Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, is a quirky contrast between the old and the modern. Baroque and Gothic architecture prevail. The city's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Reminders of Lithuania's tragic history during World War II and the Soviet regime can be found throughout the city. At the same time, the city is home to an unofficial, independent republic of artists as well as a statue of American musician Frank Zappa, erected by the city's Frank Zappa fan club. In 2009, Vilnius was also named European Culture Capital.
Vilnius has one of the largest old towns in Europe. Most of the city's landmarks and attractions can be found here. Wander through Old Town and admire the varied design styles of the buildings. Gothic, baroque, neoclassical and renaissance architecture all co-exist in Old Town. Pilies gatvė is one of the main roads through this area and is lined with shops selling everything from souvenirs and folk art to jewelry and clothing. Most festival processions in Vilnius will also make their way down Pilies gatvė - it's a good place to hang out during a celebration.
Vilnius has a number of museums spread throughout the city. One of the most compelling is the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania. This museum has five branches, which celebrate Vilnius's Jewish heritage and commemorate victims of the Holocaust. Another museum worth a visit is located in the 13th century Gediminas Castle. The museum showcases the history of Vilnius with exhibits featuring models of the city, photographs, maps and artifacts. To complete your visit to the castle museum, take the funicular railway to the top of Gediminas Tower for a spectacular view of Vilnius.
One of the most famous buildings in Vilnius is St. Anne's Church in the Old Town. The church's ornate façade is an excellent example of Flamboyant Gothic arhitecture, making it one of the most photographed landmarks in Vilnius. Vilnius Cathedral, built in the 13th century, features another of the city's famous landmarks - the Cathedral bell tower, which stands 187 ft. (57 meters) high. The interior of the cathedral includes art from the 16th to 19th centuries, as well as a historical museum housed in the cathedral’s catacomb.
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