About Vilnius - Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, the southernmost and largest of the three Baltic States. It is the country's administrative, cultural and economic centre. Demand for higher quality residential properties in Vilnius continues to push up property values and during 2005, prices for re-sales of flats and new builds increased by c. 28% and 30% respectively. For many local and foreign investors, the primary focus is Vilnius’ Old Town with its many buildings being carefully restored in the neo-Classical and Baroque styles. Within the Old town, prices for both new and restored properties increased on average by 40% during 2005. Market observers state that demand for new residential areas continues to exceed supply and will continue to push prices up.
The political centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the 13th to 18th century, Vilnius had a profound influence on the cultural and architectural development of much of Eastern Europe. Despite invasions and partial destruction, the city has managed to preserve an impressive mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and classical buildings amongst its medieval layout and natural setting.
Vilnius’ Old Town is one of the largest in Eastern Europe and in Cathedral Square just below the castle, work continues to rebuild the Royal Palace destroyed by the Russians in 1802. The Town Hall Square is the traditional centre of trade and events in the city. As far back as early 15th century, the square was bordered by small shops. Similar to most medieval towns, Vilnius was developed around the Town Hall and central Pilies Street linked the governors’ palace and the Town Hall. Other winding streets throughout the Old Town connected the palaces of feudal lords and landlords, churches, shops and craftsmen’s workshops. Narrow, curved streets and small courtyards developed the radial layout of the medieval Vilnius.
Since Lithuania became a member of the World Trade Organization and joined the EU in May 2004, foreign investment has continued to grow. Vilnius’ Old Town is included in UNESCO's World Heritage List and will become the European Capital of Culture in 2009. Expansion of cultural and leisure infrastructure is planned with total investment of c. € 0.5 billion. Currently a whole new section of the city is being developed along the right bank of the Neris River where a gray commuter suburb stood during Soviet times. The first phases of the project include the Europa Center, the tallest tower in the Baltics at 150 meters (c. 500 feet).
While visiting Vilnius, take an excursion from Vilnius to Kaunas and drop in the 15th century Trakai Castle. This is known to be the only castle island in the entire territory of Eastern Europe. Trakai is also interesting because over 30 Karaim families live here, representatives of a Turkish ethnic group whose ancestors were invited by the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas the Great, to guard his castle in the 14th century. The Karaim community has preserved their religion, customs and culture up to the present. Concerts and theatre festivals are organized in the Trakai Castle throughout the year.
HOW TO GET THERE
Direct flights to Vilnius are available from London Gatwick airport via a number of airlines including British Airways, Lithuanian Airlines, SAS and Air Baltic.
Discount airline Ryanair flies to Kaunas, Lithuania from London Stansted, Liverpool and Dublin.
Vilnius airport is just 5km from the centre of the city. A taxi will cost about 25-30Lt, depending on the time of day and negotiation with the driver.