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"Nice time in Vilnius"

Rating: 5 - Excellent Reviewed 10 October 2013
Vilnius is a very nice city! for me it was a surprise and I'm very happy I found myself there twice in the last 30 days. Food and drinks are very cheap if you are coming from Euro or Sterling countries; dinner for 2 pax with 2 entrances, 2 main...

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Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 554,060 (838,852 together with Vilnius County) as of 2011. It is located in the southeast of the country. It is the second biggest city of the Baltic states, after Riga.

Vilnius is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County. The first known written record of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital is known from Gediminas' letters in 1323.
Vilnius is classified as a Gamma global city according to GaWC studies, and is known for its Old Town of beautiful architecture, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its Jewish influence until the 20th century has led to it being described as the “Jerusalem of Lita" and Napoleon named it "the Jerusalem of the North" as he was passing through in 1812. In the year 2009, Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture, together with the Austrian city of Linz.

Vilnius has been rapidly transformed, and the town has emerged as a modern European city. Many of its older buildings have been renovated, and a business and commercial area is being developed into the New City Centre, expected to become the city's main administrative and business district on the north side of the Neris river. This area includes modern residential and retail space, with the municipality building and the 129-metre (423') Europa Tower as its most prominent buildings. The construction of Swedbank’s headquarters is symbolic of the importance of Scandinavian banks in Vilnius. The building complex “Vilnius Business Harbour” was built in 2008, and one of its towers is now the 5th tallest building in Lithuania. More buildings are scheduled for construction in the area. Vilnius was selected as a 2009 European Capital of Culture, along with Linz, the capital of Upper Austria. Its 2009 New Year's Eve celebration, marking the event, featured a light show said to be "visible from outer space". In preparation, the historical centre of the city was restored, and its main monuments were renewed. The global economic crisis led to a drop in tourism which prevented many of the projects going ahead to their planned extent, and allegations of corruption and incompetence were made against the organisers, while tax increases for cultural activity led to public protests and the general economic conditions sparked riots. In 2011, Arturas Zuokas was elected Mayor.
Vilnius count with the highest internet speeds in the world, with an average download speed of 36.37 MB/s and upload speed of 28.51 MB/s. Furthermore, Vilnius has access to groundwater, and there is no need to use extensive chemicals in treating surface water from lakes or rivers, providing residents with some of the cleanest and healthiest tap water access in Europe.

Almost half of Vilnius is covered by green areas, that is, parks, public gardens, natural reserves, and others. Additionally, Vilnius is host to numerous lakes, where residents and visitors bath and have barbecues in the summer. Thirty lakes and 16 rivers cover 2.1% of Vilnius’ area, with some of them having sand beaches.
Vingis Park, the city's largest, hosted several major rallies during Lithuania's drive towards independence in the 1980s. Concerts, festivals, and exhibitions are held at Sereikiškės Park, near Gediminas Tower. Sections of the annual Vilnius Marathon pass along the public walkways on the banks of the Neris River. The green area next to the White Bridge is another popular area to enjoy good weather, and has become venue for several music and large screen events.
Cathedral Square in Old Town is surrounded by a number of the city's most historically significant sites. Lukiškės Square is the largest, bordered by several governmental buildings: the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Polish Embassy, and the Genocide Victims’ Museum, where the KGB tortured and murdered numerous opposers of the communist regime. An oversized statue of Lenin in its centre was removed in 1991. Town Hall Square has long been a centre of trade fairs, celebrations, and events in Vilnius, including the Kaziukas Fair. The city Christmas tree is decorated there. State ceremonies are often held in Daukantas Square, facing the Presidential Palace.
Rasos Cemetery, consecrated in 1801, is the burial site of Jonas Basanavičius and other signatories of the 1918 Act of Independence, along with the heart of Polish leader Józef Piłsudski. Two of the three Jewish cemeteries in Vilnius were destroyed during the Soviet era; the remains of the Vilna Gaon were moved to the remaining one. A monument was erected at the place where Užupis Old Jewish Cemetery was. On 23 October 2011, a swastika has been sprayed on the monument, as what seems to be an anti-Semitic act . About 18,000 burials have been made in the Bernardine Cemetery, established in 1810; it was closed during the 1970s and is now being restored. Antakalnis Cemetery, established in 1809, contains various memorials to Polish, Lithuanian, German and Russian soldiers, along with the graves of those who were killed during the January Events.
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