A walk by the River Neris – the Vein of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania.
If you find yourself in Vilnius, with some time to spare, a great way to relax without leaving the city is going for a long walk by the river Neris, the bigger of the two rivers in the city.
It’s a really easy way to escape the city without leaving it and a great way to relax at any time of the year.
For the proposed walks, you can either walk on the sidewalks of the streets flanking the river Neris or go down to the water and use the well-developed sidewalks right by the water. It’s the best way to escape the traffic and mute the noise of the city.
The first suggested walk is eastward, from Žaliasis Tiltas (Žaliasis Bridge) to Žirmunų Tiltas (Žirmunų Bridge).
Modern Art Along the River Neris
If you visit in spring, summer or early autumn, the first thing you’ll notice as you stand on Žaliasis Bridge and look at the river Neris eastwards, are some words made out of flowers on two banks of the river.
One river bank says:
‘I love you’ (Aš tave myliu’).
The other river bank replies: ‘ I love you too’ (‘ir aš tave’) – an important phrase to learn!
Another interesting thing you’ll notice from the Žaliasis Tiltas is a strange pipe-like arch on one of the banks.
About this pipe (Vamzdis).
No, we are not pumping sewage into the river Neris, like some visitors seem to think.
…an art installation…
… called ‘Vamzdis’ (a pipe). Now you know.
And it cost the city a huge amount of money a number of years ago.
This pipe-like arch divides the opinions of city residents many of whom consider it an eyesore…
…but since we’ve been told it’s art, who can argue with that?
As you look left from the bridge, an elegant manor will catch your eye.
You are looking at Raduškevičius Rūmai (Raduškevičius Manor), a 19h century manor built in neo-gothic style.
There was another manor house in this location a few centuries before that although there are no remains of this previous building left.
Today this building is owned by the Architects’ Chamber of Lithuania.
So take a couple of pictures here and continue along the river Neris the direction of the afore mentioned pipe-arch.
Žaliasis Tiltas (the green bridge) one of the main bridges of the River Neris.
Before you move on too far from the bridge where you started, turn around and have a look at the bridge itself.
That’s Žaliasis Tiltas (the green bridge) connecting the old and the new parts of the city. The first time a bridge was mentioned in this location was in the 14th century, but my guess is that there used to be a bridge here many years prior to the first mention.
Under the bridge, you’ll notice a piece of contemporary art – ‘Grandinė’ (a chain).
This is part of a six-piece-installation project (2010) celebrating Lithuania’s Independence from the Soviet Union and also celebrating the city.
In my picture, you can also see a glimpse of one of the four Soviet statues, which ‘adorned’ the bridge from about 1952 to 2015, when they were finally removed to the relief of many.
Museum of Technology by the River Neris
As you cross the infamous pipe-arch, and walk further down a bit, on the same side of the river Neris, there’s Vilnius Museum of Energy and Technology.
This museum showcases Lithuania’s industrial heritage.
When you see the lady with the lantern as pictured below, that’s the corner you have to turn to get to the museum.
The museum is full of interactive elements and can be a truly fascinating place to visit with children.
Check it out HERE
The Heart of Vilnius by the River Neris
As you continue walking along the river, on the right-hand side in the distance you’ll see a tower on the hill above rooftops. That’s the heart of the city, Gediminas Castle.
According to the legend, Vilnius was founded by Grand Duke Gediminas in the early 14th century.
According to archaeologists the area of the castle hill was already inhabited in the 6th century BC.
Gediminas Castle you see on the hill today can be considered the true historical and symbolic heart of this vibrant city.
The next bridge (you see it in the picture above ) is Karaliaus Mindaugo Tiltas (King Mindaugas Bridge).
If you want to finish your walk here and reach the old town, you can cross the river and quickly end up in the old part of the city.
Museum of Applied Arts and Design by the River Neris
The next landmark by the river Neris and just beside Gediminas castle hill (you can say it’s under the hill) is a historical building now housing the Museum Of Applied Arts and Design.
If you are someone interested in fashion, you absolutely have to visit a fashion history exhibition here, created by the famous Russian Fashion historian Alexandr Vassiliev.
Here’s what’s to expect.
The exhibition covers numerous periods of history, starting with the exhibits from 19th century…
…and showcasing how fashion evolved throughout the 20th century and up to our days.
Facing the Museum of Applied Arts and Design, on the other side of the river, is another place of interest, this time a Soviet-era one.
Palace of Concerts and Sports by the River Neris
It’s called Sporto Rūmai (Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports), built in Communist Modernism style in 1971.
In Soviet times and a number of years after Lithuania regained its independence, this was the place where all major indoor sporting events as well as big entertainment events used to take place.
The city is planning to reconstruct the arena and use it as an event centre in the near future, so chances are when you visit, you might either see a completely revamped space, or lots of construction work around this area.
In summer 2018 when I took this picture, the palace was still in its former abandoned state, after it was closed in 2004 as it was deemed unsafe.
Jewish Heritage by the River Neris
If you stop here for another moment, you’ll notice a memorial board along the road in front of the former Sports Palace.
This same place where the Soviets constructed the Concert and Sports Palace, is actually the location of Piramónt cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery in the city, dating back to the 15th century.
This brings us to another important point of Vilnius history, its Jewish community.
Vilnius (and Lithuania) always had a significant Jewish community, especially before WW2. Even in the Middle Ages and later, when Jewish settlers used to suffer pogroms in many parts of Europe, in Lithuania Jews (along with other nationalities) were allowed to freely practice their faith and trade by the authorities.
As you walk further along the river, and if you haven’t yet done so, go down to the water and walk on the sidewalk there.
Žirmunų Tiltas and Contemporary Art
As you approach the next bridge, Žirmunų Tiltas, you’ll notice a large ‘ball’ hanging under the bridge.
That’s another piece of the aforementioned modern art installation, called the King’s Apple (‘Karališkasis obuolys’).
At this stage, you are still very much in the heart of the city, but it actually feels like you’ve arrived somewhere in the countryside.
On the left-hand side, just before the bridge, you can admire some street art murals.
Take some cool pictures, as this artistic space is part of another artistic project aiming to enhance various city spaces.
And another thing, these particular murals change over time, people can come and paint over them, which means your pictures will, most likely, look different from mine
So after reaching this point, and if you still have lots of energy left, you can continue your walk along the river.
For those who have had enough of the river, and would love to see an architectural monument, it’s the perfect place to go up the river bank, cross Žirmunų Bridge and visit the spectacular Church of St Peter and Paul, a true jewel of Baroque architecture in Vilnius.
The whole interior of this Catholic church is covered in about 2,000 stucco sculptures.
Otherwise, you can take public transport back into the city centre or simply walk back along the opposite side of the river – you’ll discover entirely different vantage points of the same places.
So when you are next in Vilnius, take a walk along the river Neris and enjoy your life!
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