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Vilnius History, Lithuania

Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a multinational and multicultural capital with a rich history that had a great role in shaping the city into what it is now. Although at the first sight the Baltic countries might seem rather remote, there are good links to many of the major Baltic cities, including, Riga and Minsk. Vilnius incorporates everything that tourists are looking for when visiting a place: beautiful architecture, historical districts, monuments and museums, shopping venues and a lively nightlife. All the main attractions of the city have a deep rooted historical significance; they are best appreciated when one knows about their vibrant past. This Vilnius Sights Guide will give you a general picture of the city’s intriguing history.

Vilnius History Guide - Founding

Despite much archaeological evidence that Vilnius has been inhabited since ancient times, not much is known about the people who have founded the settlement, or about their way of life. One legend tracks the origins of the city back to medieval times. It is said that a Lithuanian Grand duke, who was hunting in the area where modern Vilnius now stands, dreamed of an iron wolf with thousands of other wolves inside it. A pagan priest explained his dream to him, and told him that he is to build a castle from where he will lead the Lithuanian people to glory. Although the Grand Duke Gediminas is a real historical figure, it is debatable how much of the legend is true, since there are no documents that could prove that Gediminas was indeed the founder of Vilnius.

Vilnius History Guide - Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, Vilnius was a colourful town, inhabited by different people: Slavs, Jews, Germans. Vilnius officially became a city in the second half of the 14th century, after Christianity was introduced in the country. Vilnius was coveted by rulers of Europe who wanted to extend their influence, such as Henry IV of England, who kept Vilnius under siege for over a year in the late 14th century. His knights were defeated and Vilnius kept its independence. This Vilnius History Guide recommends that you visit the the remains of the sturdy walls with several towers that were built around the city during the Tartar invasion in Europe.

Vilnius History Guide - Modern era

In the 17th century, Vilnius saw a rapid development. Immigrants from all over Europe settled in the city, and the University was built, trade and crafts prospered. This idyllic state lasted until the Russo-Polish war, when Vilnius was captured and pillaged by the invading Russian forces. Despite this, by the 19th century, Vilnius had become the largest city in Europe. After the Third Partition of Poland, Vilnius became part of Russia, and it was taken by Napoleon on his way to Moscow. There were some national skirmishes in the late 19th century in Vilnius, but things settled down and the city became yet again a multinational cradle, were tolerance and national rebirth were advocated. During and between the two World Wars, Lithuania was passed from hand to hand, and only in 1990 did the country manage to declare its independence. Despite its many trials, Vilnius has become in only a few years a modern city, proud of its history, and visited by millions of tourists every year.

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  • veganbondGediminas Castle
    travel tip by veganbond posted more then 30 days ago
    It's one of the most popular symbols of Vilnius and even Lithuania. Howerer, just  one tower survided until our days.  It now houses a museum and an observa- tion platform. U can enjoy a a wonderful wiew to the Oldtown while...
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