Last time I went looking for a castle (in Germany) I ended up at the zoo. But that’s a different story.
In Vilnius you can’t really miss the castle, whether you are on Piles g. (Castle street), in the cathedral square, or across the river. On high ground surrounded by rivers you can see why this had been a defensible location since the bronze age. The wooden original was replaced by brick and rebuilt several times. In reality the part visitors refer to as the castle is the Gediminas Tower or Upper Castle as there were three castles making up the defensive complex originally (the lower castle included the cathedral and the Royal Palace of the Grand Dukes).
There are two ways to get into it. You can either walk up the path which starts behind the newly reconstructed, but as yet not open to visitors, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. You can just see where it starts at the bottom of the first picture and where you arrive in the next picture.
Or you can walk round the front of the cathedral, past the statues of the Three Kings, If you look up you can see that they are re-turfing the slope after taking out trees . You can see (RH Picture) how wooded it was last year and some locals liked it that way although it’s probably more historically correct now (it probably wasn’t a good idea to have trees too close to your castle providing cover and ammunition for you enemies).
Then walk past the statue of King Mindaugas outside the NationalMuseum, follow the road round parallel to the river along Arsenalo g. and go in through the museum gates.
Once there you can have a wander round the battlements of Gedimas’ tower and take in a panoramic view of the city.
To get inside the castle costs another 5 litas (just over £1) and is good value for money.
From the ground floor you have two options. You can walk up into a large room where there are a number of museum pieces, weapons and suits of armour – not all original although there is an interesting sword with the words “Free Polonia” engraved on it in Latin.
The next floor is dedicated to the Baltic Way. There are photographs, a map and texts in different languages as well as a video running on a screen. There is also a large vertical Lithuanian flag (photo with kind permission of Kindadukish).
To get on top of the tower you have to go back down and then negotiate your way up a narrow spiral staircase to the top. They’ve improved the exit in recent years so it’s weatherproof but on a busy day it’s a bit tricky squeezing past people.. No disabled access here.
And on a fine day the views are wonderful. Make the most of it and don’t forget your camera.
Finally on the way out we spotted something new. For 7 Litas you can buy a commemorative medallion. There are two designs, One is of the Grand Duke and one of the Tower. The obverse is the same on both, a map of Lithuania.
So no tacky souvenirs shop or coffee/tea shop, not even a vending machine. And long may it stay that way,
For 15 Litas – that’s less than £4 – it’s a value-for-money way to spend a couple of hours.
The castle is part of the National Museum of Lithuania and you can find more information on their website.