In a country where the "Easter Bunny" is usurped by the "Easter Granny" distributing colorful chocolate Easter eggs to the kids, it is said that the only thing bunny gets up to, is to help paint the decorative eggs for granny. Originally a hilltop fortress, Vilnius is where you will get the traditional hospitality welcome of bread with salt, which happens throughout the Baltic region.
A visually stunning and charming city, it draws tourists like moths to a flame. Sitting in the southeast part of Lithuania, Vilnius is classified as a global city with an old town that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Often described as the "Jerusalem of Lithuania", Napoleon referred to the town as "the Jerusalem of the North", when he happened to be passing through in 1812. Awash with the flavors of its past from the Polish, Russian and Jewish historical waves, the city has a cosmopolitan flair lacking in other Lithuanian cities.
From its torrid past of KGB's torture cells to ghettos housing the Jewish community before being annihilated by the Nazis, the city is remembering its past but creating a future of skyscrapers, dynamic night life venues and world class restaurants. Thousands of students inhabit the city as it is home to the Vilnius University with its fabled courtyards, 12 or 13, depending on who is counting. Continental with Europe's largest baroque old town sitting within its heart, if viewed from the skies above the town resembles a giant bed of nails, due to its countless Orthodox and Catholic Church steeples. A wondrous picture of crumbling building corners, stone cobbled alleyways and hilltop views to leave you gob-smacked awaits, in what is more a village than a city with absolutely no logic in its layout.
For the architectural buff there is a plethora of design styles from neoclassical to gothic to gawk at. The Cathedral Square where you will find the Vilnius Cathedral is the perfect starting point for a journey around the city. The 16th Century "Gate of Dawn" should not be overlooked, as it once guarded the entrance to the original city. The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania is part archaeology museum and part history museum. If you want to know about the country's history up to World War II, then hang out at the National Museum of Lithuania for a while. You can hike the pathways or catch the funicular to Gediminas Hill and its 13th Century Tower. For the arty crowd there is the self-declared "republic" of the quirky Uzupis neighborhood overflowing with local artists and the bohemian crowd.
Make sure you have plenty of time to indulge in some grilled game or meat (aka beaver stew is a local specialty) at one of the traditional restaurants in the city or hang out with the university students in one of the funky bars.
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