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Vilnius University

Top choice in Vilnius

Founded in 1579 during the Catholic Counter Reformation, Vilnius University was run by Jesuits for two centuries. During the 19th century it became one of Europe's greatest centres of learning, and the university survived shutdown by Tsar Nicholas I, rebranding under Soviet rule and closure by the Nazis. Its spectacular architectural ensemble includes a 64m bell tower, baroque church, courtyard and fresco-laden hall, all of which are open to visitors.

Today it has more than 20,000 students and Lithuania’s oldest library, shelving five million books (including one of two originals of The Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas, the first book ever published in Lithuanian).

Don't miss the Grand Courtyard with its melange of Baroque, Classical and neoclassical architecture, or the Littera bookstore with its wonderful ceiling frescoes.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Vilnius attractions

1. Sarbievijus Courtyard

0.01 MILES

This smaller courtyard of Vilnius University is named for a 17th-century Professor of Rhetoric.

2. Presidential Palace

0.05 MILES

The Bishops of Vilnius’ Palace in the 16th century, this classical edifice now houses the president and chancellery. It gained its current Russian empire…

4. Sts Johns' Church

0.07 MILES

The full name is 'Church of St Johns, St John the Baptist and St John the Apostle and Evangelist', but 'Sts Johns' (plural) will do nicely. Founded in…

5. Grand Courtyard

0.07 MILES

The gallery of the courtyard – the largest of the 13 that comprise Vilnius University's 'architectural ensemble' – features plaques commemorating the…

6. House of Signatories

0.11 MILES

Lithuania's Declaration of Independence was signed here on 16 February 1918. Today, across 14 rooms of this 18th-century house, you'll find a reverent…

7. Amber Museum-Gallery

0.14 MILES

Dedicated to Baltic gold and the beautiful things it can be crafted into, this enthusiastic little museum occupies a 17th-century baroque house. Upstairs…

8. Cathedral Square

0.14 MILES

Katedros aikštė buzzes with local life. In the 19th century markets and fairs were held here and a moat ran around what is now the square’s perimeter so…