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Lithuania: Vilnius – Trakai – Vilnius
Vilnius is Lithuania’s capital and the largest city born from the legend about the iron wolf and officially established in the early 14th century. Despite harboring many faiths and a remarkable religious tolerance, Vilnius always has been a religious city. You can see a church spire from any given site of its narrow Old Town streets. Vilnius has always been at the crossroad of Eastern and Western cultures. The city’s historical buildings are charming for their differing styles, featuring elements of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classicism. Old Town of Vilnius is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its white churches and red roofs. Today Vilnius is a modern, homely and welcoming city full of culture and creation. It is a place where you can see talking statues, hear music being played, smell good food and have adventures. You can float above Vilnius in the sky in a hot-air balloon or count stars from the top of the hill where the legendary iron wolf howled in Gediminas dream.
Arrival to Vilnius, Transfer to the hotel. Vilnius city walking tour including the most interesting architectural and historic monuments of the 16th – 19th centuries, such as majestic classical Vilnius Cathedral with the history dating back to the 14th century, a monument to Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas, the founder of Vilnius, the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, Gediminas Hill & Tower, St. Anne’s Church – the 16th century gem of the Lithuanian gothics, the Vilnius University founded in 1579, the Dawn Gate with a holy icon of Virgin Mary etc.
After a break for lunch you will have a nice tour in Užupis. The self-proclaimed “Republic” of Užupis is Vilnius’ Bohemian and artistic district. It has its own anthem, constitution, president, bishop, two churches, the Bernadine Cemetery – one of the oldest in the city -, seven bridges, and its own guardian called The Bronze Angel of Užupis, who was put in the centre of the district in 2002.
Evening free for independent activities.
After breakfast you will have a nice tour to Trakai, 28 km from Vilnius, an ancient Lithuanian capital, famous for its 15th c. Gothic Castle amidst the lake, the Island Castle on Lake Galve, the only water castle in Eastern Europe. Now it is housing a History Museum. Trakai is also known for the Karaites, the ethnic group speaking the Turkic language, who have lived there since the 14th century and have preserved their traditions. You can see their ‘kenesa’, a Karaite sanctuary, 3-windowed houses and taste their national dishes, such as the most popular ‘kybyn’ – a small pie stuffed with minced meat.
For lunch break we return to Vilnius and invite you to visit Hales market – one of the largest and oldest markets in Vilnius. This beautifully restored, glass-roofed market dating from 1900 is more than worth a look inside. A trip through the doors rewards visitors with a nasal blast of several tons of smoked meat, which can be purchased along with other specialties including fresh fruit and vegetables plus a nice range of locally-produced honey that you can taste before you purchase. Even better perhaps, many small buffet-style restaurants are opening up inside the building serving everything from bagels to oysters.
After breakfast you will have a transfer to the airport.