During a walking tour of Lithuania’s capital, our guide produced a statistic: 60% of the time in the country it’s either snowing, raining or overcast. My short time in Vilnius didn’t disappoint and there was a solitary hour during which I glimpsed the pale blue of a sky that remained covered for the rest of my visit.
It’s testament to Lithuania that despite its decidedly damp climate, there’s still beauty to be found in the simplest of views. Vilnius, although prone to drizzle of the wettest variety, is also a city made up of distinct ancient and modern neighbourhoods that hide quirky character around every corner. You don’t have to stroll far to find a vivid, and often, extremely poignant life behind its many shades of grey.
Originally a pagan people, Medeina, the goddess of forests and hunting stands in one of the old town’s many courtyards. Hundreds of years ago, the whole town could be accessed via these yards, with little need for the streets.
The old town’s main tourist drag is a different side of Vilnius: Amber is sold, restaurants are clearly marked and hotels line the cobbled street
Bernadine Church on the edge of the old town is Vilnius’ best example of gothic architecture, and is rumoured to be where Napoleon kept his horses on a visit to the capital.
The city’s main cathedral is a huge marble structure with an unusual design. An open, soviet style square frames the locals who meet under its pillars
Uzupis is a hipster district like no other: Officially a different state to Lithuania, it declared its independence eighteen years ago and has its own constitution!
On Gedimino Prospektas street, where old city meets new, sombre memorials to those killed by the soviet regime stand next to the former KGB headquarters
Above the old town, a walk through a forested hill side brings you out at the Three Crosses, that commemorate monks martyred during the 14th century.
Bernardine Park is a peaceful idyll in central Vilnius. Large houses line the edge of this smart neighbourhood.
As you walk into the Naujameistis (Newtown) district, designer shops replace souvenir shops and students of Vilnius University (the oldest in the Baltic region) sip coffee in chain stores.
Lithuania’s parliament building is stark and quiet. In a capital city of only 600,000 people, Vilnius’ streets are rarely busy
Zverynas district is one of the oldest areas of the city. Wooden houses that somehow escaped the changes of soviet rule, still stand in leafy residential streets
The city is split in two by the Neris river, which even on a grey day makes for a pleasant stroll
In a medieval street of the old town, where the buildings have no windows, the quirky art of neighbouring Uzupis district spills onto the old walls.
Across the river in the Snipiskes district, modern skyscrapers, malls and sports stadiums rise up against derelict soviet tower blocks and vast construction sites