Vilnius (pop. 528,300), the capital of Lithuania, is the largest and one of the oldest cities of the country. Vilnius boasts the most wonderful architectural styles of Southern and Western Europe, Gothic and Renaissance, as well as the original “Lithuanian” Baroque, also called the last vivid flash of Baroque in Europe. During these periods, the dynamic silhouettes of the majority of very elegant churches and belfry towers emerged above the city panorama. The end of the 18th century enriched the capital with beautiful buildings in the Classicist style. The capital of Lithuania is the biggest northernmost and easternmost city of Europe with especially evident influence of Western cultures in its architectural harmony. In 1994 the Old Town of Vilnius was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Contemporary Vilnius is the fastest growing and advancing capital in the Baltic States, aspiring to be the most attractive centre for business, political and cultural meetings and events in the region of the neighbouring countries. The city enjoys a well-developed infrastructure of services and entertainments–it has plenty of accommodation, catering and leisure places of various levels. Vilnius is home to the majority of national art and cultural institutions and companies as well as artists. Eimuntas Nekrošius, Oskaras Koršunovas, Rimas Tuminas and other Lithuanian artistic directors, the best in Europe, work here. During summertime, the city hosts international and national cultural events, including Vilnius Festival (classics and the virtuosi of the world music), Christopher’s festival of traditional and modern music, several jazz, folklore and modern dance festivals along with other festivities.
History of Vilnius
Its name was first mentioned in 1323 in the letters of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas inviting craftsmen, merchants and monks from Western Europe to come and stay here. In 1387, after Lithuania adopted Christianity, the city was awarded the Magdeburg Rights, i.e. self-governing.
Vilnius was formed as a centre of tolerance where people of various nationalities, including Poles, Byelorussians, Russians, Germans and others, settled and lived in harmony. It also enjoyed prospering crafts and trade. Having established a university in the Lithuanian capital in 1579, Vilnius became the biggest centre of culture and education in the region.
At the start of the 20th century, Vilnius became the centre of the Lithuanian national rebirth. On 16 February 1918 the independence of the Lithuanian state was declared here.