill is Gediminas Tower, and that brick tower you see was actually the work of a later Grand Duke, Vytautas. But the views haven't changed, and are magnificent if you can find a way up. When I was there the dauntingly steep footpath was closed, and the only access was via a funicular that was staffed by a grumpy Russian, and plagued by long queues.
Still it's worth the effort, even though the cost of entry to the tower is more questionable.
Atop the 150-foot high Gediminas Hill lies the remnants of the castle. The restored north tower of the upper castle holds special significance for Lithuanians as a symbol of national independence. During the struggle for independence from the Soviet Union, activists raised the Lithuanian Flag over the tower on October 7, 1988. The ceremony was repeated to commemorate Lithuania's formal independence on March 11, 1990. When I visited, there was a videotape of Lithuanians all around the world singing their National Anthem at the moment the flag was raised. If you go up onto the roof, you can enjoy panoramic views of Vilnius, as well as get a close look at the giant flag that flies over the tower to this day.
Admission to the tower and museum costs 5 Litas for adults, 2 Litas for students and Seniors. It is open daily from 10am - 5pm off-season, and until 7pm May - September.
When visiting Vilnius, order a hot air balloon flight and you will see totally different view of the old town. Vilnius is extremely nice from above!
They say, Vilnius is one of just few capitals in Europe, where you may fly by hot air balloon. And this is probably true.
Sightseeing Vilnius from a hot air balloon is one of the top things to do in Lithuania.
The Gediminas' Tower is an important historic symbol of the city of Vilnius and of Lithuania. It is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle. The first wooden fortifications were built by Gediminas - the Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.