Vilnius, as the capital of Lithuania, is the home of the President, the Seimas, the Government and the Supreme Court. Diplomatic missions, educational, cultural, financial, research, and healthcare institutions are based here.

Population: 543 626 inhabitants

Ethnic Composition: Lithuanians 63.2%, Polish 16.5%, Russians 12%, Belarusians 3.5%, Others 4.8% (2011)

Location/ Territory: The capital city Vilnius occupies an area of about 400 sq. km of which 20.2% approximately is developed and the remainder is green belt (43.9% approx.) and water (2.1% approx.).

Language: Lithuanian

Religion: Roman Catholic 77.2%, Russian Orthodox 4.1%, Old Believer 0.8%, Evangelical Lutheran 0.6%, Evangelical Reformist 0.2%, other 0.8%

Government: Mayor

Currency: Euro

Local Time: GMT + 2 hours (EET), GMT + 3 hour (summer time)

Working Hours: Governmental institutions work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Friday. Shops are usually open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. on weekdays and until 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Shopping malls are open all week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Food stores are usually open between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., some supermarkets are open till 12 at night.


1009 Lithuania is first mentioned in written sources, the Quedlinburg Annals, as the place (Litua) on whose borders with Rus’ a Catholic missionary, St Bruno was ‘hit on the head by angry pagans and departed to heaven’.

1253 Grand Duke Mindaugas is crowned King of Lithuania. Now the 6th of July is Statehood Day. Commemorates the coronation of the country’s only king, King Mindaugas.

1323 During Grand Duke Gediminas’ reign Vilnius is first mentioned as the capital of Lithuania.

1387 Grand Duke Jogaila (King Władysław II of Poland since February 1386) began the baptism of his pagan Lithuanian subjects as Christians of the Roman Rite, formed a dynastic union with the Kingdom of Poland and granted Vilnius the rights of a city.

1410 The joint forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania led by Grand Duke Vytautas and the Kingdom of Poland led by King of Poland Jogaila, defeated the Teutonic Order in battle at Grunwald [Tannenberg, Žalgiris].

1495 The first goldsmith and sewing shops were established. Vilnius starts to develop as a centre of trade, industry and culture of Eastern Europe.

1522 Francis Skoryna established the first printing press in the city. The city became one of the most famous book-printing centres in Europe.

1569 Following the Lublin Union thereby a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the Republic of the Two Nations) was established, Vilnius lost its importance as an administrative capital.

1579 The Collegium, an institution of higher education, was founded by the Jesuits in Vilnius and was upgraded to the level of Academy, by the Pope. It was the first university in the Baltic countries and became the most important cultural centre in the region.

1795 After the third Partition of the Republic of the Two Nations, Lithuania was annexed by Russia and the name Lithuania was applied to a Russian imperial province. Many city-dwellers were either killed or deported to the eastern regions of the Russian Empire.

1831 After the uprising against the Russian administration had been suppressed, Vilnius University closed down, Catholic churches were turned into Orthodox churches, monasteries were closed down or turned into barracks.

1862 The railway line Sank-Petersburg – Vilnius – Warsaw was built; an iron foundry and tobacco factory were opened; the first brewery was established.

1896-1902 Vilnius became a centre of national revival.

On the 16th February 1918 the Council of Lithuania proclaimed the restoration of an independent Lithuanian state.

1920 Lithuania lost part of the territory, including her historic capital, Vilnius, to Poland. The capital of Lithuania was transferred to Kaunas.

1939-1940 on the basis of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact with Germany, the Soviet Union compelled Lithuania to sign a mutual assistance treaty, which allowed Red Army units to be stationed on Lithuanian territory. As a result of this alliance, Lithuania regained Vilnius but was incorporated into the Soviet Union.

World War II. During the Second World War, the Old Town of Vilnius suffered greatly. Fortunately, the majority of the most valuable buildings and monuments survived.

On the 11th of March 1990 the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania declared the restoration of Lithuania’s independence.

In May 2004 Lithuania became a member of the European Union and NATO, and Vilnius became the capital of the Member State of the EU and NATO.


The Vilnius Historic Centre began its history on the glacial hills that had been intermittently occupied from the Neolithic period; a wooden castle was built around AD 1000 to fortify Gedimino Hill, at the confluence of the Neris and Vilnia rivers. The settlement did not develop as a town until the 13th century, during the struggles of the Baltic peoples against their German invaders. By 1323, when the first written reference to Vilnia occured, it was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At this time, some brick structures had apparently been erected on a small island formed when the Vilnia changed its course. By the 15th century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its capital Vilnius, had become the largest country in Europe, stretching from the Baltic Sea in the North to the Black Sea in the South. The historic centre comprises the areas of the three castles (Upper, Lower and Curved) and the area that was encircled by a wall in the Middle Ages. The plan is basically circular, radiating out from the original castle site. The street pattern is typically medieval, with small streets dividing it into irregular blocks, but with large squares inserted in later periods.

The historic buildings are in Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical styles and have a distinct appearance, spatial composition, and elements of internal and external finishes. They constitute a townscape of great diversity and yet at the same time demonstrating an overarching harmony. The townscape is characterized by the general pattern of the town plan, the network of streets, squares and the boundaries of the plots. The elements of the urban pattern in relation to its natural setting also determine the specific silhouettes, panoramas and vistas that are preserved today.

Together with the Lithuanians, other nations of Grand Duchy of Lithuania with their languages, religions and cultures, shaped the development of Vilnius as an outstanding, multicultural city, in which the influences of the West and the East were merged. Christianity, dominating since the Middle Ages, and the growing importance of Judaism led to exemplary material manifestations of these religious communities which include the churches of St Michael, St Stephen, St Casimir, All Saints, and St Theresa.

The successive reconstructions, resulting from different disasters, gave the town many buildings of special character, including the cathedral, town hall, arsenal, and the Tyzenhauzai, Rensai, Pacai and Masalskiai palaces. Many of the surviving earlier buildings were rebuilt or refurbished in the School of Vilnius Baroque style, which later left an imprint in the large area of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The identity of Vilnius has been always open to influences enhancing the social, economic and cultural activities of the thriving communities. These influences materialised in the works of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque, placed furthest eastward in Europe.