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Vilnius is the capital and largest city of Lithuania. It lies in the valley of the confluence of Neris and Vilnia rivers. The area was inhabited since the Mesolithic era, however it became a capital city only since 1323 when Grand Duke Gediminas transferred the Seat from Trakai to Vilnius. The word Vilnius is a masculine form of the Vilnia river's name (which is feminine) and refers to the river surge. It may be useful to know that the original city location is lost due to erosion, the present days Old Town appeared in the Middle Ages when the inhabitants were forced to settle there from the heights of a Vilnia river bank which became impossible to live by. Prior to that two towns founded by the colonies of German and Ruthenian merchants and missionaries existed there. Eventually the towns turned into suburbs and finally fully integrated into parts of modern Vilnius and now they can be identified by a cute Lutheran Kirche hidden in one of the numerous courtyards of the Old Town, a complex of the Orthodox Monastery and the Church of the Holy Spirit. Also as a capital Vilnius has always been a multinational city populated by Lithuanians, Germans, Slavs and Jews from time immemorial. Lithuania’s modern capital boasts an Old Town that stretches out under red-tiled roofs. This is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe, steeped in history and modernity alike. A traditional city layout centered around its town hall make it easily navigable and a treat to explore on foot.

Start out on it's main artery, Pilies street, which will take you from the Town Hall to the magnificent Royal Palace. Continue on through Vilnius' winding streets through the palaces of feudal lords and landlords and traditional shops and workrooms. The radial layout allows for intriguing exploration of the various curved, quaint streets and hidden courtyards. With its centrally located Cathedral below the red-brick Gediminas Tower (the best viewpoint of Old Vilnius), Vilnius' most famous attraction is perhaps the Gate of Dawn (Aušros Vartai), where a venerated icon of the Virgin Mary blesses passers-by. The neoclassical Town Hall (Rotušė) balances between the beautiful St. Anne’s Church (the envy of invading Napoleon), and the world’s only monument to rock star Frank Zappa (a simple silver pole with his head at the top). Vilnius also boasts the self-declared “Republic of Užupis,” a unique artist community set below a beautiful angel statue, where the constitution guarantees that a “dog has the right to be a dog,” among other freedoms. People who have been to Vilnius at least once believe that it is a city worth exploring, that it is a magical place with a special charm, a capital whose beauty one should see with his or her own eyes!

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