Lithuania’s capital city served as a backdrop for HBO’s Emmy-winning series ‘Chernobyl’, and now another A-list production has followed suit. 

Hot-air balloons flying over Vilnius at sunset.
The cast and crew of 'Stranger Things' shot parts of season 4 in Vilnius, Lithuania  © Sabine de Milliano/500px

Last November, production began in Vilnius for the fourth season of the Netflix hit ‘Stranger Things’, and shooting took place across the city before wrapping on 14 February. One location, in particular, got a lot of attention: a former prison dating to the early 1900s.

The former Lukiskes prison during Stranger Things season 4 filming
The city's Lukiškes Prison was a particularly notable location © Go Vilnius

The 20th century was a turbulent one in Lithuania – the country was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II, declared part of Poland from 1920 to 1939, and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 before declaring its independence in 1990. Throughout each regime change, Lukiškes Prison housed inmates, right up until last year when it ceased operations. 

The former Lukiskes prison during Stranger Things season 4 filming
Production began in Vilnius last November and wrapped 14 February © Go Vilnius

The building’s imposing facade should fit right in with the ‘80s-set show’s creepy aesthetic, though it’s a stark contrast to some of the more pedestrian filming locations – think: a college-campus laboratory, a shopping mall, a middle school – around Atlanta, which serves as a stand-in for the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. 

A man rides his bike through a street in Old Town Vilnius, as people sit at a cafe.
Vilnius's old town is particularly picturesque © InnaFelker/Shutterstock

“The fact that cult series like ‘Stranger Things’ keep choosing Vilnius as a filming destination is a testament to the city’s many-sided nature,” Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius said in a press release. “The cinema world finds Vilnius to be open, green, easy to get around while being historic and modern at the same time – all the qualities that Vilnius locals love their city for. The ability to transform the city is what attracts filmmakers the most.” 

Cathedral Square in Vilnius, Lithuania.
In a statement, 'Stranger Things' director Shawn Levy thanked "the city of Vilnius and the beautiful country of Lithuania for their hospitality" © Eugene Shutoff/500px

Lithuania’s capital isn’t the only Eastern European city attracting Hollywood’s elite. ‘Game of Thrones’ famously filmed in Dubrovnik, while ‘The Witcher’, another Netflix production, shot at – and was inspired by – locations all over Poland

View to Vilnius from Gediminas castle hill.
Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius calls the city "historic and modern at the same time" © Bokstaz/Shutterstock

For ‘Stranger Things’ director and executive producer Shawn Levy, Vilnius has been the site of “a huge challenge but an even bigger inspiration” – the process of revealing the “American,” a mysterious Russian prisoner whose identity is teased in a post-credits scene at the end of season 3. “[We] have been working...for months to pull off this surprise,” he said in a statement. “All the hard work was worth it, however, to bring our fans – the greatest fans in the world – this epic reveals they’ve been hoping and waiting for. And this is only the beginning."

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