I don’t think that there’s ever been someone thinking: ‘Oh, Vilnius, great city, but so expensive!’ and yet there are plenty of reasons for which we should recommend some free amazing things to be done and not just because they don’t involve spending money, but because it would be great if you knew about them either way before going to visit Lithuania.
White Bridge Play Area
Depending on the kind of traveler that you are, there are lots of reasons to love it here. Locals prefer it over other things because the purpose of fun is not to cost you a fortune. And this is the kind of place where any active or non-active person should just love relaxing. If you’re into extreme sports, the skate park’s going to suit you just fine – you’ll find bikers and skaters here any day at any time practicing their new tricks in a friendly, but competitive environment. If you’d like some exercise with Lithuanian people, but you’re not that much into adrenaline rush, you’ll be glad to hear that you’ll find volleyball, tennis and basketball playgrounds. The amazing thing about Lithuanians is that they’re very warm people, always happy to help you fit in and they wouldn’t miss the chance of playing sports with a foreigner for anything in the world.
But let’s just say you’re none of the above. You enjoy picnics and sitting on a bench (or even better, on the grass) watching the world go by and making small talk over the things you’ve seen the day before. It’s not really a problem, because there’s also a grass area where you can watch your friends play while you’re debating the matches with the locals. They may seem all though and sinewy, but they’re great people, very friendly and there’s nothing to be surprised about if after spending the afternoon together you’ll be invited to drop to the mall with them and have a snack to gain your energy back. This rather domestic approach is going to make you love it here and there are huge chances that you make friends who you’ll keep in touch with and maybe, sometime, have a trip together. What you should know, nonetheless, is that you’d better bring an insect repellant especially if you’re visiting in the summer break. There is no other concern but the mosquitoes here.
It is a small mock republic initiated by local artists. If the sense of humor is one of your qualities, you’ll find their meticulosity fascinating. The magnitude of their approach is stunning: they’ve created a government, a flag, bishop, two churches, one of the oldest cemeteries in Vilnius (Bernardine) currency, seven bridges, an army of twelve people and even a small constitution that you’ll find witty, funny and very pertinent if you read between the lines. You can’t miss their protector – The bronze angel of Užupis) at the entrance to the neighborhood. The official independence day of this artistic manifesto is April 1st, and the innovativeness makes the district often be compared with Montmartre in Paris. The location of this artistic expression isn’t accidental. Back in the Soviet times this area of the city was really neglected, populated by craftsmen and popular for the major poverty. In time, many artists came to live here because the accommodation was way cheaper compared to the city and they started making all sorts of alternative festivals, concerts, exhibitions and poetry evenings, this way gaining popularity and – slowly – the respect and recognition from the formal artistic representatives. The only favorable hazard here was that at some point the Art Academy was located near the bridge of this district, making the artistic manifestations possible and a little more visible to the general public. Užupis means, in translation, ‘the place beyond the river’ and what you’ll find here is really (if not opposed) distinct from the rest of the capital city.
You don’t have to be an artsy traveler permanently carrying the great, old Dostoevsky in his backpack to like it here. If all else fails, you’ll love it for the idea: a street dusted with artistic representations of the Lithuanian writers and their artworks. All this without being forced to go to a classical gallery that you would never be able to differentiate of any other you’ve seen judging by the way it looks like, all this while you’re trying to cope with the crowd of visitors. But this isn’t the case. The locals who love spending their Sunday afternoons reading, this street’s more like a shrine of what they most value in life. It clearly won’t be the same for you, but you’d aesthetically and culturally appreciate the varied disposition and catchy representation of more than a hundred artworks.
One of the largest in Europe, this old town gathers in a beautifully cosmetic with a wide range of architectural styles, each of them speaking of their period and the foreign influences of the time. In the heart of this historic district you’ll find Gediminas Tower (that’s a great attraction in itself) and Vilnius Cathedral. During day time this is a great place to find the national symbols and their very different aspects. At night, the whole place is well lit, active and full of vitality. It’s impossible to get lost, but what you may do is taking in its details and go to pubs, have fun, join karaoke nights and enjoy the live sessions.
Gediminas Tower and the Hill of three Crosses
Gediminas Tower is the only reminiscence of the old castle, commonly known as a bold symbol of the country. You can see it from everywhere in Vilnius. There’s no place in the new or old town from where this city protector doesn’t rise from the trees. The legend of the Grand Duke Gediminas says that he dreamt about an iron wolf roaring on the hill in the center of Vilnius. His soothsayer explained this dream of his as a sign to build a city that would shine in history and be popularly known. From the top of the tower you can admire the panoramic view of Vilnius, this beautiful civilized garden with amazing architectural styles, attentively combined to keep their unity.
From the top of the tower you’ll see the Hill of three Crosses and you’ll imagine the distance is huge. You could never be more wrong – a fifteen minute walk from the Castle and you’ll be there, witnessing this prominent surrounding in Kalnu Park –this perfect place for walking along the river, enjoying the beautiful Lithuanian natural heritages that have been so finely conserved in time – popular for the stories of every hill. Just like in a story in frame, the park as a whole speaks of the national concern for the stunning landscapes and their attention to nature and each of the hills tells a different other story of their national.
The hill of three Crosses is, by far, the most powerful and nationally significant of these four hills and the only one really worth visiting, reminding of the torture of seven Franciscan monks. The other three are the hill of Gediminas – a symbol of their culture and the place where the great duke is buried, Bekesas Hill – the place of burial of a military chief popular for his strategy in fights and Stalo Hill – also named Table Hill and popular for its shape.